Two weird redemptions I just made

I try to be as transparent as possible about my own mile and point redemptions because I'm absolutely atypical compared to most travel hackers: I don't have a family so I'm shopping for a maximum of 2 seats; I generally don't mind flying coach (as long as I get an aisle seat, preferably in an exit row); and I take 2-4 vacations per month, visiting friends and family all over the country, which means I need to stretch my miles and points as far as possible.

That colors my manufactured spend strategy, and makes my experience more or less irrelevant for some readers (you can't redeem SkyMiles for first class seats, so all my Delta posts are useless for those interested in flying in international first class cabins).

In that spirit, here are a couple weird redemptions I made on Saturday.

Ultimate Rewards points for a cheap American flight

Besides my Chase Freedom cards, these days I'm earning Ultimate Rewards points with a Chase Ink Plus card at 0.67 (office supply stores) and 0.49 (gas stations) cents each, and I have a lot of them. Those points can be redeemed for 1 cent each in cash, transferred to Hyatt, United, and Southwest for quite valuable redemptions, or redeemed for 1.25 cents each for paid airfare.

For an upcoming trip to Reno, I was looking at a $199.60 one-way flight on American Airlines (I had already booked the return with Flexpoints). I've long found these piddling airfares to be some of the most annoying to game: they're too cheap for 20,000 Flexpoint redemptions, but also too cheap to redeem a valuable mileage currency like Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan miles for. I could pay with my Barclaycard Arrival+ card, but I have plenty of travel purchases waiting for redemptions and don't need an additional one.

So instead, I redeemed 15,968 Ultimate Rewards points for the ticket. Those points cost me (on average) 0.58 cents each, or about $92 all together. In other words, I got a 54% discount on a paid ticket. That's nothing to aspire to, but there's a good reason why I did it: I don't need the points for any upcoming transfers and they're only worth 1 cent each when redeemed for cash.

PayPal Extras MasterCard points for an even cheaper flight

Here's one that readers might actually find useful, if they've been following my PayPal adventures for the last few months. A PayPal Extras MasterCard is permanently linked to the PayPal account through which you applied for it. But when that PayPal account is closed (or "permanently limited" in their jargon), the Extras MasterCard continues to work and, importantly, continues to earn points.

Ordinarily, Extras MasterCard points are worth 0.83 cents each in cash: you can redeem 6,000 points for $50 deposited instantly into the linked PayPal account. With all my PayPal accounts permanently limited, that wasn't going to work for me, so I started exploring the other points redemptions available.

It turns out that for the month of February, virtually all redemptions have been cut in price, in some cases dramatically. For almost all gift card and travel redemptions, Extras MasterCard points are worth 1 cent each in February.

Two of those redemptions are for "flight discounts" of $100 or $300:

In late April I'm returning to Lexington, Kentucky, to visit an old friend and bet on some horses. I was able to easily book my outbound flight with 12,500 Delta SkyMiles, but there was no award availability for my return. There was, however, a perfect American Airlines itinerary that cost just $174.60. Whenever practical, my preference this year is going to be to book paid American flights in order to credit them to Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan.

So I redeemed 10,000 Extras MasterCard points for a $100 discount on the flight. When redeeming Extras MasterCard points for a travel discount, you're taken to an extremely primitive travel portal run by a 3rd party provider. Fortunately, that means you don't need to pay for your flight with your Extras MasterCard. That's unlike, for example, a partial Ultimate Rewards redemption, which requires you to use a Chase credit card for any remaining amount after applying Ultimate Rewards points.

I used my Arrival+ MasterCard, and the charge appears in my pending transactions as "American Airlines," so I'm confident I'll be able to redeem Arrival+ miles against the remainder.

Travel notice, and dining bonuses after Chase Sapphire Preferred

[update 1/18/15: Reader Ted reminded me of the American Express SImplyCash Business Credit Card which offers 5% cash back at office supply stores and 3% cash back on up to $25,000 in annual purchases in a single category of your choice, with a list of options including restaurants and gas stations. The card currently has a $250 signup bonus after spending $5,000 within 6 months.]

