Buying a car with a credit card: How I drove away with half a million points

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Believe the hype: the used car market is hot right now. I just beat the heat by buying a car with a credit card and I earned so many points on my used car purchase that I could turn around and sell the car tomorrow (and I’ll show you how) and turn a profit. Alternatively, I could use the points I earned to cover an entire vacation with a retail price higher than the cost of my vehicle (See: Incredible vacations with half a million Membership Rewards points). Here’s how I did it, what I learned, and how you can do the same. This post is long, but you can get the short summary in the next section and you can easily skip around to the sections that interest you using the table of contents below.

Update: In the hours since publication, the offer on the Platinum card has changed. Unfortunately, the Shop Small component has expired and restaurants are now only 10x for the first 12 months. This is a huge bummer!

Me picking up my van after buying the car with a credit card.

Summary: I bought a car with a credit card and raked in more than 500,000 points

The bottom line summary for this post is:

  1. I shopped the Internet looking for a deal on a used minivan. I ultimately purchased 9 hours away from home in Columbus, Ohio.
  2. I bought my van at a car dealership that I was confident would code as an Amex Shop Small business (most dealerships likely do) and I put $24,000 of the purchase on a credit card. It is worth noting that I was initially told that the dealership had a $2,000 limit on credit card payments. That proved to be negotiable.
  3. I earned 360,000 points at 15x for a $24,000 Shop Small purchase (this offer has since expired – bummer!), 96,000 points at +4x because of a referral offer, and 125,000 points from the welcome bonus for a grand total of 581,000 points by paying for the majority of the cost of the car on a credit card.
  4. Because of the hot used car market, I could potentially sell the car for nearly what I paid and come out with a bucket of cheap Membership Rewards points. If you shop really well, I think you could make an easy profit. See more in this section.
  5. The points I earned from this purchase could nearly cover my entire $17,600 vacation to Europe planned for later this year – and it could get far better than that (See: Incredible vacations with half a million Membership Rewards points). This was well worth the effort.

The truth is that there was some effort involved and I learned some important things along the way. With the lessons I learned, hopefully your approach can be more streamlined and you can also walk away with a boatload of points that makes it worth buying a car even in the current ridiculously hot market.

The Resy offer for the Amex Platinum card: Buying a car with a credit card never yielded so many points

Update: In the hours since publication, the offer on the Amex Platinum card has changed. The best offer (as shown below) no longer includes the Shop Small bonus. If you got in on that offer while it was still available, you can still use the technique in this post to generate a ton of Membership Rewards points, but if you missed the 15x Shop Small offer it has now expired. That’s very disappointing!

For months now, the most incredible welcome offer we have ever seen on a single credit card has been available on the Platinum card from American Express (and it has now expired as noted above). The catch is that the absolute best offer was only available by applying through a link at restaurant reservation website Resy. Since Resy is offering the indisputable best offer on the Platinum card, our Platinum card page has linked to it and we have referenced it many times in posts and on the Frequent Miler on the Air podcast. To be clear, we don’t earn any sort of affiliate commission or bonus on this card, the offer is just so good that it feels necessary to shout about it from the rooftops.

This is the offer:

Card Offer and Details
The Platinum Card® from American Express
150K Points + 10x restaurants
150K after $6K spend in first 6 months + 10x at restaurants worldwide for the first 6 months on up to $25K in eligible purchases. Terms apply. (Rates & Fees)
(Offer Expires 6/8/2022)

$695 Annual Fee

Info about this card has been collected independently by Frequent Miler. The issuer did not provide the details, nor is it responsible for their accuracy.

Recent better offer: 125K after $6K in the first 6 months + 15x when you Shop Small in the US and at restaurants worldwide on up to $25K in eligible purchases in the first 6 months [Expired 1/20/22]

FM Mini Review: This card is absolutely loaded with high end perks. Depending upon your situation, those perks may be worth the annual fee or much more.


Card Type: Amex Pay Over Time Card

Base
Travel

Earning rate: 5X points for flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel ⚬ 5X points for prepaid hotels booked through American Express Travel

Noteworthy perks: ⚬ $200 Airline Fee Credit. Up to $200 a year in baggage fees and more at one qualifying airline ⚬ $200 prepaid hotel credit annually valid on Fine Hotels & Resorts and The Hotel Collection bookings. ⚬ Up to $300 in Equinox credits. ⚬ Up to $20 per month rebate for select digital entertainment services (NY Times, ESPN+, Disney+, Hulu, Peacock, Sirius XM, Audible) ⚬ $189 CLEAR fee reimbursement annually. ⚬ Up to $200 for Uber rides annually. Credit and Uber VIP status for Basic Member only ⚬ $300 credit when buying a SoulCycle bike directly from SoulCycle (up to 15 bikes per year) ⚬ $12.95 monthly credit for Walmart+ monthly membership subscription credit. ⚬ Complimentary Uber Eats Pass Membership for up to 12 months (must enroll by 12/31/21) ⚬ Up to $100 in credits annually for purchases at Saks Fifth Avenue (up to $50 in credits semi-annually, enrollment required) ⚬ $100 Global Entry fee reimbursement or $85 TSA Precheck reimbursement once every 5 years ⚬ Airport lounge benefits ⚬ Rental car elite status ⚬ Marriott Gold status ⚬ Hilton HHonors Gold status ⚬ Free Gold card AUs. Terms Apply. (Rates & Fees)

See also: Amex Platinum Guide

While the 125,000 points after $6,000 in purchases in the first 6 months would be a monster offer on its own in a normal world, what made the now-expired previous offer so unprecedented was the ability to also earn 15x on up to $25,000 in purchases during the first 6 months at Shop Small businesses in the US and at restaurants worldwide. Ordinary credit card category bonuses are 3x, 4x, or 5x. Getting 15x — even as a temporary category bonus – is bananas.

If you were able to spend the full limit of $25,000 at Shop Small businesses / restaurants in the first 6 months, you would have ended up with 500,000 Membership Rewards points. That is broken down as follows:

  • 25,000 x 15 = 375,000 + 125,000 points (welcome offer) = 500,000 points.

In my case, I did even better thanks to a temporary referral bonus that was available last year: by opening my new Platinum card in November 2021 and referring someone else to a new card before December 1, 2021, I triggered a referral bonus of +4 points per dollar spent on up to $25,000 in purchases for 3 months. That stacked.

In total, I was able to earn 19x on my purchase (15x small business plus 4x from the referral bonus) plus the 125,000 welcome offer points. I put $24,000 on my card and as such I earned 581,000 points.

  • $24,000 x 15 = 360,000 points (Shop Small offer)
  • $24,000 x 4 =  96,000 points (referral offer)
  • Welcome offer = 125,000 points
  • Total = 581,000 points

Redeemed for a cash deposit to a Schwab brokerage account, that would be $6,391. That represents a 26.6% return on my $24,000 purchase.

To be clear, I would need to also have the Schwab Platinum card to do that (or to open the Schwab Platinum before I close this current Platinum card). However, I use this as a baseline cash value for the points since it is possible to get that value in dollars and cents.

Alternatively, I showed yesterday how these points could be used to cover a vacation with a retail cost of $17,000-$30,000 or potentially far more. If I just used this welcome bonus for four round-the-world business class tickets as you see in the example in that post, we would get north of $64,000 worth of business class flights with our $24,000 used car purchase. No, I would never spend sixty four thousand dollars on those flights, but it sure seems like a nice pot sweetener to soften the blow of accepting my middle-aged-dad-who-drives-a-minivan status.

And in fact the points are why we purchased. We have talked about getting rid of our SUV in favor of a minivan for the past year or two, but with used vehicles commanding high prices right now, we thought we would hold off on purchasing until prices came back down to Earth. However, with the unprecedented chance to earn more than half a million Membership Rewards points with our used vehicle purchase, we just couldn’t justify not buying now.

Thanks to how hot the market is right now, it might even be worth buying a vehicle speculatively to try to resell just to pick up the points if you got the Shop Small offer. You can easily test the market in terms of what kind of price to expect, but more on that in a bit.

Is a car dealership a small business? Yes! Maybe.

Photo of a car dealership.

I long expected car dealerships would code as small businesses for the Shop Small component of the former offer. That may seem counterintuitive since names like Toyota, Chrysler, Ford, and Chevrolet clearly aren’t small businesses. However, apart from Tesla, most car manufacturers don’t sell directly to customers. Instead, locally-owned entities sell the cars. Notice someone’s last name on the marquee of most dealerships. They are usually family-owned small businesses.

I therefore wasn’t surprised when I found car dealerships listed on the Amex Shop Small map on Day 1. Indeed most car dealerships I’ve searched show up on the map with the small business icon. Here were some examples I previously shared:

Listing of dealerships that are on the Amex Shop Small map where you might be able to buy a car with a credit card. Example dealerships that code as Shop Small or not

 

In the picture immediately above, you can see that Fox Toyota, Romano Toyota, and the Burdick Toyota-Scion dealership in Cicero all have the Shop Small icon. That is an indication that they probably participate in the Amex Shop Small program. However, the Burdick Toyota dealership located on Brewerton Rd in North Syracuse does not have the Shop Small icon.

Most retailers that appear with the Shop Small icon should code as Shop Small businesses (and in my experiences they have), though we’ve had a few reports from readers who spent at businesses that have the Shop Small icon but did not code as a Shop Small business. I have also spent at businesses that did not have the Shop Small icon on the map but successfully coded as small businesses.

My point here is that you can’t read too deeply into the Shop Small map. I wrote an entire post about the usefulness and uselessness of the map here: Ways I’ve earned 15x at small businesses.

However, the map is the best you can do in terms of trying to predict businesses that will probably code for the Shop Small bonus. To be absolutely sure, you’ll need to make a small test purchase. I don’t know how often Amex updates their site when businesses join or leave the Shop Small program and in some cases I imagine that a small business might make a payment terminal or coding change on their end that Amex would have no way of knowing. The Amex Shop Small Map Frequently Asked Questions suggest that vendors who have accepted Amex cards for at least a year must have taken at least 1 payment with an Amex card in the previous 12 months. There is some element of gamble unless you make a test purchase.

Unfortunately, that whole test purchase thing is hard with a car dealer. The dealer where I eventually purchased my car was in Columbus, Ohio, about a 9 hour drive from where I live. It was a new and used car dealership (affiliated with a major car brand) and it showed up on the Shop Small map with the Shop Small icon, so I felt pretty confident that this would all work. Still, I was hoping to make a deposit first to know before I showed up.

I agreed to a deal with them on a Monday, but they wouldn’t hold the car until Friday even if I put down a $24,000 deposit. Truthfully, that put me off some, but it’s a hot market. One dealer wouldn’t even give me a cash price, telling me, “We don’t do cash sales. We prefer financing”. You know it’s a hot market when they aren’t even interested in naming a price for someone who walks in with a fistful of dollars.

Of course, dealers do prefer financing. Let there be no doubt, the car business is less about selling cars and more about selling loans. If my experience is any indication, don’t expect much negotiation if you’re not financing through the dealer.

Anyway, the dealership finally agreed to take a deposit on Wednesday contingent on me picking up on Friday. I drove out Thursday and picked up my van on Friday morning. Unfortunately, points from my deposit didn’t post until Saturday, so I just had to cross my fingers and hope for a pile of points.

Still, if you can get five or six thousand bucks back on a $25K purchase (or a vacation worth thousands more), the ability to negotiate a little bit off the price might not matter much to you.

Will Amex approve a charge to buy a car with a card?

Image of Amex Platinum card.

The short answer is yes. The Platinum card has no preset spending limit. That doesn’t mean you can purchase anything and everything you want, but it does have a flexible spending limit.

That said, when I first started shopping, I hit the “Check Spending Power” button in my account and picked a large enough amount to cover the high end of my car shopping budget. I got a message saying to call to speak with a representative.

Check spending power link to see if buying a car with a credit card is possible.

I called and explained that I was looking to buy a car with my Amex card. The rep told me that as this was a new account, they couldn’t approve a charge at the amount I was requesting. I asked whether I could pre-pay the charge and he said that I could absolutely schedule a payment. At the time when I originally called, I thought I would buy a vehicle within the week. The phone rep was able to schedule a payment for the following week and then immediately approve the amount I was requesting so that I could purchase the car (with the payment set to automatically occur to cover my balance).

As it turned out, I didn’t buy that week. The automatic payment still processed for the small (few hundred dollars) balance I had on the card.

Then, when I found the car that I did want, I realized that it didn’t make sense to put more than $25K on the card because of the 2% fee. Once I maxed out the welcome bonus and referral offer (both capped at $25K spend), I’d only be earning 1x. I didn’t want to pay a 2% fee to earn 1 point per dollar. I decided to put less than $25K on my Platinum card because I had already done a little bit of qualifying small business and restaurant spend.

When I used the “Check Spending Power” link in my account, it said that a $24,000 charge would be approved.

Amex approves a $24,000 charge to buy a car with a card.

I later called to be sure that I was all set and to see if I needed to provide any more info, but the phone representative assured me the charge would be approved.

I made a $1,000 deposit with the dealer over the phone with my Platinum Card two days before pickup. At the dealership, I paid an additional $23,000 to buy a car with my Platinum Card (and paid the rest via check). Sure enough, it all went through without a hitch. The day after picking up the van, the bonus points from my $1,000 deposit (both 14x Shop Small and 4x from the referral bonus) posted to my Membership Rewards account. Then it was just a matter of waiting a few days for the rest to roll in (and they did).

How I hunted down a dealer and a deal to buy a car with a credit card

Image of typing emails to car dealerships.

Years ago, I read some articles on how to negotiate a car deal via email. I contacted more than 200 dealerships in my process of finding the vehicle that I bought and I can confidently say that most of what I read a few years ago is outdated or doesn’t work quite as well as you would hope.

Here are my key takeaways from contacting more than 200 dealerships:

  1. First, keep in mind that all the usual car shopping caveats apply. Do your research both on the vehicle and the dealership. This post isn’t about how to check the Carfax and do your due diligence on the dealer and so on. If you’re new to car shopping, give that process a Google before you get into this.
  2. Going to the dealership website to find a specific person to email was a waste of time. It seemed smarter to go directly to a specific person, but I rarely got responses that were any better than what I got sending a message through a site like Autotrader or the button on the dealer website that says “check if this car is available”. An exception is probably if you have been referred by a specific past customer or mutual friend.
  3. Don’t waste much time on the initial email because in 95% of cases nobody is going to read it. You’ll get automatic drip email campaigns with form emails, but very few personalized responses. The instances where anyone actually read my initial email and responded directly to anything in it were few and far between — that happened maybe 5% of the time. Just send a simple “I’d like to email with someone about this vehicle” type of message and wait to get the automatic email asking you when you have time to come to the dealership in person. Respond to that with your actual questions.
  4. While we’re on the email thing, create a dummy email. You’re going to get junk email forever, so don’t use your primary email address. I created one just for car shopping.
  5. Speaking of junk mail, you’ll also get calls and texts nonstop. I recommend either using Google Voice or one of those prepaid Verizon numbers you recently opened.
  6. Don’t expect much negotiation in the current market. I spent a lot of hours shopping both via email and over the phone and I was frequently told that the price is the price. Surely this will vary and negotiation is an art, but my strong sense is that a lot of dealers don’t feel a need to negotiate right now.
  7. Expect to do most of the work. This was a bit of a challenge for me at the beginning. I typically expect a little hustle out of someone working for a commission. But it’s a hot market and it quickly became obvious that what I envisioned as a chance to make an easy sale was actually viewed by the salesperson as a sale they were going to make with me or without me. While I definitely came across a few exceptions, I had a lot of situations where getting answers to questions or getting a return call or email was like pulling teeth. I even got a few outright rude responses. Don’t expect Singapore Airlines service in most situations.
  8. Don’t lead with the fact that you want to use a credit card. Conventional wisdom will tell you that you need to negotiate the price before negotiating payment, but I didn’t really want to waste time with multiple emails with dozens of dealerships that ultimately wouldn’t take my credit card for the amount I wanted. On my first rounds of emails, I led with the fact that I wanted to put the entire purchase on a credit card. The very first dealer to respond was willing to take the full purchase price on a card for a 3% fee. After that, many, many dealerships cited a card limit of $2500-$5000 and I immediately eliminated them. That was a mistake. I would have gotten more helpful responses without leading with the credit card angle and those credit card limits were probably negotiable in at least some situations. In my final negotiation, I waited to mention the card until the end. Upon hearing that I wanted to put $24K on a credit card, the salesperson from whom I purchased my van initially told me that the dealership only accepts $2,000 on a credit card. I asked him to talk to his manager and let them know that I was willing to pay the interchange fee. I said that I understood that dealers who took a large payment on a card typically charged something like a 3% fee and I was fine with that. Less than 10 minutes later he called back saying they could take $24K on the card for a 2% fee ($480). I don’t doubt that he’d been told of the $2K limit before, but clearly that wasn’t set in stone. I probably missed out on another deal or two I could have made early on.

If you want to do this process yourself, keep those tips in mind and be ready to invest some amount of time for a great payoff.

It won’t be without some bumps. The expectation of the industry on the whole is still that the customer will take their free time driving dealer to dealer to test the same car again and again and sit in an office waiting for a salesperson to run back and forth with some “manager” in another room to determine a price and deal. Personally, I wasn’t going to take time I could spend with my kids on my day off to do the old-school dealership dance negotiating a price. That whole process feels so antiquated to me. I wanted to fire off an email to a bunch of dealerships and work with those interested in making a deal. Be aware that will inherently limit your options for better or worse.

The hot used car market might make this an opportunity to resell

The hot used car market right now might make for an opportunity to resell a car for a profit or cheap points.

Before I purchased my van, I was looking up the Kelly Blue Book value of my current vehicle and I noticed the option to get an “instant cash offer” through Kelly Blue Book.

This is essentially a service that hooks you up with local dealers who agree to offer a “guaranteed” set price. You submit your vehicle information and pictures and Kelly Blue Book gives you a price and shares your contact info with a few local dealerships who will honor that price.

I tested it out with my SUV. I submitted for an instant cash offer at 12:46pm one afternoon. One of the local dealerships called me at 12:47pm. I kid you not.

We bought our SUV 4 years ago (we bought it used) and we have put a little over 50,000 miles on it. The instant cash offer was about 80% of our original purchase price. However, on the private sale market, I think I can get closer to 90%.  Considering the fact that we triggered some welcome offers with that last car purchase also, I feel like we’ve done pretty well with that.

I wondered whether there may be an arbitrage opportunity with our new van. We essentially paid the low end of the trade-in value given at sites like Kelly Blue Book or NADA Guides. Out of curiosity, I submitted for an instant cash offer with Kelly Blue Book, Vroom, and Carvana.

Unfortunately, the instant cash offer from Kelly Blue Book was a couple thousand bucks lower than I hoped. I responded to the first dealer to reach out saying that I wasn’t interested in selling at that price and they told me to come in and let them check it over and maybe we could make a deal.

Carvana seemed very low both on my van and SUV. Vroom was very close in price to the Kelly Blue Book offer in both cases.

I got a deal with which I was very happy on my van. A dealer much closer wanted $6,000 more for an almost identically equipped van of the same year and mileage. Another closer to me with fewer miles was $9,500 more. Still, after sales tax, I don’t necessarily think that I could sell this van for more than the total I’ll have paid including tax, the one-way rental to pick up, etc. On the other hand, I don’t really need to sell it for more. Even if I sold it for $3,000 less than my total cost, I could cash out 272,728 points via Schwab to make up that $3,000 and still be 300,000+ points ahead.

Had I focused entirely on finding a $25K car that I could resell, I feel like there is a reasonable chance that I could have been closer to breaking even or even coming out ahead without much effort. If you cash out 500,000 points for $5,500 via Schwab, that allows for a lot of margin of error in picking a resale car.

In fact, I’ve just begun searching for such an opportunity and in my initial searches I’ve found some potential arbitrage with vehicles priced in the ~$25K range that ring in cash offers close to $24K via Kelly Blue Book (all you really need is the VIN and options to submit for offers and you could do it outside of your home area if you just want to test the waters). Obviously there are a lot of question marks there regarding condition of the vehicle, market conditions / fluctuations, float, etc. Reselling a $25K car isn’t a slam dunk nor is it without risk, but neither is it impossible to do and the big bonus on the Platinum card creates a nice buffer for a margin of error for those who can stomach the risk.

I might personally be tempted to take a swing at reselling a car if the Shop Small bonus continues for long (I could still get the Schwab or Morgan Stanley Platinum cards with a slightly lesser but still decent 100K + 10x intro spend offer). In the meantime, if I could sell the van I bought for enough, I’d probably consider selling it, pocketing the points, and shopping around again without being tethered to using a credit card to pay for my new car.

Bottom line about buying a car with a credit card

I am incredibly excited to both have a nice new ride in the driveway and a huge stash of points that appeared along with it. The massive Shop Small bonus being offered on the Platinum card (particularly with the offer that is only available via Resy) forced my hand into buying a car right now because the return on spend was just too valuable to ignore (when am I ever going to get half a million points on a car purchase again without buying a Ferrari?).

It is astounding that it is possible to buy a car with a credit card and earn enough points to book travel worth more than the cost of the car. I’m not saying we should value the points at the retail cost of travel, but the bottom line is that the rewards here made it worth buying a car now rather than waiting for “someday” later.

My wife and I had long resisted the idea of a minivan, but driving off with half a million Membership Rewards points certainly had us all smiles for the long ride home as we daydreamed about where this van could take us — both on the road and in the sky.

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Vince

In the process of buying a new car — the dealer will allow $5K on a credit card (which I plan to do with Amex Bus Plat to meet SUB [‘expand your business’]) and I am going to ask them to do $5000.01 to get 1.5x.
I asked about debit cards, and they indicated they have no limit on how much can be paid via debit card…enter Simon, right?
Going to take advantage of the current 75% off fees to gather a bunch for the purchase.
I do have a reliable way of liquidating otherwise (son’s tuition payments) if for some reason that falls through

Vince

And will of course not use an AMEX for Simon as that does not work…will use my Hyatt card to help push towards the 15K needed for free night (and picking up elite nights along the way)

Greg The Frequent Miler

That’s awesome. Note that paying exactly $5k will earn 1.5x, you don’t need them to charge $5000.01

Vince

Update: was unable to use the Simon Cards for the vehicle purchase. However this dealership was all over the board, not transparent and generally slimy in the end for numerous reasons not related to card use. Regarding card use they were inconsistent in the max allowable for credit card purchase (though I was able to do $5K on the Amex after showing them emails) and then they decided against allowing the Simon Cards — first by saying it bundles into their $5K max on using a card, then saying no due to them being prepaid debit cards, etc. So given this I would not rule out someone else trying with a dealership that is even remotely forthcoming and honest. Good luck there these days.

MannyP

ok great post but is everyone on here a moron or just missing the biggest question of all:

how did you repay the $24K balance on your Amex?

that’s the most important question and no one has asked it yet. you talked about prepaying the charge but only paying a small balance on the card (few hundred), so I don’t get it.

so you bought a minivan on a Platinum card? check!
you earned a bunch of miles. check!
you got multipliers and the miles are 10x or 25x. check!

but you now have a $24K balance on your credit card. what’s the APR and how did you pay it off?

that’s the bigger issue, not all the points!

if your APR is 10-15%, then was it worth it to buy a car on your credit card? no way if you have good credit. and what’s the cost of driving 9 hours both ways? what is that worth if you make $50 an hour or higher?

so, I ask again, how did you pay off the $24K balance?

thanks.

MannyP

ok thanks for clarifying.

I would also include what you spent on that 9-hour trip. what did that cost in terms of real dollars? example, at $50 or $75 an hour, that’s $900-1350 + hotel + food. Only reason is because people forget to factor this in thinking that time spent on driving somewhere is not real work. so in essence you spent $24K + another $1500 in travel time and lodging/food to buy this car.

either way, I’ve learned from this post and may be applying for this card tomorrow. thanks.

MannyP

Trust me, I’m not running out there and buying a car w/an AMEX platinum just because of this post. but I do like the idea of having points that can be used for travel and creating memories.

The best life is one that you can look back on because you built great memories. I’m a big hard rock fan, but I never liked Kiss. I liked the outfits but I thought their music was average at best. But guess what? my college friend at the time said let’s go see them in 96′ and I was blown away. They put on one of the best concerts I’ve ever seen. To this day I don’t follow Kiss nor would I ever buy their merch but that show was amazing!!!

So great experiences create great memories. that’s where this card comes in to play for me. If used wisely it’ll lead to great trips that w/be etched in my brain forever 🙂

Glad I found your website.

Sean

This is cool. Could you please share which dealership it is?

Oren

Thanks Nick for the great idea. Just so happens I’m looking for a new car and got in on the Resy Platinum offer literally a few weeks before it ended (unfortunately missed the +4… but you can’t win em all).

