Credit Cards I’m Currently Using for Manufactured Spending

This year, I’ve probably done more manufactured spending than ever. Even back in the day when I could walk across the street from my office to CVS and buy $5,000 worth of Vanilla Reloads per day, I don’t think I reached the numbers I’m pulling in now that it’s gotten more difficult. On a daily basis, I do a minimum of $2,500 – $7,500 in online gift card orders and if I feel up to it, I pick up another $9,500 at my local mall. Usually I don’t go to my local mall unless I have enough gift cards to justify going on a money order run. Some of you have asked me which credit cards I use for all these gift card purchases and it’s usually a set of cards that either belong to me or that I’m an authorized user on, which I keep rotating:

Credit card wallet

Barclay Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard

A few weeks ago, Howie decided to throw some shade my way by calling the Barclay Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCardthe worst 2% cash back card.” That’s ridiculous – the Barclay Arrival Plus card happens to be the best 2.1% cash back card out there. Sure, you have to spend at least $89,000 per year just to cover the $89 annual fee but for most of us that’s a drop in the bucket. But I get it – for people who are used to earning their miles the lazy way (i.e. via credit card churning), $89k is just too high. 😜

Despite the fact that Barclays increased minimum travel redemptions to $100, I was still able to redeem 8,900 points for the $89 annual fee this year. My dad and brother each have their own Arrival Plus cards, on which I’m an authorized user. Thanks to generous spending limits, I’m able to get good use out of all three cards.

Fidelity Rewards Visa Signature Card

You gotta love Fidelity. About four years ago, they had this awesome deal where they offered upwards of 50,000 airline miles for opening a brokerage account. The best part? You could open two accounts, which is how I pulled in a combine 100,000 worth of AAdvantage and Delta Skymiles for myself and three family members. I closed one of those accounts but the other is where I store the 2% cash back I earn from the Fidelity Rewards Visa Signature Card. The card has no annual fee and earns a flat 2% cash back on all spending. So why am I holding onto my Arrival Plus card? I try not to put all of my spending on a single card, so having this card to fall back on means I can spread large amounts of spend across multiple cards while earning a minimum of 2% cash back.

Discover it Miles Card

I’m loving the Discover it Miles Card for several reasons. Never mind that it has no sign-up bonus – it has no annual fee and earns the equivalent of 3% cash back during the first year! Granted, it initially pays out just 1.5% and the remaining half gets deposited after the first year, but it all adds up to 3%. Did I mention the card has no annual fee, yet offers $30 worth of annual in-flight wifi credits? As someone who is too cheap to pay $450 in annual fees on the Amex Platinum card, which offers free unlimited Boingo wifi, this little benefit from the Discover it Miles Card is a perfect fit.

Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express

At a recent meet-up, a reader took a very casual approach to the whole Amex Financial Review thing – in his view, it’s not a big deal you should welcome it because once it happens, it won’t happen again. I don’t want it to happen in the first place, so I’m trying to be cool with the amount of spend I put on the two Starwood Preferred Guest American Express cards I’ve been entrusted with. I put a good amount of normal spending on these cards, I regularly take advantage of Amex Offers, and on occasion I use these cards for online gift card orders or if all other payment forms get rejected at my local mall, I pull one of these cards out and they never let me down.

Bank of America Alaska Airlines Credit Card

The Bank of America Alaska Airlines Credit Card is bugging me these days because 1.) The spending limit is just $3,000 and 2.) when I try to use it at my local mall, I get an error message that may be related to the chip. I know, that’s an easy problem to solve, but for now I stick to using the card for online orders. Alaska miles are very valuable and being able to earn them very cheaply through online gift card purchases is a plus. It’s also nice to be able to top off my Alaska Mileage Plan account (assuming I don’t have an immediate use for them) without having to transfer 20,000 Starpoints to maximize the transfer bonus.

Citi Platinum AAdvantage Card

The Citi Platinum AAdvantage card drove me crazy in my Vanilla Reload buying days because it got almost always declined, even when I’d call ahead and let them know I was making a large purchase. Nowadays, the fraud alerts have decreased and I’m able to get more use out of this card – as a backup when all other payment forms decline for large gift card purchases. 

I’m seriously lacking in hotel credit cards since I parted ways with my Club Carlson Visa, so I may pick up a Hilton card, mainly to maintain Hilton Diamond status. I’ve also been meaning to get my hands on a Freedom Unlimited card. I hear they’re not enforcing the 5/24 rule to encourage applications and I’d love a card that earns me 1.5 Ultimate Rewards points with no fuss.

That’s pretty much it in terms of credit cards I’m using to earn points and miles at the moment. Which credit cards are you currently focused on?

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Ariana Arghandewal


  1. Ariana, have you ever looked at the Capital One Spark Business cards? They have cash & miles versions, each with $500 signup bonus. The mileage card is almost identical to Barclays Arrival + but you can credit travel purchases for ANY amount. Also only $59 annual fee after first year, and no international transaction fees. Yes, I know the community hates Capital one, but I’ve gotten huge value from these cards, and my credit can take the small incremental hit. I think the community in general is missing out. May be worth considering for the signup and the type of MS you do. Keep up the good work.

    • Same here. I could never understand why blogging community in general do not see this card in par with others. May be it pays very little for referrals. I never had this card and am still waiting for a good review to take it seriously.

      • Capital One hits all three credit bureaus when you apply for any of their cards- that’s what everyone hates, so they get written off.

