Do You Have the Time? (To Listen to Me Whine)


#Milemadness is in full swing, we’re 2/3 through the month.  I haven’t spent much time on the blog discussing the contest–that’s been on purpose. I didn’t have much to bring up, so I’ve kept most of my posts Milenomics-centric. I changed my strategy for week 2 in a way that I’d like to discuss here. I promise I’ll keep the whining to a minimum. 😉

Week one saw me consumed with trying to spend my entire $5k bankroll and cash it out daily.  This took up far too much of my time.  My standard churn is very repeatable, and very consistent. It also doesn’t exactly fit into the cotest rules. Week one I was trying to adjust my spending to the contest. Week two I decided to just spend as I normally would and only count that spending which fell within contest rules.

Week two I changed things up quite a bit.  I capitalized on a gift card sale, which also earned 10X UR, and went in big on it. This is an example where the contest and real life spending really start to diverge.  A gift card sale, where cards can be purchased for less than their resale price, and earn 10X UR should have been a slam dunk. However the contest rules state that until those cards are cashed out they can’t be taken off the books.  The cards still haven’t been delivered. I’m expecting them today or tomorrow, nearly 2 weeks after ordering!

This means $2,000+ of my bankroll would be tied up.  What was initially a great deal ended up tying up my bankroll for more than 10 days.  If I had not locked up the $2,000+ I could have spent it at most once a day. The 10X would therefore “step down” each day that I had to wait for the cards:

  • Day 1: 10X
    • Day 2: 9X,
      • Day 3: 8X..

And so on. Of course if you look at spending with a 2x or higher card the steps get bigger:

  • Day 1: 10X  
      • Day 2: 8X  
          • Day 3: 6X…

After 11 days of waiting for the card order to be filled, shipped, and delivered I’m still holding this $2,000 on the books. I could have spent it 22X over (11 x 2X card). Of course this kind of math doesn’t happen outside of a tournament. In the real world I can wait for the cards, spend as I please and not be worried about the cash being held up.

Another change I made was to stop keeping track of daily bankroll and spending. I stopped calculating my maximum daily spend for week two, and just spent whatever I normally would. At the end of the week I then went back and calculated Daily bankroll, and saw if I over/under-spent.

This caused me to overspend on quite a few days during week 2. Going over-budget still made (financial) sense to me because I’m still tracking my costs using Milenomics’ Cost Tracking.

At the end of the week I removed some of the gift card purchases off the books. Yes this meant forfeiting 10X UR, but it freed up my bankroll to be spent 6 days in a row (at 2X). This was not against the tournament rules, and and even removing some of the giftcard purchases I still ended up overspending some days, meaning I needed to remove even more purchases off the books.

Cards Small

Upcharging my Cards by an extra 1%

I knew coming into the contest I would be at a disadvantage against other competitors. I did my best in week 2 to close the gap as much as possible. I probably won’t win, but I still want to finish as strong as possible here, and represent Milenomics as best I can.

My single biggest limitation has been not holding a 5% card.  My highest multiple is a 3% Blue Cash Everyday (2). I used these two cards pretty heavily last week. I also relied heavily on my SPG Amex, which I used nearly every day last week.

My Amex Gold was used a lot in week one, but sat out nearly all last week. For week 4 I’ll be pushing hard on the Gold PRG. Because of the value of MR, and the fact that if I spend 30k in a year I’ll get an additional 15,000 MR I could in theory earn a bonus of 7500 MR as I spend $15,001 on my Gold card this month (Contest rules allow partial credit for bonuses if 50% of spending is reached).

That would make $1 spent at a grocery store worth 2MR plus an extra .5 MR.  2.5MR =  3.225cents in Frequent Miler’s Fair Trading prices. Remember I don’t calculate value like this, but for the contest I’m playing with these rules.

Cutting Euro

Cutting Fees to Increase %

I knew that most of my competitors are buying and loading VR–at $3.95 per $500.  In addition they’re likely also buying assorted other gift cards for $4.95 or $5.95.  These costs represent between .79% and 1.19%.  By eliminating as many of these fees as possible I was able to upcharge my cards by an additional ~1%. Some of the techniques I used were:

  • Remove the Fee from VR
  • Remove the Fee from Prepaid Visa Cards 
  • Removing the Fee from MoneyPaks 
  • Removing the Fee from Reloadit Packs

When I’m not able to remove a fee I was trying to Double, or triple (or even Quadruple) dip whenever possible.

I’m working much harder than other competitors, and really a 5X card would have made all the difference in the world. While it wasn’t enough to overcome top spenders my strategy seemed to work for week 2, and I’m proud of my numbers.

