Category

Amazon Payments

My Amazon Payments Account Has Been Shut Down…

Amazon Payments Account Shut Down

After using Amazon Payments to “spend” $1,000 a month for the last 2+ years, it seems like the jig is finally up for one of my accounts.

Last week, as I have done for the last 12 months, I set into motion my normal Amazon Payments chain where I send $1,000 to my brother, my brother sends $1,000 to my cousin, and my cousin sends $1,000 back to me.

To maximize Amazon Payments,  I have also created accounts for my parents. I would love to use their accounts in our triangle but you can’t withdraw money to a bank account that isn’t associated with the Amazon Payments user. In other words, I can’t have someone send money to my parents account and then withdraw that money to my personal bank account, as the money would have to be withdrawn to my parent’s bank account.

To get around this, I typically only use my parents Amazon accounts to send money to my friends who then either use Venmo or Chase Quick Pay to send the money back to my bank account.

In total, these 2 strategies allow me to spend around $4,000 a month for free!

The Mistake I Made

This past month, to complete my brother’s $1,000 minimum spend on the his Alaska Card (which would get him a $100 statement credit. Direct link to offer is here), I used my dad’s Amazon Account and added my brother’s Alaska Card under my dad’s name.

Typically, the payments go thru instantly but this time it kept saying “pending” which was weird.

At first I thought maybe Bank of America had flagged the purchase as fraud because it was a fairly large purchase but in 24 hours I got an email from Amazon Payments saying the following…

Shut Down

Shut Down

Honestly I am not surprised that this happened because it costs Amazon quite a lot of money to eat the credit card transaction fees and I literally know no one who uses Amazon Payments for anything but manufactured spend…

Google Wallet last year offered free credit card processing and I got $500 through before Google promptly stopped offering that feature for free after 3 days. Amazon has been offering this for at least 2+ years now, maybe even longer….

The Fatal Flaw

Anyways after doing some research, I think I figured out why my dad’s account was shut down.

Via this post on Dan’s Deals, not surprisingly Amazon more than likely tracks IP addresses. I manage all my family’s accounts, so when I run my manufactured spend cycle every month, it is all done in rapid succession and all from my laptop.

More than likely, Amazon has some automated flagging algorithm that looks for transactions between different accounts that are coming from the same IP.

While you could certainly use TOR or another proxy to mask your IP, the issue is that if your computer’s IP shows up on Amazon coming in from another country, then they really might get suspicious and think you are using Amazon Payments to internationally money launder…

Since my brother’s Alaska transaction didn’t go through, against the potential risk of getting his Amazon Payments account shut down, we again tried to use his Alaska card but this time we used his account to send me $1,000 (broken into 2 odd payments). This time, both transactions went through instantly without issues, even though it was the same card that got flagged last time…

Going Forward

The best suggestion and what I plan on doing going forward, is to designate each Amazon Payment account to a single computer, tablet, or phone.

So I only access my Amazon Payment account from my computer, my mom’s account from my iPad, and make my brother use his account from his own computer.

Additionally, I suggest using odd transaction accounts like 2 payments of $544.45 and $455.55 or even one payment of $890.34. While it is great to manufacture $1,000 a month in fake spend, it might be better to only do something like $965 and fly under the radar. Your mileage may vary…

This “new system” I’m going to use certainly isn’t foolproof and Amazon could catch on pretty easily but I figure I might as well attempt to continue to generate around 1,000 points a month for free until free credit card processing on Amazon Payments is shut down for good.

Recap

Like with all manufactured spend techniques, it is all really just a game of musical chairs.

You keep playing knowing that the music might stop at any time…

While it sucks that my dad’s account was closed, I still have 3 other accounts so I am not too worried.

Going forward I will make sure to try and “fly under the radar” and not use the same Amazon Payment accounts connected to the same computers.

-Parag


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How To Liquidate Prepaid Cards Via Amazon Payments

Amazon Payments

Note: Due to quite a few reader emails, this is a repost from 2013 so it may be old news for some of you. If you are trying to meet a $10,000 or $6,000 minimum spend then this is an easy way to liquidate any prepaid gift cards you may have purchased… 

I have talked many times about how awesome Amazon Payments is to “spend money” for free.

At a minimum, you should be able to “spend” $1,000 a month on your credit card and earn 12,000 miles a year for free.

If you have other family members & friends involved, you can easily “spend” $5,000 a month.

Now while you could hypothetically use the same card on all of your family’s Amazon accounts, that is just asking to get shut down…

While you certainly can use Bluebird, if you want to use Amazon then the workaround is to simply use prepaid cards. This way you can still “spend” $5,000 in a month but when you liquidate the prepaid cards on Amazon it won’t show up as all coming from the same credit card.

This is also useful if you have to “spend” a lot of money in a short amount of time. If you have the cash to float, you can simply buy a bunch of prepaid cards to hit your minimum spend and then slowly liquidate them over a few months using Bluebird and Amazon.

Using Amazon

Unfortunately when I first tried liquidating prepaids cards on Amazon, it kept giving me an error, so I thought Amazon knew it was a prepaid card and that was why it was being blocked.

Turns out Amazon was just “pre-authorizing” the cards, so when I tried to move $500 at a time, it probably “pre-authorized” the card for $500+, hence why I got the error.

Through some trial and error I figured out there is an easy way to override Amazon’s “pre-authorization” and liquidate prepaid cards for their full value.

Example

1. Check Your Prepaid Card Balance

For this example I will use a OneVanilla prepaid Visa card but the steps are applicable to any prepaid card that has debit functionality.

The first thing you need to do is check the balance of your prepaid card.

To do this, look on the back of your card. Normally there is a website you can check or a phone number you can call.

In my case, the website is OneVanilla.com.

Once you go to the website, enter the details of your card.

My OneVanilla prepaid card had a whopping $1.71 left on it.

It is also recommended that at this time you input your zip code on OneVanilla because you will need to enter it later on Amazon.

2. Enter Your Card On Amazon Payments

After you have your card balance, head over to Amazon Payments and log-in.

Once you  are logged in, click on Your Account, then Edit My Account Settings, and then Add, Edit, or Delete My Credit Cards.

Account Setting

Click on Add New Card

Manage Credit Cards

Go ahead and enter your card information here.

I use my real information, but it doesn’t really matter because it isn’t actually tied to your prepaid card.

My Account Settings-1

2 IMPORTANT THINGS:

1. Put in the WRONG expiration year. If the expiration is 2021, then put in anything else. This is extremely important or it won’t work properly.

2. Make sure the zip code matches what you have on your prepaid card’s website (if applicable). OneVanilla makes you enter a Zip Code on their site if you want to use the card for online purchases, so make sure the zip codes you enter match, or again it won’t work.

After you do all that, scroll to the bottom and hit Add Card.

Your prepaid card will now show up in your credit card section on Amazon.

Manage Credit Cards-1

Since we entered the credit card expiration date wrong in the step above, we now have to go in and fix it, so click on Edit.

Go ahead and change your expiration date to the correct year and hit update.

My Account Settings-2

Now when you go to your credit cards section, your updated prepaid card should be there.

Manage Credit Cards-2

You can now use your prepaid card like any credit card you have on file.

In my case, I only had $1.71 left on my card, so when I went to send money, I entered $1.71 as the amount I wanted to send.

Recap

Obviously you can use this technique with the $500 OneVanilla prepaid card or AMEX gift cards if you can still find them but use caution because not all of them may work with Bluebird or Amazon.

I am about to sign up for the INK Bold and Citi AA 100,000 mile offer so I will be using this technique to hopefully complete the minimum spend.

Let me know if you have any questions!

-Parag


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Easy $75 Cash Back For Discover Cardholders

Discover 5% Cashback

While it is extremely rare that Discover ever gets a mention on any of the frequent flyer blogs, it is that one time of the year when Discover gets their 15 seconds of fame!

To the surprise of many, I am in fact a Discover Cardholder as I may or may not have signed up for a Discover Card in college because they were offering a free Subway footlong for signing up. It is hard to imagine why that practice was outlawed…

While I don’t ever actually use my Discover Card, the only reason I have kept it for all these years is that there is no annual fee and periodically they will offer fairly awesome quarterly 5% cashback promotions.

This is very similar to what Chase does with their Chase Freedom Card.

As you can see, for this quarter, you can get 5% cashback for any online shopping purchases (up to $1,500 in spending).

Typically these promotions are retailer or category specific but this quarter’s Discover promotion is fairly limitless since basically any purchase online should technically count as “online shopping”.

Anyways, I was curious as to what constitutes an online purchase because when Chase Freedom had their Q1 2013 Drugstore 5% cashback promotion, you could easily go buy $1,500 in Vanilla Reloads at CVS and earn 7,500 Ultimate Rewards which is exactly what I did.

Anyways someone on Twitter beat me to it and tweeted out that Amazon Payments was in fact posting as “online shopping” for Discover.

So last month, I did a $1,000 Amazon transfer to a friend and waited to see what happens.

Lo and behold, like clockwork my 5% cashback on my $1,000 Amazon “purchase” posted!

Since the cap on this promotion is $1,500 in spending, this month I did another $500 Amazon transfer and netted myself another $25.

In total, I should get $75 for making $1,500 in Amazon “purchases”. Not bad for literally 1 minute of work…

My Brother and Parents also both have Discover Cards, so I will probably do the same for them so they too can get $75 each!

Remember that Amazon only allows $1,000 in transfers each month, so if you want the full $75, you have to do a $1,000 transfer in November and another $500 in December.

Since there are people that will inevitably ask this in the comments section, I will just go ahead and pre-answer the question here.

Q: If I currently don’t have a Discover Card, should I signup for one to take advantage of this promotion?

A: NO! While this promotion is great if you are already a Cardholder, outside of these promotions, normally my Discover Card gets $0 of spend in a year because their cashback program is really bad and they don’t offer any frequent flyer miles or hotel points. In addition, Discover doesn’t offer a substantial sign on bonus that would make it worthwhile to get their cards to begin with so I would not recommend getting this card.

Recap

While my Discover Card rarely gets any use on a day to day basis, these types of 5% cashback bonuses are exact the reason why I still have a Discover Card, Chase Freedom, and will probably downgrade my AA cards to a similar Citibank Dividend Card in the near future.

While the above Cards don’t earn any miles or points (Chase Freedom being the exception) and thus most people write them off, by taking advantage of just 2 out of the 8 total quarterly promotions offered by Chase & Discover this year, I was able to get $75 & 7,500 UR Points for sending money via Amazon and buying Vanilla Reloads at CVS.

If you figured out a way to max out these 5% bonuses (up to $1,500 in spend) every quarter for both cards, you could potentially “earn” $300 (Discover) AND 30,000 Ultimate Rewards Points (Chase)!

So next time you think about closing your current credit cards, instead think about downgrading to some of the above cards. While they are far from “sexy”, they can easily make you $75+ each quarter for 1 minute of your time!

In this case, it literally pays to be a Discover cardholder…

-Parag

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