Current Anatomy

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The miles game continues to steam along month after month.

There’ve been no dramatic changes to my approach of late but there’ve been some subtle changes that are worth reporting on.

My current approach involves:

  • $1000 “spent” in Amazon payments a month between me and my wife’s account.
  • One Isis serve card for both me and my wife.
  • One PayPal business MasterCard debit card for both me and my wife.
  • 2 credit card applications a month for both me and my wife.
  • Between $4-5000 worth of moneypak cards purchased with credit card at Riteaid and loaded onto each of our isis serve cards via online loads.
  • Between $2-4000 worth of PayPal mycash cards loaded onto our PayPal accounts each month via the Internet.
  • $1500 a month each loaded from PayPal onto both of our Isis Serve cards via automatic debit using our PayPal business debit cards (at 1% cashback.)
  • $1500 a month each loaded automatically from our credit cards onto our Isis Serve cards.
  • Liquidation of our Serve accounts via withdrawal of the end of month account balance to the bank.
  • About $2500 a month of stock purchases for both me and my wife via Loyal3, liquidated each month and withdrawn to our bank account

So all in all that’s about $25,500 worth of manufactured spending capacity each month with nary a trip to Walmart. Not bad.

And here are my impressions of the current approach.

Isis Serve applications

The bad news is that in signing up my wife for her own account last month I discovered that you now get $15 from both Isis and AT&T, not $25 as when I had applied a month earlier.

The good news is that we got our $50 direct deposit bonus just by twice withdrawing $250 from our Amazon Payments account to our linked to Serve account via Amazon payments. This is much easier than having to do it through payroll at your work. It is also much quicker.

The Isis Serve account in general.

I love the Isis serve account. It is 10 times better than my old Bluebird account. How do I love it? Let me count the ways.
Hamley-Ophelia

I shall read the following list in sonnet form….

  • Loading $1500 a month directly and automatically online by credit card. (This is both more lucrative, and easier than Amazon payments.)
  • Loading $1500 a month from my PayPal debit card directly and automatically online.(This is still quite easy and has the additional attribute of being a “double dip”- you get points for using your credit card to buy thE Mycash cards, and 1% additional cashback by liquidating them via the PayPal debit card.)
  • Loading money pack cards online as opposed to going to Walmart to load gift cards – priceless.
  • Being able to load $1500/day onto Isis Serve as opposed to $1000/day onto my old bluebird card.
  • The one minor negative is that Moneypak limits you to $1500 loaded onto a particular debit card for a 24 hour period.(So you can’t load $1500 at 8:30 PM Pacific time, and then load another $1500 at 9:15 Pacific time because the Bluebird/Serve calender day rolled over at 12:00 AM Eastern time.)

Recent experimentation with rolling monthly credit card applications versus six card churns every three months.

It was worth a shot, but I definitely prefer the old method of 6 to 8 credit card applications every three months per Social Security Number because…

  • I have noticed a steeper decline in credit scores with sequential month after month applications.(Though I expect this effect to be short-lived.)*

Screenshot 2014-07-19 22.14.48That’s unusual…

 

  • I also don’t think this method opens up new opportunities for high bonus offers. After all if you were approved for Chase personal credit card last month you’re unlikely to be approved for another Chase Personal card this month. So if a sweet Chase offer comes up, you’re still locked out.
  • Finally, as illustrated above I can currently manufacture over $20,000 in spending a month without much effort at all. This means that meeting bonuses on two cards or six cards at a time is largely the same thing to me.

Loyal3 hasn’t kicked me off yet.

  • I keep on buying and selling stocks each month on loyal3.
  • I’ve moved to buying them in batches of about 10 per day based on this article.
  • Given the continued bull market I have yet to lose money on any given month.
  • I continue to avoid buying stocks that have lost more than 2% the month prior so that I can tax loss harvest and avoid some taxes.
  • Although this is the most labor-intensive part of my manufactured spending strategy, it is not annoying enough yet that I have put it on hiatus yet.
  • It’s amazing how similar this ragtag collection of popular stocks is to the overall performance of the stock market. Serendipitous diversification, I guess.

Personal news from the last few months of playing the miles game. 

  • We are now the proud owners of two Southwest companion passes. One for me and one for my wife. This means we that as a family of five we can fly anywhere Southwest does for the cost of three tickets purchased with points, and less than 25 bucks total. Perhaps we will hit Aruba?
  • Mrs. Dividend was approved for her second Citi Executive Aadvantage American Airlines card** which should net us our 300,000th AAdvantage mile in less than 3 months from this promotion alone (Almost enough for next year’s trip to Japan.)
  • I’m starting to really look forward to my upcoming fancy trip to Vancouver BC, Taiwan, and Osaka next month. Such is the magnetic power of XLB (juicy Shanghai pork dumplings), Taiwanese beef noodle, and sashimi.

* This observation does not come close to rising to the level of solid evidence. It could very well be false attribution. Take it with several grains of salt.