The good news is I’m getting ready for Spring CCC apps, and I’ve had a few 5x cards planned in those apps.  I’ll go over those in the next day or so here on the blog, but they’ll be too little, too late for the contest.

Broken Clock

Keeping Time Down

Week one saw me spend over 8 hours on earning just $456.07. Week 2 saw me spend 2.25 Hours and earn $529.92.  Adding in my time, at my T-Rate My net totals for the two weeks would be:

Week 1: $456.07 – (8*$25) = $256.07

Week 2: $529.92 – (2.25*$25) = $473.67

One thing to note is that I disqualified about $2k in spending for the week 2 because it put me over budget. The time spent to earn this was not disqualified, which means week 2’s raw numbers are even a bit higher still than the above.

What changed?  I had a few  once-off deals in week 2 which won’t come back for week 3. But the biggest change was that I focused on cutting as many fees as possible, to try to make up as much ground as possible.

Another change which helped with cutting my hours way back was that I started to hold items overnight.  This made my bankroll dip dangerously low, somdays approaching just $2,000 (due to the giftcards still not being shipped).

The best way to describe week two is that it started to look more like my standard weekly MMRs.  I would visit Wal-Mart in the Morning, cash out anything from the night before, and earn miles off of my debit card.  Then in the afternoon I’d buy items which I could cash out from home, and possibly one $500 or so item I’d again hold overnight.

In a way the gift cards not shipping helped me to stop reaching for higher hanging fruit.  I seem to really only be able to hit $3,000 – $4,000 a day in no-fee items, due to store restrictions and not wanting to have cards shut down for abuse. Going any higher means leaving my closest stores and driving around town more than I need to.

The End Is Near

I’m really happy with my week 2 performance. While I know I’m not in a position to win, I feel great that I did slide into #3 for last week. More imporatantly (to me) was that I kept my time way down.  I really wasn’t sure I would have been able to keep up the 8+ hours per week pace I set in week one. Switching my strategy and holding items overnight had no real effect on my score, and kept my time down to a minimum.

With 10 days left I can say that week 3 has been much clunkier. I took 2 days off to focus on other things, and I’ll be out of town the last 3 days of the month, so I effectively only have 8 days left to make a miracle happen.

I want to thank Matt @Saverocity for coming up with the idea for the tournament, and for inviting me to play in it. Also thanks to Frequent Miler for agreeing to judge, and giving exposure on his site to this new blog.

About the author

- Written by Sam Simon. All ideas are my own, but I encourage you to see my point of view and I promise I'll try to do the same. Connect with me on Twitter @Milenomics.


  1. At first this contest sounded mildly interesting. But now my eyes roll back in my head whenever I see a post. 5x cards are going to win – as was always going to be the case.

    1. Paul: I’ve been trying to keep the posts to a minimum out of concern for readers. Thanks for the feedback.

  2. Wow – I had braced myself for some serious bellyaching but instead got an informative post! You undersold yourself in the title. However, I’m quite intrigued about the gift card sale that earned you 10 UR points! I would really appreciate it you dropped me a private note on that – at least until the private forum gets up and running 😉

    1. smay: Thanks, I think. 😉 Rather undersell and surprise than oversell and disappoint. Was going to just title the post “Do You Have the time” but I really couldn’t get the song lyric out of my head, so I had to complete it.

  3. This contest is as disappointing as this year’s super bowl. If you don’t have a 5x card, why bother playing or claim you can MS at all? People should be able to do the math that MS with 5x is the way to go without a contest to prove it. Who cares if you are working much harder and trying to reduce fees? That’s bad, not good. The players with the 5x cards are playing the game smarter, not harder, and don’t care about 1% fees.

  4. Would you share your techniques for avoiding the card purchase fees? I’m only aware of Reload it/T-Mobile.

  5. I totally disagree with Brett. Not everyone can or wants to MS to the max. Some may not yet have a 5X card, or have enough of them. I think that Milenomics’ posts are great because he shows that there are many ways to skin this MS cat.

    He may not win the contest but he remains a winner in my book because he offers different, winning strategies that newbies, risk-averse and folks with less of a ready bankroll can utilize. While I’ve stopped reading the contest blog posts from contestants who are just buying VRs at 5X, I do find good info here.

    1. That makes no sense. Regardless of whether you MS $1,000 a month or $100,000 a month, you should be earning the most points you can for the MS that you do. There’s no such thing as “have enough 5x” because 5x are mostly cash or cash equivalents. At 5% cash back, you can use some of your proceeds to buy the miles or points you’d earn with whatever 1x card you’d propose to use, cover all the fees and still have some left over.

      And keep in mind Mr. Milenomics is MS-ing to the max. He spends just as much on his credit cards as anyone else in the contest. He’s just wasting time and not earning the points for it! And like he said, he is working much harder for no reason.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *