TopCashBack Offers 1.5% Cash Back on American Express Gift Cards!

TopCashBack Amex Gift cards

TopCashBack is once again offering cash back on American Express gift cards! 1.5% to be exact. Earlier this month, every shopping portal removed American Express gift cards from the lineup. It was a pretty big deal, since it knocked down $10,000 in monthly profitable manufactured spending. Any way, there’s no telling how long this will last, so if you’ve got some spending requirements to knock out, this is the time to do it. If you’re not currently a TopCashBack member, consider using my referral link to join. I’ll earn a $10 referral when you sign up and make a purchase.

This is perfect timing for me, as I’m wrapping up my $82,000 spending challenge. This just about takes care of it. If you just picked up the 70,000 point version of the Ink Plus card, hopefully this offer will still be around by the time your card gets in so you can knock out the $5,000 spend easily. 

If you’re just using this as an opportunity to generate extra cash, you might want to pair it with the Fidelity American Express card, which offers 2% cash back on all spending. The Barclay Arrival Plus is also a great option, as it earns 2.2% in travel credits. Either way, this is a good way to get a large chunk of spending done. In my experience, keeping orders at $4,000 or less ensures they won’t get cancelled. It’s not a guarantee, but it has worked for me in the past.

If you’re going to use the TopCashBack portal to order American Express gift cards, be sure to take screenshots of the entire transaction in case it isn’t tracked. I’ve never had a problem with tracking, but a lot of folks who use TopCashBack have, so it’s always best to be safe. Keep in mind that Amex gift cards are not PIN-enabled, so the only way to unload them is via Google Wallet (which tacks on about 3% in fees) or by using them to purchase PIN-enabled Visa or Mastercard gift cards. Another option is to use them to load American Express for Target cards, though this can be a hit or miss depending on the cashier you’re dealing with.

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Hilton’s Year-end Promotion Looks Less than Promising

Hilton HHonors Q4 2014 Promotion

I got an email from Hilton today, asking members to vote for the year-end Hilton HHonors promotion. I scrolled down and saw the options were Double Points starting on your second stay or 1,000 Bonus Points every night Thursday through Monday.

So which option should you vote for? If you’re a standard member, you’re earning 10 HHonors points per $1 and an additional 5 points if you choose the Points + Points earning option. Usually with double points promotions, you only earn double base points. So with this promotion, you would earn 25 points per $1 spent. On a stay falling between Thursday – Monday, you’d be better off with the 1,000 point bonus if your nightly rate is less than $40. 

Barring a mistake rate, most of us would be paying well over $40 per night for a Hilton hotel stay, so the double points promotion is by far the most lucrative option. Be sure to cast your vote for the promotion you think would be best, regardless of whether you think you’ll stay at a Hilton Hotel or not. It’s worth mentioning that when I voted, I got a got a notice stating that as a HHonors Gold member, my vote would count three times. I imagine Diamond and perhaps Silver members will also earn multiple votes.

The winning promotion will begin on November 1, 2014 though I imagine they’ll announce it a few weeks before since they’re creating a bit of an event out of the voting process.

Which promotion will you be voting for?

For more on points, miles, and free travel, subscribe to my blog (see “Subscribe” above “Recent Posts”) or follow me @PointChaserFacebook, or Instagram

Chase Ink Plus 70,000 Point Sign-up Bonus Goes Public

Chase Ink Plus 70000

Earlier today, Mommy Points announced that Chase would soon be offering a 70,000 point sign-up bonus for the Chase Ink Plus card through the refer-a-friend channel. I just went on the Chase website and it appears the offer is now publicly available. The spending requirement for the 70,000 point version of the card is the same: $5,000 within 3 months, though the $95 annual fee is not waived the first year. This is as high as I’ve ever seen the sign-up bonus for the Ink Plus card. Last year there was a 60,000 point sign-up bonus and people were going nuts over it. The 70,000 point bonus, thus far, has only been a targeted offer.

Are 20,000 Ultimate Rewards points worth $95? Even if you value Ultimate Rewards conservatively at 1 point each, that 20,000 point bonus is worth $200. So you could certainly get the card and use 9,500 points to “pay yourself back” (a feature that will be going away in January) in order to cover the annual fee and come out ahead with 10,500 points to spare.

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Reminder: IHG PointBreaks List Going Live Tomorrow

Crowne Plaza Hotel Huizhou Lobby Source: Hotel website

Crowne Plaza Hotel Huizhou Lobby
Source: Hotel website

IHG’s quarterly Pointbreaks list, consisting of over 150 properties that can be booked for just 5000 points per night, is going live tomorrow. A preview of the list is available on the IHG forums and it doesn’t look like there will be any Intercontinental properties on the list this time around, though there are a few Crowne Plazas. Below are a some highlights from this quarter’s PointBreaks list:

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Best Starwood Preferred Guest Hotel Redemptions: Category 4

While researching the best Starwood hotel redemptions for Category 4, I came across quite a few gems. Unlike most other chains, low-category hotels in Starwoods portfolio are well located and offer decent accommodations. No hole-in-the-wall airport hotels here – especially outside of North America. 

