Category Archives: Extreme Tactics

Catch-Up Update (April 11, 2018)

My, oh my!  It’s been a while since my last update post and there is a lot to report.  So much, in fact, that I won’t even get to it all here.  There is a ton of news on the credit card front.  Nicoleen and I had a great time in Costa Rica and are working on some future trip plans.  A ValueTactics reader pulled off an amazing feat of free travel planning. . .  Let’s get into the update!

Household Points and Miles Activity for January and February

Here is two months’ worth of points and miles activity for us.  Starting with January:

  • earned 3,763 airline miles
  • earned 8,794 hotel points
  • earned 5,407 Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • earned 975 Citi Thank-You points
  • redeemed free annual IHG night for lodging worth $109.48
  • received $133.76 in travel expense reimbursement from Nicoleen’s Chase Sapphire Reserve
  • received $100 reimbursement (Global Entry application fee) from my Bank of America Premier Rewards card

And February:

  • earned 30,106 hotel points
  • earned 7,559 Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • earned 6,071 Citi Thank-You points
  • earned 105 “other” points

Credit Card News

There is a lot going on with travel credit cards at the moment.  It’s too much news to cram into an update post so I’ll simply list the highlights.  If any of these developments catches your eye, I’d encourage you to see what other bloggers and FlyerTalk posters have to say about it.

  • The American Express Delta cards (Gold and Platinum) are currently at 60k and 70k, respectively, for sign-up bonuses.  This is the highest I remember these bonuses ever going, so if you haven’t had one of these cards before, now might be a good time to apply.  The public offer expires tonight (read more here).  A ValueTactics reader currently has a referral link for the same offer on these cards, but it’s good until 5/16/18.  If you don’t apply today and are still interested in these offers, contact me and I will get the referral sent to you.
  • Chase’s IHG Rewards hotel card lost some of its potential value due to changes in the annual free night terms.  Check out my previous blog post for more info.
  • The same Chase IHG Rewards card is being replaced with a $29 annual fee version and an $89 annual fee version.
  • The Barclay Arrival+ went away.
  • Chase recently extended their “One Sapphire Policy” to their Southwest cards.  Getting both personal cards is no longer a possible way to earn the Southwest Companion Pass.  One personal and one business card is now the easiest combination good for that tactic.

I’ve been having a lot of credit card discussions with my in-the-game friends and family lately.  Planning card applications is becoming a real science in recent months and years.  Through these discussions some of us have formulated and acted on plans; in the coming weeks I have a feeling I’ll have some card applications of my own to report!

Travel News

cr-relaxYes, we had a great time in Costa Rica last month!  Since we had already stayed at the Andaz Papagayo Peninsula the previous year, we already knew the drill and were able to get right into relaxation mode.  The motto of our trip was:  There’s tons of stuff to do in Costa Rica, and we plan on doing none of it!  🙂  The goal was rest and relaxation and we got our fill.

Derek’s Feat

While their home state refused to let go of winter, Derek and Danie enjoyed the Arizona heat!

While their home state refused to let go of winter, Derek and Danie enjoyed the Arizona heat!

Stalwart ValueTactics readers Derek and Danie just returned from a warm-weather weekend get-away in Arizona.  Being stalwart readers, naturally they paid for their flights and hotel with points.  But that’s not the noteworthy part of this amazing feat of travel planning.

The noteworthy part is that Derek, in a frenzy, called me Friday mid-morning looking for some flight booking advice.  He had hatched a plan to get out of town for the weekend just that morning.  I helped him steer clear of some tactical errors and he continued his searching.  By late afternoon, he and his wife were on a free flight to Phoenix!  That’s hands down the fastest turn-around from concept to execution of a free vacation I have ever heard of!

Great job, Derek.  I’m tagging this post with Extreme Tactics just for you.  🙂

Recent ValueTactics Blog Posts

Major Downgrade to IHG Anniversary Free Night is the latest “big news” devaluation in the points and miles world.  It also marks the end of an era for free hotel nights, as I explain in the article.

Free Travel Photo


I thought it would be fitting to represent the last free free hotel night we used as the free travel photo.  Nicoleen and I used my IHG anniversary free night at the Crowne Plaza Northstar in Minneapolis back in January.  It was a convenient use of the free night but had I known then about the recent IHG free night devaluation I might have looked for a more valuable/interesting redemption.

Now you’re updated. Go employ some Value Tactics!

The Free Cheese Stick Loophole

I figured out a way to get 54 cheese sticks and $3.03 worth of gas for free when you make a $25 fuel purchase at Super America gas stations.  At least that’s one way to spin the convoluted points-earning scheme I have come up with.

