Author Topic: Does anyone use Amex Bluebird?  (Read 102497 times)

Saverocity

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Re: Does anyone use Amex Bluebird?
« Reply #50 on: March 24, 2014, 09:14:24 PM »
Are there any intro guides to wtf this is even all about? 

Like, I start reading a blog post linked above and am immediately lost.

I don't know what a vanilla refill is, unless you mean one of those giant metal cups when you order a milkshake and can pour the extra from that into your cup.

I don't know what manufactured spend is.

I'm guessing some kind of spending to earn CC rewards, like the Loyal3 stuff, but with some amex debit card too and then you pay bills and stuff.. idk?

Here's what would help:

1) A basic "here is what is being done" big picture overall strategy, then
2) a step by step how to of "1) sign up for this card at LINK 2) buy these refills at X store every Y days 3) purple monkey dishwasher 4) transfer this money to the card 5) ??? 6) profit"

The second part, step by step, I can probably parse from posts and blogs once I understand the big picture, but it would still be a great reference for those not reading all these posts.

Sorry I'm apparently real dense.  Tough trying to puzzle through it when half the posts make no sense.  :P

can I get some more questions here (nothing is too stupid)

Oh good.  :P

OK cool - maybe I can try to answer your questions, and if in the end we hit an 'ah ha!' moment we can then make that into a post on the 'how to' side.

Overview

People are trying to find ways to increase the spend on their credit cards in order to get cash or points back, without incurring cost.

EG - You have a 5% Cashback card that works at Grocery stores.  You buy $1000 of prime rib, and you get $50 back assuming you then eat that, the card is functioning as intended, to get you to be wasteful, and ideally in a place where you have to pay off that amount over time, paying interest and late fees.

The Manufactured Spender would accept that $50 of cash back from $1000 of spend is great, but they are not willing to buy and waste on the prime rib.  They instead want to find ways to buy things that are free, but still give the cash back.

Weird? OK....

Here is an example.  You buy a Vanilla Reload, which can be charged in value between $20-$500.  The card has a flat fee of $3.95 regardless of the value (it is designed to screw over the unbanked) but the charged amount is actually just money moved from your 5% credit card to the Vanilla Reload.

Therefore for $503.95 you are buying $500 of money. 
You get 5% on the full amount spent, which means $503.95*5% in cash back earned ($25.1975)
If you deduct the price of the card from the cash back earned you get a net profit from the transaction of $21.25 ($25.20-$3.95) therefore each Vanilla card that you buy, you make $21.25 from, it is like walking into a CVS store and plucking $20 bills from the shelf for free.

The limitation is on the liquidation side, you need a way to take the Vanilla loaded with $500 and return it to your bankroll - that is where Serve or Bluebird come in. These vehicles can be loaded with Vanilla Reloads, and once you have deposited the reload you pay off your credit card, cycle is complete.

Let me know if that helps or if something else needs clearing up from that.

Saverocity

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Re: Does anyone use Amex Bluebird?
« Reply #51 on: March 24, 2014, 09:24:02 PM »
Okay, I found this that helps explain somewhat:
http://boardingarea.com/dealswelike/2014/02/04/my-vanilla-reload-amex-bluebird-strategy/

Only I guess now you use "Serve" instead of Bluebird.

Some remaining confusions:
1) I'm not sure how you're turning it into cash, rather than juggling a dozen airline cards for miles like the guy above.
2) He is using the loaded up money (5k/mo) to pay his bills.  This implies a spending of 60k annual.  But you said the spending didn't matter.  How does that work?

1. Your profit is the currency you use, if you buy the reloads with a points earning card you earn points, if you buy with a 5% cash back card you earn 5% cash back.
2. Ignore him. You can pay whatever you like, including the card that you used to buy the Vanilla with. He gets paid by Chase so is concerned about saying that, since they don't like people to know. 

arebelspy

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Re: Does anyone use Amex Bluebird?
« Reply #52 on: March 24, 2014, 09:39:51 PM »
What are the limits to this?

Why are two people having to do it?

Where did the 7200 annual come from (I'm sure from the limits but that's why I'm asking). Your example above had someone earning $21 per CVS visit, and Mr. Pants said 5 trips to CVS x 2 people.  That is 210/mo, or about 2500 annual.  Not following where the numbers are coming from yet.

Limits on Serve?

Limits on Bluebird?

Limits on AmEx Blue Card?

Besides CVS I see WalMart mentioned - do they sell the Vanilla reloads or other cards that work with it?  Any other stores?
« Last Edit: March 24, 2014, 09:43:25 PM by arebelspy »
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Simple Abundant Living

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Re: Does anyone use Amex Bluebird?
« Reply #53 on: March 24, 2014, 09:55:08 PM »
I have been reading up on manufactured spending all weekend. I'm interested in using mileage cards to fund some fun trips for me and DH. One of my hubby's resistance to cutting our budget down is his desire to travel. So I thought maybe I could show him a way we could travel at very little cost. 

Right now, we use only an costco Amex card for gas/groceries/etc and pay the balance off each month.  Do you have suggestions on mileage cards we should apply for?  I have requested a serve Amex and I found VR cards at a 7-11 gas station close by. There is a cvs in my area(15 min drive) but I haven't checked them out.  I plan on starting very small as I try this out, then doing more as my knowledge and confidence grows.  Thanks again for walking us through it Saverocity, I've become an avid reader of your blog!

arebelspy

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Re: Does anyone use Amex Bluebird?
« Reply #54 on: March 24, 2014, 10:01:02 PM »
I'm interested in using mileage cards to fund some fun trips for me and DH. One of my hubby's resistance to cutting our budget down is his desire to travel. So I thought maybe I could show him a way we could travel at very little cost. 

Right now, we use only an costco Amex card for gas/groceries/etc and pay the balance off each month.  Do you have suggestions on mileage cards we should apply for?

Did you check the link I posted at the top of this second page? Those seem pretty decent.
We are two former teachers who accumulated a bunch of real estate, retired at 29, spent some time traveling the world full time and are now settled with two kids.
If you want to know more about us, or how we did that, or see lots of pictures, this Business Insider profile tells our story pretty well.
We (rarely) blog at AdventuringAlong.com. Check out our Now page to see what we're up to currently.

Saverocity

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Re: Does anyone use Amex Bluebird?
« Reply #55 on: March 24, 2014, 10:02:04 PM »
What are the limits to this?

Why are two people having to do it?

Where did the 7200 annual come from (I'm sure from the limits but that's why I'm asking). Your example above had someone earning $21 per CVS visit, and Mr. Pants said 5 trips to CVS x 2 people.  That is 210/mo, or about 2500 annual.  Not following where the numbers are coming from yet.

Limits on Serve?

Limits on Bluebird?

Limits on AmEx Blue Card?

Besides CVS I see WalMart mentioned - do they sell the Vanilla reloads or other cards that work with it?  Any other stores?

There are no limits.  I said you can earn into the 6 figure range.

Per offloading vehicle - Serve and BB have $5K loading from Vanilla or Swipes (the Serve, without any fee)

I talk about couples because isn't everyone in a relationship that can do this? Some of the other things I do require a second person, this doesn't.

If you go purely 1 person on Vanilla on Serve that is 5K per month, $250 profit (no Vanilla is needed), for $3K per year. Double that for a couple.  Add on that there is extra loading allowed via online direct loads and you get to that $7.2 level.

So yep, if you are single, you can make a profit of $3K without breaking a sweat.

arebelspy

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Re: Does anyone use Amex Bluebird?
« Reply #56 on: March 24, 2014, 10:03:55 PM »
There are no limits.  I said you can earn into the 6 figure range.

Per offloading vehicle - Serve and BB have $5K loading from Vanilla or Swipes (the Serve, without any fee)

I talk about couples because isn't everyone in a relationship that can do this? Some of the other things I do require a second person, this doesn't.

If you go purely 1 person on Vanilla on Serve that is 5K per month, $250 profit (no Vanilla is needed), for $3K per year. Double that for a couple.  Add on that there is extra loading allowed via online direct loads and you get to that $7.2 level.

So yep, if you are single, you can make a profit of $3K without breaking a sweat.


(Emphasis added.)

Sorry to be dense again, but I don't see how your first and last sentences jibe.  If there are no limits, why do you say 5k/mo and some online?
We are two former teachers who accumulated a bunch of real estate, retired at 29, spent some time traveling the world full time and are now settled with two kids.
If you want to know more about us, or how we did that, or see lots of pictures, this Business Insider profile tells our story pretty well.
We (rarely) blog at AdventuringAlong.com. Check out our Now page to see what we're up to currently.

Saverocity

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Re: Does anyone use Amex Bluebird?
« Reply #57 on: March 24, 2014, 10:04:28 PM »
I'm interested in using mileage cards to fund some fun trips for me and DH. One of my hubby's resistance to cutting our budget down is his desire to travel. So I thought maybe I could show him a way we could travel at very little cost. 

Right now, we use only an costco Amex card for gas/groceries/etc and pay the balance off each month.  Do you have suggestions on mileage cards we should apply for?

Did you check the link I posted at the top of this second page? Those seem pretty decent.

You can't think like that. Cards that are linked to posts like that are included primarily for their affiliate revenue payments. If you want to know what cards to get you have to think more.

Saverocity

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Re: Does anyone use Amex Bluebird?
« Reply #58 on: March 24, 2014, 10:06:43 PM »
There are no limits.  I said you can earn into the 6 figure range.