Starwood’s Category 4 hotels require just 10,000 points per night and these rates are eligible for Nights & Flights redemption. This is ideal for families who want to visit Disney World, as a 70,000 Starpoint redemption allows them to book five nights at the Walt Disney Swan/Dolphin hotel and leaves them with 50,000 miles to cover airfare. Considering high season rates average around $300 per night, this is a bargain. Aside from this, the 5th night free benefit makes it easy to stretch your points further for an extended stay no matter where you go.

Without further ado, here are the best Starwood hotel redemptions for Category 4:

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Virgin Atlantic Upper Class to London Starting at $1,200 RT

Virgin Atlantic Upper Class

Virgin Atlantic’s new Upper Class “suite”

Update at 3:00 PM: Virgin Atlantic has updated its page and these fares are now only valid on one-way travel. Keep an eye on this page, in case they do change it back to round-trip. 

Business class fares to Europe for next summer were recently discounted to under $2,000 round-trip. These discounted fares to Europe come around once or twice a year and buying tickets at these rates can often be a better value than redeeming frequent flyer miles. Aside from these alliance-based fares, there are also other ways to score relatively cheap business class tickets if you’re willing to travel in the off-season.

Virgin Atlantic regularly offers heavily discounted Upper Class fares to London. Virgin’s Upper Class product is similar to most airlines’ business class. Passengers get a flatbed seat, club lounge access, priority security, etc. The airline has dedicated pages on it’s website featuring discounted Economy, Premium Economy, and Upper Class fares. Simply scroll over the “Destinations” tab on the upper left hand side of the page and select “Upper Class” under “Lowest fares & London deals.”

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Where to Buy Money Orders with a PIN-enabled Gift Card

Photo credit: Nicholas Eckhart / Foter / CC BY

Photo credit: Nicholas Eckhart / Foter / CC BY

Money order are an essential tool in accumulating points and/or unloading PIN-enabled gift cards. While most of the mile-earning debit cards (i.e. Bank of America Alaska, Suntrust Skymiles debit card) have been eliminated, there are still a few instances when money orders come in handy. For starters, the UFB Direct Airline Check card still earns 0.5 miles per $1 spent. When you’ve maxed out the daily $2,500/monthly $5,000 load limit on the American Express Serve, being able to cash out remaining PIN-enabled Visa, Mastercard or Simon Mall gift cards via money orders can be a life saver for some. After all, the last thing you want to do is get stuck with thousands of dollars in gift cards you can’t cash out before your credit card bill is due.

So where can you still buy money orders with a debit card or PIN-enabled gift card? You can try the following sources:

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Dealing with Street Harassment While Traveling

An American Girl in Italy Source:

An American Girl in Italy
Source: Orkin Photo

Yesterday, Kendra over and Points and Pixie Dust published a post about experiencing harassment during her trip to Vegas. Some of her experiences were pretty appalling (blocking someone’s way, really? Are we in elementary school?). Reading her post brought back that feeling of anxiety and helplessness when a stranger says or does something inappropriate and all you can do is walk away. I hate that feeling. Women are often conditioned to ignore harassment and I don’t think it’s right. I’ve done that too many times and it always left me feeling angry afterwards. Even when I’ve witnessed harassment and did nothing about it, I’ve felt bad years later.

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Short on Time? Take a Virtual Vacation with Marriott

The Marriott Teleporter Source: Marriott

The Marriott Teleporter
Source: Marriott

In partnership with virtual effects firm Framestore, Marriott recently introduced The Teleporter, a machine equipped to offer travelers a glimpse of certain destinations before they commit to traveling. A Wired reporter shared his experience using the machine on a virtual vacation to Hawaii. Marriott also made the machines available to the public this week, debuting them on the streets of London. Passersby were encouraged to utilize the machines to travel virtually to the sandy beaches of Hawaii.

What’s worth noting about this machine is that users can’t actually move when they’re using it. Instead, they can take in the views, feel the warm sun on their foreheads, and the sand beneath their toes. A company representative described this foray into virtual vacationland as a step towards “build[ing] credibility with younger travelers.” 

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My Last Trip to Walmart: Why I’m Officially Done with Bluebird

Amex Bluebird crossed out

Yesterday, against my better judgment, I decided to waste 20 minutes of my life driving to the miserable hell hole known as Walmart in an attempt to unload my last set of gift cards. With just three Simon Mall gift cards to unload, I decided to get over my manufactured spending fatigue and cash out these cards at the Bluebird kiosk. Even after parking my car, I tried to talk myself out of walking in but resisted the urge to flake out like I had so many times before. I walked in and to my delight, the Bluebird kiosk was up and running – or so it seemed. Of course, it wouldn’t be a normal trip to Walmart if everything went smoothly. 

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