Here’s a data point for others:

Put a $500 deposit at a Toyota dealership with my Amex. Posted the next day, but only got 500 MR points with it. Incidentally, many other Toyota dealerships in the area are listed as SHOP SMALL through their search, but this one IS NOT.

I messaged on the chat, and the rep confirmed (I asked 3 times in different ways just to be sure) that it is classified as shop small, but it takes 8-12 weeks for the remaining 14x to post because it is part of the welcome bonus. I assume it will be quicker than that though…

Lucky for me, I’m getting a new car (not much more expensive than the used cars out there these days). So I have probably 6-8 weeks until I have to put the balance because it takes FOREVER for them to get a new car. I briefly mentioned to the salesman I want to use a CC for the majority of it, he seemed resistant but I have a feeling once we get everything else moving if this is the only thing holding it up, he’ll get manager approval.

Paul

I get that you earned 581,000 points but what airline is offering 4 round-the-world business class tickets for only 581,000 miles? That’s barely one person roundtrip on Delta these days. I don’t know any airline that is offering that for 145,250 miles per person. Please explain.

RAPatton

I didn’t realize you lived in Columbus; go bucks!

askmrlee

I don’t understand American Express’s definition of a small business. You absolutely need to use the locator to see if a particular business is coded. 99 Ranch which has 55+ full size supermarkets throughout the US is a Small Business per Amex. One local Ace Hardware store in Silicon Valley is not.

The American

Used the offer to buy a new Civic 22 Ex at MSRP put $26000 ($875 in cc transaction fees) on the card and made 291,000 amex points only had to drive 4 hours the deal was around if you searched the small business listing Amex provides a search for,

Nick also alluded to pursuing this deal a few weeks back so don’t blame him!

Larry K

This is really awesome stuff.

So, Nick, using all your best points and miles acumen and taking literally everything you can into account, what would you say is your true savings here? I’m assuming that you really were going to make this purchase and that the allure of the cash back did not compel you to make a purchase higher than you would have. So put that to side.

But starting with the genuine baseline — the dollar per point at which you truly are ambivalent about having or not having MR at this moment in time — what are your true hidden and not hidden costs and opportunity costs?

My ballpark guess is you’re about $5200 to $5500 to the good.

Last edited 4 months ago by Larry K
anonymous

“Because of the hot used car market, I could potentially sell the car for nearly what I paid…”

Assuming there’s somebody else out there who isn’t ashamed to drive a minivan.

bdum-psshhhhhhhh

[JOKEJOKEJOKEJOKE]
😀

Vadim

Maxed out my 25k resy (15+4x) as well. The last 15k wanted to buy a car, but the ford maverick was not in stock, went used car route found a car, but used dealer threw 1.5k theft tracker. Gave me bitter taste in mouth, so I maxed the rest with Swappa cell phones 3 for family the rest for resell.

Now want to see best way to get MS plat 10x and maybe put an order on Maverick if the orders open up again or leave info to dealers and pay over MSRP. Anyone else getting the MS plat card?

Also great tip on offering to cover the 2% dealer fee, I forgot to throw that out there in the conversation. But was able to find dealers that would take card.

day-late-dollar-short

Woah – you single-handedly took advantage of and killed the deal! That’s impressive. This is why we can’t have nice things, LOL

Tu Ho

Congrats on poking the bear and killing the deal !

Julie

Bravo Nick! The Walgreens pizza hack is still my favorite though.

SamBam

Nickolicious, can you explain how you did the “contact 200 dealerships” thang?

Inquiring minds would like to know.

SamBam

Peej

Does anyone have any leads on somewhere that codes as small business where you can buy Apple products or other electronics?

Carl Pietrantonio

Not sure, but check out CITY MAC in Bellingham, WA. Rare full scale and service Apple reseller and servicer that is not owned by Apple.

harv

loved reading this. Only part that I wonder about is you offering to pay 3% for using a credit card and the dealership only wanting 2%. Did I misread this? Why wouldn’t the dealer take the 3% you offered? Great article.

rdover1

When you resell, I might be interested, do you take AMEX?
<grin>

Justmeha

Like the new hat!

mbh

and hers! Your wife (or whoever the chick next to you is : ) is adorable.

Execula19

Great article – thanks! I clicked the Resy link though and all it offers is 10X at restaurants – no mention of any bonus for shopping small. Maybe the deal is dead?

LarryInNYC

You may be breaking some news here — I see the same offer on the Resy page, dropped to 10x from 15x on $25K spend on restaurants only in the first 6 months.

M Khan

Lol.. great timing Nick!

Too bad about the offer being pulled.. was just about to apply for P3 as we recently maxed out on P1 & P2! New offer is still good.. but small business being excluded is a bummer..

CericRushmore

Nick killed the Resy deal (joke…..)!

Dancing Pandas

Congrats Nick!

Could you do a post on some other ways to use up the minimum spend on ShopSmall.I also have the same Amex Plat card with same 15x offer. I did a few Fluz purchases but they went through as 1x. Buying some GC’s from some grocery stores or Staples/Office Depot that are on the SS map?
We travel full time out of backpacks and pop in the USA once every few months for a few days. Makes it hard to do everyday spend using the SS map. Thanks

LarryInNYC

Office Supply stores are on Shop Small?

