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I can’t really remember seeing so many credit card bonus spend offers in such a short time. It seems that the banks are really jostling to get their card to the top of our wallets this holiday season. Last month I highlighted three of these offers that I had received, some of which were targeted. Those offers were all relatively small in magnitude, though they did offer a pretty good return.
Well apparently the arms race continues as I received a similar (possibly targeted) offer for my Barclays AAdvantage Aviator. Only this time, Barclays upped the ante considerably — this offer is for 30,000 bonus miles after spending at least $2,500 each month for the next six months. That means $2,500 in December. Another $2,500 in January. And so on through May. That’s kind of a long time.
The only time I dated a girl longer than six months I ended up marrying her! As a United guy, I certainly don’t want to marry my Aviator card, right? So I initially brushed it aside.
Then I began to think it over, and realized this provides the opportunity to buy American miles at 0.83 cents each with virtually no effort.
Terms of The Aviator Bonus Offer
The spend requirement for this offer is $2,500 per month for six months — $15,000 total. That means that if I succeed in hitting the threshold each month, come next summer I’ll have earned a total of 45,000 American miles — 15,000 for the spend and 30,000 for the bonus.
Earning 3 miles per dollar spent doesn’t seem too shabby. And for otherwise unbonused spend, it’s actually really good.
It seems that the offer might be targeted, which I know is kind of annoying. If you have the card and haven’t received a mailer with this offer I’d suggest calling Barclays to ask.
For context, I hadn’t even activated my Aviator card since it arrived to replace my US Airways card last spring. That shows just how much I cared about this card.
Can I Do This?
My family probably spends $2,500 per month (unfortunately), so that’s not really a problem. The issue is that the majority of our spend already earns some sort of category bonus. So to some extent, this would be robbing Peter to pay Paul.
Or more accurately, we’d be foregoing the opportunity to earn an equivalent amount (or more) of Ultimate Rewards and Thank You points to earn American miles, the latter of which I value less.
So while I could technically shift all of our spend for the next six months, that didn’t seem like a great strategy. I again dismissed the idea.
Should I Get Creative?
The promo mailer stayed on our kitchen table teasing me with those 30,000 bonus miles.
Maybe I could create this spend like the really slick guys do? Then I remembered that I have 3 kids under the age of 5. And I don’t live particularly close to any of those stores that make that stuff work. And I hate driving around. So while that might work for some, I needed something a heck of a lot easier even if wasn’t as efficient.
Let’s call it the “Can I do it from my laptop while holding a baby in one arm while watching football on TV” test.
If some spending strategy could pass that test, I’d be in.
Plastiq To The Rescue
Then I remembered Plastiq, the service that allows you to pay any bill with a credit card.
From your laptop.
With a baby in one arm.
While watching TV.
Check. Check. And check.
I used Plastiq last summer to earn the signup bonus for a card with large minimum spend. It worked fine. All of my payments arrived at the mortgage company without issue, even if it did take a little longer that maybe I thought it should. (I received an email from Plastiq recently saying that they are now able to send a lot more payments electronically, including to my mortgage company, such that payments should arrive in a more timely manner.)
It just so happens that my mortgage payment is on the order of $2,500. That’s convenient because it would allow me to basically make one charge per month for the next six months to my Aviator card to earn the 30,000 mile bonus.
Given that Plastiq currently charges a 2.5% processing fee, the “cost” of doing this would be:
That means I’d essentially be paying $375 for 45,000 American miles, or I’d be acquiring them at 0.83 cents each.
Even given the upcoming devaluation, that seems pretty good, and is much less than the 1.8 cents that Ben claims to still value them at.
And most importantly, it wouldn’t require much effort. Heck, I could probably even schedule the payments in Plastiq in advance and not have to worry about missing a month and blowing the whole thing up.
A Slight Gotcha
After writing this post, I realized that the annual fee for my Aviator card will come due in March, right in the middle of the six month offer.
The decision as to whether to keep, cancel, upgrade, or downgrade this card is fairly complicated. Given my lack of interest in this card — remember how I hadn’t even activated it until last week — I was originally planning on canceling it. Since my account doesn’t seem to be eligible for the 10,000 mile anniversary bonus, I don’t really see the point in keeping it.
That means that instead of paying $375 in Plastiq fees to earn 45,000 Advantage miles, I’ll also probably end up paying the $89 annual fee. That will bring my total cost to acquire the miles to $464, or right around 1.0 cent per mile. Still pretty good I guess, but it does seem like kind of a sneaky way for Barclays to get me to keep the card for another year.
If American were selling miles tomorrow at 0.83 cents each (or 1.0), I think I’d be a buyer. I might even buy more than 45,000 of them. That seems to indicate that I should do this deal.
There are definitely a lot of ways to do this more cheaply, but for those who have a mortgage of about the right size, and who are either too busy or too lazy to bother with more exotic strategies out there, I think this is a very viable method.
In fact, I would go so far as to argue that if you were targeted for this offer, have such a mortgage and aren’t already paying it with Plastiq for the next six months, yet decide not to do this deal, then you must value American miles at less than 0.83 cents.
Given that, I think I’ll do it.
Were you targeted for this offer? Are you going to take advantage of the bonus?