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I appreciate Vihn’s ‘Deal Dead’ posts on Miles Per Day for the education they provide.
Invariably, someone criticizes him for not sharing while the deal is alive. If you want someone to hand you lucrative live deals, you need to work harder than read a blog freely available to the world. These deals will end if publicized or have wider take-up; those who find them rightly see the value to themselves and don’t want to risk their deals in giving them away.
Vihn is providing case studies that attune readers of what to look for to find their own deals. Experimentation is a key theme. Revisiting seemingly dead deals is another, for example, trying a new type of gift card at a post office rather than assuming every type of card is forever blocked.
A small deal I like is coming to an end. This is one that everything was public, yet few people paid attention. It was limited enough that the self-ascribed ‘heavy hitters’ didn’t think it worth their time, so they did not kill the deal with the excessive volume that they rationalize as not excessive if they are doing it.
United and NetSpend launched the prepaid MileagePlus GO card in July 2017.
A head-scratcher of a product with a steep $85 annual fee, it was unclear the target market.
Points media coverage was dismissive.
Market take-up must have been poor, because the card recently closed to new applicants, and is to be discontinued entirely at the end of 2019. (Note for cardholders: you cannot load after November 30, 2019, so get your December $2,500 in the account by then.)
Really a Dud?
Yes, MileagePlus GO had the $85 annual fee.
Take a look, though, at what it offered:
- Free loads from direct deposit / bank transfer
- 1 mile per 1 dollar spent, up to 2,500 miles per calendar month
- 5% interest on the first $1,000 in the attached savings account (0.5% on any above $1,000)
30,000 United miles per year for $85 is solid. Adding the $1,000 to savings partly offsets the cost (if the 5% is higher than other available savings rates).
The question is the effort involved: loading and liquidation.
Loading was easy by direct deposit. By transfer, not all banks supported the card, however, Chase as one, did. Every month I pushed $2,500 from my Chase checking to MileagePlus GO, taking about 1 minute.
Liquidation was easy, too. Any purchase seemed to work, even buying money orders or paying a credit card at a bank that accepts debit card payment. 5-10 minutes a month calling my bank to pay my credit card.
Scaling was weak. Some people pushed things for a time by managing to have two cards tied to the same United account. Others scaled cards across accounts for the whole family.
The life of the MileagePlus GO card I’ll have earned 72,500 miles. A good deal to me!
The lesson for me is to pay attention to any prepaid card launch and be willing to test things.
I was a month late in getting the card because at first, I, too, did not pay attention to think it through. It was only when a smart friend told me to take another look that I realized I was missing out.