Southwest Gift Cards Working, For Now…

One of the O-4 specialists here at Great Lakes is having some serious regrets in taking his time on the AA gift card buying for the $200 reimbursement. He was slowly buying only $100 AA gift cards over all of his AmEx Personal and Business Platinum cards just in case it did not work. This plan has backfired since all gift cards in any denomination are being coded like this:

It will hard to justify a $200 gift card purchase on AA if it is clearly labeled as “GIFT CERTIFICATE”. This is because gift cards are specifically excluded as one of the fees not reimbursed. In the past the AA gift card charge was labeled as “MISC fee”, and got 5x MR points. This fee was coded as valid being one of the following items:

  • Checked baggage fees (including overweight/oversize)
  • Itinerary change fees
  • Phone reservation fees
  • Pet flight fees
  • Seat assignment fees
  • In-flight amenity fees (beverages, food, pillows/blankets, headphones)
  • In-flight entertainment fees
    • (excluding wireless internet)
  • Airport lounge day passes & annual memberships

The best part is it was reimbursed in just a few days:

What makes matters worse is since he already spent a segment of the $200 credit, he will not be able to switch airlines to SW or Delta. Usually you can switch airlines only in the month of January, but only if you DON’T spend your credit, a simple chat online with the AmEx Customer service was all this is needed to switch airlines at any time:

I would say my “Travel Patterns Have Changed” (which they will) and then switch without any question. I did just this with my Aspire card, and swapped from AA to Southwest and bought a $250 gift card:

I got the airline switched and gift card bought on 14 Feb and got the credit on 16 Feb. The fee showed up as “SPD/AIR FREIGHT” and was considered a covered fee. These most recent events should show that if you have a datapoint like this, time to hit it hard! For this is just the next loophole to close. Keep in mind the Southwest Airlines gift card policy:

Southwest gift cards – A maximum of three Southwest gift cards can be applied per passenger on each reservation.  If your purchase exceeds the amount available on the three Southwest gift cards, you will only be allowed to use two Southwest gift cards and another form of payment will be required for the difference. 

If you have not spent your credit, time to fly the Greyhound of the sky, Southwest Airlines! Also note that you need to reserve two or three seats if you spill over one:

Customers who encroach upon any part of the neighboring seat(s) may proactively purchase the needed number of seats prior to travel in order to ensure the additional seat(s) is available. The armrest is considered to be the definitive boundary between seats; width between the armrests measures 17 inches. The purchase of additional seats serves as a notification to Southwest of a special seating need, and allows us to adequately plan for the number of seats that will be occupied on the aircraft.  In turn, this helps to ensure we can accommodate all Customers on the flight/aircraft for which they purchased a ticket and avoid asking Customers to relinquish their seats for an unplanned accommodation. Most importantly, it ensures that all Customers onboard have access to safe and comfortable seating. You may contact us for a refund of the cost of additional seating after travel. Customers of size who prefer not to purchase an additional seat in advance have the option of purchasing just one seat and then discussing their seating needs with the Customer Service Agent at their departure gate. If it is determined that a second (or third) seat is needed, they will be accommodated with a complimentary additional seat(s).

For those that are stuck with AA since you only spent part of it, then get your Mini-Bar ready for hundreds of tiny bottles.


Ebates Pays 100 MR Per $1

Earn Cash Back

Thanks to reader Steve for the heads up on this new offer from Ebates that DoC wrote about:

You can earn cash back and convert it to MR points. You can then cash out the MR points for 1.25 cents per point. The most recent 14% cashback from Dell and Saks would be the same as 17.5% cashback if converted to cash this way. This is for new accounts only, and had to use incognito mode to sign up for a new account at this public link.

I will be using this instead of my old cash account in order to take advantage of the 25% boost. Thanks Steve!


Mini-Bottle Laws of The Sky

I did not get a chance to drink in Charleston South Carolina prior to the repeal of the Mini-Bottle Law. This old segment from the Daily Show with Jon Stuart shows how bar service was done between 1973 to 2005 in Charleston. However with the end of gift card reimbursements we bring ourselves into a world of acquiring up to $200 worth of mini bottles of liquor per AmEx Platnum Card each year. That is about 28 bottles a card, spread out over several flights as they only serve 2 bottles per service for most airlines. This is for good reason as two bottles is actually almost as much as three shots!