Traveling for the next 24 days

This is what it's all about, right? We hustle all year not just to pad our bank accounts, but to redeem our miles and points for travel with our loved ones. I'll be bouncing around the country for the next few weeks before heading to Italy for a 10-day caper in Milan, Venice, Florence, Rome, and Naples.

There's always a lot to write about and I don't anticipate much changing around here during my travels, but you should probably expect fewer datapoints that involve in-person experiments and more analysis, news, signup links, and that kind of thing.

I always find spending time with family to be exhausting and unexpectedly time-consuming (but meaningful!), so posting frequency will probably drop to 2 or 3 times per week from my usual 3-5 post frequency until I get back in the middle of January. I don't expect any extended blackout, so don't hesitate to reach out to me in the comments, by e-mail, and on Twitter.

Dining Bonuses after Chase Sapphire Preferred

Having finally thrown off the yoke of Chase's over-priced and under-performing Sapphire Preferred card and embraced the Ink Plus as my source of flexible Ultimate Rewards points, I was left with a serious question: which card should I use for my routine purchases that previously fell under the Sapphire Preferred's "dining" bonus category?

First let me stress that unless you have a lot of reimbursable travel expenses or you manufacture spend, this question shouldn't interest you: you should put all your everyday expenses on a 2% cash back, no-annual-fee credit card like the Citi Double Cash or Fidelity Investment Rewards American Express and never think about it again. Even a person who spends an above-average amount every year is unlikely to recoup the cost of an annual fee in the difference between the value of their spend on a premium credit card and the 2% they would earn on a no-annual-fee card.

If you do manufacture spend, on the other hand, your new "dining" credit card will ideally be one you already carry, either in order to manufacture spend or because it doesn't have an annual fee. Here are the obvious candidates:

  • Sam's Club MasterCard. Both travel hackers and civilians already carry this no-annual-fee credit card because it gives 5% cash back on up to $6,000 in gas station spend each year (the site doesn't make clear whether this is calendar or cardmember year). If you do, you may want to use it at restaurants as well, where it earns 3% cash back, 50% more than a 2% cash back card. Note that rewards earning is capped at a total of $5,000 in cash back per year.
  • Chase AARP Rewards Visa. A lower, but unlimited, 3% cash back earning rate at gas stations may make this card worth carrying if you manufacture a lot of spend at gas stations. If that's the case, it's probably also your best bet for restaurant spend, likewise earning unlimited 3% cash back with no annual fee.
  • Ink Cash. If you already completed your first year with a premium Ink credit card like Ink Plus or Ink Bold, you may have requested a product change to the no-annual-fee Ink Cash. If so, you're in luck: it earns 2 non-flexible Ultimate Rewards points per dollar spent at restaurants. If you have a spouse or domestic partner who still carries a premium Ultimate Rewards card, you can transfer your non-flexible points to their account and keep the ability to transfer them.
  • Hilton HHonors Surpass American Express. Now we're getting into more speculative territory, so we need to be careful: the Surpass card has an annual fee of $75, so this is definitely not a card you should carry just for restaurant spend. But if you already carry it, in order to earn 6 HHonors points per dollar spent at gas stations and grocery stores and Hilton Diamond elite status after spending $40,000 on the card in a calendar year, then you're already implicitly valuing the 6 HHonors points you earn per dollar spent at restaurants at more than roughly 0.36 cents each, after accounting for the annual fee (if you spend exactly $40,000 on the card each calendar year, that's the valuation that recoups both the $800 you could earn with a 2% cash back card and your $75 annual fee).
  • Citi ThankYou Premier. I don't pay $125 annual fees, and don't suggest my readers do so either. But there are a (vanishingly small) number of situations where it might make sense to have a ThankYou Premier card. For example, if you are still sitting on a huge balance of ThankYou points from the days of ThankYou Preferred bonus earning at gas stations, drug stores, and grocery stores, you may have signed up for a ThankYour Premier card in order to increase the value of that stockpile. In that case, why not take advantage of the card's 3 ThankYou point per dollar earning rate at restaurants?