Per offloading vehicle - Serve and BB have $5K loading from Vanilla or Swipes (the Serve, without any fee)

I talk about couples because isn't everyone in a relationship that can do this? Some of the other things I do require a second person, this doesn't.

If you go purely 1 person on Vanilla on Serve that is 5K per month, $250 profit (no Vanilla is needed), for $3K per year. Double that for a couple.  Add on that there is extra loading allowed via online direct loads and you get to that $7.2 level.

So yep, if you are single, you can make a profit of $3K without breaking a sweat.


(Emphasis added.)

Sorry to be dense again, but I don't see how your first and last sentences jibe.  If there are no limits, why do you say 5k/mo and some online?

Because the Bluebird is just the tip of the iceberg. The concept of Manufactured Spending goes incredibly far beyond this.  If you can understand the underlying concept then the opportunities are everywhere, hence this starting out with me talking about the Evolve option - for people who have maxed the BB monthly, and can now max that.

There are many vehicles, the Bluebird is just one.

Simple Abundant Living

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Re: Does anyone use Amex Bluebird?
« Reply #59 on: March 24, 2014, 10:19:27 PM »

If you go purely 1 person on Vanilla on Serve that is 5K per month, $250 profit (no Vanilla is needed), for $3K per year. Double that for a couple.  Add on that there is extra loading allowed via online direct loads and you get to that $7.2 level.

So yep, if you are single, you can make a profit of $3K without breaking a sweat.

Sorry, I'm lost again. Are you saying you can swipe direct from a rewards card to your serve card up to 5K /mo?  So I need to get a serve account for DH- and adult children possibly? 

Also, how can you get the Amex blue?  Can I call and ask for it?  I found this guy below who said he would suggest cards based on your goals.  Is he just trying to get affiliate links or is he legit?
http://milevalue.com/free-credit-card-consultation/

Saverocity

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Re: Does anyone use Amex Bluebird?
« Reply #60 on: March 24, 2014, 10:20:30 PM »
I have been reading up on manufactured spending all weekend. I'm interested in using mileage cards to fund some fun trips for me and DH. One of my hubby's resistance to cutting our budget down is his desire to travel. So I thought maybe I could show him a way we could travel at very little cost. 

Right now, we use only an costco Amex card for gas/groceries/etc and pay the balance off each month.  Do you have suggestions on mileage cards we should apply for?  I have requested a serve Amex and I found VR cards at a 7-11 gas station close by. There is a cvs in my area(15 min drive) but I haven't checked them out.  I plan on starting very small as I try this out, then doing more as my knowledge and confidence grows.  Thanks again for walking us through it Saverocity, I've become an avid reader of your blog!

As I mentioned, you have to be careful who you ask when it comes to the answer to what card you should get- card referrals pay a large amount of money and some people (though not necessarily the guy who was linked to) will promote a certain card simple because it pays them well.

In order to answer your question, I need to know about your travel habits.  Tell me what airport is nearby, and where you want to go, and I can start.

I have a reasonably elaborate system in place, but very generally speaking for any Domestic trips I use British Airways Avios on American Airlines metal (planes) as that is the best value for the most part. Internationally I use AA or UA.  It depends on your goals, but once you hit international level you need to start 'optimizing' even more, for example here is how you get a free one way with American, I use an example for me, being based in NYC where I fly NY to San Francisco, back to New York, then months later fly onto Paris for a total of 32.5K miles... learn tricks like that and lots of fun travel options appear: http://saverocity.com/travel/getting-the-magic-dashes-on-aadvantage-reservations/

arebelspy

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Re: Does anyone use Amex Bluebird?
« Reply #61 on: March 24, 2014, 10:22:02 PM »
Because the Bluebird is just the tip of the iceberg. The concept of Manufactured Spending goes incredibly far beyond this.  If you can understand the underlying concept then the opportunities are everywhere, hence this starting out with me talking about the Evolve option - for people who have maxed the BB monthly, and can now max that.

There are many vehicles, the Bluebird is just one.

Okay, so there are limits, you can just do multiple things.

Like the "buy visa debit gift card, purchase money order with it, deposit money order into account" idea?

So Serve's limit is 5000/mo loaded in person, 1000/mo loaded online @ 5% cash back = 3.6k annual profit.

Does Bluebird have the same limit?  Can you have both a bluebird and serve account? 

I went back and read your thing on Evolve - it's not just for HELOCs?  You can load it up like you do Serve and pay your CC bill with it? What are the limits on that?

Are there cash back limits on the AmEx Blue?  What other cards offer 5% cash back?

Besides no theoretical limits, are there any practical limits?

What was the XXXXX thing on the blog post about DCBroker?  One of the things already mentioned?

How much do you think you will earn on this, this year?

I mean, sounds like I could do this and if it held up for a year at the crazy limits you're suggesting, FIRE in a year.  You'd need a lot of CCs though and a lot of trips to CVS or whatever, especially if they capped your cash back...

Hmm..

You've got me real excited about the possibilities.  It's similar to the Loyal3 idea, but with major advantages (no risk of stocks going down during the short holding period, no emails from Loyal3 threatening to cut you off, 5% cash back instead of 2% because you're buying at a pharmacy or grocery store or whatever, rather than just a 2% cash back).. though the downside is all the physical trips to stores.  Still well worth it.
We are two former teachers who accumulated a bunch of real estate, retired at 29, spent some time traveling the world full time and are now settled with two kids.
If you want to know more about us, or how we did that, or see lots of pictures, this Business Insider profile tells our story pretty well.
We (rarely) blog at AdventuringAlong.com. Check out our Now page to see what we're up to currently.

Saverocity

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Re: Does anyone use Amex Bluebird?
« Reply #62 on: March 24, 2014, 10:24:04 PM »

If you go purely 1 person on Vanilla on Serve that is 5K per month, $250 profit (no Vanilla is needed), for $3K per year. Double that for a couple.  Add on that there is extra loading allowed via online direct loads and you get to that $7.2 level.

So yep, if you are single, you can make a profit of $3K without breaking a sweat.

Sorry, I'm lost again. Are you saying you can swipe direct from a rewards card to your serve card up to 5K /mo?  So I need to get a serve account for DH- and adult children possibly? 

Also, how can you get the Amex blue?  Can I call and ask for it?  I found this guy below who said he would suggest cards based on your goals.  Is he just trying to get affiliate links or is he legit?
http://milevalue.com/free-credit-card-consultation/

Yes, you can swipe directly with the Serve, it is the major difference between the two.

As for the Amex blue, there are many types, you need to specifically ask for the Blue cash, and state that it earns 1% for the first $6500 then 5% thereafter on Drugstores (and Gas and Groceries)

That guy you linked to, nothing personal against him, but he has the worst reputation in the market for pushing credit cards that only pay him a commission rather than looking after you.  I'd be happy to offer you the same consultation here in public (you can skip financial data) to show the difference.

arebelspy

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Re: Does anyone use Amex Bluebird?
« Reply #63 on: March 24, 2014, 10:25:29 PM »
I have been reading up on manufactured spending all weekend. I'm interested in using mileage cards to fund some fun trips for me and DH. One of my hubby's resistance to cutting our budget down is his desire to travel. So I thought maybe I could show him a way we could travel at very little cost. 

Right now, we use only an costco Amex card for gas/groceries/etc and pay the balance off each month.  Do you have suggestions on mileage cards we should apply for?  I have requested a serve Amex and I found VR cards at a 7-11 gas station close by. There is a cvs in my area(15 min drive) but I haven't checked them out.  I plan on starting very small as I try this out, then doing more as my knowledge and confidence grows.  Thanks again for walking us through it Saverocity, I've become an avid reader of your blog!

As I mentioned, you have to be careful who you ask when it comes to the answer to what card you should get- card referrals pay a large amount of money and some people (though not necessarily the guy who was linked to) will promote a certain card simple because it pays them well.

In order to answer your question, I need to know about your travel habits.  Tell me what airport is nearby, and where you want to go, and I can start.

I have a reasonably elaborate system in place, but very generally speaking for any Domestic trips I use British Airways Avios on American Airlines metal (planes) as that is the best value for the most part. Internationally I use AA or UA.  It depends on your goals, but once you hit international level you need to start 'optimizing' even more, for example here is how you get a free one way with American, I use an example for me, being based in NYC where I fly NY to San Francisco, back to New York, then months later fly onto Paris for a total of 32.5K miles... learn tricks like that and lots of fun travel options appear: http://saverocity.com/travel/getting-the-magic-dashes-on-aadvantage-reservations/

I'm interested in the travel stuff, as after FIRE in about two years the wife and I are planning on traveling full time, and it'd probably be good to start building up miles now (it'll mostly be international stuff), however the cash stuff intrigues me more because it seems more straightforward.

I definitely hear you on the biased people trying to get the referral fees, but where else do you go for this sort of information besides random bloggers?  :P

If you have any cards that you'd actually recommend and have referral fees (incidentally - that's not the reason why you're referring them), I'd be more than glad to sign up with your referral links.

I appreciate the time you've taken to answer my questions.  :)
We are two former teachers who accumulated a bunch of real estate, retired at 29, spent some time traveling the world full time and are now settled with two kids.
If you want to know more about us, or how we did that, or see lots of pictures, this Business Insider profile tells our story pretty well.
We (rarely) blog at AdventuringAlong.com. Check out our Now page to see what we're up to currently.

