Using Debit Cards to Earn Lots of Miles Cheap

This morning Million Mile Secrets wrote about using a mileage-earning debit card with payment/transfer services Amazon Payments, Venmo, and American Express Serve to earn (a limited number of) miles for free.

Last week he explained earning miles by buying Walmart money orders with a debit card which you then deposit back into your bank account.

Last month he explained paying taxes with a debit card to earn miles — usually when you pay taxes with a credit card cost ‘convenience fee’ is to high to justify the technique for the miles earned. But you can pay taxes with a debit card for a fixed fee under $4.

These techniques are made possible by the Delta Skymiles debit card from Suntrust.

Mileage-earning debit cards, for the most part, went by the wayside with federal legislation capping the fees that banks can charge for debit transactions. It’s simply too expensive to give miles.

Bank of America still offers a couple of cards that earn 1 mile per $2 spent on their cards. But Suntrust re-introduced their Delta card (Suntrust is a regional bank in the mid-Atlantic and Southeast) with full mileage earning.

The only thing that makes sense to me here is that Suntrust was one of only a handful of banks to fail stress tests a few months back, and this is a play for more customer deposits despite the costs.

Accounts are available in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, West Virginia, Virginia, and Washington DC. Folks have generally been able to open accounts when visiting a bank in one of these states even while residing in another state, and there are some reports of success opening an account online via Live Chat.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Do you know if you can use the amex reloadable prepaid card as a debit card for those money orders and paying taxes? I’ve only ever used it at an ATM, never anywhere else for a debit card.

  2. why would you publice this so brazenly? Looking to get it shut down? Come on brother and fellow mileage junkie.

  3. @Grant Thomas — I highly recommend avoiding involving AMEX in any sort of scheme, unless you want to be banned by them for all purposes.

  4. I opened a Suntrust account online and was approved, even though there are no branches in my state. When I tried to open one for a relative, during that big bonus promo, the account was shut down shortly quickly because the customer didn’t “qualify” for the account.

  5. @Ken – Isn’t that the point of the blog? If he didn’t publicize it, how would people learn about it? I didn’t know about and now I do. I am kind of thinking that the point of the blog is to disseminate helpful information. What am I missing?

  6. there are sooooooooooo many little nuances on this gig that are left out and cannot be fully explained without sheer experience that posting it in this blog was a very bad idea indeed. I am not guru or god of miles and I have no stake in anything here, nor can I tell anyone what to do but man oh man, what a way to kill a deal! Thanks for doing that.

  7. Gary – The only miles earning debit card from BofA is the AS card. The end of the US card was announced a while ago.

  8. The point of not posting is because the deal is almost dead. Debit miles cards are about gone. You have to balance disseminating information with destroying what little value there is.

  9. …and to further my point, the thing about this particular gig is: there’s nothing WRONG with it so far at some of the banks at which it works but may be at one of them, but either way, the banks probably wouldn’t like it if they saw it so blatantly posted in a well known travel blog like this one and so they would possibly (likely) work hard to shut it down. What should have been done–that is, unless the authors of this and other blogs are just trying to gain popularity or hits (and maybe perks from those hits) for sharing everything no matter the consequences, is to share discreetly among friends and in private messages and forums. That way, above posters like Mark COULD get the deal but the masses who will invariably NOT fully understand all the workings and fine-line-walkings of this type of deal will not ruin it. This is and always has been a ‘tread careful’ deal and now that it’s so OUT THERE, it may go away faster than you can bat an eye! Why the blogger had to post it now is beyond me, unless there’s nothing else to share.

  10. @Mark I knew about this deal by sifting thru Flyertalk and other BBs. The object is to not get deals killed while informing. These types of posts dont protect the deal. There are other ways to disseminate info. Just ask Gary about the deals he keeps for himself and doesnt share on the blog.

  11. Almost dead, this won’t speed it up, might as well make sure everyone has a chance to benefit before it’s gone. And the cat is more than out of the bag, it’s actively discussed on flyertalk and all I did here is link to other public postings on the subject…

  12. Quickly wandering ’round the Mart,
    debit card in my hand.
    Reached the counter as the lady said,
    “that gig’s over, it’s been banned'”

    Da da dun, dun, dun…. and another one bites the dust.

    Look for updated T&Cs coming to a monthly statement near you!

  13. One the flip side, since you shared this info with people, they know the possible negative consequences if they try to take advantage of this offer and get it killed. The more people know, the safer they will be.

  14. Yeah, I’ve heard rumors that there are secret Flyertalk email or Facebook groups, etc. But, for those of us that aren’t invited to those closed groups, Gary’s blog and others are the only way to learn about these things. If Ken in PHX would care to email me personally when he learns of these things, I would be very thankful. But, until that happens, I am thankful to Gary for posting this deal. I can’t say I will take advantage, but I like having the option.