** Sadly this offer is rumored to be dead.  The best current offer is only 75,000 miles.

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29 Responses to “Current Anatomy”

  1. Syed July 20, 2014 at 1:22 pm #

    I appreciate you sharing your MS strategy. I didn’t know about the Paypal strategy do you have some more info about your method and any limitations to remember? I will start getting some moneypaks tomorrow.

    I can’t wait to get rid of going to walmart it is becoming more and more of a hassle. I still go there once in a while because one of the grocery chains nearby are still giving gas points for gift card purchases to the tune of 20 cents off per gallon for every $100 spent. That’s a full dollar off a gallon for every $500 gift card. With no limits. I’m sure the fun will be over at some point as I’m seeing less and less $500 Visa gift cards in stock as time goes on but it still gives me a reason to go to Walmart.

    So I’m currently with you on Amazon payments and credit card reloads to Serve, but have to get on the Moneypak and Paypal train. Thanks again for the insight.

    • Miles Dividend M.D. July 20, 2014 at 1:39 pm #

      Syed,

      Gotta love the fuel points. I hit them pretty hard last year and have been dabbling again this year.

      In terms of the PayPal angle, it’s pretty well covered here:

      http://themilesprofessor.com/2014/05/10/paypal-square-cash-business-debit/

      Just substitute the piece about using Square, for using $1500 on your PayPal account to auto-load onto your Isis serve account.

      At the end of the month I transfer the balance over $1500 from either my count to my wives or vice versa and then liquidate the amount over $1500 in the receiving paypal account to our bank account.

      AZ

  2. AJ July 21, 2014 at 8:52 am #

    Pretty impressive.. So what card do you put real spending on? Insignificant when compared to manufactured spending..

    • Miles Dividend M.D. July 21, 2014 at 9:54 pm #

      AJ,

      It all depends but…

      Usually the one whose bonus currently working on, or

      The one with the highest category bonus (eg the “old ” amex blue cash card at drugstores, grocery stores and gas stations for 5X Cashback)…

      I have at least 6 cards in my wallet at all times!

      AZ

  3. Sam July 22, 2014 at 10:44 am #

    This is amazing. It illustrates a balance between a controlled method of MS and life; a perfect work-life balance.

    How do you reload moneypaks to your serve (definitely better than bb)? Is it from the serve website or the moneypak? If it is from the serve, would this system mimic the old VR method?

    Thanks
    Sam

    • Miles Dividend M.D. July 22, 2014 at 11:26 am #

      Sam,

      Thanks!

      You load them from the Moneypak website. But it is essentially the same as VR’s, with a purchase fee of 4.95 instead of 3.95.

      Alexi

  4. VL July 22, 2014 at 11:13 am #

    Amex Serve vs. ISIS Serve?

    Alexi,

    Really enjoyed this most recent post. After reading it and the original post on using ISIS serve, It seems that if you are planning to use the Serve card strictly to load money onto from CCs & moneypak and then to transfer that money to your bank accounts/pay bills online (rather than to actually try to pay for things at a store), it would be easier just to get the physical AMEX Serve card as opposed to using ISIS serve, if for no other reason that it would save you the $69 or so to buy the specialized case for your smartphone.

    Am I misunderstanding this or is there some other reason to use ISIS serve as opposed to the regular AMEX Serve card?

    • Miles Dividend M.D. July 22, 2014 at 11:39 am #

      VL,

      I’m glad you liked the post.

      Isis serve allows you to automatically credit card and debit card load $1500/month each, as opposed to $1000/month each with Serve.

      In addition, while the case costs $69 you will get this back in the form of $15 credits from both your carrier and Isis, as well as the $50 “direct deposit” bonus for withdrawing your amazon payments balance to serve (as described in the post)

      Finally for the rest of the year Isis gives you $1 back for each phone purchase up to 50 bucks a month. so last night I bought 6 cans of $0.98 catfood at Petco with 6 separate swipes on my phone. So I actually made $0.12 on my purchase!

      Isis serve is far better IMHO.

      • Sam July 22, 2014 at 8:59 pm #

        do you know if a stand alone serve can be converted to an Isis serve, or must it be activated through Isis?

        • Miles Dividend M.D. July 22, 2014 at 11:49 pm #

          Sam,

          I’m not sure. I would call serve and ask them.

          AZ

  5. Glo July 23, 2014 at 1:51 pm #

    Hi Alexi,

    Are there any credit cards that should not be used with loading ISIS automatically online ?

    Do you use MS even if you have already met the min. spending? If yes what is your general experience with cost per point/mile?

    Thanks

    • Miles Dividend M.D. July 23, 2014 at 2:16 pm #

      Glo,

      I’ve seen mention of points not being posted when loading directly onto ISIS serve with Amex cards. But I’ve never tried so I can’t confirm.

      I manufacture spend every month, but I am pretty much always working on meeting bonuses for me and my wife. In terms of cost/mile I tend to offset my costs with cash back as in my post “don’t pay, do play.”