Saverocity

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Re: Does anyone use Amex Bluebird?
« Reply #64 on: March 24, 2014, 10:32:57 PM »
Because the Bluebird is just the tip of the iceberg. The concept of Manufactured Spending goes incredibly far beyond this.  If you can understand the underlying concept then the opportunities are everywhere, hence this starting out with me talking about the Evolve option - for people who have maxed the BB monthly, and can now max that.

There are many vehicles, the Bluebird is just one.

Okay, so there are limits, you can just do multiple things.

Like the "buy visa debit gift card, purchase money order with it, deposit money order into account" idea?

So Serve's limit is 5000/mo loaded in person, 1000/mo loaded online @ 5% cash back = 3.6k annual profit.

Does Bluebird have the same limit?  Can you have both a bluebird and serve account? 

I went back and read your thing on Evolve - it's not just for HELOCs?  You can load it up like you do Serve and pay your CC bill with it? What are the limits on that?

Are there cash back limits on the AmEx Blue?  What other cards offer 5% cash back?

Besides no theoretical limits, are there any practical limits?

What was the XXXXX thing on the blog post about DCBroker?  One of the things already mentioned?

How much do you think you will earn on this, this year?

I mean, sounds like I could do this and if it held up for a year at the crazy limits you're suggesting, FIRE in a year.  You'd need a lot of CCs though and a lot of trips to CVS or whatever, especially if they capped your cash back...

Hmm..

You've got me real excited about the possibilities.  It's similar to the Loyal3 idea, but with major advantages (no risk of stocks going down during the short holding period, no emails from Loyal3 threatening to cut you off, 5% cash back instead of 2% because you're buying at a pharmacy or grocery store or whatever, rather than just a 2% cash back).. though the downside is all the physical trips to stores.  Still well worth it.

Yes, each vehicle has a limit, Bluebird is almost the same as Serve, but the swipe load at CVS makes it fee free (serve has a slight edge for the online load too) they are basically the same, but Serve is better.  You can only have one or the other, not both, per person.  There isn't a cap on cash back, but if you go really big you do risk what amex calls a Financial Review, which includes them pulling your tax returns to see if your spending is sustainable with your income. 

The XXXX thing is kept to email because it is neat.  In that situation DC found the money earner (buying Giftcards via cash back) and earned a ton, but the issue was getting those Amex Giftcards liquidated.  That's a core part of the game. Vanilla liquidates to Bluebird (which in turn exits the game as a bill pay to the card) however Amex Giftcards cannot buy money orders at Walmart, they are coded against it, so finding an intermediary step, the XXXX that swaps that Giftcard for another Giftcard that does get accepted for Moneyorders is a game changer, and opens up $75,000 per month of spend.  That spend is at 2-3% Cash back plus whatever card you use, with a max of 2.22% for the Arrival (travel spend only) or 2% real money.

That's too big a thing to lay out in the newbie guide :)

This is far beyond Loyal3, but yep, you have the right idea.

Saverocity

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Re: Does anyone use Amex Bluebird?
« Reply #65 on: March 24, 2014, 10:37:12 PM »
I have been reading up on manufactured spending all weekend. I'm interested in using mileage cards to fund some fun trips for me and DH. One of my hubby's resistance to cutting our budget down is his desire to travel. So I thought maybe I could show him a way we could travel at very little cost. 

Right now, we use only an costco Amex card for gas/groceries/etc and pay the balance off each month.  Do you have suggestions on mileage cards we should apply for?  I have requested a serve Amex and I found VR cards at a 7-11 gas station close by. There is a cvs in my area(15 min drive) but I haven't checked them out.  I plan on starting very small as I try this out, then doing more as my knowledge and confidence grows.  Thanks again for walking us through it Saverocity, I've become an avid reader of your blog!


As I mentioned, you have to be careful who you ask when it comes to the answer to what card you should get- card referrals pay a large amount of money and some people (though not necessarily the guy who was linked to) will promote a certain card simple because it pays them well.

In order to answer your question, I need to know about your travel habits.  Tell me what airport is nearby, and where you want to go, and I can start.

I have a reasonably elaborate system in place, but very generally speaking for any Domestic trips I use British Airways Avios on American Airlines metal (planes) as that is the best value for the most part. Internationally I use AA or UA.  It depends on your goals, but once you hit international level you need to start 'optimizing' even more, for example here is how you get a free one way with American, I use an example for me, being based in NYC where I fly NY to San Francisco, back to New York, then months later fly onto Paris for a total of 32.5K miles... learn tricks like that and lots of fun travel options appear: http://saverocity.com/travel/getting-the-magic-dashes-on-aadvantage-reservations/

I'm interested in the travel stuff, as after FIRE in about two years the wife and I are planning on traveling full time, and it'd probably be good to start building up miles now (it'll mostly be international stuff), however the cash stuff intrigues me more because it seems more straightforward.

I definitely hear you on the biased people trying to get the referral fees, but where else do you go for this sort of information besides random bloggers?  :P

If you have any cards that you'd actually recommend and have referral fees (incidentally - that's not the reason why you're referring them), I'd be more than glad to sign up with your referral links.

I appreciate the time you've taken to answer my questions.  :)

Anytime.

I do also have cards with referral fees, they are found on my blog.  I just don't link to every card that pays me since not all are the best offer. For example, you can get one card that gives you 30,000 miles and me a fee, or you can find another offer that gives you 40,000 and me nothing. I'd rather you had the 40k.

But there are others that I have the best offer for, so you can do no better by not using my link, and those I am happy for people to use.

However, as much as I do appreciate people coming to me for the links, I am happier to share knowledge about how to beat the system, so please feel free to ask me stuff here or on my site and I would gladly share my experiences with you.

arebelspy

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Re: Does anyone use Amex Bluebird?
« Reply #66 on: March 24, 2014, 10:42:27 PM »
The XXXX thing is kept to email because it is neat.  In that situation DC found the money earner (buying Giftcards via cash back) and earned a ton, but the issue was getting those Amex Giftcards liquidated.  That's a core part of the game. Vanilla liquidates to Bluebird (which in turn exits the game as a bill pay to the card) however Amex Giftcards cannot buy money orders at Walmart, they are coded against it, so finding an intermediary step, the XXXX that swaps that Giftcard for another Giftcard that does get accepted for Moneyorders is a game changer, and opens up $75,000 per month of spend.  That spend is at 2-3% Cash back plus whatever card you use, with a max of 2.22% for the Arrival (travel spend only) or 2% real money.

Gotcha.

Okay, so 3.6k annual Serve profit from that limit (which precludes you from having Bluebird).  Up to 18k annual from item XXXX (if you do the 75k/mo you mentioned at 2% cash back - that'd be a lot though, seems like).  Evolve is another one.  Any other ones to look in to?
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Simple Abundant Living

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Re: Does anyone use Amex Bluebird?
« Reply #67 on: March 24, 2014, 10:47:09 PM »
I have been reading up on manufactured spending all weekend. I'm interested in using mileage cards to fund some fun trips for me and DH. One of my hubby's resistance to cutting our budget down is his desire to travel. So I thought maybe I could show him a way we could travel at very little cost. 

Right now, we use only an costco Amex card for gas/groceries/etc and pay the balance off each month.  Do you have suggestions on mileage cards we should apply for?  I have requested a serve Amex and I found VR cards at a 7-11 gas station close by. There is a cvs in my area(15 min drive) but I haven't checked them out.  I plan on starting very small as I try this out, then doing more as my knowledge and confidence grows.  Thanks again for walking us through it Saverocity, I've become an avid reader of your blog!

As I mentioned, you have to be careful who you ask when it comes to the answer to what card you should get- card referrals pay a large amount of money and some people (though not necessarily the guy who was linked to) will promote a certain card simple because it pays them well.

In order to answer your question, I need to know about your travel habits.  Tell me what airport is nearby, and where you want to go, and I can start.

I have a reasonably elaborate system in place, but very generally speaking for any Domestic trips I use British Airways Avios on American Airlines metal (planes) as that is the best value for the most part. Internationally I use AA or UA.  It depends on your goals, but once you hit international level you need to start 'optimizing' even more, for example here is how you get a free one way with American, I use an example for me, being based in NYC where I fly NY to San Francisco, back to New York, then months later fly onto Paris for a total of 32.5K miles... learn tricks like that and lots of fun travel options appear: http://saverocity.com/travel/getting-the-magic-dashes-on-aadvantage-reservations/

We fly out of the SLC airport.  Desired destinations are 1) Europe 2) Hawaii 3) Florida w/the kids 4)costa rica 
Thanks again, and I'm happy to use your links for any cc.

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Re: Does anyone use Amex Bluebird?
« Reply #68 on: March 24, 2014, 10:52:26 PM »
The XXXX thing is kept to email because it is neat.  In that situation DC found the money earner (buying Giftcards via cash back) and earned a ton, but the issue was getting those Amex Giftcards liquidated.  That's a core part of the game. Vanilla liquidates to Bluebird (which in turn exits the game as a bill pay to the card) however Amex Giftcards cannot buy money orders at Walmart, they are coded against it, so finding an intermediary step, the XXXX that swaps that Giftcard for another Giftcard that does get accepted for Moneyorders is a game changer, and opens up $75,000 per month of spend.  That spend is at 2-3% Cash back plus whatever card you use, with a max of 2.22% for the Arrival (travel spend only) or 2% real money.