    • Hey, if that works for you, I say go for it. I’m also hesitant because of the 3-bureau credit hit, but I think if churning rules continue to get stricter across other banks, more people will begin overlooking Cap1’s credit pull issue in favor of obtaining a new card/sign-up bonus.

  2. You know you can get Barclay Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard card again and again. I cancelled mine at the time of annual fee and got it back within 4 months. Why would you have to spend at least $89,000 per year just to cover the $89 annual fee?

    • Because you’re paying $89 for 0.1% higher earning rate vs. a 2% cash back with no annual fee. But it’s good you were able to get the sign-up bonus again so soon (something that some of the 2% cash back cards lack).

  3. I don’t understand the concept of the Barclays Arrival cards. Is there some place you can direct me to read up on how to use this? Do you have a write up on how best to use this product? -thanks!

      • It’s essentially a 2.1% cash back card (on all spending), which makes it great for ms. If you click on the link, it takes you to the landing page for the card, explaining the benefits and fees. Let me know if you have any other questions.

  4. You are doing mostly non-bonused MS. So let’s say you are doing $250k per month at @2% gross with a cost of 1%, leaving you 1% net. So you are earning $2,500 tax free per month for probably 80 hours per month, assuming you spend half your work day on MS. That works out to $25k per year tax free for a part time job. ymmv?

    • It actually works out to less than 80 hours per month, since I’ve cut down on my Simon Mall visits in favor of online purchases and I usually do 1-2 big mo runs per week. When you factor in cash back from portals, a lot of the fees get eliminated. I haven’t done the math on my total cash profit but not all of my gift card purchases are done with cash back equivalent credit cards.

  5. Are you liquidating all these gift cards buying money orders? That is a lot of money orders.

    • Money orders and also bill pay, depending on which store I’m in. Some stores will only allow me to use one card for bill pay, in which case I just buy mo’s.

  6. Hi Ariana!

    What are you doing to liquidate all these gift cards? Do you have a past post explaining this part? (couldn’t find one)… Is it all Money Orders?

  7. Wow, you are impressive. I was surprised to learn that I’ve earned about 740,000 points/miles so far this year, considering how much MS has changed. But that’s nothing compared to your haul. I’ve been doing the Simon gc money order thing, but at a much lower level. My wife and I have 5 bank accounts to spread out all those deposits. We got the accounts because each was offering $200 to open an account, and now it works out fortuitously for all the money order deposits.

    How do you use the gift cards for bill pay at stores?

  8. How about Citi Double Cash card? As far as I know, that card has 2% on everything and no annual fee.

    • That’s a solid card too, but Citi makes me nervous because of the amount of fraud I’ve had to deal with (more than with any other bank). For me, $0 annual fee/no sign-up bonus cards are for long-term use and I don’t trust Citi enough to get this card based on past issues.

  9. In all your experience with purchasing money orders, have you ever encountered a situation when you swipe 2 cards, they seem to go through fine, and then WM cashier gets a “connection timeout” message? The receipt shows the transaction is voided, the cashier tells you to “check with your bank – the money should come back to your debit cards”, and yet you check your gift debit cards and the balance is zero.
    The story I read on FlyerTalk…this alone can put me off money orders. How does bill pay work?

  10. From this post, it looks like all of your MS is unbonused. Any reason you don’t also mix in bonused MS (for example, Ink or other cards)?

  11. Hi Ariana!
    Great post once again, as usual.
    Thanks for the Discover tip, that’s next in line.
    Regarding online GC purchases, do you use just one cash back portal or spread it around across various portals? Does giftcards.com allow multiple purchases per week from the same person?
    I would like to reduce my trips to Simon Mall and just do all purchases online, but I’m treading cautiously because I don’t know the limits yet at online gift card sellers before they ban someone. I am not certain if they shutdown accounts too. Would appreciate your thoughts!
    Thank you!!!

    • I did use both iConsumer and Yazing in the beginning, but Yazing pays out much quicker so I’ll continue using it solely. I did successfully place a $3,500 order on GCM a few weeks ago but when I tried to order $8,000 the transaction got cancelled. Going forward, I’ll stick to $2,500 on GC and shoot for $4,000 on GCM – but only occasionally, since I have heard GCM shuts people down for too many orders.

  12. Thank you!
    I had a minor issue w yazing a few weeks back when someone from my family used my referral link but I didn’t get the cash back bonus. The CEO is responsive, but we were not able to resolve it. I’ll still use yazing personally but referral links may not reliably work all the time. Do you buy from GC almost daily? Have not used GCM, although interestingly the cards from staples.com I purchased last week using INK are now coming from GCM. Thanks so much and looking forward to the next points/miles meet up!

    • I try – I haven’t purchased anything in a week, but usually I’ll do at least one order per day. GCM approved my first order of $3,500 but the $8k one got cancelled (understandably). The cash back is higher at GCM, but again, you might get your order cancelled if its deemed to high/risky. The Staples Visas have always been GCM issued – thankfully there have been no issues with those lately. I’ll probably hold a meet-up in Davis next month. I’ll announce it a bit earlier this time!

      • Can you comment on MO deposits? How many bank accounts? Personal or business? How much per month in each? Or are you also paying cc directly with MO at bank?

        • I’m pretty much depositing them all into two bank accounts. Sometimes if I’m at Bofa and one of my cards has a balance, I’ll pay it off with an MO rather than deposit it, since it goes through faster.

  13. Great post! You mentioned using Amex cards online. Which site do you use? GC.com doesn’t allow it and GCM always cancels my orders. Thanks!

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