Should this be allowed? #3Cards3Continents


For the 3 Cards, 3 Continents Challenge, the goal is to build as amazing of a 3-Continent trip as possible with the welcome bonuses from 3 cards (which we picked in an online draft).  The question I have now is whether it’s OK for one of us to use an Amazon discount to get a travel gift card for 40% off and to use that for the competition?

Currently, many people with Amex Membership Rewards cards registered with their Amazon account can qualify for a 40% discount (up to $40 off) at when they apply at least one point to pay for their order.  The deal is detailed here.

Since all three of us (Stephen, Nick, and I) picked at least one Amex Membership Rewards card in the draft, it’s reasonable to assume that we each could qualify for the 40% discount.  And, as shown above, it’s possible to get that discount on travel related gift cards like Airbnb.  The ability to buy a $100 Airbnb gift card for $60 would be really helpful for anyone who needs lodging for their trip.  So, back to the question… Is this legit?  Can we do this for the challenge?

Note that in the screenshot above, there is also a second deal going on.  At the time I screenshotted it, there was an offer to get a $20 promotional credit with a $100 Airbnb gift card.  I don’t think the $20 credit should be eligible for the challenge because we’re supposed to act as if we’re starting from scratch other than benefits we get from our new credit cards.  And that particular $20 credit is only for Prime members (I think).

Review the rules…

The complete rules for the challenge were posted in the original post about the 3 Cards 3 Continents challenge.  The key rules that pertain to the above question are these:

  • Start from scratch: In the 40K to Far Away challenge, we allowed each contestant to use things they already had: elite status, credit card perks, lounge membership, upgrade certificates, etc.  In this case, we’re assuming the opposite: everyone must start from scratch.  A contestant can rely on credit card perks only if one of the 3 cards he signed up for includes that perk.  During travel a contestant may accept an upgrade due to previously held elite status, but then he must show what the experience would have been like if he hadn’t accepted it.  In other words, we will ask readers to vote on how fantastic the trip is based on photos and descriptions of un-upgraded travel (except where the contestant used their travel budget to upgrade).
  • Points or miles must be used: It would be possible to earn only cash back welcome bonuses, or to cash out welcome bonus points and then to book travel entirely based on cash deals.  That’s not allowed.  Challenges like these are useful because they force us to find outsized value opportunities and to push the limits of what’s possible.  It’s fine to take advantage of some cash deals, but the bulk of travel should be based on using points to either book travel altogether or to upgrade paid travel.
  • Deals are allowed: Public deals that are available while the contestant is booking travel are allowed.  For example, through August 19th, Chase has a 50% transfer bonus to Marriott.  If a contestant had earned Chase points from the credit card draft, then they could virtually convert their Chase points to Marriott points with this bonus in place.  They must announce the intent and the number of points transferred by or before August 19th (because we don’t want people taking advantage of a deal after its over).  With hard to get deals like some of the Daily Getaway Deals, the contestant must record the final check-out screen in order to use that purchase in this challenge.

As you can see, the stated rules don’t really answer the question.  Should we be allowed to take advantage of targeted but widely available deals like the 40% off Amazon deal?  What about the Prime deal?

My thoughts

I think we should be allowed to take advantage of the 40% off deal.  The purpose of the contest is to unveil creative ways to build spectacular trips on low budgets.  I think this is a reasonable and useful trick to highlight.  At the same time, I don’t think we should allow any deals that require the customer to be an Amazon Prime member because of our “start from scratch” rule.

Your turn

The purpose of this post was to seek input from readers.  What do you think?  Is the 40% off deal fair game?  How about the Prime bonus?  Please comment below.


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A lot of people I know didn’t get that offer and neither did I but the spirit of this contest was to find creative ways to build this trip and this one is one of them. I think we should not stop you guys from showing us what you can do and how your brains work. On another note – wouldn’t it be easier for you to create a poll in the FB group and ask should it be allowed then put a time stamp on it and let everyone vote. It would be a lot easier to see what the opinions are.


The most frustrating thing about this challenge will be seeing Stephen Pepper refuse to transfer points to partners again. Last time, he cashed out 100% of his points for cash and did a round-trip journey–neither of which were in the spirit of the prior challenge. This time, he is again cashing out a significant chuck of his points. Is he capable of complying with the rules of the challenge–which, this time, specifically stated that the trip should mostly be booked with points and should be a nice trip (not a budget trip)?