Gotcha.

Okay, so 3.6k annual Serve profit from that limit (which precludes you from having Bluebird).  Up to 18k annual from item XXXX (if you do the 75k/mo you mentioned at 2% cash back - that'd be a lot though, seems like).  Evolve is another one.  Any other ones to look in to?

dozens... but everyone needs to start small. There is a chance funds will be locked up for playing the game, so nothing more than is readily available.  Amazon has a great option for couples, it is small, but 1K per month per person no fee

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Re: Does anyone use Amex Bluebird?
« Reply #69 on: March 24, 2014, 11:01:53 PM »
I have been reading up on manufactured spending all weekend. I'm interested in using mileage cards to fund some fun trips for me and DH. One of my hubby's resistance to cutting our budget down is his desire to travel. So I thought maybe I could show him a way we could travel at very little cost. 

Right now, we use only an costco Amex card for gas/groceries/etc and pay the balance off each month.  Do you have suggestions on mileage cards we should apply for?  I have requested a serve Amex and I found VR cards at a 7-11 gas station close by. There is a cvs in my area(15 min drive) but I haven't checked them out.  I plan on starting very small as I try this out, then doing more as my knowledge and confidence grows.  Thanks again for walking us through it Saverocity, I've become an avid reader of your blog!

As I mentioned, you have to be careful who you ask when it comes to the answer to what card you should get- card referrals pay a large amount of money and some people (though not necessarily the guy who was linked to) will promote a certain card simple because it pays them well.

In order to answer your question, I need to know about your travel habits.  Tell me what airport is nearby, and where you want to go, and I can start.

I have a reasonably elaborate system in place, but very generally speaking for any Domestic trips I use British Airways Avios on American Airlines metal (planes) as that is the best value for the most part. Internationally I use AA or UA.  It depends on your goals, but once you hit international level you need to start 'optimizing' even more, for example here is how you get a free one way with American, I use an example for me, being based in NYC where I fly NY to San Francisco, back to New York, then months later fly onto Paris for a total of 32.5K miles... learn tricks like that and lots of fun travel options appear: http://saverocity.com/travel/getting-the-magic-dashes-on-aadvantage-reservations/

We fly out of the SLC airport.  Desired destinations are 1) Europe 2) Hawaii 3) Florida w/the kids 4)costa rica 
Thanks again, and I'm happy to use your links for any cc.

You have a lot of Delta there - stay well away from the Delta cards, they suck big time, you can't find seats at the rates you want.  Best options are going to be BA Avios for domestic on AA, or Southwest for your local flights, and AA for international, possibly some United too if you are OK with international coach.  I don't have paid links for any of those cards, but they are your best options.

If you give me a specific itinerary (city) I can give you some better ideas.

arebelspy

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Re: Does anyone use Amex Bluebird?
« Reply #70 on: March 24, 2014, 11:02:50 PM »
dozens... but everyone needs to start small. There is a chance funds will be locked up for playing the game, so nothing more than is readily available.  Amazon has a great option for couples, it is small, but 1K per month per person no fee

I don't care about funds being locked up, as I can cover them for awhile, as long as they come back within.. I don't know, 3-6 months?

The Amazon 1k/person at 2% cash back = $20 a month = 240 a year.

That's always the type of stuff I've heard of, and it never seemed worth the hassle for $20 a month.

If I can make several thousand bucks though, awesome.  A few hundred, meh.  So Serve and CVS vanilla cards seem like the best primary option for me for now, I'll be going to CVS tomorrow (and calling Amex to try and change my Blue card to the old one).

Thanks again!
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Simple Abundant Living

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Re: Does anyone use Amex Bluebird?
« Reply #71 on: March 24, 2014, 11:10:56 PM »

You have a lot of Delta there - stay well away from the Delta cards, they suck big time, you can't find seats at the rates you want.  Best options are going to be BA Avios for domestic on AA, or Southwest for your local flights, and AA for international, possibly some United too if you are OK with international coach.  I don't have paid links for any of those cards, but they are your best options.

If you give me a specific itinerary (city) I can give you some better ideas.

#1 goal as a couple is to get to Italy for our 25th anniversary in 3 years. Maybe fly into Rome?  We don't mind coach at all. I'm not really into luxury- unless someone else is paying for it. ;)

arebelspy

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Re: Does anyone use Amex Bluebird?
« Reply #72 on: March 24, 2014, 11:17:03 PM »
1) How can I get a very cheap flight from Vegas to somewhere in South America (preferably Belize, but I'm flexible) in early August? 
2) Same question, but also Chicago instead of Vegas (to S. America)?
3) How can I get cheaply from Vegas to Chicago (separate issue from above) any time of year?

A better question: what is the best way for me to run these types of searches myself so I don't have to bug you?  :)

My standard practice is go to Orbitz, watch that for a few weeks, book a flight.

A "this airline is best for that, use this CC and spend $x" type deal is, from what I understand, what travel hackers do instead, but it seems like that stuff is constantly changing and the barrier to entry re: loads of information is very high.

It's on my to-do list for FIRE (learn travel hacking).  Heh.
We are two former teachers who accumulated a bunch of real estate, retired at 29, spent some time traveling the world full time and are now settled with two kids.
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thepokercab

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Re: Does anyone use Amex Bluebird?
« Reply #73 on: March 24, 2014, 11:20:57 PM »
My AMEX serve card arrived in the mail today.  I'll be trying my first swipe reload at CVS tomorrow, with my Barclays' card just to see how it goes. 

Simple Abundant Living

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Re: Does anyone use Amex Bluebird?
« Reply #74 on: March 24, 2014, 11:39:32 PM »
My AMEX serve card arrived in the mail today.  I'll be trying my first swipe reload at CVS tomorrow, with my Barclays' card just to see how it goes.
Cool, keep us posted. I just requested one for me and one for DH. :)

Saverocity

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Re: Does anyone use Amex Bluebird?
« Reply #75 on: March 25, 2014, 05:49:39 AM »
1) How can I get a very cheap flight from Vegas to somewhere in South America (preferably Belize, but I'm flexible) in early August? 
2) Same question, but also Chicago instead of Vegas (to S. America)?
3) How can I get cheaply from Vegas to Chicago (separate issue from above) any time of year?

A better question: what is the best way for me to run these types of searches myself so I don't have to bug you?  :)

My standard practice is go to Orbitz, watch that for a few weeks, book a flight.

A "this airline is best for that, use this CC and spend $x" type deal is, from what I understand, what travel hackers do instead, but it seems like that stuff is constantly changing and the barrier to entry re: loads of information is very high.

It's on my to-do list for FIRE (learn travel hacking).  Heh.

There is a lot of information required to be good at travel hacking, but you can start like anything else, one step at a time. 

For example, if the extent of you knowledge is to use Orbitz instead of a regular travel agent congrats! You are savvier than many.
What about optimizing that by: Paying for it with a card that offers great cash back, like the 2% fidelity Amex?
How about then cross checking Orbitz on a site like EVreward.com and seeing what extra cash is available, another 6.5% is showing today from ebates.

You just 'optimized' your strategy by 8.5%  You can add on coupon searches too and discount further.

That is about the extent of optimizing an OTA like Orbitz or Travelocity, there are ways to drop it lower using other techniques, such as hidden city fares, but that is a different conversation all together.

Next, to take it to the next level you need to look at miles instead of cash.  The key to that is knowing the home airport and routes, I am in NYC we have a lot of options, but some airports have very few routes for certain airlines, so if you are collecting United miles but there is no United hub airport near you things will be harder to achieve.

For Vegas to South America look at who flies that route, remember that Partner airlines are within alliances, such as OneWorld or StarAlliance and offer many solutions.

When I fly to South America I typically use LAN (partnered with AA or BA in one world) or Copa or others within Star Alliance.  There is a lot to take onboard, but the information is out there.  For the LAN example, AA has regional awards, BA has distance based awards, the latter can provide value opportunity if you are able to find routes within certain bands.  Here are some intro posts to distance based to explain more:  http://saverocity.com/travel/exploring-distance-based-award-programs-part-1-introduction-airlines/

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Re: Does anyone use Amex Bluebird?
« Reply #76 on: March 25, 2014, 05:50:34 AM »

You have a lot of Delta there - stay well away from the Delta cards, they suck big time, you can't find seats at the rates you want.  Best options are going to be BA Avios for domestic on AA, or Southwest for your local flights, and AA for international, possibly some United too if you are OK with international coach.  I don't have paid links for any of those cards, but they are your best options.

If you give me a specific itinerary (city) I can give you some better ideas.

#1 goal as a couple is to get to Italy for our 25th anniversary in 3 years. Maybe fly into Rome?  We don't mind coach at all. I'm not really into luxury- unless someone else is paying for it. ;)

I'll see what I can do!

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Re: Does anyone use Amex Bluebird?
« Reply #77 on: March 25, 2014, 06:29:44 AM »

Thanks Mister Fancypants. I've got the Amex Costco card which gives me cash back to be spent at Costco. A nice bonus every February. But I don't regularly use it and most of our transactions are debit purchases. I could just as easily pay everything with a cash back card and then pay the balance. Definitely something to consider.

Note: You do NOT have to spend the cash back at Costco. You can just take it up to a register and have them give you actual cash.