The rest of the bunch

There are other credit cards that earn as much as 3% cash back at restaurants. The problem is there's no reason you would ever have one of these cards, and it's unlikely to be worth a "hard" credit pull to apply for one:

  • Santander Bravo. Earns 3 points per dollar at gas stations, supermarkets, and restaurants, but a low signup bonus, $49 annual fee, and all bonus earning is capped at $5,000 in spend per calendar quarter.
  • Huntington Voice. Earns 3% cash back with no annual fee, but with no signup bonus and bonused earning capped at $2,000 in spend per calendar quarter.

A possible exception is the PayPal Extras MasterCard, which you may well carry for other reasons. The trouble is that you're likely to easily max out the 50,000-point cardmember-year earning limit without spending a dime at restaurants, so using the card there doesn't offer any marginal value over the cards I described above.

Any I missed?

What's your favorite card for legitimate restaurant spend? Did I miss any lesser-known gems? See you in the comments.

Reflections on PayPal and My Cash warnings

PayPal's compliance department is sending warning e-mails

It's no secret that I'm a huge fan of PayPal My Cash cards as a tool for manufacturing spend in two of my favorite bonus categories: drug stores and gas stations. Unlike some more aggressive users, I've never withdrawn My Cash funds directly to a bank account, preferring to use the money to fund Bluebird, buy money orders, and make bill payments.

On October 9, the first report I'm aware of appeared, describing a warning e-mail sent from PayPal's compliance department about withdrawing My Cash funds directly to a bank account. On October 17 a reader forwarded me the e-mail he received, and on the 18th I received an identical e-mail for each of my PayPal accounts.

In other words, this is not a warning e-mail narrowly targeted at those who deposit and immediately withdraw PayPal My Cash funds. Rather, the compliance department seems to have adopted a relatively broad filter to identify users who may or may not have have exhibited the behavior described in the compliance e-mail.

Does this require action?

The compliance e-mail concludes with the following:

"If you think we've made an error, here's how to contact us.

  1. Log in to your PayPal account.
  2. Click Contact Us at the bottom of the page.
  3. Click Send us under Email Us.
  4. Follow the instructions to complete the steps.
We value your business and appreciate your attention to this matter."

This raises the question of whether those of us who have used My Cash funds immaculately should e-mail PayPal and protest our innocence, in the hopes of receiving another month, year, or decade of impunity.

That's a judgment that is going to depend on the individual. Personally, I've already maxed out my PayPal My Cash loads for the calendar month, so any changes in monitoring and compliance won't affect me until next month in any case. Consequently, I'm going to sit tight and wait for more datapoints to come in, as they inevitably will.

It seems likely to me at this point that many who received the warning e-mail, myself included, don't in fact have anything to worry about since we've used the cards more or less as intended. If, on the other hand, in the coming weeks we start to see people report accounts closures, I'll know I need to consider scaling down my My Cash usage.

No, PayPal still can't be "trusted"

I've ranted before that "trust" is the wrong framework to think about your relationship with your bank, your loyalty program, or your landlord. Save "trust" for your partner, your friends, and your kids (well, maybe not your teenagers).

When I write about PayPal, I always include the caveat that while they have been very, very good to me, many folks have well-founded grievances against their arbitrary account closures and long hold times for the withdrawal of frozen funds.

That warning still applies.

But since it's one of the easiest ways to manufacture bonused spend on cards like the US Bank Flexperks Travel Rewards and American Express Hilton HHonors Surpass cards, it's remained a tool in my arsenal, and I hope it continues to for a long time to come.

News from the front: TD Go and online Bluebird debit load limits

As I mentioned last week, I am currently traveling, hence the lighter-than-usual posting schedule. But there are two quick hits I want to share with readers before I head to the rodeo.