As it turns out, the mini-bottle is not so small. A mini-bottle holds 1.7 ounces of liquor, and bartenders must pour all 1.7 ounces–no more, no less. It may not look like much, but compared with the average drink size around the country–1 to 1.25 ounces of liquor — it packs a wallop

March 23, 2004, Chicago Tribune

In anticipation to this grim reality, I have consolidated the inflight spirit menus of all the possible AmEx Plat reimbursable airlines for 50ml liquor bottles (note Southwest pours from a big bottle, therefore excluded from list):

Delta $9 a bottle:

  • Bacardí® Superior
  • Baileys ® Original Irish Cream
  • Bombay Sapphire ®
  • Canadian Club ® Reserve
  • Dewar’s ® White Label ®
  • Finlandia ® Classic Vodka
  • Jack Daniel’s ® Old No. 7
  • Jack Daniel’s ® Tennessee Honey™
  • Tequila Cazadores ® Blanco
  • Woodford Reserve ®

jetBlue $7 a bottle:

  • Bacardi® Rum
  • Bombay Sapphire® Gin
  • Dewar’s® White Label® Scotch Whisky
  • Jack Daniel’s® Whiskey
  • Tito’s® Handmade Vodka

Frontier $7 a bottle:

  • Breckenridge Vodka
  • Breckenridge Bourbon
  • Breckenridge Gin
  • Jack Daniel’s Whiskey
  • Bacardi Rum
  • Baileys Irish Cream.

Alaska Airlines $7.50 a bottle:

  • Tito’s®Handmade Vodka
  • Tanqueray London Dry Gin
  • Cruzan® Aged Rum
  • Crater Lake hazelnut espresso vodka
  • Woodford Reserve bourbon
  • Sauza tequila
  • Dewar’s White Label scotch
  • Jack Daniel’s Black Label
  • Seagram’s Crown Royal
  • Bailey’s Irish Cream

Sprit Air $7 a bottle:

  • Bacardi® White Rum
  • Crown Royal® Canadian Whisky
  • Fireball® Cinnamon Whisky
  • Jack Daniel’s®
  • Platinum 7X® Vodka
  • Tanqueray® Gin

Hawaiian $6 a bottle:

  • Ocean Vodka
  • Tanqueray Gin
  • Koloa Kaua‘i White Hawaiian Rum
  • Johnnie Walker Red Label
  • Jack Daniels
  • Crown Royal
  • Amaretto Disaronno
  • Grand Marnier
  • Courvoisier Cognac
  • Bailey’s Irish Cream

United $7.99 and $8.99 a bottle

  • $7.99
    • Wheatley Craft Distilled Vodka
    • Bacardi® Superior Rum
    • Dewar’s® “White Label®” Blended Scotch Whisky
    • Jack Daniel’s® Tennessee Whiskey
  • $8.99
    • Baileys® Irish Cream
    • Bombay Sapphire® Dry Gin
    • Buffalo Trace® Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
    • Glenfarclas Single Malt Scotch Whisky
    • DISARONNO® Amaretto

American Airlines $8 a bottle

  • Baileys Irish Cream
  • Bombay Sapphire® Gin
  • Canadian Club® White Label®
  • Dewar’s® White Label®
  • Disaronno Amaretto
  • Jack Daniel’s® Tennessee Whiskey
  • Tito’s® Handmade Vodka
I was able to get two double drinks on United

Besides re-creating a minibar in my house, I am not sure what to do with these credits in a post gift card reimbursement world. We get all of our luggage waived for military, and I am able to get premium seats with my status. Thoughts on anything at all?


