The best hacks I've missed out on

By now, a lot of people have heard about classic hacks of days gone by, like ordering presidential dollar coins from the US Mint with a rewards-earning credit card, depositing the coins unopened into a bank account, and then paying off the credit card balance. What's often forgotten is the incredible amount of work that went into carrying out this hack: lots of trips to the post office or Mail Boxes Etc.; negotiating with bank managers to accept your coins for deposit; and of course hauling a bunch of heavy coins around town. All to manufacture non-bonused credit card spend! It might have been good work, but it was still work, and it wasn't free.

On the other hand, other hacks really are too good to be true, and these are the ones I really regret not taking advantage of.

Priority Club to Amtrak Transfers

The day before Christmas last year, I woke up to a series of confusing messages about Priority Club and Amtrak. Since Priority Club isn't a program I focus on, I put it on the back burner. Later that afternoon, after lots of trips to the airport picking up family members, I went back and discovered I'd missed out on an incredible deal: the ability to transfer 5,000 Priority Club points into 6,666 Amtrak Guest Rewards points.

Since you can purchase Priority Club points at a cost of 0.7 cents each, this was a chance to buy Amtrak Guest Rewards points at just over half a cent each. Since I value Amtrak Guest Rewards points at between 4 and 6 cents each for Acela First Class tickets and long-haul sleeper accomodations, this was a chance to buy those tickets for pennies on the dollar. Needless to say, I wasn't as merry as I could have been that Chirstmas!

Home Improvement Gift Cards

Last week Frequent Miler gave a great rundown of this short-lived opportunity. Basically, if you were in the right place at the right time, you could purchase – in-person – vast quantities of "Home Improvement Gift Cards," which had begun to be treated as true PIN-based debit cards at merchants like Walmart. The window of opportunity quickly slammed shut, but there was a day or two where points could be purchased for free (if you had load room on your Bluebird or Gobank cards) or for the price of a Walmart money order (around 0.14 cents per dollar of manufactured spend).

Unfortunately, I wasn't in the right place at the right time – they don't sell Home Improvement Gift Cards in Europe! 

Chase Gift Cards

For months now, Chase has been selling gift cards online with no purchase or shipping fees. Best of all, these cards can be configured with PIN codes, which allow them to be used to load Bluebird or Gobank at Walmart, or purchase money orders in many stores that accepts PIN-based debit cards (though USPS code their money orders differently and do not consistently work with all kinds of gift cards).

There are a few limitations on the purchase of these cards: 

  1. they can only be purchased using credit cards issued by Chase;
  2. each Chase credit card can be used to purchase up to $2,600 per rolling 30-day period;

If this deal's still going on, why have I missed out on it so far? Well, there is a third restriction listed on Chase's gift card website: 

This website does not support online sales of Chase Gift Cards to residents of the following states: AR, CT, HI, ME, NH, NJ, RI, VT. We apologize for any inconvenience.

I presume this is because of the abandonment laws in these days, which require merchants to turn unused gift card balances over to the state. Abandoned gift card balances are a big source of profit for banks and gift card companies, and they might not think it's worth offering the cards if they can't keep abandoned balances.

Now, this isn't an insurmountable problem: I could change my billing address to a state where shipments are allowed, then have the cards mailed back to me in New England. But at that point, there are more moving parts than I'm comfortable with, especially since it's not clear how much longer this opportunity will be available.