ALMOST THREE MILLION POINTS by a RTW BEER TASTING , READING NEWSPAPERS AND THE LIKE!!!!!!!!!!!!
* When I first became aware of the Everyday promo my immediate thought was WOW, that this was amazingly generous, BUT so generous that it was too good to be true. It could not be true…could it? What was the catch…but there did not seem to be one. Daydreams of earning over a million points “Pudding-Guy “ like sprang to mind.
* My next thought that this was an all mighty stuff up by Amex and that they had rolled out their promo with a basic mathematical flaw. It’s bonus rate was simply way WAY too generous. With that thought firmly in mind, my next thought was that as this promo was too good to be true, that it would not last. That Amex would yank it immediately, or at least end it prematurely, once they realised their own mistake.
* So I quickly resolved to spend the weekend shopping in the full belief that while Amex would yank the promo, that I would have a window of opportunity to get a significant number of transactions (tx) in.
* Over the next days and weeks Amex continued to make a series of mistakes that for them must have made this the Promo-From-Hell where it would cost them a huge quantity of points PLUS destroy goodwill with Cardmembers rather than build it. Both with those in the promo, but also the many Cardmembers locked out of it, or who had “caps” imposed.
What is the Everyday Promo?:
For those not aware, this was an Amex MR Reward promotion that awarded 5000 points after every 5 or 10 transactions (tx). Yes you read correctly, that was the offer!!!! Another variation was 10,000 after every 20. I was fortunate enough to have received a postcard for the more generous rate. However for a brief period of several days the promo was open to anyone with an appropriate Amex Card. After that period the boom was lowered and only those with postcards could apply and additionally 10,000 points per month cap was introduced.
I registered on Sep 17, 2008 and the promo ceased on Dec 31, 2008. Many have now had all their points awarded, but a number are still waiting.
THE FIRST WEEK.....LET THE POINTS RUN BEGIN!!!
Achieving bountiful transactions over the first weekend, and week or so, was pretty easy. With the birthdays of two of my children coming up, plus Xmas on top of “normal” shopping there were no shortage of ideas or tx to be had.
So for me this was to be a Points Run.
So I shopped over the weekend madly, and then also at lunchtimes etc as well in the belief that the promo could and would cease at any moment.
On monitoring what Amex was doing much to my surprise from reading what one of their senior staffers had posted on the AFF forum it became crystal clear that while Amex had soon realised that they hand made some blunders…that they only thought it was in allowing outside enrolments of non-targeted cardmembers, multiple enrolments and some sloppy T&C that did not prevent bill-splitting etc.
They had seemingly failed to realise that their BIGGEST problem was the promo bonus rate!!!! Indeed a senior Amex executive endorsed and legitimised the promo by having material posted on-line on one travel forum (AFF).
So far from the promo being ceased prematurely, it appeared that it would roll on for the full duration!!
TIME TO GET STRATEGIC
So time to be more strategic in my thinking. For a million points plus was clearly there for the taking.
But some strategies were needed as for example a million points meant a 1000 tx.
A 1000 tx at say $20 to $50 each meant a spend of $20 to $50 thousand. Serious dollars and so if a large number of legitimate tx were to be made then some lower spend tx need to be achieved or I would simply run out of money.
Also I had various major expenses (mortgage, school fees etc) due and so my free cash was constrained.
There was also the risk (and fear) that Amex could renege and so I resolved to in the main just buy things that were of genuine value to me. There was no point spending thousands on "rubbish" to then find that it had all amounted to zero. Similarly all spend needed to be on “legitimate” tx.
The other issue was time!! Making many tx meant a lot of time. However a few quick calculations indicated that once converted to flights that significant benefit was there to be had.
Depending on which airline you converted points to (from Amex in Australia one can transfer points at 1:1 to SQ or QF for example, but a range of other airlines are available at various transfer rates too) a million points could equate to say 4 to 8 Business Class Return Airfares to Europe from Australia = a major prize and lure!!!
So based on this I resolved to put in significant time over the next three months shopping. A quick mental calculation meant maybe an extra one to two hundred hours on top of “normal” shopping. However in Australia at Christmas time the packed shopping malls are testament to that alot of extra time is spent shopping in this period by many anyway.
While splitting a bill into hundreds or thousands of payments could technically be done. Knowing that Amex’s overall MR T&C gave them some protection anyway I kept well clear of bill-splitting from the start. It was pretty clear that Amex would take exception to this and indeed soon changed the T&C to specifically outlaw it.
The myth going around was that someone early on had paid a thousand dollar telephone bill on-line in $1 increments earning a million points with a single bill!!! Naturally Amex took exception to that!!!
This meant that you would have to earn the tx the hard way for legitimate spend (one tx at a time) and that this would take effort, time and dollars. But one could be strategic in all three areas.