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Re: Does anyone use Amex Bluebird?
« Reply #78 on: March 25, 2014, 06:56:40 AM »
You may need to write up a Simple Beginners Guide then, like I.P. had to do for cell phones for us slow folks.. ;)

You are not really spending money. To use the old broker term - you are churning money, and profiting off the transactions. The new term for this for consumers using the technique against corporations is "Manufactured Spending"

There are lots of methods. The easiest to understand was the old US Mint (no longer works)

1) Buy $10,000 in $1 coins at the US Mint with a 2% back credit card. The Mint mails you the coins for free as a promotion to get more in circulation.

Credit balance: -$10,000
Cash in hand: $10,000
Bank balance: $0
Rewards balance: $200

2) Deposit cash at your bank.

Credit balance: -$10,000
Cash in hand: $0
Bank balance: $10,000
Rewards balance: $200

3) Billpay from your bank to your credit card.

Credit balance: $0
Cash in hand: $0
Bank balance: $0
Rewards balance: $200

You have churned $10,000 through the system, earning $200 and your actual spend is $0.


Okay, now replace the US Mint with Vanilla and replace Bank with Bluebird.

Step 1: Use rewards card with 5% back at Drugstores to buy $500 Vanilla ("recharge your prepaid card") at CVS.

Status:

Credit balance = -$503.95
Vanilla Balance = $500
Bluebird Balance = $0
Rewards balance = $25

Step 2: Use Vanilla to "refill" Bluebird.

Credit balance = -$503.95
Vanilla Balance = $0
Bluebird Balance = $500
Rewards balance = $25

Step 3: Use Bluebird's Billpay to pay off the credit card

Credit balance = -$3.95
Vanilla Balance = $0
Bluebird Balance = $0
Rewards balance = $25

Eventually, use some of the reward to pay off the $3.95 fee - but probably you will churn through a lot of cycles before bothering with this step.

You have churned $500 and earned $21.05

Mister Fancypants

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Re: Does anyone use Amex Bluebird?
« Reply #79 on: March 25, 2014, 09:14:35 AM »
What are the limits to this?

Why are two people having to do it?

Where did the 7200 annual come from (I'm sure from the limits but that's why I'm asking). Your example above had someone earning $21 per CVS visit, and Mr. Pants said 5 trips to CVS x 2 people.  That is 210/mo, or about 2500 annual.  Not following where the numbers are coming from yet.

Limits on Serve?

Limits on Bluebird?

Limits on AmEx Blue Card?

Besides CVS I see WalMart mentioned - do they sell the Vanilla reloads or other cards that work with it?  Any other stores?

This has been quite the active thread last night and this morning... Let me chime in with my summary of how this works and an explanation of my numbers. (This will also be a great practice run for me to go over it with my wife :) )

First let me define manufactured spending. Everyone knows what manufacturing is to create something; to manufacture a Boeing 777 is to build it. Everyone knows what spending is, when we transfer money for good or services.

Well Manufactured Spending is creating the illusion of spending. When we charge $1000 we generally get $1000 worth of product or service, if you go to an ATM it is a cash advance and you get hit with huge fees, credit cards don't want you taking cash off your cards without buying something, they think that is very risky.

Mustachians use cards with some form of rewards be it travel or cash back when charging things, so if you have a 2% rewards card and you charge $1000, you really only spend $980. If it is 5% rewards card you only spend $950. So you are getting your products and services for a discount. Now let's say if what you were to buy is a gift card with a face value of $1000 and you got cash back from your card still have your initial buying power retained in the new gift card, that would be considered manufactured spending.

Ideally you want to be able to keep the money you spend as liquid as possible so buying a gift card that is for a specific store or restaurant is not as useful as a generic Visa or AmEx gift card. But even a gift card is not cash, so even though you have an extra $20 or $50 reward that you manufactured it is not as liquid as cash it's a reward and you have a gift card, I would rather have my cash.

So now comes AmEx Serve/Bluebird and the class of products that make this a lot more robust...

Serve is a product offered by American Express to address the unbanked and underbanked market. It is a reloadable prepaid debit card which can be used anywhere AmEx is accepted. It has a mobile app for iOS and Android as well as a website, you can pay bills to any merchant that accepts AmEx via ACH and anyone else AmEx will send a check to in 3-5 days (even your cousin Phil). Here is the link to find out all about this bank replacement product https://www.serve.com/

AmEx also offers Bluebird which is a sister product https://www.bluebird.com/ but you can only have one or the other.

Serve is an individual account tied to your social security number, so you get one and you SO gets one.

There are many ways to add money to your Serve account, direct deposit, taking a picture of a check with a mobile app, a bank transfer via a linked account, another Serve account. The key way that is important for this thread is you can load money onto a Serve account via either a Vanilla Reload card or directly via a credit card charge at either CVS or 7-11.

You can read about Vanilla Reload here https://www.vanillareload.com/, they are prepaid pin based debit cards that can be purchased you can see the various places you can buy them on their website, CVS and 7-11 are on the list. The cards can be loaded with $20 to $500 a per card charge of $3.95.

I will focus on the CVS swipe as it is the most lucrative (no charge like the Vanilla Reload Cards), you can go into a CVS store and swipe your credit card and charge up $500 per transaction to load your Serve card. (You can do 2 $500 transactions per day) It will appear immediately as available. Depending on your credit card carrier the charge will show up as charge or a cash advance, AmEx and Chase seem to charge as of now, not cash advances. The charges are done by CVS and processed through the Vanilla Reload network (an InComm company).

So if you have a credit card that gets you a nice reward at CVS like the old AmEx Blue Cash card which earns 5% cash back at drug stores you can maximize your cash back.

As to limits the AmEx Blue Cash card has no upper limits on cash back but you need to spend $6500 at 1% before the 5% kicks in.

As to limits on the Serve card here is the link to the limits of the amounts the can be loaded and spent per month on a given card https://www.serve.com/help/#/fees-and-limits-1

It is $10k per month and $100k per year loaded and spent.

You can load $1000 per day per card via swipe at CVS and an additional $200 per day via credit card online for a total of $1200. The maximum per month at CVS is $5000, the maximum online is $1000. So the maximum per month in total per credit card is $6000.

My math consisted of 2 cards, one for my wife and one for myself, going to CVS 5 days each and both charging the $1000 daily limit so that is a total of $10,000 per month charges on an AmEx Blue card at CVS get 5% cash back. That is $500. I wrongly assumed the online daily load of $200 per card per person would also earn me 5%, but since that will not be at CVS, I will only earn 2% on my Fidelity AmEx card on the remaining $2000 I can load on the 2 cards. So my total monthly cash back will $540 (after the first month meeting the $6500 threshold).  Annually $6220, not the $7200 I initially indicated.

Now I can just use the Serve bill pay to pay off my AmEx Blue and my AmEx Fidelity credit cards and collect my cash back. That would be true Manufactured Spending, however neither of those cards is due immediately, so I plan on taking advantage of the float for the next 30 to 45 days on my 0% $12,000 loan.

I have a HELOC with a balance of over $12k at a rate of 2.49%, since that rate is higher than any money market account currently I deposit all of my current income into the HELOC to temporally reduce the balance and have an effective savings rate of 2.49%, when my bills come due I simply borrow the money back from my HELOC and the balance becomes "true" again and my bills get paid.

I will treat this borrowed $12k the same way; I will reduce my HELOC balance temporally to save on the interest and when the credit card bills are due borrow back the money from the HELOC and pay the credit cards minus the cash back rewards which will then become permanent debt reduction.

I will actually probably use Serve to pay some of the bills that normally are paid by check rather than borrow from the HELOC it will make it look more sincere, like my mortgage utilities etc...

So I will make $6220 in cash back annually and then what you do with the float is your own calculation, in my case it is a minimum of $240 in interest savings, plus whatever compounding effect this all has on the HELOC balance.

Now I know saverocity is an advocate of this being the tip of the iceberg and there are many other programs you can use like Evolve Money, Paypal, Amazon Payment Services etc... and you can float a lot of money and earn a lot more, and he is correct you can run a ton of money through this, I will however caution anyone in doing any of this for a few things. First just using Serve along for one person is charging $6k per month, for you and an SO it is $12k, ask yourself how much did you actually charge in normal spend before doing this? I charge up to $8k a month regularly and my comfort level beyond $12k in Manufactured Spending is not very high. To do this you are tying up a lot of money and these programs ARE NOT BANKS they are NOT REGULATED BY THE FED and you can get into a lot of trouble if your money gets locked up, so if you charge $20k or $30k or $100k do you have the liquidity to pay those bills if you get into a situation where your money is tied up. AmEx is the only company offering a service like this whose backing I trust, I am also a loyal large enough customer that I can raise a concern on the credit card side if need be even though they are separate businesses. I'm also a stock holder, which adds weight if they want to lock up my funds. The funds at AmEx at held in custody at AmEx Centurion Bank or Wells Fargo, I am not concerned with the viability of either bank. Lastly the TOS on these programs can and most likely will change at some point having too much exposure is probably not as advisable.  As far as people's concerns on the Serve accounts getting locked, from what I have read it is usually in a violation of the TOS, don't fund your Serve card with your SO's credit card or vice versa, only fund with your own funds etc... follow the TOS and you should be ok as far as other providers I have no idea. 