  15. Almost dead? Who says
    And why further the blade into the body?
    Been going on quietly for years
    And ive told plenty of marks in my years in personal emails and messages

    This is on a blog now and that hurts it
    Ft posts were also asked to be removed but their authors took offense


  16. The popular bloggers are falling over themselves trying to outdo each other and generate more traffic. Hence posts like this. The underlying reason is the desire for more visitors to their blog to use THEIR affiliate credit card links. As has been pointed out on a closed flyertalk thread (Are bloggers ruining Flyertalk?), “Chase was offering up to $450 per credit card referral.” and “Usually the credit card companies offer between $100-$450 per
    referral.” With returns like that, can you blame them?

  17. I agree w joe

    And also, readers should read into what gary said above about this deal…

    Hes effectively only sharing it now cuz he thinks its going to die sp hey guys you can pick up the scraps and gary looks good for posting them before it does die.

    Why didnt he tell you all about it back when it was fully alive?

    And what else is held from being shared?

    Think hard people

  18. Thanks a lot for posting this. After MMS posted it, this was going to be dead anyway. Why not get a few more hits?

    Please do a post about this on Wall Street Journal. Everybody should know about it. This information should not only belong to readers of your blog.

  19. @ MM – please feel free to include me on your personal email distribution list of deals. 🙂

  20. I can certainly see both sides. If I was lazy and wanted one click to get all my info I would be glad that View posted it. But if I did homework and was in the deal or worked to find a deal I would be upset too. It all hurts the mileage collector imo.

  21. Sure mark

    Know me from other deals and doings over many months time

    Share with me things and ideas you know and test and toil with me on things i share with you

    Do this after weve both proven to each other over time that we think alike and believe similar things about systems banks offers deals and miles

    Get to know me and let me know you
    Show that we both dont blow deals and know how to take hits as well as successes

    Gain trust and give it and build an email and even in person relationship and then… Then mark ill share what i got

  22. Joe if I was looking to increase my own traffic will I be putting up a post with a ton of links to a different blog?

  23. Don’t know if anyone has already mentioned, but the title is again misleading. Suntrust, as is explained in the text, has a limited footprint, and the deal is only applicable in some of the states. There are no ‘Debits CardS’ as the title claims, but just one card with a limited footprint. Hope it was just an oversight.

  24. Big difference between clicking on a credit card link and actually applying for and funding a Suntrust account, then going to Walmart to purchase MO’s. I think the guys who complain the loudest don’t realize that they are very hardcore about their miles and points, and not everyone is going to follow their “tricks” even if known.

  25. @Gary: Good point. Actually I think you’re one of the best at providing useful information and insightful commentary and analysis. Some of us readers sometimes judge that the information is a bit TOO helpful. And I don’t even partake in this particular method. It is just in a blogger’s nature, I suppose, to share information, and hard to hold it back. Gotta like all the new angles – and new blogs – that the competition has engendered.

  26. Gary,
    The shrill whining of the Information Luddites will never stop. Let them keep wishing that it was still the year 2000 and they, and ONLY they knew of every deal and scheme. Put on your noise canceling headphones and keep on posting!

  27. Blogs like garys do share lots of info but does he explain all the pitfalls?

    Fraud alerts
    Wm limits
    Mo depository issues
    Risk and acct shut down
    Mos with errors
    How to deal with moneygram errors
    How to get wm csrs on your side
    How to piss them off
    How to avoid pissing off the line of customers behind you
    How many is max
    What each bank does if several different red flags come up
    How to know what each are
    How to come back from a purge
    What the limits are per acct
    Which regulatory departments are involved with high level banking activity
    Which types of banks are more likely to accept va shut you down when depositing and how many theyll allow and when
    Linked acct issues
    Signatures and endorsements
    Errors with each
    Time it takes and costs to recover these errors
    Theft of mos

    He does not

  28. And see, then what happens is that gary, who may very well be posting this deal with good intent, is screwing the newbie who now dives in without having all the facts, and the seasoned user who now has to witness its demise due to over exposure and abuse


  29. In this case all I did was link to a public discussion of these issues.

    There are plenty of people here who write in the comments that these things are more complicated than they actually are, or that there are more frequent problems than there really are, in order to keep people away from these opportunities. They think the fewer people doing them, the less chatter about them, the more they can keep those opportunities to themselves.

    But this was already public. And no I did not go into great detail on these things here, I simply pointed folks to public discussion which they can check out and read about if they’re interested.