* One of my clear tactics was to buy things from as many different businesses as possible. That way there could be no real doubt that each tx was legitimate. ie socks at Kmart, jocks(underpants) at Target, runners (athletic shoes) at Rebel Sports etc.
* To do this I would visit many different shopping centres in the main as clusters of shops was tx efficient.
* I would also be aware of businesses that I might pass. For example Bunnings (Hardware)is normally off by itself and so I would in the main visit on the way to somewhere else, as for a one tx trip the total travel would make it a time intensive tx.
*My main exception to my Different Stores rule was David Jones and Myers who have departmental registers.
This means that at both stores that have you buy their goods from each department. This is the stores requirement and not mine and is how one always shops at these stores. Promo or no Promo!!!. Buy some trousers in one part, and then say perfume for your wife in another department for a second transaction. This is how I have shopped there for many years and how those stores require it. So hence multiple tx are 100% legitimate as long as you visit different departments. This effectively making them mini-shopping centres = different stores in one compact area. The David Jones food court became a particular favourite and indeed to my surprise (for those outside of Australia DJ’s is a more up market store) I discovered that their per/kg price for Ocean Trout was several $ cheaper than in the supermarkets. So I actually also saved some dollars by shopping there. The caramel slice is also particularly delicious and highly recommended.
TIME & FITNESS
* In the main I soon realised that shopping centres were the way to go as many business that accepted Amex were clustered close together at these locations, meaning that many tx could be made rapidly.
* Also such centres normally had several department stores or supermarkets which accepted Amex without any minimum spend. Some of them also had places where you could buy a coffee on Amex such as Krispey Kremes to provide a break and refreshment during the shopping trip.
*When looking to visit many stores rapidly the time per tx was very important. So I would mainly try and time my visits when there were less shoppers. ie early Saturday or Sunday morning as opposed to in the afternoon. Shopping at Monday lunchtime was also great as most centres were largely empty.
...One thing early on that was sacrificed for this promo was that I normally go for lunchtime walks to keep my fitness up. So after a few trips I decided to include fitness into my shopping trips and so I would walk very briskly from store to store rather than just stroll. This plus visiting centres at the right time meant than many tx could be achieved in say an hour leaving the rest of my day free for more normal pursuits. and walking briskly also meant more tx achieved per hour.
This prayed on my mind as I did not want to do a lot of shopping to find my being knocked back later.
I was confident that I could easily achieve a very large number of tx and so I resolved that I needed to do this carefully. Amex also revised the Terms and Conditions to somewhat clarify what legitimate spend was, but also left things somewhat vague which created a bit of uncertainty.
SWAP FROM CASH/VISA/MC
* Like many I almost stopped using cash.
* This meant changing stores, or being willing to spend a bit more time making a tx by paying with Amex rather than cash.
* For example most days I would now buy my morning newspaper on Amex at a 7/11 that was happy to accept such a tx. adding this up buying a newspaper a day virtually earned me enough points for a long-haul International Business Class Airfare in itself.
* I occasionally frequented Mobil for this too, but a manager/owner there ceased small tx after several visits.
* I stopped buying lunch from my favourite Sandwich Bar which did not take Amex. Most other such businesses near me would not take any CC, and especially Amex.
* So after a bit of thought I realised I could buy lunch each day at Supermarkets, some but not all 7/11s and also at some Service Stations (often required a minimum of a $5 spend).
*Supermarkets became very attractive as they had no minimum spend.
*However I was mindful of using the same supermarket several times a day and this being declared in some way not genuine spend. So I resolved to make sure that each spend would at different supermarkets.
*ie I might buy morning tea, or breakfast at one supermarket on the way to work. At a different supermarket a lunchtime, and then on some days I would buy the ingredients for dinner at a third supermarket on the way home. As these were all at different stores, as well as times they were all clearly different tx and spend.
* For many weeks I found one café near work that would take Amex for coffee, but well into the promo the owner of the business stopped accepting Amex from me for just a coffee.
* VISA/MC were likewise swapped from. Where there where extra % fees for Amex such as at JB HiFi this was often now willingly paid (as long at the spend was not too high). This included various bills.
These became part of my daily routine. Many of the larger stores have a table, or an area, where discontinued items, or item nearing there sell-buy date are put.
These tables had a number of advantages:
* Items are discounted and hence the cost per tx is low PLUS you gain an immediate cash saving immediately.
* The items are normally refreshed each day. This made this area perfect for Everyday spend as the item’s you find today most likely will not be there tomorrow. And you also have a legitimate reason to go back the next day, and the day after etc.
* My music collection improved markedly as both JB Hifi and DSE had such tables where I picked up a number of CDs for $1 to $5 each. I even once went buy a $2 CD, bit it scanned through at only $0.50!!