TD Go (slowly) sloughs off this mortal coil

As my regular readers know, I recently moved from a state where TD Go cards were issued to one where they are not. I conveniently forgot to change the billing address on my linked credit card, which gave me a few more months of cheap manufactured spend, but I'm now seeing reports (apologies to whoever posted it first) that starting September 3, TD Go cards will allow funding only from TD Bank-issued credit cards (which presumably won't award whatever rewards currency TD Bank is issuing these days).

While TD Go's $3,000 monthly load limit was a rounding error of manufactured spend, it was a cheap rounding error, and it will be missed.

Bluebird raises online debit load limits

In addition to a $2,500 daily and $5,000 calendar monthly cash load limits, American Express's Bluebird checking account alternative also allows $1,000 in monthly online debit loads.

Since the product was launched, the only way to reach that $1,000 monthly load limit has been through online loads capped at $100 per calendar day. While painless, those 10 online loads have always a bit of a recurring nuisance.

Responding, no doubt, to the plaintiff cries of travel hackers everywhere, American Express has raised those daily online debit load limits to $200.


Together with PayPal's move to calendar-monthly My Cash load limits and Bluebird's change to $2,500 daily cash load limits (from the previous, $1,000 daily load limit), the working travel hacker's life has been simplified immensely in just the past few weeks.

And the only sacrifice the travel hacking gods demanded was $3,000 in unbonused spend.

I'll take it.

Confirmed: PayPal My Cash limits now based on calendar month

Long-time readers and blog subscribers know that I've been following with interest the irregularities that occurred last month with PayPal My Cash load limits. The My Cash website has long claimed that the $4,000 monthly load limit was based on the calendar month, but experience proved otherwise: in fact the $4,000 limit reset on a rolling, 30-day cycle, which required a certain amount of vigilance to stay on top of (I used a Google calendar).

Early last month, the My Cash website started generating errors, the most significant of which was that load limits completely refused to reset; users who had some available load space at the time of the error were allowed to use it up, but older transactions didn't "roll off" as they had so far. Finally, towards the end of July load limits were reset in a pattern that suggested the monthly load limits would now, finally be based on the calendar month.

And sure enough, my load limits on my personal and business PayPal accounts reset today with a full, $4,000 ceiling.


For now, it appears that PayPal My Cash monthly load limits reset on the 1st of each month. This should make it easier to plan loads, and reduce the anxiety of watching the calendar in order to load PayPal accounts on the exact day each older load rolls off.

At least until PayPal and Incomm come up with something new to throw at us!

Charlotte preview: PayPal

Besides the Vanilla-reloadable and Visa Buxx cards I talked about earlier this week, the remaining bulk of my manufactured spend in March was through PayPal My Cash cards.

Like Vanilla Reload Network reload cards, PayPal My Cash cards cost $3.95 each and could be purchased at many CVS locations. Unlike the Vanilla Reload Network cards, My Cash cards can only be loaded directly to a verified PayPal account.

Load Limits

You can load up to $4,000 per month to a PayPal account using My Cash cards, as long as you abide by the following limits:

  • $500 per calendar day, which resets at 12:01 am EST;
  • $4,000 per rolling 30-day period, which resets at 3:01 am EST.

And yes, this does create the situation where your daily load limit may have already reset but your monthly load limit has not. While with Bluebird you could stay up until midnight (or 9 pm on the West Coast!) to load because the limits reset simultaneously, with PayPal you may as well go to bed and load your account in the morning.

Account Limits

There are three "types" of PayPal account: personal, premier, and business. PayPal's rules allow one personal account and one of either the premier or business account type to be verified using a single valid Social Security number.

If you attempt to verify a business account when you already have a premier account, or verify a second personal account, or any other prohibited combination, PayPal will helpfully inform you of this restriction.

Unloading PayPal

If you ask 4 bloggers, you'll receive 5 answers to the question "what's the best way to unload a PayPal account?"

