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Newbie Guide to Manufactured Spending: American Express for Target

Update: American Express for Target cards can no longer be loaded with credit cards and are said to be phased out by the end of 2015. Thus, they are no longer a viable manufactured spending tool.

Reload Limit: $1,000 per day/$5,000 per month

Fees:

  • $3 Activation fee
  • $3 Per load
  • $3 ATM fee (first transaction every month is free)

Where to buy: Target register

Where to load: Target register

How to Cash Out: ATM, Amazon Payments

Where to find American Express for Target Card

American Express for Target Card

The great thing about the American Express for Target card is that it can be loaded directly with a credit card at the Target register. Amex for Target is different from the Target branded American Express gift cards also found at the register, which many folks get confused. When you pick up the card, you are limited to a $500 initial load, then $1,000 after that. You can have up to two Amex for Target cards in your name, though your maximum load limit remains $5,000 across two cards (as opposed to $10,000, which would be much more ideal).

Cardholders get one free ATM withdrawal per month (up to $400 at a time) and after that, a $3 fee is assessed per withdrawal. You are still liable for fees charged by the ATM operator. One of the cheapest ATM’s can be found at Costco, which charges just $1.25 per transaction.

Even though cardholders get a PIN number, this PIN can’t be used for cash back or where debit cards are requested (i.e. money orders).

American Express for Target is one of the most expensive ways to manufacture spend. Even taking the discounted Costco ATM into account, you are paying $12.75 per $1,000 in manufactured spending and unloading. The only time I’d recommend using Amex for Target is if you’ve maxed out your other prepaid cards and need to meet spending requirements fast. When you’re earning miles at a cost this high, be sure you’re getting the most out of your redemptions by comparing the cost of paying for a hotel/airfare with the cost of acquiring the miles.

How does the Amex for Target cad factor into your manufactured spending strategy, if at all?

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Ariana Arghandewal

82 Comments

  1. How about if you used this card very modestly? Loaded $1000 every couple of months or so, and then gradually withdrew $400 a month when you were at Costco,doing the shopping you would be doing anyway?
    Also, if one has a bank that allows ATM withdrawals for free, would that change the equation…or is that likely to be only for the bank’s own ATM card?
    I don’t know that much about manufactured spend…but I feel like I am missing something here. Once the original card is paid for, I assume you can load it for $3 at Target, and then get 400 per month free from the ATM at Costco. If these are stores I am going to anyway, wouldn’t it be a modest addition ? For example, I could meet half Hilton Reserve $10,000 this way?
    Appreciate your posts on manufactured spending!

    • You can do that, but Amex for Target is one of the most expense ways to manufacture spend. Even at just $1,000 you’re paying over $12 in fees vs $7.90 with Vanilla Reload cards. If it’s your only option to meet spending requirements, it’s perfectly fine. I just wouldn’t recommend you do it to earn miles, since that get can expensive fast (i.e. 100,000 miles will cost over $1,200 in manufactured spend).

  2. Well If you stick to the free atm withdrawals and then use amazon payments as well to offload then it shouldn’t be that expensive…I Just signed up to be able to liquidate some amex giftcards

    • Yes, but you can only do $1k per month via Amazon Payments. It softens the blow, but if you load the maximum each month, unloading will still be more expensive than using VR cards.

  3. I have 2 cards and will be getting 2 more for my wife. I use it modestly at only 1 $400 (fee free) ATM withdrawal per card per month so my fee is a mere $3 per $1,000. If you have a convenient credit union with a fee free ATM this makes a super easy and low cost addition to mfg spend. It’s not the highest producing method but nets an additional 19000 miles not including any category bonus

    • I’m way too impatient to wait to cash out the card and avoid ATM fees. If it works for you, then stick to it.

  4. I have not really given this card much of a look but am considering it now. I have a very close ATM to my work that only charges $.50 for a withdrawl. The only thing I am curious about after reading this is why you would want to unload via Amazon payments. Unless you have a card that paid a bonus at Target(none come to mind but please correct me if I’m wrong) then why wouldn’t you just use the card that you were going to use at Target on Amazon payments and skip the middle man and fees?

    • A while back when I had a Amex Business Gold, that card would code Target as a grocery store. I haven’t picked up a personal Gold card yet, but if it codes Target purchases the same, then it’s much more lucrative to load an Amex for Target card than going directly to Amazon Payments.

  5. i bought $2000 Amex gift card, hoping to use them to buy Visa GCs at stores, but without any luck. So Amex for Target will be the only choice for me now. Will give a try tomorrow. I don’t care about the fee to load and withdraw through ATM, since I got 3% cash back already. But seems the way to unload it is only ATM withdraw other than Amazon Payment. So my question is that if I load $5000 to a card each month, and withdraw all of them through ATM, will I have the risk of being shut down?