* I only had dabbled at this in the past. Mainly tickets for shows and the football and routine bills.
* However with the incentive of a 1000 points per tx I started to look around and do some internet-research. Over the course of the promo I found more things to buy from Movie Tickets to online music to Bowling Games.
* My wife and three daughters all regularly use public transport. To my joy I found that these could be bought on-line with free postage!!!! However the trains stopped accepting Amex on Dec 31 and I wondered if this was due to perhaps sudden increase of people buying their tickets with Amex!!! Still with this being ceased on Dec 31, plus with a 5% fare rise being announced I felt it quite legitimate to buy some extra tickets in advance and save %5 immediately!!
* I allowed my daughters to buy some music on-line from Bigpond, and bought various presents, software and school needs on-line as well. This is actually providing post-promo benefit to Amex as I have continued to allow one daughter to purchase a few tracks every week. Without the promo I would never have explored this area.
* I also donated to a number of charities. I gave to twenty odd people in Movember (a promotion where men grow moustaches and then shave them off to raise funds) and this I think had me flagged with Amex for suspicious spend. I did demonstrate however that it was to twenty different people with twenty different receipts. Thus legitimate spend
TASTING BEERS FROM AROUND THE WORLD!!!!!!!
* Like many enrolled in the promotion I ducked into Dan Murphy’s (or First Choice which are both discount liquor stores) on the way home to grab a bottle of wine.
* However I do not normally consume a bottle a day everyday and secondly buying a reasonable bottle of wine each day for 100 days was going to add up to a pretty penny! I also did not fancy buying too many of the cleanskins.
* Then one day early on I had my Eureka moment. I was there at the checkout with my bottle of wine with the guy in front of me buying a single stubby of VB beer. Over the subsequent weeks I observed many others who bought a beer after work (though most of them paid by cash and not Amex!!!).
* I had not thought of buying a “single” beer before and in particular from a discount liquor store like Dan’s.
*So back I wandered to the beer section and discovered an amazing array of beers from around the world, as well as the domestic brews.
* So that began a bit of extra fun and an expansion of my beer knowledge. I resolved to try a different beer each day and this became a fun part of my day (much of the other shopping became a detested, but necessary chore).
* Many of the beers were kept cold in the store, and so on some days I might also treat myself to a refreshing beer at lunchtime too!!!!
* My Beer tasting was by far my favourite part of earning the tx and a grand way to rack up a Business Class return to Europe which I calculate is what I achieved!!!!!
* This promo was called the Everyday Promo.
* And spending everyday I realised was to be one of the important keys to gaining a large number of tx.
* Newspapers were great. Very cheap and as each day is unique there could be no argument about it being legitimate spend. So the trick was finding somewhere that would take Amex for $1.20 to $2.00. Luckily my local 7/11 did and so most days that was my first tx.
*A beer a day I found as mentioned above a great way to end the shopping day!!
*Breakfast, Morning Tea....Lunch...all add up nicely...as do the occasional ice-cream or chocolate bar.
*Shopping for Dinner
*Coffee (well at least when I could)
Most lunchtimes I would also rotate through various other stores such as JB HiFi for a CD or the local Hardware for some Garden Supplies as my wife and I both enjoy gardening as a recreation.
Taking up the Amex offer to become an every day shopper and during the promo I did in fact buy something everyday, even if only on-line, had an unexpected cost saving aspect to it.
Shopping everyday provided a very large platform of tx to further boost by some on-line spend, paying all bills possible by Amex and by major shopping trips to shopping centres on the weekend, or late on week nights when open.
shopping everyday was a very large part of my success in achieving a large number of tx. It also meant that wherever I was travelling that I would tend to detour and have tx along the way.
Shopping everyday took time, but it also saved money.
By shopping everyday I was able to buy the vast majority of the items that I bought at genuine sale or discounted prices (and no I do not mean the permanent sale prices that some stores have!!). If I, or my wife, wanted a particular item, I knew it would only be a matter of time before I saw it on sale somewhere.
For example, one daughter loves bananas. I would only buy them when I saw them on special. Another example was the Spore Game that one daughter wanted. I just waited till it was on special before buying it.
This cost saving served as an added bonus to the Promo Bonus.
Buying things on sale also legitimised the spend, as different stores would have different things on sale on different days.
* Was unusually generous in 2009, though with a penchant for many small gifts!!!!!.
* DES (an electrical store) had a huge software promo and so Santa took advantage of it to buy quite a number of quality Wii games for $20-30 (normally $50-100), and a number of NDS games for as little as $5 (normally $40 +).
* The boredom of shopping as, apart from browsing in book or camping stores etc, I in the main HATE shopping.
* I can assure you there were many, many times where the last thing I wanted to to do was go shopping!!!!! I just envisaged sitting in business class on the way to Paris, or New York, or....
* Too much eating. While buying ice-creams, milkshakes, chocolate bars etc were an easy tx, they did add to ones waistline. Mind you my daughters suddenly found that Dad had become a very soft-touch on shopping/movie trips and they had a very happy three months.
Well some $$ was wasted on lollies, drinks, coffees and lunches etc. But on the other hand a lot of money was saved due to discounts and sales. All in all I estimate that I would have saved more money than I additionally spent.
TALES OF THE POINTS RUN
Tales of the Point Runner - a few snippets from my Points Run. While much of the shopping was drudgery, it did have it’s funny moments:
Was doing my Points Run again yesterday at my favourite Shopping Centre (because it has oodles of Amex accepting stores...)...and had two Sales Assistants ask me the same question...
Them: With smiling face and eyes burning with curiosity; You must love shopping?
Me: No. I hate shopping (which I do)
Them: With puzzled face, But I see you here ALL the time !!!!
One I just smiled at as she was busy with more customers waiting...
The other I actually explained why.
Was buying a minor item ( a drink) from a supermarket and it scanned at a slightly higher incorrect price.
On querying it was told that the store policy was that in such cases you get it free. Normally one would be delighted...but in this case as there was a bit of a queue (and hence making a second purchase would take a bit of time) I offered to just pay the lower price...only to meet a firm desire to give me the item for free!!
I decided to upgrade one of my daughters mobile phones by entering into a new 24 month plan with a nice new phone and thus also gain a couple of monthly payments for the promo..
While bartering for the best deal the assistant says no worries and gives me the first months free!!!!! er says I....that is great..but can I pay up front and get cash back later? No say the assistant. The current deal won't allow that.
Seeing my obvious horror he then includes another $15 free...thus wiping out my planned two txs pre-Dec 31!!
Still my eldest daughter is most pleased with her new phone (a present for finishing VCE).
My points running (shopping) has had a minor unexpected financial return.
On one occasion while waiting in the queue at the register I spotted a small piece of red paper on the ground being walked over repeatedly. Looking familiar I picked it up and was the proud new owner of a 10 Euro note! Have also found a $10 Australian note too and about another $20 in total.!!
Dang!...lost another business off my "tx" list as of lunchtime today.
Since the promo started, there was one and only one restaurant/cafe near my office that made GOOD coffee and
accepted Amex for just a coffee. It has seen me buy a coffee per day at lunchtime there on many workdays.
Nice friendly staff...and a nice place....and superb coffee.
However unfortunately today the owner was staffing the till.....who refused my proffered Amex Card.
Worse news was that there was now a $15 minimum.
Compared to the staff he was rude and obnoxious.
He demanded another form of payment.
I: Sorry, says I Amex is all I have ( and it actually was for well into the promo I had dispensed with the need for cash and while on a Points Run al I normally took with me was my Amex leaving my bulky wallet behind).
Owner: You can get cash from the ATM down the street.
I: Not possible as I don't have my ATM card on me.
Owner: You can go and get it.
I: No I am not doing that for a coffee as I have driven here (my office is a few minutes by car and so I drive down here as I can buy lunch, a coffee & visit a couple of other stores on my lunch break) and there is no way I am wasting that much time for just a coffee.
Owner: But you must pay.
I: I am willing to pay with my Amex.
Owner: We do not accept Amex for less that $15.
I: Well if you have changed your policy then you should have advised me of that on accepting my order.
Owner: We have always had a $15 minimum.
I: Well I have bought a coffee on Amex here most days for the last few months.
Owner: The staff were wrong to accept.
I: Well that may be, but the fact remains that I have been paying by Amex for months for a coffee each day and your business has accepted.
Indeed before my first coffee purchase I asked if I could pay for a coffee on Amex and was told yes.
Therefore my expectation is that you would accept it today.
Would you like payment?
Owner: No we would make a loss on Amex.
I: I can understand that you have now instituted a $15 minimum and that I will know this in future, but you needed to have advised me of this when I ordered. I only have Amex, would you like payment?
Owner: I will make your coffee free.
I: Thank you.
So one free coffee but no tx!!! and more importantly a loss of another 15 odd potential tx for December...not to mention a business that made a great coffee!!
And how many points did I end up earning? 2.825 Million Promo points plus 0.042 MR points = 2.867 points all up earnt ..so rounding off 2.9 million..
A FINAL WORD
While Amex probably wishes this promo never happened, and also did delay in posting points and in responding etc, they did in the end of the day pay out all points owed and met their responsibilities to me. So thank you and credit to them.
Even before this promo commenced I regarded as Amex as the best CC available in terms of benefit to the cardholder. More-so as I am an avid collector of FF points.