July 25 has come and gone…

And it’s a sad, sad time for many of us. You see, yesterday, SunTrust bank ended one of the great mileage deals in existence (and really, one of the greatest deals of all time) by devaluing its Delta debit card.

A little background: Several years ago, SunTrust launched the Delta debit card, which gave one mile per dollar spent. Over the past 5-6 years, a lot of these bank debit cards went by the wayside, as the Durbin Amendment hurt the economics of the cards for the banks by limiting the fees that banks could charge to merchants. Fewer fees, fewer rewards to hand out.

Soon, SunTrust was the only bank offering one mile per dollar spent, effectively eating the difference between the payment from the merchant and the cost of the reward that it gave to the customer. This deal went on for several years and soon became a mileage junkie favorite (Often, what’s bad for the bank is good for the mileage junkie.), as customers discovered that the debit card could be used to buy several “monetary equivalents” that credit cards couldn’t be used for (or couldn’t be used for at a rate that would make it worthwhile for accumulating miles.). For instance, the debit card could be used to pay taxes, with a flat fee of $2-4, depending on what processor you used. In other words, if you had a $10,000 tax payment, you could make that payment with your debit card, earn 10,000 miles and only be out $2-4. I’ve never seen so many people so happy to pay taxes. Likewise, certain merchants would sell money orders to debit card holders. Customers would buy thousands of dollars of money orders, paying only a fee of $.50-$1 per money order to the merchant. Then, they would simply deposit the money orders in a bank account, thousands of miles richer.*

Sadly, SunTrust became the last bank to pull the plug, capping the number of miles you could earn per month, not to mention where you could earn them, essentially rendering the program close to worthless. For all the SunTrust mileage millionaires out there (and I know several of them), yesterday was a very sad day.

I have no doubt that other deals will pop up. Right now, the best remaining deal to earn miles with a bank is at BankDirect, although even that deal has been downgraded over the years, as the earnings rate has gone down and fees have gone up. Bottom line: Keep your eyes open. The deals are out there, but they’re getting harder to find.

 

 

*This is a process known as “manufactured spending,” the equivalent of spending money for a cash equivalent to generate miles while minimizing out of pocket costs. Over the past several years, it has become a much more complicated and dangerous method of generating miles. I’m generally opposed to it for those reasons.

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