Dancing Pandas

Oops. Sorry. Thought they were since I see Staples.Anyone have any tips? Walmart Superstores?

toomanybooks

I sent through your 15x Resy link on best offers page and see this:

“ Earn 125,000 Membership Rewards® points. Plus, earn 10x points at restaurants worldwide on up to $25,000 in purchases during your first 6 months of Card Membership. Terms Apply.”

Jerry Mandel

How did you have card with such a high credit limit? I never saw one that high/ Please answer.

Furni

Looks like Resy offer was pulled already?

Bikeguy

Incredible article and research! This is why I love the way your mind thinks!

David

I picked up a a new Kia Telluride doing the exact same thing mid December emailing pre drafted email with chome autofill extension to every Kia dealer in the US 1200+ (there are actual aggregator sites that get you the Contact Us page). did the same thing, throw away email and google phone. This model typically has a markup above MSRP of about 15-30%. Ended up paying MSRP flew to Vegas, drop it back over 18 hours. used up expiring IHG and Hyatt nights before EOY and used Cesar Diamond Celebration Dinners $100X2 in Vegas. Did I need to do this? No, but I couldnt pass up a awesome deal stacking and using up multiple points/certs making the trip pretty much free. I actually have another telluride on order to be built and I can flip the current one with a 5k profit.

Like Nick, I’m looking to use for a grand summer trip to europe and trying to find Biz class options from DFW. Along with potentially a trip to Brazil biz class, to the beach Maldives/Bora Bora.

I still plan on getting MS Plat too as 10X is a really good deal. and I might be able to use it in full for the Telluride thats being built.

I have pinged Nick through out my search and asked many questions about the Resy card, Amex Small Business, the 4X Referral while it was here etc. It’s with his help here that really helped me pull this off. Thanks Nick!

Last edited 4 months ago by David
rich

15-30% markup seems rather excessive. I know a Hyundai dealer that sells everything at MSRP+$500. It might take 3-6 months to get the vehicle but is at least a more reasonable cost.

David

even Hyundai, if you want something off the lot in Texas, it’s 3-10K above MSRP. if FL or CA, it was easily 8-10K above MSRP on a 35-40k car. If you order, few are MSRP while others add in 1-3k on top even for orders that take 3-6mo. The Telluride back in Oct order was 3-6mo, now its moved to 6-9mo on orders.

I was mainly referring to on the dealer lot cars. As we totaled our last Hyundai in Nov, we got by for a mo with one car and picked up the Telluride mid Dec for MSRP + $700 dealer prep fees. I placed a build order for exact feature and color we wanted at MSRP with no other fees which is looking to be avail late spring/early summer.

A friend had a Tesla Y on order at 55k that was gonna be ready next mo, he filled that order for 70k. Crazy times!

Scott

The Kia Telluride and Hyundai Palisades SUV are essentially the same vehicle since its a shared platform. Plus Hyundai throws in free maintenance for the first 3 years/36K, which is transferrable.

mbh

Are you married? I totally want to marry you. And, if either Telluride is the black on black, I’m planning to make you marry me at gunpoint. (JK!)

chris

thanks for the info, been looking for a car and thinking about maxing out the 14X…

Rob

Great read and a great deal. Congrats. You might have a career in carbitrage ahead.

profan

What a wonderful story, thank you for sharing!

YoniPDX

I would also check out Costco Auto buying program ( they also do used cars).

Your dealing with typically a fleet manager – none of the typical retail back and forth to manager BS.

Fleet manager sales people are pretty go about follow-up.

In 2018 we bought a Plug-in Hybrid for about $15k off MSRP thru Costco Auto program.

The bad thing is they only work with a single branded dealer in each city, i.e. Only one Toyota dealer in Portland. But you should be able to check multiple big cities near you this way.

Also “ask” about adding an extended warranty – most can be cancelled within 90 days for free or small fee (it was $75 for us.

We meet two SUBs when we bought this way. We did manufacturer finacing because they offered 0% for 74 months.

Last edited 4 months ago by YoniPDX
Cavedweller

I got SEVEN discounts when I ordered my new (2018) F150. I had no idea I could get 7 I was thinking only one.I got Costco plus one from my Ins. company ..I Love saving money it’s better then making it !!!!!!!!!!!

Last edited 4 months ago by Cavedweller
Cavedweller

Me Too!!! Got a EIGHT year watt. for $1400 zero Duct..Now is there anything getting fixed at a dealer that doesn’t cost $1400 well maybe a Free carwash..