Here's mine: every penny I load using PayPal My Cash cards, I unload using a linked PayPal Business or Personal Debit MasterCard.

That's one extreme position, and I don't ask anybody to agree with me that it's the right one. However, it does have a number of advantages within my own strategy:

  • $10 per month loading Bluebird: the PayPal Business Debit MasterCard gives 1% cash back on all non-PIN transactions, including online Bluebird debit loads;
  • Allows large and "round" transactions: instead of making $1998.12 bill payments or buying $999.30 money orders, I can use my fourth Walmart swipe to both unload my PayPal account and round off those transactions.
  • And since the funds come from my PayPal account, I don't have to worry about "orphan" amounts on my debit cards – it's my money and it'll still be there when I need it next.

Category Bonuses

One of the best things about PayPal My Cash cards is that it's still possible to purchase them at merchants that give category bonuses. For example, many 7-11 store locations are coded by Visa and MasterCard as gas stations, and some still allow My Cash purchases.

Earlier this year I discovered a local gas station chain that sells My Cash cards and is coded properly by American Express, as well. Unfortunately, they quickly sold out and it's unclear to me whether they'll restock before I move!

These localized opportunities do still exist, and you'll need to experiment in your own neighborhood to see if you have access to any of them.

Update: no PayPal cash back for Evolve Money payments

[update 2/6/14: please see my post on Upromise Investments]

While investigating Evolve Money, one of the most lucrative possibilities I considered was that payments made using PayPal Business Debit MasterCards would earn 1% cash back. As I wrote in my initial story:

"I can confirm that the PayPal Business Debit MasterCard does work for bill payments, and these transactions are processed as signature purchases which should earn 1% cash back. My regular readers know what that means: you can load your PayPal account using PayPal My Cash cards purchased with a rewards-earning credit card, then earn 1% cash back liquidating those funds paying bills you wouldn't ordinarily be able to pay with a credit card. You'll be earning your credit card rewards – and a small profit – for transactions that wouldn't otherwise earn rewards."

Unfortunately, despite the fact that the payments are processed as signature transactions — and even have the "$" symbol next to them in my transaction history (only visible using the "old" PayPal layout) — when my cash back for January posted today I did not earn 1% cash back on Evolve Money payments. This is still a great, free way to get money out of your PayPal account, but the cash back angle did not work out. In fact on my Business Debit Card summary page, the Evolve transactions are simply not included as either "eligible" or "ineligible" transactions; the totals shown represent all my purchases using the card except those.

This doesn't bode particularly well for payments made using other rewards debit cards, although that also may vary on a case-by-case basis. If you've experimented with other rewards debit cards, leave your results in the comments.

Rebate your manufactured spend (brand new hack)

As always, before I get started with today's news I have to get a few things out of the way.

First of all, the hack that I'm discussing today involves PayPal. I know everybody hates PayPal. Heck, I hate PayPal too. But they've also been very good to me. If you feel like ranting about PayPal, the comments, as always, are open.

Second, as always I want to give credit for this hack where credit is due. That's a pretty short list this time. I originally got the idea from a comment left here on the blog by Phil. If you read this, thanks Phil! Over the course of the day or two I spent researching this, I was only able to find one veiled reference (I think) left on a Frequent Miler post over the summer. So, thanks to DFW, too, I guess.

Finally, I haven't tried this personally. I'll be applying for new cards at the end of January or beginning of February, and will of course post an update then. In the meantime, I would love to hear about readers' experiences if they're able to make this work – or, especially, if not.

The PayPal Business Debit MasterCard

As my readers know, one of my favorite tools for manufactured spend is the PayPal Business Debit MasterCard. It has two amazing functions:

This is an amazing combination of features. But unfortunately as it stands, you have to choose which benefit to take advantage of: access to debit features like money orders, Walmart Bill Pay, and prepaid card loads (Bluebird and Gobank), or 1% cash back.