AmEx is generally making money on Serve in at least two ways by getting more card swipes by putting more AmEx cards in people's hands, and they are also investing the float of funds in reserve that people deposit.

As far as the AmEx Blue Cash Card they make 1.4% on the first $6500 charged, then loss 2.6% thereafter, but no one knows the deal they have with Vanilla/InComm they might get enough to cover the CVS cash back charges and still come out ahead. AmEx gets 2.4% as an interchange fee per card swipe at the register.

Remember there is really no such thing as a free lunch; the banks are making money on these products, even if we think we are figured them out.

-Mister FancyPants
« Last Edit: March 25, 2014, 09:27:25 AM by Mister Fancypants »

arebelspy

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Re: Does anyone use Amex Bluebird?
« Reply #80 on: March 25, 2014, 10:26:23 AM »
Great thoughts, especially the cautions.  Thanks MFP!
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daverobev

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Re: Does anyone use Amex Bluebird?
« Reply #81 on: March 25, 2014, 10:32:52 AM »
Are there any intro guides to wtf this is even all about? 

Like, I start reading a blog post linked above and am immediately lost.

I don't know what a vanilla refill is, unless you mean one of those giant metal cups when you order a milkshake and can pour the extra from that into your cup.

I don't know what manufactured spend is.

I'm guessing some kind of spending to earn CC rewards, like the Loyal3 stuff, but with some amex debit card too and then you pay bills and stuff.. idk?

Here's what would help:

1) A basic "here is what is being done" big picture overall strategy, then
2) a step by step how to of "1) sign up for this card at LINK 2) buy these refills at X store every Y days 3) purple monkey dishwasher 4) transfer this money to the card 5) ??? 6) profit"

The second part, step by step, I can probably parse from posts and blogs once I understand the big picture, but it would still be a great reference for those not reading all these posts.

Sorry I'm apparently real dense.  Tough trying to puzzle through it when half the posts make no sense.  :P

can I get some more questions here (nothing is too stupid)

Oh good.  :P

Manufactured spend is... cheating for want of a better word. Unethical, perhaps; depends how much you hate/dislike the banks and in reality, retailers - you are siphoning money away and to yourself.

The conspiracy theorists say that, the more widespread this becomes (and the more people who take the piss), the sooner it'll all be shut down.

But basically what you are doing is getting a *credit card* which gives x% in cashback to buy money at some cost less than x; then pushing that money into your checking account, and paying off the credit card. IE, free cashback.

The classic, now failed I think?, was to get an Ink card (5% at the office supply shops), buy a $500 vanilla reload card for ~ $504 which gives you 5% cashback = $25. Load your Bluebird or Serve account with the $500; write a Bluebird check to yourself; pay check into normal checking account; pay off credit card.

*Edit* $504 = $500 you get + $3.95 admin fee.

Sadly there don't seem to be any ways to do this in Canada; Bluebird specifically states you must be US resident.

The other easy one is Amazon Payments; get two people *with different surnames* and pay from one person to the other at no cost at all; the second person gives you that money back. Nothing has happened, except a $1k payment on your card which generates points/cashback.

I feel ambiguous about it. It is certainly not something the card companies would endorse, and heavy users get their accounts locked/closed - if they are obvious about it.
« Last Edit: March 25, 2014, 10:36:34 AM by daverobev »

mh1361

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Re: Does anyone use Amex Bluebird?
« Reply #82 on: March 25, 2014, 10:37:02 AM »
Ok, so I think I found a link to the old Amex Blue cash card: https://www304.americanexpress.com/credit-card/blue-cash/25330 And credit to this for finding it: http://ficoforums.myfico.com/t5/Credit-Cards/the-old-Blue-Cash-card-Amex-still-available/td-p/2685719/page/1

I'm interested in starting and just want to lay out my steps, and see if I'm heading in the right direction. I recently signed up for the Amex Gold Membership Rewards card, so I'll have to use that one until I hit the signup offer, then I'll switch over to the Blue cash. Assuming I get approved.

1. Signup for Serve. (seems easy enough)
2. Apply for Blue Cash Card. (even though I won't use it right away)
3. Load $1000 onto my Serve account with my credit card.
4. Use billpay from Serve to pay rent.
5. Pay off credit card in full every month from xxxx account.
6. Repeat.

Does that seem right? Another question I have is about big sign up offers. I'm currently thinking of just using the Blue Cash card for this process, and using a card that has a big sign up offer to work towards for all other purchases. And I guess I'll plan to always be working on a sign up offer. Any thoughts?
« Last Edit: March 25, 2014, 11:23:46 AM by mh1361 »

Mister Fancypants

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Re: Does anyone use Amex Bluebird?
« Reply #83 on: March 25, 2014, 11:15:37 AM »
Manufactured spend is... cheating for want of a better word. Unethical, perhaps; depends how much you hate/dislike the banks and in reality, retailers - you are siphoning money away and to yourself.

I strongly disagree with your statements that this is cheating or unethical, if you follow the Terms of Service of all of the products involved and happen to make profit good for you. It is no more cheating or unethical then a bank taking our deposits and paying .01% savings and lending the money out as mortgages at 3%, it is called a business model.

The conspiracy theorists say that, the more widespread this becomes (and the more people who take the piss), the sooner it'll all be shut down.

It’s actually not conspiracy theorists, it is bank analysts who study these number, I have posted lots of statistics on credit card usage already, but basically, 60% of credit card users do not carry a balance, they pay their balance in full, this has been the case historically, if you want the academic studies or the Federal Reserve documents I can provide them.  The average debt carried is skewed higher by the smaller group of revolvers who carry excessive debt (which explains the high interest rate on credit cards, most people can care less as they keep small balances and pay them off within a few months). Those with large balances generally do balance transfers before owing interest and avoid being profitable to credit card companies in general on an interest owed perspective anyway.

The average number of credit cards per person/household has actually dropped from close to 4 to about 2 over the last few years, so people are not generally optimizing the their rewards programs if they have so few cards. Credit card companies also report that people let the rewards go unused as well at a high percentage; feel free to review any AmEx annual report or other major bank issuing rewards points.

So the small group of people that take full advantage of these programs or even combine them to get more leverage is very small compared to the total credit card profit model, so a particular card program might be shut down or modified, but rewards are not going anywhere anytime soon, in fact they will probably get better over time.

I feel ambiguous about it. It is certainly not something the card companies would endorse, and heavy users get their accounts locked/closed - if they are obvious about it.

If they don't want you to load these cards with a credit card they will not allow it as an option.... Since they do I guess they are ok with it, they do however put limits on it, and so they have constrained how much they endorse it... As far as them locking/closing accounts, do you have any links to back that up or is it you opinion?
« Last Edit: March 25, 2014, 11:29:19 AM by Mister Fancypants »

kkbmustang

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Re: Does anyone use Amex Bluebird?
« Reply #84 on: March 25, 2014, 11:43:56 AM »

I don't know what a vanilla refill is, unless you mean one of those giant metal cups when you order a milkshake and can pour the extra from that into your cup.


Bahahahahahaha! That was funny.

Am catching up on this thread now. :)

daverobev

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Re: Does anyone use Amex Bluebird?
« Reply #85 on: March 25, 2014, 12:11:16 PM »
Manufactured spend is... cheating for want of a better word. Unethical, perhaps; depends how much you hate/dislike the banks and in reality, retailers - you are siphoning money away and to yourself.

I strongly disagree with your statements that this is cheating or unethical, if you follow the Terms of Service of all of the products involved and happen to make profit good for you. It is no more cheating or unethical then a bank taking our deposits and paying .01% savings and lending the money out as mortgages at 3%, it is called a business model.

The conspiracy theorists say that, the more widespread this becomes (and the more people who take the piss), the sooner it'll all be shut down.

Itís actually not conspiracy theorists, it is bank analysts who study these number, I have posted lots of statistics on credit card usage already, but basically, 60% of credit card users do not carry a balance, they pay their balance in full, this has been the case historically, if you want the academic studies or the Federal Reserve documents I can provide them.  The average debt carried is skewed higher by the smaller group of revolvers who carry excessive debt (which explains the high interest rate on credit cards, most people can care less as they keep small balances and pay them off within a few months). Those with large balances generally do balance transfers before owing interest and avoid being profitable to credit card companies in general on an interest owed perspective anyway.

The average number of credit cards per person/household has actually dropped from close to 4 to about 2 over the last few years, so people are not generally optimizing the their rewards programs if they have so few cards. Credit card companies also report that people let the rewards go unused as well at a high percentage; feel free to review any AmEx annual report or other major bank issuing rewards points.

So the small group of people that take full advantage of these programs or even combine them to get more leverage is very small compared to the total credit card profit model, so a particular card program might be shut down or modified, but rewards are not going anywhere anytime soon, in fact they will probably get better over time.

I feel ambiguous about it. It is certainly not something the card companies would endorse, and heavy users get their accounts locked/closed - if they are obvious about it.

If they don't want you to load these cards with a credit card they will not allow it as an option.... Since they do I guess they are ok with it, they do however put limits on it, and so they have constrained how much they endorse it... As far as them locking/closing accounts, do you have any links to back that up or is it you opinion?

I had a good read through the... I forget, slickdeals or fatwallet forum post (or maybe another board). There were people having their accounts closed for doing too much, getting kicked out of walmart for buying money orders too often, and so on.