A Review Board can keep things fair but to late for that. Maybe next year .


The welcome bonus points from each card in your 3 card challenge are available to use as you determine. If you want to use some of those points to buy a gift card through this promotion that’s fair. It just reduces the number of points you would otherwise have for a different redemption.


This is a targeted offer, but so are amex offers. I never get any Dell offers on my Biz Platinum but I do, but some folks do. I’ve got the 40% deal at Amazon, but in the past it has been less. If you can prove you are targeted then it seems kosher to me. In that same spirit, if you have a hotel offer on a card then that should also be allowed…with proof. Not everyone gets targeted (this includes sign up bonuses) but it seems a majority of people do so that fits with the spirit of the challenge.

Last edited 10 months ago by Bruce

I would allow it, mainly because I would be amazed if ALL three of you have the 40-60% offers (mine’s 10%…. ahahaha) and it requires you to spend $100-200 to just use it.


This seems sketchy for many reasons. The main one though, is that this feels like a personalized offer from amazon to an individual based on the existence of an amex relationship across a wide family of cards, not something from a particular amex card. It may also be heavily based on your amazon profile. For example, my current offer is 10% max $10 (altho I had an earlier one and forget what it was).

If you had this offer available before drafting the card, and you use it on this trip, you’ve essentially sold a $40 personal asset to fund the trip.

One could argue that it’s no different than card linked offers that exist on multiple cards, but those are much more clearly from Amex and usually restricted to a smaller set of cards than anything that generates MR points.

All that said, I like the idea of most anything being allowed but having a mechanism to ding people for violating the spirit of the competition. Like maybe all the cash transactions that don’t go direct to a travel expense get rated for cheesiness and then a penalty is assessed that takes into account the cheese rating and the benefit gained from the cheese.

At the end of the day, this is all about bending the credit/points rules to their limits for maximum benefit, and so light cheating should be encouraged. Also, if an extra $40 ABnB credit is what makes the awesome trip work, that’s what we want to see.


The premise of the competition was that the competitors should use offers and techniques available to anyone, and elite benefits from prior travel status or bank relationships should not be allowed. That’s why the higher Biz Gold SUB via incognito mode and fresh browsers was allowed- the higher SUB was available to most anyone, with prior AmEx relationships actually hindering getting it.
In that spirit, the pay-with-points rebate is available to most anyone at least once, though I don’t know how Amazon and AmEx target the better (40%) offers. Maybe the lowest percentage that commonly shows up as an offer should be used, in case prior relationships factor into the targeting?
Regarding the $20 Prime promotional credit, I was leaning toward that being OK because I was a Prime member for a decade before getting into points/miles, so Prime doesn’t seem like a preexisting relationship that a points/miles hobbyist would exploit for better results in the contest. And Amazon has 200 million Prime members so it seems acceptable to call it a baseline starting point for the contest rules. However, Nick made that issue moot by raising the free trial offer.

Runs Pretty Good for a Fat Guy

I’m inclined to say no. If gift cards are allowed, can the Three Amigos MS Visa gift cards from Staples?

Hector G

I feel this might go against the larger flow but as more of these deals are central to the trip does it not take away from the central part of this challenge which is working with the sign up bonuses? How much further can this be stretched? Would a coin deal that is purchased with the points be next?

Another Jeff

If you’re going to add rules/deals mid game any of the contestants can veto for everyone.


It just feels “cheap” and “cheesy”. I don’t think it’s really about “fairness”, since you all could do it.

It diminishes the “challenge”

The idea is a trip on SUBs, not on gift cards (which could be another different challenge)


Absolutely not. These offers are not always available to all people.

You also shouldn’t have let Stephen Pepper resell gift cards earlier in the competition.


I guess the reason this is difficult is that it is a comparison between “baseline” (rookie?) card returns vs “extreme” (veteran?) returns. Both are right. There are the basic things vs “try at your own risk” stuff. Either way, it’s fun. Getting my popcorn.


I think it should only be allowed if the 40% off discount is available for everybody reading this. Targeted discounts would seem to violate the spirit of the competition.