Your New .83% Cash Back Debit Card

When you don't have enough funds in your PayPal account to cover a Debit MasterCard transaction, instead of having your transaction rejected, PayPal gives you the option of pulling the funds from a backup funding source. You can choose any bank account linked to your PayPal account, or you can use a PayPal Extras MasterCard.

The PayPal Extras MasterCard earns "points" which can be redeemed for cash into your PayPal account: you can redeem 6,000 points for $50 in cash, or 0.83 cents per point. You can only earn 50,000 points per year (8 $50 redemptions, plus some change).

According to Phil's comment, these backup funding transactions earn points on the Extras MasterCard.

Since I don't have an Extras MasterCard yet, I can't confirm the limits on these backup funding transactions or whether they earn points. The standard limit on backup funding transactions is $1,000 per day, but I don't know if the same limit applies when the backup funding source is a PayPal Extras MasterCard.

It Gets Better

As I mentioned, the backup funding source is only used when you don't have enough money in your PayPal account to cover a debit card transaction. That means that rather than loading your PayPal account with a PayPal My Cash card and then emptying the balance with your Debit MasterCard, you will want to use your Debit MasterCard when your account balance does not cover the transaction.

Amazingly your PayPal Extras MasterCard is managed from within your PayPal account and you can use your PayPal balance to pay off your Extras MasterCard. That means you can load a PayPal My Cash card to your account and move the money directly into your Extras MasterCard to pay off the balance you incurred using your Debit MasterCard.

What it Means

Let's take a look at a simple pass through this hack.

  • Assume a PayPal balance of $0.70;
  • Use your PayPal Business Debit MasterCard to purchase a $1,000 money order from Walmart;
  • After using the $0.70 in your account (and covering the money order purchase fee), your PayPal Extras MasterCard will be charged $1,000;
  • Buy 2 $500 PayPal My Cash cards at CVS for $7.90 and load them to your PayPal account;
  • Move the money from your PayPal account to your Extras MasterCard;
  • Redeem 1,000 points for $8.33 (when you have 6,000 points).

You'll have spent $8.60 for the money order fee and My Cash cards, and earned $8.33 worth of Extras points – and manufactured $1,007.90 in spend at CVS.

What do you think?

Does it work? Are you going to try it? Should I have kept my mouth shut? Inquiring minds want to know! See you in the comments.

Free online debit loads to Bluebird

A few days ago there was an uptick in interest in Bluebird, when cardholders received an e-mail telling us that from now on online debit card loads would be free.

For a little background, debit card loads in-store at Walmart have always been free, and capped at $1,000 per day and $5,000 per month, a limit that's shared with Vanilla Reload Network loads. The low cap is unfortunate, but this does give the flexibility to use the $5,000 cap to drain gift cards or Visa Buxx cards, if that's a more lucrative option for you than buying Vanilla Reload Network cards, as it is for some people.

I had a bit of trouble setting up my Bluebird account for online debit loads, so I want to share my experience and let you know what to expect if you decide to take advantage of this new free option.

The Card

I decided to add my business PayPal debit card, which earns 1% cash back on signature and online transactions, and is loadable using PayPal My Cash cards. The principle here is that I can load my PayPal account with $1,000 at a cost of $7.90, then drain the account at 1% cash back, earning $10. In this way I'll manufacture $1,008 in lucrative gas station spend, and a small profit of $2.10.

The Problem

The card was successfully added to my account, but I wasn't able to add funds. Instead, I received this curious error message: 

This request cannot be completed at this time. Your Permanent Bluebird card must be activated before adding money using your bank account. If you’ve received your Permanent Bluebird card and already activated it, please call Account Protection Services at 1.800.660.2454. Our hours of operation are 9am - 8pm EST, Monday - Friday. If not, your Permanent Bluebird card will be delivered within 7-10 business days of your completed registration.

A quick trip to Flyertalk revealed that I wasn't the only one experiencing this problem. However, I was able to continue loading my account normally using Vanilla Reload Network cards, and bill pay out the funds, so the whole situation was extremely murky.