No More AA Gift Card Reimbursement From AmEx Platinum (Probably)

Everyone over at r/churning is flipping out on a few data points where $200 gift card purchases were labeled with the category of “Gift Cards”. At first I thought it was just overblown, but I had just personally bought a $200 gift card with my newest upgraded Ameriprise Platinum on 12 Feb. I logged in today and saw this:

Sure enough, the $200 charge is now labeled as a gift card, and will most likely not be eligible for reimbursement. It appears to be American Airlines finally using the correct code for these gift cards. Instead of charging gift cards out as an incidental such as luggage or a seat upgrade, they are correctly categorizing it under a separate code of strictly gift cards. It appears that the AA gift card loophole is closed, and those that got all of their gift cards before 08 Feb 2019 were lucky to have them all charged as luggage/flight expenses which were covered under the $200 credit.

This would not be the first overnight disappointment in our churning game. For those that have been around for awhile we used to be able to exploit MPX with United, but that was shut down at the same time they shut down the United gift registry which was another loophole for the $200 benefit.

Luckily I was able to get most of my 2019 gift cards in prior to 08 Feb 2019 date on which this coding switch happened. For my remaining $250 credit on my Hilton Aspire Card, I contacted AmEx and switched it to Southwest:

I will do the same with my new Ameriprise Gold to Plat upgrade to get another $200 for Southwest before this is shut down. I won’t do Delta because you can only do $50 a pop, and only use 3 gift cards per ticket, although the site says:

Up to 3 gift cards can be redeemed per transaction on If you wish to redeem more than 3 cards for a single purchase, please call 1-800-221-1212 and a Reservations Specialist will be able to assist you.

I should call them and see exactly how many can be used for a single ticket.

Overall the good news is Southwest and Delta are still good to go for gift cards. Keep in mind you can get reimbursed for $250/$200/$100 gift cards on Southwest, and only $50 on Delta. The game is not over here, but in the future make sure you take advantage of these loopholes while they’re open. Those that wait are often left in the dust!

In the long run Southwest and Delta gift cards will be shut down, and we will be left with these legit options:

Premium Wine From United at $15.99 a bottle, Regular wine at $7.99 a bottle on United, $8 Spirits on American
Food and Drink on Spirit
Exit row seating with free drinks on AA at $57 a pop
Decent seats on AA at $38 a pop
$8.99 Premium Spirits on United

Overall we Active Duty never relied on this $200 benefits to justify the $550 annual fee since the fee was always waived. I can understand the gripes out there from those that have to pay the $550 fee, but this was all just icing on the cake for us. We still get our $200 Uber and $100 Saks! The writing is on the wall that this long pastime of free gift cards will soon end, so get ready to eat, drink, and upgrade your seat for free on almost any domestic flight! Here are the current options for airline choices:

Assuming that Southwest remains the only full $200 reimbursement airline in 2020 it makes sense to only do Southwest gift cards. Note that southwest often doesn’t charge AD for drinks in flight when you show your CAC (YMMV). Also the drinks on Southwest are served from a large bottle and cannot be carried off the plane. This will be my reimbursement diversification plan for 2020:

23 cards for $4,550 worth of travel reimbursements is nothing to sneeze at! This would allow for $1,550 in Southwest and $400 for Delta with $2,600 to spend on 325 tiny little bottles of vodka over 7 airlines. The 325 x 50 ml bottles is 16.250 liters or about 9 handles worth of vodka!

Still a win in my book!


14% Ebates For Dell & Saks Fifth. Dell Price Match $70 For Me

Today only is 14% cashback via Ebates. Please use my link here if you have not signed up yet:

I would stack this with your $100 Dell credit on AmEx Biz Plat or your $50 Saks Credit on AmEx Personal Plat. Just FYI, the $299 watch I bought last week dropped to $229, and Dell issued me the price difference as part of their price match. Thanks Dan for the advice!

It took some talking to get it to cover the door buster deal, but well worth it! I am starting to love this new partnership.


Possible Grandfathered SCRA Request on Chase Cards

According to Bojangles on flying squadron:

BLUF: If you opened the CSR card prior to them starting to waive the fee for military (Sept 2017). Send them a message online stating you are thinking of closing your account as AMEX waives the fee on their platinum. They may grandfather you in to the new policy.