Listen, I get you're all for it. I'm not trying to bash you as a person, and I understand that it's fine if you don't break the rules. But think about it - why would any company leave loopholes like these open? They are giving you money for nothing. I understand the stats; but Amazon Payments was changed recently so it is less abusable, right? If you're smart and don't do it too much and don't make it obvious I'm sure you'll be fine.

Like, don't do $1k with no other spend and send it straight back to your card. You have to obfuscate, right? You have to hide your trail? And what does that say about the process?!

Mister Fancypants

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Re: Does anyone use Amex Bluebird?
« Reply #86 on: March 25, 2014, 12:46:38 PM »
I had a good read through the... I forget, slickdeals or fatwallet forum post (or maybe another board). There were people having their accounts closed for doing too much, getting kicked out of walmart for buying money orders too often, and so on.

Listen, I get you're all for it. I'm not trying to bash you as a person, and I understand that it's fine if you don't break the rules. But think about it - why would any company leave loopholes like these open? They are giving you money for nothing. I understand the stats; but Amazon Payments was changed recently so it is less abusable, right? If you're smart and don't do it too much and don't make it obvious I'm sure you'll be fine.

Like, don't do $1k with no other spend and send it straight back to your card. You have to obfuscate, right? You have to hide your trail? And what does that say about the process?!

I didn't take it as an attack on me personally, nor was I attacking you if you took it that way, my apologies if that was the case.

I agree with you if you simple charge your card to get cash back and simple pay of your card that is a violation of the TOS of some of the products we have been discussing and I have recommended against that. If you were to read my post http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/forum/ask-a-mustachian/does-anyone-use-amex-bluebird/msg252250/#msg252250 you will see that is not what I am describing. My methodology abides by all of the rules of all of the programs involved, and allows me to a nice profit and by no means do I plan on paying off the cards instantly. I also will leverage the cash borrowed to make an addtional profit.

I am using a very simple business strategy, fund my expenses with cheapest funds available. I can reduce my cost of capital with short term lending at low rates.

daverobev

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Re: Does anyone use Amex Bluebird?
« Reply #87 on: March 25, 2014, 01:28:30 PM »
I had a good read through the... I forget, slickdeals or fatwallet forum post (or maybe another board). There were people having their accounts closed for doing too much, getting kicked out of walmart for buying money orders too often, and so on.

Listen, I get you're all for it. I'm not trying to bash you as a person, and I understand that it's fine if you don't break the rules. But think about it - why would any company leave loopholes like these open? They are giving you money for nothing. I understand the stats; but Amazon Payments was changed recently so it is less abusable, right? If you're smart and don't do it too much and don't make it obvious I'm sure you'll be fine.

Like, don't do $1k with no other spend and send it straight back to your card. You have to obfuscate, right? You have to hide your trail? And what does that say about the process?!

I didn't take it as an attack on me personally, nor was I attacking you if you took it that way, my apologies if that was the case.

I agree with you if you simple charge your card to get cash back and simple pay of your card that is a violation of the TOS of some of the products we have been discussing and I have recommended against that. If you were to read my post http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/forum/ask-a-mustachian/does-anyone-use-amex-bluebird/msg252250/#msg252250 you will see that is not what I am describing. My methodology abides by all of the rules of all of the programs involved, and allows me to a nice profit and by no means do I plan on paying off the cards instantly. I also will leverage the cash borrowed to make an addtional profit.

I am using a very simple business strategy, fund my expenses with cheapest funds available. I can reduce my cost of capital with short term lending at low rates.

Sure thing - you're converting your credit into a not only interest free, actually a negative interest loan, effectively. How I *feel* about it is kinda how I feel about hoarding, or extreme couponing - if you see orange juice for $0.50 with a $1 mail in rebate, do you buy half a dozen cartons, or go in with a forklift truck to buy the whole pallet? I have a constant back and forth with myself over 'fair' - life isn't *fair* but I want it to be; I want there to be Paladins who help old ladies, etc, etc. So I, on one hand, do not consider manufactured spend to be 'fair'; but on the other hand, if you're making money off the banks, I kinda want to pat you on the back and say "good on'ya".

As to a bank giving you 0.01, yeah, that is awful, but there are (slightly) better options out there; but honestly, even when they give you 5%, it's only because the base rate is 8%...

thepokercab

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Re: Does anyone use Amex Bluebird?
« Reply #88 on: March 25, 2014, 02:09:06 PM »
Quote
I agree with you if you simple charge your card to get cash back and simple pay of your card that is a violation of the TOS of some of the products we have been discussing and I have recommended against that. If you were to read my post

Sorry, I did read your post, and I'm probably being dense here but I'm having trouble distinguishing what you consider a violation of the TOS, vs the strategy you are employing.  Especially when you said:   

Quote
Now I can just use the Serve bill pay to pay off my AmEx Blue and my AmEx Fidelity credit cards and collect my cash back.

How is this not charging your card to get cash back, then paying off your card?  I'm sure it has something to do with using your HELOC here, but i'm not quite wrapping my head around it. 
« Last Edit: March 25, 2014, 02:13:01 PM by thepokercab »

Mister Fancypants

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Re: Does anyone use Amex Bluebird?
« Reply #89 on: March 25, 2014, 02:25:42 PM »

I agree with you if you simple charge your card to get cash back and simple pay of your card that is a violation of the TOS of some of the products we have been discussing and I have recommended against that. If you were to read my post http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/forum/ask-a-mustachian/does-anyone-use-amex-bluebird/msg252250/#msg252250 you will see that is not what I am describing.

Sorry, I did read your post, and I'm probably being dense here but I'm having trouble distinguishing what you consider a violation of the TOS, vs the strategy you are employing.  Especially when you said:   

Quote
Now I can just use the Serve bill pay to pay off my AmEx Blue and my AmEx Fidelity credit cards and collect my cash back.

How is this not charging your card to get cash back, then paying off your card?

From my interpretation it would be a violation of Serve's TOS, which is why I am not going to do that. I did say I can, however if you read my post, what you see I will be doing is paying bills mostly my HELOC and later using my checking account to pay my to pay the credit cards which I will borrow money from my HELOC to fund the checking account.  Serve will never pay the credit cards and therefore I wil not violate any TOS.

In essence I am going to fund my Serve account with a credit card to pay down my HELOC to pay bills and deposit my income into the HELOC simulaneously and then borrow money from the HELOC as needed to pay my bills as they come due.

All money will be comingled, I am just adding a new inexpensive source of short term lending to my capital sources with the added bonus of a cash back component.

However I still wouldn't call it stealing if you were to pay back the credit card directly, I just would not do it as it would be a violation of Serves TOS.

thepokercab

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Re: Does anyone use Amex Bluebird?
« Reply #90 on: March 25, 2014, 02:28:44 PM »
Ah, i see-  thanks for the clarification. 

Emilyngh

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Re: Does anyone use Amex Bluebird?
« Reply #91 on: March 25, 2014, 06:27:11 PM »
Just wanted to say thanks to all for the contributions to the thread and great potential idea.

I just signed up for both the Amex Blue (using the old like an OP posted, with the 1% until $6,500 and then 5%) and bluebird.   I'll probably sign DH up for Serve and then see which we prefer or use both.   Gonna give this a try.

Saverocity

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Re: Does anyone use Amex Bluebird?
« Reply #92 on: March 26, 2014, 09:30:16 PM »
Manufactured spend is... cheating for want of a better word. Unethical, perhaps; depends how much you hate/dislike the banks and in reality, retailers - you are siphoning money away and to yourself.

I strongly disagree with your statements that this is cheating or unethical, if you follow the Terms of Service of all of the products involved and happen to make profit good for you. It is no more cheating or unethical then a bank taking our deposits and paying .01% savings and lending the money out as mortgages at 3%, it is called a business model.

The conspiracy theorists say that, the more widespread this becomes (and the more people who take the piss), the sooner it'll all be shut down.

Itís actually not conspiracy theorists, it is bank analysts who study these number, I have posted lots of statistics on credit card usage already, but basically, 60% of credit card users do not carry a balance, they pay their balance in full, this has been the case historically, if you want the academic studies or the Federal Reserve documents I can provide them.  The average debt carried is skewed higher by the smaller group of revolvers who carry excessive debt (which explains the high interest rate on credit cards, most people can care less as they keep small balances and pay them off within a few months). Those with large balances generally do balance transfers before owing interest and avoid being profitable to credit card companies in general on an interest owed perspective anyway.

The average number of credit cards per person/household has actually dropped from close to 4 to about 2 over the last few years, so people are not generally optimizing the their rewards programs if they have so few cards. Credit card companies also report that people let the rewards go unused as well at a high percentage; feel free to review any AmEx annual report or other major bank issuing rewards points.

So the small group of people that take full advantage of these programs or even combine them to get more leverage is very small compared to the total credit card profit model, so a particular card program might be shut down or modified, but rewards are not going anywhere anytime soon, in fact they will probably get better over time.

I feel ambiguous about it. It is certainly not something the card companies would endorse, and heavy users get their accounts locked/closed - if they are obvious about it.

If they don't want you to load these cards with a credit card they will not allow it as an option.... Since they do I guess they are ok with it, they do however put limits on it, and so they have constrained how much they endorse it... As far as them locking/closing accounts, do you have any links to back that up or is it you opinion?