The Solution

A few days later, I received a call from Bluebird's "Account Protection Services," who asked me to verify that I had an account, and that I was trying to add debit cards to it. I confirmed that, and she then asked me to fax in a copy of my driver's license and the front of the debit cards I was trying to add. 

After a quick trip to the office, I called back to make sure they'd received my fax.  It took the representative 3 tries to find it, but when she did, she was immediately able to verify my name and the card numbers of my debit cards, and lifted the hold on my account.

I then logged back into Bluebird and was able to successfully load $100 from my PayPal debit card. 


Here are my thoughts on online debit loads so far:

  • Don't be worried if you aren't immediately able to use a new debit card – you may have to go through the same slightly inconvenient process;
  • Be sure to only add debit cards that have your name on the front. Anonymous gift cards could cause real problems with your account; 
  • The $1,000 monthly limit on debit card loads is in addition to your $5,000 monthly in-store and Vanilla Reload limit; 
  • You can set up 10 recurring $100 loads each month, so you don't have to log in to Bluebird each day;
  • But if you do, be sure you have enough money in your debit card account to cover the scheduled transactions!

What are your experiences with online debit loads? 

Plink: it works, but changes are coming

I've mentioned a few times here on the blog a new retail marketing program called Plink, which works a little like the dining rewards programs operated by several airlines (and the Upromise cashback system). With dining programs, you can typically register up to 6 or so credit and debit cards, and then each time you make a purchase at a participating restaurant, you earn some number of airline miles or cash back.

Plink works slightly differently, in that you register a card by entering your online banking login information. Plink then identifies your eligible cards with that bank and you can select a single card (instead of 6 or more), where your eligible purchases will be recorded.

If you think this seems to have a lot of disadvantages over dining rewards programs, you'd be right. I'm writing about it because it also has a few advantages.

First of all, Plink has a wider array of retailers than just restaurants. Most importantly for me, it gives $2.50 worth of Plink points for each purchase of $25 or more at 7-11 store locations – including store locations coded as gas stations on Visa and MasterCard credit cards.

Now, ordinarily the temptation is to make purchases as close as possible to the eligibility threshold (in this case, $25) in order to maximize the rebate value of your rewards. However, since PayPal My Cash and Vanilla Reload Network reload cards have a flat reload fee of $3.95 per card, you're only reducing your cost per dollar of manufactured spend, not actually making money, through this technique so there's no advantage to splitting your purchases up.

Changing your registered card account is easy

Thanks to the Discover it and Chase Freedom "gas station" Quarter 3 bonus categories, I bought a lot of PayPal My Cash cards at 7-11 this quarter. And I can happily report that changing the card you have registered to your Plink account is easy and instantaneous. I had to register my Discover, Chase, and Bank of America accounts this quarter, and the change went through without a hitch. However, be sure that your points have posted from all your transactions so far before changing your linked credit card.

Problems with points posting 

As I indicated in the title of this post: Plink works, earned points post, and they can be redeemed for Amazon gift cards almost instantly (you have to wait for an e-mail from their gift card contractor).

However, I did run into one problem with my points posting: when I made two 7-11 purchases using a Bank of America credit card on the same day, apparently Plink was not able to differentiate the charges in my Bank of America account transaction history, and I only received Plink points for one of them. 

For that reason I've stopped making multiple 7-11 purchases with a Plink-linked card on the same day, and since then all my points have posted correctly.

Changes coming

Unfortunately, starting September 23, 2013 7-11 purchases will only earn 150 Plink points (worth $1.50 when you have earned enough points to make a redemption – 500 is the current minimum) on purchases over $20. This is a transparent attempt to pay out less to those who have been taking full advantage of the current payout rates. However, those 150 Plink points will still reduce your cost per dollar of manufactured spend to 0.49 cents, from 0.78 cents – better than a hole in the head. If you're able to liquidate PayPal My Cash cards using a 1% cash back PayPal Debit MasterCard, that will bring your CPD down to 0.27 cents.