For example, I have AmEx cards and this discount isn’t available to me. I have a 10% offer instead.


Yeah, in years of checking, I have NEVER been targeted for the Amex discounts on Amazon. So while this is a clever trick if you qualify, it’s not an offer that is available to everyone.


Regarding the $20 credit, is the assumption that you would turn around and use that credit toward another gift card? I think you would have to show that you applied that credit toward something related to the trip. As long as you do that, I don’t see the issue. Aside from Prime adoption being so high that nearly everyone at least has access to the benefits, others have made it clear that you could easily sign up for a trial. I actually find this one more clear than allowing the 40% given it’s available to a much more targeted group (even if you own the card, you might have access to 10%, 20%, 30% or 0%).

Last edited 10 months ago by Darin


Larry K

Whoa — before reading the comments I thought this was easy. It’s not a generally available offer. I was a hard no. But it seems like I am definitely in the minority.

I guess in the end it doesn’t matter too much, since everyone gets a vote and its not like there’s an objective yes or no.


I’d say only if the offer is on a card that you have for the 3/3 challenge. So if Nick has this offer on a blue business plus for example, then it should be ineligible. But if he has it on a Schwab Platinum, then I’d say go for it.

Or just create a poll and let the people decide


I think you guys should beg forgiveness rather than ask permission.


I think that strategy hurt Nick last time. And my vote would go with whoever doesn’t use this trick if it’s otherwise a tossup because like a couple of other people in the comments have noted, this offer was not available to everyone and was probably targeted based on prior activity which is against the spirit of the rules.

Jesse Wright

Yes, this should be allowed, if. One would have received some MR points between when the challenge started and the deal on amazon. In the theoretical world of starting from scratch, would one have the first statement and batch of points from the spend by now? I am unsure of the official start date of the challenge, is it the date of the card draft. I would assume that would be the date from the theoretical of opening the cards. Is it reasonable to assume one would have received some MR points between now and then?

If not, then sadly, no. I would a vote for not allowed.


I think both offers would be fair game to utilize.

When picking the cards during the draft, someone could have picked a credit card with an alternate offer if they were able to show it live during the draft. Same logic could apply to the gc deal purchase afterwords – you’d have to show that the offer pops up for you at 10%, 20%, 40% or whatever the case may be. At least 1 MR point needs to be used for the discount,and that would be part of the usage of MR points.

Also even starting from scratch, with the free 30 day amazon prime trial, anyone could sign up for Prime without a cost to get that addtional $20 promo as well.


The logic in my brain says it should be allowed.

That said, from an entertainment perspective, it’d be kind of boring to me to see “I booked X property with an Airbnb gift card”.

I’m on the fence but I say not allowed.


If the 40% offer was universal to all Amex card holders I’d say it should be allowed — but it’s definitely targeted. (I know, because I got an offer for 10% off.)

If the point of the challenge is to show what *anyone* can do, I think it’s against the spirit of it to use a targeted offer.


Should be allowed. This is totally in the spirit of miles and points collection, optimization and use.
For this specific case there is a little randomness around who can trigger the offer (as long as you have a MR card in your selection of 3 cards), but that is the nature of this game we all enjoy. Plus it creates (a small) learning opportunity for readers.


The spirit of the challenge is use the points and miles game that is applicable to everyone, right? That’s why actively using, say, Hyatt Globalist or Delta status to your own benefit is not really part of the goal. These 40% discounts using 1 MR point for Amazon members does NOT apply to everyone with Amex cards, so it feels to me this usage shouldn’t be allowed for the challenge.


100% okay. Also, adds more information value to the whole thing when you recap all the different components that went into your trip.


Allow it; that is a fantastic find for this challenge, and most “starting from scratch” would have access to prime membership in one way or another.


It should be allowed.


I guess we are assuming Amex won’t care about buying small $ gift cards, or they won’t know. I would allow.

Nick Reyes

Regarding the Prime Day deals and needing a Prime Day membership, I think you’re right that we have to start with no Prime membership assumed. It sure is a good thing that this guy wrote a post about Prime Day deals that included how to get a free 30 day trial Prime membership.


Ooh, Smart arse! <grin>