I had a good read through the... I forget, slickdeals or fatwallet forum post (or maybe another board). There were people having their accounts closed for doing too much, getting kicked out of walmart for buying money orders too often, and so on.

Listen, I get you're all for it. I'm not trying to bash you as a person, and I understand that it's fine if you don't break the rules. But think about it - why would any company leave loopholes like these open? They are giving you money for nothing. I understand the stats; but Amazon Payments was changed recently so it is less abusable, right? If you're smart and don't do it too much and don't make it obvious I'm sure you'll be fine.

Like, don't do $1k with no other spend and send it straight back to your card. You have to obfuscate, right? You have to hide your trail? And what does that say about the process?!

Not to be rude, but you are postulating here, and what you are saying is both incorrect and narrow minded.  I always preface things that sound rude with not to be rude and now you can't be upset - I read that somewhere.

As for the obfuscation. no.  It is not needed. There is no rent payment for me, straight back to card, amazon payments between people with same last names, whatever. 

My own postulation is that the players like Amazon, Bluebird, Vanilla etc are in this for the big bucks, and using the data gathered by gamers along with all the rest to increase the empirical value in order to gain new business.  The BB/Vanilla has been structured to allow incredibly abusive fees to the unbanked on one end of the spectrum, and marginally abusive back at them on the other from the gamers. 

daverobev

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Re: Does anyone use Amex Bluebird?
« Reply #93 on: March 27, 2014, 07:45:02 AM »
Not to be rude, but you are postulating here, and what you are saying is both incorrect and narrow minded.  I always preface things that sound rude with not to be rude and now you can't be upset - I read that somewhere.

As for the obfuscation. no.  It is not needed. There is no rent payment for me, straight back to card, amazon payments between people with same last names, whatever. 

My own postulation is that the players like Amazon, Bluebird, Vanilla etc are in this for the big bucks, and using the data gathered by gamers along with all the rest to increase the empirical value in order to gain new business.  The BB/Vanilla has been structured to allow incredibly abusive fees to the unbanked on one end of the spectrum, and marginally abusive back at them on the other from the gamers.

I think narrow minded is a bit harsh, but hey, you make a lot of money from this (Upton Sinclair quote *again* - hard to get someone to accept a point of view when their income depends on it...).

Your postulation - so basically you're taking advantage of companies keeping the poor and stupid poor and stupid? Unethical!

Look, I'm not telling you to stop, I do think it's pretty cool in some ways, but getting thousands of dollars for literally nothing... it's mad. Sign up bonuses, carrot not stick, I get that. But free money for nothing. Why do you think it's ok?

Emilyngh

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Re: Does anyone use Amex Bluebird?
« Reply #94 on: March 27, 2014, 02:50:34 PM »

 But free money for nothing. Why do you think it's ok?

Ummm, isn't this the same question people ask about those who FIRE (how can they find it moral to sit back and watch others work while they roll in it, doing nothing for decades)?  What's ok or not should depend on how helpful/harmful it is to society, not whether or not it seems they did enough work to others to justify their return.

We have a weird system setup where the amount of money one earns is really not always directly correlated with the work they do to get it.    Is it wrong for anyone to ever make more money than someone else when they do less work?   How then would you define work and how does one weigh mental vs physical work?   Does one get to do less overall work if they plan ahead and avoid pitfalls, or does only total work matter (eg, no benefit to planning or working "smart")?   

As long as one works within the system legally, and considers the effects of their choice of work on society and individuals (as, IMO, those working for "The Man" are not exempt from either), then making money for less effort than someone else is absolutely ok.   



« Last Edit: March 27, 2014, 02:53:50 PM by Emilyngh »

Saverocity

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Re: Does anyone use Amex Bluebird?
« Reply #95 on: March 27, 2014, 08:13:08 PM »
Not to be rude, but you are postulating here, and what you are saying is both incorrect and narrow minded.  I always preface things that sound rude with not to be rude and now you can't be upset - I read that somewhere.

As for the obfuscation. no.  It is not needed. There is no rent payment for me, straight back to card, amazon payments between people with same last names, whatever. 

My own postulation is that the players like Amazon, Bluebird, Vanilla etc are in this for the big bucks, and using the data gathered by gamers along with all the rest to increase the empirical value in order to gain new business.  The BB/Vanilla has been structured to allow incredibly abusive fees to the unbanked on one end of the spectrum, and marginally abusive back at them on the other from the gamers.

I think narrow minded is a bit harsh, but hey, you make a lot of money from this (Upton Sinclair quote *again* - hard to get someone to accept a point of view when their income depends on it...).

Your postulation - so basically you're taking advantage of companies keeping the poor and stupid poor and stupid? Unethical!

Look, I'm not telling you to stop, I do think it's pretty cool in some ways, but getting thousands of dollars for literally nothing... it's mad. Sign up bonuses, carrot not stick, I get that. But free money for nothing. Why do you think it's ok?

Why is it free money for nothing? It isn't a passive activity.

Simple Abundant Living

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Re: Does anyone use Amex Bluebird?
« Reply #96 on: March 27, 2014, 08:47:46 PM »
Not to be rude, but you are postulating here, and what you are saying is both incorrect and narrow minded.  I always preface things that sound rude with not to be rude and now you can't be upset - I read that somewhere.

As for the obfuscation. no.  It is not needed. There is no rent payment for me, straight back to card, amazon payments between people with same last names, whatever. 

My own postulation is that the players like Amazon, Bluebird, Vanilla etc are in this for the big bucks, and using the data gathered by gamers along with all the rest to increase the empirical value in order to gain new business.  The BB/Vanilla has been structured to allow incredibly abusive fees to the unbanked on one end of the spectrum, and marginally abusive back at them on the other from the gamers.

I think narrow minded is a bit harsh, but hey, you make a lot of money from this (Upton Sinclair quote *again* - hard to get someone to accept a point of view when their income depends on it...).

Your postulation - so basically you're taking advantage of companies keeping the poor and stupid poor and stupid? Unethical!

Look, I'm not telling you to stop, I do think it's pretty cool in some ways, but getting thousands of dollars for literally nothing... it's mad. Sign up bonuses, carrot not stick, I get that. But free money for nothing. Why do you think it's ok?

Why is it free money for nothing? It isn't a passive activity.

Exactly, I'm still trying to decide if I have the time and organizational skills for this. Hardly seems passive to me!

mh1361

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Re: Does anyone use Amex Bluebird?
« Reply #97 on: March 28, 2014, 06:51:58 AM »
Your postulation - so basically you're taking advantage of companies keeping the poor and stupid poor and stupid? Unethical!

I'm probably reading this wrong, but it sounds like you're saying it's unethical because xyz company is keeping the poor and stupid poor and stupid. So to you, would taking advantage of a different company that has a more affluent client base be more ethical?

$200k

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Re: Does anyone use Amex Bluebird?
« Reply #98 on: March 28, 2014, 07:27:44 AM »
Just here to reiterate what Saverocity and others have mentioned, which is to start small and work your way up. 

Also be aware of the financial review:

http://boardingarea.com/viewfromthewing/2013/05/02/preparing-for-the-dreaded-american-express-financial-review/ 


daverobev

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Re: Does anyone use Amex Bluebird?
« Reply #99 on: March 28, 2014, 07:40:41 AM »
Not to be rude, but you are postulating here, and what you are saying is both incorrect and narrow minded.  I always preface things that sound rude with not to be rude and now you can't be upset - I read that somewhere.

As for the obfuscation. no.  It is not needed. There is no rent payment for me, straight back to card, amazon payments between people with same last names, whatever. 

My own postulation is that the players like Amazon, Bluebird, Vanilla etc are in this for the big bucks, and using the data gathered by gamers along with all the rest to increase the empirical value in order to gain new business.  The BB/Vanilla has been structured to allow incredibly abusive fees to the unbanked on one end of the spectrum, and marginally abusive back at them on the other from the gamers.

I think narrow minded is a bit harsh, but hey, you make a lot of money from this (Upton Sinclair quote *again* - hard to get someone to accept a point of view when their income depends on it...).

Your postulation - so basically you're taking advantage of companies keeping the poor and stupid poor and stupid? Unethical!

Look, I'm not telling you to stop, I do think it's pretty cool in some ways, but getting thousands of dollars for literally nothing... it's mad. Sign up bonuses, carrot not stick, I get that. But free money for nothing. Why do you think it's ok?

Why is it free money for nothing? It isn't a passive activity.

Ok, so, in the olden days.

Person X spends several hours a day growing food and selling it, digging up rocks and selling them, shining shoes, whatever. The value of the thing being sold is greater to the person buying it than the cost of paying for it - so you spend $1 having your shoes shined because the person doing it does a better job, is quicker, etc than you.

What Manufactured Spend is has no benefit to anyone except you. It is parasitic. In the olden days, the grower/manufacturer/service provider gets something (money), and the purchaser gets something (service, good). In this setup, you get something (money), and the provider loses something (money). Symbiosis is where both parties get something. Parasitism is where one side gains, one side loses.

You may well expend effort in getting this money, but if the value of the money is greater than the value of your time, it is 'worth doing' - financially.

Here's an example: On Hallowe'en, my wife - who looks very youthful - takes sweets and treats meant for children. Every year, she goes back to a number of houses and takes a small number of candies for herself. Is that ethical? Is that fine?

Note I am not saying you should all stop, you're all evil. Start small and work your way up? So as not to raise any alarms? Hmmm.