  30. @Ram actually as has been mentioned Bank of America has a mileage earning debit card, and the Suntrust footprint may be limited but folks outside that footprint can get the card. No oversight.

  31. Gary I still don’t see an explanation from you about sensitive deals. Mistake fares, bonus sign ups are not things that stay over years and years. However there are deals that can stay quietly right under the surface w no googable publicity that can continue. This was one. And if your excuse was “everyone else was doing it” then thats a little disappointing coming from you

  32. @ Suzieq – How are people — like me and many others — supposed to learn about good “no googable” deals without Gary? Can you address this? I asked this question earlier.

  33. Mark: on post 24 I told you how I would share deals with people I met in mile land online–and so that’s how many should probably approach it–gaining and giving trust to those they get to know, not just some obscure blog stuff. Every person with whom I share any of my most ideal gigs with fits within that framework. Is my method the best? probably not. But I don’t think this one is good at all. Blogs help in some areas but I can tell you that this particular gig is not one to just be blogged about and Gary should have avoided just following what everybody else does or already did. (and if everybbody else already did, why did he have to?)

    Some blog posts may help some people who are already privy to things, but what really happens is that such things often cast a wide, multi-hole’d net that probably hurts more than it helps. I mean, say 30 people reading this ‘get it’ and begin to benefit… and oh, many will get ousted when they screw up on some of the things I mentioned earlier.

    Well, in the meantime, the other 100 readers who try it are gonna get BURNED and who are they going to be mad at when they do!

    You see, what I said in post 30 & 31 was NOT any sort of smoke screen that was trying to confuse a matter or make it more complicated. No, not at all. Those things are very real, very big and very frustrating and they can and WILL happen if people are not 100% on board. The fact that this was blogged so loosely proves to me that Gary did not consider that in this matter. No one has. Everyone thinks it’s just easy as pie. It should be but it’s not, and that’s a fact. Anyone saying it is is lying. This particular deal, as Gary SHOULD know, IS something that cannot be ‘just casually put out there’ for if it is, it will not only potentially hurt the deal but also it will hurt thousands of readers! (I am assuming here that Gary has at least over 1000 readers and I have no idea how many).

    Some things, such as this, are kind of like… well, let’s say they are like sailing on stormy seas with a battle-hardened crew that’s constantly under fire and yeah, the plunder is great when gold is struck but man what a freakin ride it is all the rest of the time. And yet I’m not saying I’m the only sailor nor the best sailor out there in this! I just know this cannot be easily maintained by the average landlubber and thus should never ever have been posted here.

    To get ‘in on’ such things, one needs to put in the time and get to know people offline and away from such regions.

  34. +1. Gary – I have put money in your pocket in the past using your referral links. Now you are taking money out of mine by hastening the demise of a deal that I put real effort into learn and execute properly.

    Mrs UN and I apply for around a dozen or do CCs per year, but we’ll have to think twice about pushing any goodwill in your direction again.

    I hope you’ll think twice too – and avoid joining the others in the race to the bottom.

  35. Mark, The same way I have. Hard work, digging up info and scouring FT and MP. I am certain you dont believe the laziest of mile collectors should earn the best deals do you? How lazy can you possibly be?

  36. I think there’s enough ‘evidence’ to urge Gary to shut this thread down and delete all posts and info about the deal. And since he IS one of the more influential bloggers out there, and probably the most reliable and level headed one, I think he could have the influence and clout needed to urge all others to do the same. Maybe million Miler will listen to Gary if HE asks him to delete all references to this. Maybe the FT posts will also fade and be buried.

    You see, this gig–it’s akin to suggesting to an alcoholic that they go into bars in their town to participate in some pub crawl promo to get miles. Or, like telling a kid who has NOT yet earned the value of a dollar or how bad their stomach hurt last time to go into a candy store and buy something once. Just once.

    Aint realistic for most people.

    And I am by no means suggesting that the readers here are kids or alchy’s but you get the picture: The untrained, unseasoned user of a deal like this is GOING to do damage and get seriously hurt. Oh sure, one or two tries may net a couple miles but it’s not going to go like that and we all know it. If it works, then the user will go back and try more, and that, my friends is where the problems WILL begin.

    I suggest therefore that this blog entry and all blog entries out there like it be taken down and people like Gary do everything they can to make that happen ASAP. And then, since he said he is trying to share and be helpful, he give private one on ones with anyone who reallllyyyy wants to know what the heck to do here. Like I said, he obviously has the knowledge of all the workings of this gig, and therefore is more than willing to help anyone willing to put on their sailing shoes and get wet.