Is this what free gas looks like to you? (Or is that just my points psychosis taking hold...)

Is this what free gas looks like to you? (Or is that just my points psychosis taking hold…)

It all started when I was in my local Super America station, talking to the cashier about the impending end of Double Coupon Tuesdays.  I was planning on buying a few hundred dollars worth of gift cards, earning 10 pts per dollar, in order to have enough points (8,750) for one last $0.50/gal coupon before the end of August.  He mentioned that another good way to quickly earn points was with the food item promotion where you earn 1000 points for every 6 items purchased.  Normally I avoid buying gas station food because it’s expensive and unhealthy.  But the cashier showed me the best deal on food items, which is 3 cheese sticks for $1.50 (regularly $0.75 each).  If you buy 6 of them for $3.00, you get 1000 points.

That perked my ears up.  When spending 8,750 points for the $0.50/gal coupon and using it on Double Coupon Tuesdays, you can get $1.00 off per gallon up to 25 gallons.  This means the points are worth $2.86 per 1000.  And now I discover I can “buy” 1000 points for $3.00 and get 6 cheese sticks out of the deal.  That’s 6 cheese sticks for $0.14!  But wait . . .

The above calculation only considers the bonus points and doesn’t account for the regular points earned on the $3.00 purchase, which is an extra 60 points.  Furthermore, if your $3.00 purchase is paid with a gift card (as it should be if you are using the free gas tactic) you earned another 30 points when you bought the gift card.

6 cheese sticks for $3.00: 60 pts for purchase + 30 pts for gift card + 1000 bonus points = 1090 pts per 6 cheese sticks purchased.

At 1,090 total points for each group of 6 cheese sticks, you’d have to do it 9 times to get the 8,750 points required for the big gas coupon. This would leave you with 1,060 points leftover, which is worth $3.03 in free gas according to the above valuation.

Two sides of the same coin

You can choose to look at this deal in one of two ways.

  1. You’re buying 25 gallons of gas at a small discount, and getting the 54 cheese sticks for free, OR
  2. You’re buying the cheese sticks at a discounted price, and getting the big gas coupon (worth $25) for free.

Either way, it all revolves around the fact that Super America doubles coupons on Tuesdays and that you can buy a $0.50/gal coupon with 8,750 My SA Rewards points.  Which brings me to the next part:

Now, the kicker . . .

None of this will work after September 1st.  That’s right; My SA Rewards points will be worth exactly HALF of what they are currently worth, starting next month.  As I wrote about last week, Super America will stop double coupon Tuesdays after this month.

The moral of the story

If all the math in this deal breaks down in a few days, why waste my time explaining it to you?  Why did you just read this?  Several reasons:

  • You can still take advantage of this deal through this Tuesday.
  • Working through the calculations and point valuations for a little scheme like this probably isn’t worth much, BUT it’s exactly this type of in-depth analysis that leads to exceptionally awesome discoveries like the loophole I wrote about last week that was worth over a million frequent flyer miles.
  • The breakdown of this deal is yet another example of why you shouldn’t wait to get in the game!  Deals are always disappearing and getting downgraded.  If you enjoy getting something for nothing, traveling for free, and maximizing valuable opportunities, then read more and get in the game now!

The Man Who Earned 1.25 Million Miles . . . with Pudding

This guy is my hero.  David Phillips became a legend in the points and miles world when he earned 1,253,000 frequent flyer miles by taking advantage of a marketing promotion.  In 1999 Healthy Choice was running a promotion whereby 10 UPCs from their food products could be redeemed for 500 miles each (at your airline of choice).  They would double it to 1000 miles if the submissions were mailed before the end of May.  Mr. Phillips (a.k.a. The Pudding Guy) calculated that the miles were far more valuable than the cost of the food products themselves so he found the best deal in town, the pudding cups.  Like a good value tactician, he took full advantage of the deal before it was gone!  He bought 12,150 cups of pudding (among other food products) for $3140 and earned one and a quarter million miles!
I can’t figure out how I was previously unaware of this legendary figure in the points world.  I recently saw the Adam Sandler movie “Punch Drunk Love” which features a fictionalized version of Mr. Phillips’s pudding escapade.  I loved the story so much I used a clip of it as a hook in my post, Don’t Hoard Points.

It was only after I used the clip that I decided to find out if such a promotion ever existed, and I discovered The Pudding Guy is real!

For a more detailed report of what this Hero of Value did, check out these links:

The archived Flyertalk blurb written by Mr. Phillips himself

A short video featuring commentary by the man

The wikipedia entry on David Phillips