So there’s been some mention on here of Chase now waiving the fee on the Sapphire Reserve as of Sept 2017 for accounts opened after that date. Nothing retroactive. I contacted Chase late in 2017 asking to be grandfathered in to that policy as I had 2 accounts opened prior to that date. They declined to grandfather me in.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago. After a few drinks, I again sent Chase a message through their online system asking them to grandfather me.  I honestly didn’t even remember I had asked them before when I sent the message or I probably wouldn’t have sent it. I told them that  AMEX was waiving the fee on their platinum card and I would start using that as my primary card if not grandfathered. I really didn’t expect anything to come of it as I got a reply back that said they’d contact me by mail with a decision. Around 7-10 days later, I woke up to close to $5k in credit refunds split between two Chase accounts that I’d had for 4-6 years. I got a letter in the mail a few days later stating that they had applied SCRA benefits to my accounts going back to the day I opened them. I put $75-100k a year on the card so that may have factored into their decision. However, I’m not sure why they did it this time and not previously but I’m not complaining. It may be worth trying if you are paying for the CSR.

Has anyone out here tried this method? I don’t put $75k on any card, let alone a Chase card. I’m always one more card away from a financial review so I won’t be trying this any time soon.


Alaska Airlines Offers 15% In Flight Dining Military Discount

For those holding on to a MLA waived Chase Marriott Premier Plus card (Bonvoy Boundless). I urge you all to upgrade the card after one year to the elusive Ritz-Carlton Card which offers a $300 travel credit on any airlines. I challenge myself every year to buy $300 worth of food and drink in flight. This becomes a challenge, because half the time they just won’t ring me up. On my most recent flight on Alaska Airlines, In noticed this:

Sure enough I showed my CAC and got the discount. I had not noticed this on my way out so I didn’t get the 15% off. On the flight back I took advantage and sure enough all the food got 15% off!

No discount
15% Discount with CAC

I tried on two bottles of bourbon, but it did not work. The fight attendant was nice enough to give me two bottles for the price of one.


Ameriprise Gold Application Dead, Existing Cards Upgradable To Plat After 1 Year

Sorry to report that the Ameriprise Gold card is dead. The upside is the AmEx Platinum Ameriprise version comes with a 60K MR bonus after $5k spend. They dropped the first year free benefit, but it did not apply to us because they would have waived the $550 annual fee anyways for military. For what its worth, I went ahead and tried one more time to upgrade my existing Ameriprise Gold card to another platinum on the phone, and was pleasantly surprised that I was able to do it without any trouble. I tried last month but was denied. The trick was to wait more than a year from opening to ask for the upgrade.

I don’t have an Ameriprise account and have not been shut down, yet! Not sure when this loophole get shut down.


10% Ebates On Dell

Ebates is now offering 10% cash back right now on Dell! Please use my link if you have not used it already.

My current data points are this: $100 spent on a 3 way split on 04 Feb 2019 which all got credited by 07 Feb 2019. My SOP is right here. The 10% cash back AmEx offer also posted on the 5th of Feb.

There was a question in a comment if the Topcashback hit on top of the 10% bonus, and the 3x$100 credit so here is the Topcashback site:

I wish the 10% was around when I did this. However I am happy to have earned $336.87 in cashback and bonus for my $318.74 order for profit of $18.13. The watch I bought has been pretty cool, and use it daily:

We tried to apply the Dell military discount to non Dell items, but it won’t work. I was able to get the $300 watch charged over 3 AmEx Biz Platinum cards. I wrote the experience here. I will earn some sort of Dell cash back, but it appears to takes 30 days from delivery.

Dell is having some sales for President’s day, so now is a good time to spend your bonus. I went to the Microsoft store in Portland, OR and verified that you could use Xbox live gift cards on the Microsoft website to buy hardware. Sure enough they sell such gift cards on the Dell website! Next datapoint needed is getting both the 10% Ebates and the $100 AmEx gift card on a $100 Xbox gift card. This would be a way to stack multiple bonuses over one year to get $1,600 over my 4 AmEx Biz Platinum cards! Please post your data points if you got them.