      AZ

  6. Leigh July 24, 2014 at 6:10 am #

    Just a note to say Thank You- like others have stated, I love the balance you present in your posts. This one was Very helpful for me and timely as well!

    • Miles Dividend M.D. July 25, 2014 at 11:53 am #

      Leigh,

      Thank you for your kind comment.

      I sincerely hope this blog provides value for you going forward.

      AZ

  7. antonio July 25, 2014 at 11:11 am #

    Hi alexi, pretty good guide.
    I am new to MS. my chase sapphire is on the way…
    I understand the bluebird option with gc is almost dead. But i am confused about ur methods:
    1 I understand that you load ur isis with a cc (does that count as cash in advance?)
    2 is it possible to buy with a cc the PayPal My Cash Card or moneypak cards ? every store is getting hard coded…
    thanks

    Can you “guide” me on the specific how to MS like you do? you can email me.

    • Miles Dividend M.D. July 25, 2014 at 11:52 am #

      Antonio,

      I buy both the PayPal my cash card, and moneypaks at right aid drugstores with credit cards and no cash advance fees are charged for any of these transactions. (I recommend setting your cash advance limit to zero on all of your credit cards when you activate them.)

      By all accounts you can still load bluebird with non-vanilla brand Visa gift cards at Walmart, though at this point, I’m not doing that anymore.

      Good luck,

      AZ

      • antonio July 25, 2014 at 12:46 pm #

        Thank you.
        Thats a bummer!
        I do not have rite aid in Florida :/

  8. Scott July 27, 2014 at 9:01 pm #

    I am new to MS as well and have been buying green dot money pak cards at Rite Aid. One minor inconvenience is now you can only buy one money pak card at a time. It just takes longer at the register to buy multiple in one trip.

    My wife and I both have the Galaxy S4 phones. These and some other non-iphone models have the beam technology built in so no special case is needed for the Isis Serve.

    Thanks for the great site.

    • Miles Dividend M.D. July 28, 2014 at 9:23 am #

      Scott,

      Thanks for your comment.

      Being only able to buy one moneypak at a time might be a blessing in disguise. Green dot is pretty notorious for shutting accounts down randomly.

      (I recently hit a bump in the road with one of my serve counts which I will write about formally once I have resolved it)

      That’s even better that you don’t need to purchase the case with your phone.

      Alexi

  9. antonio August 1, 2014 at 2:46 pm #

    Hi, how do you cash out serve? atm and bill pay? I think ATM widrawal will lead eventually in a shut down!

    • Miles Dividend M.D. August 1, 2014 at 8:35 pm #

      Antonio,

      I use a combination of paying for bills, including credit card bills, with Bill pay, and withdrawing the money to my linked bank account.

      AZ

      • antonio August 2, 2014 at 5:34 am #

        Thank you. So can you load Serve with 1000 dollars a month with a credit card and use Serve to pay that same card bill?

  10. Miles Dividend M.D. August 2, 2014 at 6:03 pm #

    Yes You can. It just shows up at the credit card companies PO Box as a check like any other check.

    • PilotsWife August 15, 2014 at 10:18 pm #

      This is absolutely genius. From your experience, how long does it take for the check to be processed by the credit card company?

      Thanks for your help! I’ve got a “free” trip coming up in December thanks to you & richmondsavers.com

  11. AJ August 20, 2014 at 9:27 pm #

    Getting sucked into this stuff a bit..

    regarding this:
    Loading $1500 a month from my PayPal debit card directly and automatically online.(This is still quite easy and has the additional attribute of being a “double dip”- you get points for using your credit card to buy thE Mycash cards, and 1% additional cashback by liquidating them via the PayPal debit card.)

    How about short cutting the mycash cards (no gas or fees).. setup the credit card as the paypal backup source, keep paypal balance at zero, and do your $1500 a month load onto serve.

    • Miles Dividend M.D. August 22, 2014 at 5:31 pm #

      AJ,

      Great minds think alike.

      I have set The cash advance limit to zero on both of my Credit cards which are linked to our PayPal business debit cards.

      I am all set to experiment with this angle on September 1!

      The other thing I will experiment with in September is swipe reloading my Isys serve cards at right aid using the PayPal business debit card loaded with PayPal my cash cards.(Now that green dot moneypaks seem to be a thing of the past.)

      AZ

      • antonio September 15, 2014 at 9:06 pm #

        hI did u make the experiment with paypal mastercard with cc as backup?

        • Miles Dividend M.D. September 15, 2014 at 9:18 pm #

          Antonio,

          Thanks for the reminder. I should have written about this in my recent posts, but when I tried to add a CC backup to my PP business debit card It only let me use my bank account or a paypal credit line as a backup. So no luck!

          AZ

          • antonio September 16, 2014 at 7:09 am #

            Too. Bad. The only method that I am using is reload it my T-mobile card. I ca make uo to 7,000 a month. Everybody says to avoid paypal like a plague, bc they froze the accounts very often.
            Do you still use paypal business debit to reload serve?

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