Credit Card Spend Frustrations, Let Downs & Tightening
This year has been a very tough one with the loss of many avenues of increasing credit card spend. From Bluebird/Serve shutdowns to the neutering and closure of Buxx options, it has been ugly. Add in tightening on approvals by Chase and recent shutdowns by Citi and one could certainly take a negative outlook on the whole thing.
I have been doing this stuff for quite awhile now and don’t have such a bleak outlook. With that said, I’m not here to sell you anything and thus feel like I can share both the good and the bad with you. Despite my overall positive outlook, this weekend was terrible for me when it comes to MS. Really terrible.
The weekend started with a visit to Walmart to load a Serve card that is still alive. As I wrote a few months ago, all of the MoneyCenter Express kiosks (aka KATE) on the North side of the Las Vegas Valley have been replaced by ATMs, so I went to the South side of town to a KATE that has been fairly rock solid. Unfortunately this is what I found:
How sad! Apparently she is being replaced by one of those dumbed down ATMs. How sad. Luckily there is another decent Walmart not too far away. Would it have a working kiosk? Perhaps you can guess the answer. What I found is in the picture at the top of this post. “Lane Closed”. At least this one hasn’t been torn out…..YET.
5X Everywhere – Well Not Anymore
Besides being Valentine’s Day and President’s Day, this past weekend also was NBA All Star Weekend. What did that mean? 5X everywhere on my NBA American Express card. Getting 5X everywhere during All Star Weekend and the NBA Finals is why I got the card. Certainly it would be easy to get some gift cards.
Well, turns out not so much. We have three major brands of grocery stores here in Vegas, but two are under the same ownership. Vons was purchased by Albertson’s recently and both have done away with variable load cards. Then I took a blow at my local Smith’s (Kroger) when they showed me a memo stating that they were going cash only for all Visa/MC gift cards. Sigh.
I also decided to try to purchase a few Visa gift cards from GiftCardMall online. Their fees are a bit high, but with 5% back in made sense and I also wanted to test out a few things. Unfortunately that won’t be happening, because they cancelled my order. Actually, they didn’t just cancel it, they never sent me an email confirmation and the site doesn’t even show the order.
What Is Really Important
Now the weekend wasn’t all terrible. I didn’t have a lot of time to dedicate to tracking down gift cards since a friend was visiting and I was out hiking the amazing Lake Mead Historic Railroad Trail and spending some time at Red Rock. There is nothing like beautiful weather and good friends to make you remember what is truly important. There are some slivers of hope on the MS side as well.
My wife was able to find one grocery store (in a chain mentioned above) that sold her some variable load gift cards and I also know of a few other places that still sell them. These places aren’t as convenient which will make building up my Banana Republic slush fund a bit difficult, but it is doable. The landscape is vastly different than it has been and we are seeing a tightening across the board.
I debated whether or not to write about this, but I think many of you are probably running into the same problems. If you look hard enough and take the time to experiment and find options, they do exist. They simply do. Unfortunately many of the options that are left simply aren’t very convenient. That will definitely be a factor for many and I completely understand that.
While I didn’t maximize the 5X or liquidate all of the cards I wanted to this weekend, I am still coming out way ahead. As avenues die and new ones emerge, we must all decide how hard we move forward. Some people will step back and realize it isn’t worth it while others will forge ahead full steam. Whatever you decide, at this point, with all of the bad news, it is definitely safe to say that we are living in a whole new world.