When I formally became a churner in November of 2011, I spent hours, days, weeks, and months obsessing over credit card applications, learning about what card to use to maximize each dollar spent, and educating myself on airline routing rules in order to execute incomparable trips. As I expanded my operation, I became as obsessed with the art of manufactured spending, a practice that netted thousands of points. Now, with the restrictions imposed by banks, the loss of value from devaluations, and the limited MS opportunities, I have to pivot if I want to survive.
What started off as MS withdrawals has turned into a min spend crisis. The insomnia from min spends has returned as I applied for cards in reaction to AA’s devaluation and Chase’s medieval 5/24 policy. Now, in addition to meeting the 20k spend on the British Airways card, I have a Marriott card, a United card, and 2 Citi AA cards to feed with no nice and neat way of doing so. While I’m sure I will figure out a way with MOs, my spending, friend spending, and everything in between, none are long-term solutions.
I’ve read on some blogs that the way to move forward is through reselling where an individual buys a product at discount and sells it online with the hopes of breaking even or even turning a profit. The idea sounds good in theory but actually doing it and doing it well is far from simple. Stiff competition, inventory overhead, and the time required to truly become an expert in this is not worth my time. Points accumulation is (to use a word that I hate) a hobby not a full-time job.
However, just because I am not going to become a widgets reseller does not mean that I will not apply the entrepreneurship principles from this technique to my points accumulation practice. This time instead of going through the same process as I did in 2011, I am going to dedicate those efforts to growing a profitable, sustainable business which will produce more than just points returns. It will, hopefully, generate profits. I assert that the only way to survive in the points business is by starting your own business. For me, that’s doubling down my efforts to increase blog revenue, publish more books, manage more AdWord accounts, and, most importantly, grow my own law practice.
Here are the reasons why you should also start your own business in the context of points:
1. MS is not sustainable: The idea behind MS is more than just spending without spending. It is gaining points for doing next to nothing. The limited options available now including reselling or running around trying to buy gift cards to buy money orders to find a bank that won’t report you to the IRS for behavior that is innocent enough requires doing more than nothing. These avenues require a lot of time and a tolerance for nonsense that is better served developing a viable business plan.
2. The death of MS means those in the cubicle will not be able to hit the mins: Assuming approval from a bucket of cards every churn cycle despite draconian anti-churning rules, it is challenging to hit the mins to realize those bonuses. Absent the boss suddenly realizing an employee’s talent and paying him what he deserves, the points participant probably won’t have the disposable income need to meet the mins. And even if she was making a substantial salary, the first rule of the churning business is to not make unnecessary purchases just to hit thresholds which may leave her in debt.
3. Starting your own business yields category bonus points: The way to pad point balances between churn cycles is through category bonus spends. With a real business, not a shell corporation, these expenses can net serious points. Chase INK provides the following perks: 5x points on office supply stores and on cellular phone, landline, internet and cable TV services and 2x points at gas stations and hotel accommodations. Amex BRG provides 3X points on one of the following and 2X on the rest.
- Airfare purchased directly from airlines
- U.S. purchases for advertising in select media
- U.S. purchases at gas stations
- U.S. purchases for shipping
- U.S. computer hardware, software, and cloud computing purchases made directly from select providers
4. Credit card application restrictions aren’t imposed on small business cards: Amex only allows clients to apply for a card and receive the bonus once in their entire life. That is ridiculous. This restriction does not apply to business card accounts. The more legitimate business that are opened with proven financials the more opportunities there are to churn and earn points. It is puzzling that this is not Chase’s rule at this point for its business cards. (Update 2/25/2016: Amex is now applying this restriction to business cards)
5. Increased Award Availability: Devaluations seem to be a daily occurrence. Even those with an embarrassing stash of miles will begin to squirm as they start to spend their miles. TPOL has booked most of his trips for 2016 and probably has enough reserves to last through 2017, but if the current trends continue, 2018 will present serious problems. On the other hand, as the points cache begin to dry up, there will be fewer people still standing to make award bookings at the new rates. Those that have followed this advice will be able to capitalize.
It is a common misconception among friends and family that my book The Entrepreneur’s Compass: A Roundabout Way of Getting There is strictly about points. Indeed, only one of twenty-two chapters (Step 1: Enjoy #ThePointsOfLife) addresses the subject. And even there, I point out the dangers of becoming obsessed with this fake lifestyle.
“It is important to reiterate that Step 1 must be consumed in moderation. Becoming an expert in points can be to your detriment. If you become preoccupied with this step, you will spend your days planning imaginary trips as a temporary escape from reality. Although therapeutic, this is a waste of time. Riskier still is having the capability to go on a once-in-a-lifetime trip a few times a year. Detouring for yet another grand trip may cloud your vision, forcing you to lose focus on what you originally set out to accomplish. Recognize that Enjoying #ThePointsOfLife is the cause, not the effect. Being inspired to strive for a better life, not just a better trip, is the real point of this lesson.”
Plainly stated, it’s time to start your own business today if you hope to continue to travel tomorrow.