DaninMCI

As I read your post on this I was wondering if Amex warranty extension would apply but the fine print says it doesn’t certain items like motorized vehicles and live plants. Purchase protection is limited to $1k I think. Fun stuff though. Great post btw.

gregory diamond

I was denied the Resy offer because I signed up for the Platinum card last year when that deal was the “best” ever. Is there a work around for this? I have a new driver in my family and am looking for a used car myself with cash in the bank to pay for it. I would LOVE to try this using this card. If there is no other work around, do you have another suggestion for me? Which card I could use?

gregory diamond

Thanks! Just getting into the hobby the last couple of years and this blog is one of the best for information. Keep it up.
BTW – after my wife and I signed up for the Amex platinum card last year, we have booked an around the world trip on ANA all business class. Flying from LGA to Vienna, Istanbul, Singapore, Maldives, (had to use different points from SIN), Bangkok, Tokyo, back to Houston and we still have close to 100K in membership pts left over. Learned all of these hacks from you guys – thanks again!

Points Adventure

I no longer see the 10x offer on Schwab or Morgan Stanley (just the 100k).

David

I dont see it anymore either 🙁 Super bumed

Brant

God bless America and God bless American Express! Obviously, no bank does this sort of thing out of the goodness of their hearts and someone is going to pay, but it isn’t going to be you! Congratulations on this stellar piece of credit card arbitrage! Now that you are officially a MAMVD, I’m hopeful that as you reach retirement years we can expect a post entitled,
“How Medicare Pays For My Yacht!”

SMR

You paid for those points dearly… you just can’t see it

Origami

So you hopped onto a points website to try and “gotcha” a professional rewards writer who clearly laid out the cost for those points, and who understands the various possible expenses? With no facts or even pretend ideas for how he paid dearly for the points.

Okay.

Cavedweller

Yes ur correct I usually just bring a Gold Bar in with me. IF need b hit the Sales Trash upside the head. Brought my first lot that way ALWAYS TOAD me u can’t do that.Cash is KING and under the table CASH is better..

LarryInNYC

Do you care to elucidate these hidden costs that you can see but Nick can not?

Aside from the $480 which Nick paid in credit card interchange fees (and disclosed in the post) it sounds like his costs were time — which would go into any car purchase and which, in Nick’s case, are probably work hours anyway since they resulted in this article and other content on the subject. He did allude to using a day off for traveling to take delivery of the car, and a one-way rental, so I suppose those should be accounted for.

The cost to his self-esteem of now being a minivan driver can’t be debited to the credit card nature of the transaction (it would have worked as well with a European wagon).

I will say that my Platinum card (last year) and P2’s (this past December) both came with Pay Over Time financing enabled and in my case it led to some 10s of dollars of interest on the first statement. So Nick needs to be make sure he doesn’t fall for that — but he’s a professional in these matters and I’m sure he’s taken care of that already.

Last edited 4 months ago by LarryInNYC
Trudy

Tried twice and neither time would the dealer play. Honda in greater KC area.

Larry K

To me the biggest potential hidden costs that people tend not to take into account in this sort of scenario are opportunity costs. It’s one of my favorite things about FM is that they were really out there as one of the first blogs to seriously consider opportunity costs.

With this deal you need to know a bit about how much spending capacity a person has on these cards. The number of free miles you can get is capped. Which means that if you had other ways to spend on the card for which you will now use a suboptimal card, there is an opportunity cost. If Nick has 2 or 3 of these Resy offers in the family and was never going to meet the $75k, then, yes, there may not (emphasis on may) be an opportunity cost. My hunch is that even just the 4x would have been used up and so putting these dollars on this card for this purpose means that you now have a dollar to spend tomorrow on a less optimal card that could been spent on this card. And if you were going to use up the $25k (or more if you have multiples of these cards) anyway, then really you need to take a hard look at what you really got.

Here’s a simple example: I have a Resy card that has a $25k cap with a 4x referral bonus on it. I spend $50k during the promo period on whatever. I was going to max the Resy bonus anyway. The question how much I got on a particular purchase (call it a $25k car) is a complicated question and the truthful answer is probably something of the average when taking into account my second best card on the other dollars spent.

I know nobody likes to think about like this. It’s a pain in the ass and this kind of thinking defeats the joy of free and the idea that you get a first class ticket worth $XX.XXX or whatever. So, sorry to put a poop in the punch bowl. But a car purchase is a complicated financial transaction and you can often get caught in the switches of making incomplete wishcasting type guesses about how much you’re actually getting out of your points.

Larry K

The avalanche of amazing multipliers also makes it really hard. All of us seemingly have some capacity for serious multipliers right now to the point that 2x almost seems quaint, so it’s hard to drill down. I think it’s a good idea to keep the issue in the back of one’s head though to sort through some of this stuff. There also is an incredible value to knocking out an entire spending bonus or multiplier bonus in one go and not having to track or worry about it.

Cavedweller

FM has always been Honest but ur doing 20 trips not a few like we do every year.My Arab buddy wants to go to HNL with me as in No but the wife can.I think I have enough to fly Turkish Airlines to HNL like 20x + like $12…
You were a Deal making Before u came to FM and u didn’t change that’s why u got the Job..

Captain Greg

Well played Nick!! I’d expect nothing less from you! But trying to contact 200 dealerships…woof!

Dee

My thoughts exactly when I read this post. I knew Nick could pull this off when he first posted about it. 200 dealerships is definitely… woof!

Nick – for this and so many other reasons, is why you are the blogger and I am not.