Turn $245 into $1,100 with loyalty credit cards

3 steps to grow your rewards



From the September/October 2016 issue of the magazine.


We talked to the savviest points collectors in Canada to learn the secrets of boosting loyalty rewards. Here are their steps on how to turn $245 into $1,100 with some smart loyalty credit card moves.

The sign up

Sign up for a pair of American Express cards—the Amex Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) and Amex Gold card. The Starwood card comes with 20,000 SPG bonus rewards while the gold card comes with 25,000 Amex points. Refer a couple of friends to the SPG card and you can pick up an additional 20,000 points (10,000 for each referral).

Point tally

40,000 SPG points
25,000 Amex rewards

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The shell game

Most programs offer better deals once you pass a point threshold, but if you are short of that goal there are a few options to help get you over the top. Experts call this “manufacturing” spending. One approach is to buy gift cards to make up the difference and then immediately try to liquidate them to get the funds back to pay off the balance on the card. But there is a cost and fees can quickly render this approach ineffective. In this case we just need 5,000 SPG points, so we buy $5,000 in gift cards and then liquidate them.

Point tally

5,000 SPG points

The flip

Loyalty programs like Aeroplan frequently offer bonus points when you convert rewards from another program. (One such promotion that ran this summer offered up to 55,000 points to convert 200,000 or more.) In our case we have 45,000 SPG points available, plus Starwood offers an additional 5,000 point bonus when its members convert more than 20,000 SPG rewards, which brings our tally to 50,000—just enough to qualify for 10,000 additional points. Without that additional 5,000 points the bonus would have been 4,000, which is what we earn when we exchange the 25,000 Amex reward points.

Final point total: 89,000
Value: $1,100
Cost: $245 ($120 sign up fee, $125 for manufacturing spending)

Net gain: $855

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