    The amount of work, time and effort–and falters and failures I personally have put into deals like this one is not something I take lightly. (and believe me, I have made my many big mistakes over the years!) That’s the ‘cost’ of miles and points that I cannot just give away to just anyone. That’s also why I don’t have a blog. And while blogs in themselves are not necessarily the problem, my point is once again that some things, such as this, just don’t belong on one. Period. And now that it’s out there, Gary’s new responsibility is to take it down and stop the bleeding of his readers.

  37. You FT’ers are truly pathetic – trying to force others to not talk about your “proprietary” deals by acting as if you have some moral position of “ownership”.

    Do you really think that you can keep your secret deals to yourselves when you’re posting on a PUBLIC FORUM? Are others supposed to feel an obligation to you to preserve the deal for you just because you think you’ve “earned” it by lucking into seeing a posting on FT?

    Marathon man, does everyone need to get to know you and get your approval in order to be deemed worthy of knowing about these secret deals? Your sense of entitlement is mind-boggling. If any newbie were to post a great previously-unknown mileage opportunity on Flyertalk, would you feel that you needed to get to know that person and get his approval before taking advantage of his opportunity?

    My advice: Go create a private forum, if one doesn’t already exist, and go pat yourselves on the back over there with your secret deals if you don’t want anyone else to participate.

  38. Vl you miss the point completely

    No im not entitled to sh*t and i know that

    But i dont talk about this gig on blogs or forums like ft either

    Im saying that for me to want to share something i may know that has some value, i would need to know the person more first. Some may just want money to give or sell ideas. I want to form symbiotic relationships with people who i personally work with

    If you, VL, were say, a plumber and i needed one to work on my basement bathroom, would you give me a deal just because i know youre an electrician who knows how to do the job? No you are not. Not unless you knew me for say a few years, our kids played soccer together, i fixed your wifes car once, etc. then yes, maybe youd share with me your trade and give me a discount on the work. And even if you were to do so, i should enter into it with you never outwardly expecting you to. Get it?

    This is much the same thing and anyone whose tried wiring on their own should know its no hobby to be taken lightly.

    That said, the many people i have ever shared the details of this gig with over the years were willing able to go into it with care and never chat about it on open forums.

    Im not entitled… Anyone could share something with someone, but you (plr) need to pre qualify with whom you (plr) give things to or evryone loses

    I dont know how else to make this point clear

  39. Marathon man,

    The point that you’re missing is that what you and your FT buddies are discussing is done in a PUBLIC FORUM. You think you’re entitled to not having your secret deals discussed outside of FT because only those that have spent time doing hours of research on FT should be allowed to share in the benefits. However, there is no “deserving” of public information and most people do not have a problem with bloggers taking publicly available information and utilizing it in a manner that benefits them.

    There is nothing morally wrong with sharing public information and those (you and other FTers) who are trying to silence the information-spreaders are simply trying to preserve your own little pot of gold at the expense of everyone else. I understand that you want to protect your own profits, but you can’t seriously think that self-serving arguments made with obvious conflicts-of-interest aren’t going to provoke backlash from those not in the inner circle.

    If I were in your shoes, I’d also hate that profitable information is being shared with the masses, but I couldn’t, with a straight face, state that bloggers somehow don’t have the right to share the information. Not when its publicly available.

    Again, my earlier recommendation stands – discuss these deals only in a private forum and you won’t have this problem.

  40. All of you are missing the main point. The terms and conditions of all of the debit cards relevant to this discussion specifically say that miles will not be earned from purchase of money orders. The giving of these miles by debit card issuer has been a mistake by the issuer (in this case a very long standing one). Excessive publicity will cause excessive use of the error, which will cause the issuer to notice and do something about it. Why publicize a deal when publicizing it kills it. Who does this benefit?

    There have been very few good deals I have not put on my website. This has been one of them.

    @Marathon Man: Glad to hear you are on my side of this discussion. I tried to persuade Darius that his post was a very bad idea, to no avail. So the cat is out of the bag, and there is no putting it back in. It was a very good run while it lasted.

  41. @Gary Steiger – Okay I see your point. But, how do you propose sharing this information to someone like me?

  42. @mark: Well I think it’s been said by a couple of people now, Mark. You may need to dialogue with people that you find on forums who appear to have information or helpful posts about things you want to do. Over time they may feel comfortable in sharing with you such information and in turn maybe you are doing the same for them on things they may need.

    A blog might be great for telling hundreds of people about a certain special expiring this week but some deals or systems and schemes are not as easily dealt with here.

  43. @mark: I share almost all offers I know about with everyone who reads my website. But for many years this one is one of the very few I shared with only my closest trusted friends. I am very sad that a few bloggers did not see the need for discretion on it.

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