    Thanks,
    Jason

    • I’ve been using Amex for Target purely for ATM withdrawals for about two years now and have not been shut down. This could change in the future, but so far Amex doesn’t seem to care that you’re withdrawing all the cash.

    • What was the problem with buying Visa GC’s? I’m working on something similar, and would like to know of any pitfalls in advance.

      • It has to do with some stores not accepting Amex gc’s as payment for Visa gc’s (“You can’t buy a gift card with a gift card”). If you find one that lets you do it, you’re good.

  6. I finally for my AMEX for Target and was planning on testing out swipe loading using GCs, but I am unsure of which GCs would be ideal for this. Can you shed some light on this?

    Thanks.

    • I always use Amex gift cards since they come in such large denominations. You can certainly do Visa gc’s, but the cheaper way to offload those is via Bluebird.

      • Thanks…but unfortunately there isn’t a Walmart near me to offload GCs onto bluebird. So my only option would be Target. That’s good to hear that I can use AMEX/Visa GCs…..Side question, do you advise against using a AMEX SPG to swipe load onto a AMEX for Target?

        Thanks for helping me on this.

        • If there’s no Walmart nearby then Target is your best bet. You should be ok using Amex SPG to swipe load Amex for Target – it gets coded as a Target purchase so there should be no problems. I prefer to buy Amex gc’s and swipe load Amex for Target because of the extra cash back from shopping portals.

  7. Will the OV gift cards with at Target? I heard they are giving hard time at WM since it’s being recognized as a credit card (although a walk around exists).

  8. Hi,
    So, I can get 2 amex target card and both cards can get a free withdrawal every month?
    Can you do split transaction in the register – for loading 2 $500 vgc to amex target card in one transaction?

    • Yes, you can get two Amex for Target cards with a free monthly withdrawal for each card. I’ve never tried splitting a transaction, so I’m not sure. I wouldn’t use Visa gc’s this way – you can unload them free via Bluebird.

  9. Here is some text from the Amex for Target FAQ that gives details on maximum loads and balances, especially for those of us with 2 cards:

    “You can have up to two Cards issued to you. The maximum balance you can carry per Card, at any given time, is $2,500, and you cannot load more than $5,000 across both Cards over a 28 day period.

    “However, we permit you to maintain a higher balance limit and monthly maximum load amount of $10,000 across both Cards over a 28 day period if loaded with direct deposits from your employer or other payor.”

  10. Could you load $800 say in the middle of the month ($3) then unload $400 via ATM at the end of the same month and another $400 early the following month ($2.50)? Just because I can’t afford extra money sitting in the card for 3 months (if I loaded the full $1000). Also $5.50 to unload $800 is steep.

    Can you unloade AMEX for Target on your BB?

    • The fee-free ATM withdrawal is per calendar month, so you could unload $400 at the end of June and then another $400 on July 1 without fees. Reloading fees are steep, but if you’re earning $40 per $1,000 via cash back portals that isn’t such a bad trade-off. You can’t unload Amex for Target on Bluebird, unfortunately.

  11. Bad News. I got turned down to use American Express gift cards for the target card. I might add the people at that store were complete jerks and don’t deserve anyone’s business.

    • Sorry to hear that, Pat. It’s a real hit or miss. But these stores have high turnover, so if you go back in 6 months, you might come across a more amiable group.

  12. Can you please show how you arrived at $12.75 per $1000 of spend and unload ?

    We have access to fee-free ATMs here. I know I’m missing something; please tell me what is incorrect in this:

    1. Load fee for $1000 – $3
    2. ATM Withdrawal #1 for $400 – $0
    3. ATM Withdrawal #2 for $400 – $3
    4. ATM Withdrawal #3 for $200 – $3

    Thank you.

    • You’re paying $9 in ATM withdrawal fees, plus another $1.25 per withdrawal gets charged by the Costco ATM. Across three withdrawals, that comes to $3.75. Add that to $9 and you get $12.75. If you have fee-free ATM’s, you’d only pay $9.

  13. Has anyone had luck loading this with Amex Gift Cards at Target? I’m thinking of trying.

    • I’ve been having about an 80% success rate doing this. Go to the customer service desk instead of regular check-out, and try to find an employee that looks clueless. Shouldn’t be too hard since there’s such a revolving door in terms of employees at places like Target.

      • Thanks for the info. Do you tell them it’s a credit card or gift card or something else? Or tell them nothing?

        • I don’t tell them anything. If they see the card and say you can’t use a gift card, just tell them it’s a “prepaid card” and can be used the same as a credit card.

          • I’ve tried it three times at three different places and all three times they said I can’t use AMEX GC. On the 3rd time the cashier even showed me on his screen that they can not except a giftcard. I guess they’re cracking down on this.

          • I think the cashier meant Target gift cards. That actually does appear on the screen, but since Amex gc’s are processed like credit cards, that shouldn’t be an issue.

  14. Great post and discussion. I am new to MS and was wondering if someone could explain on how to unload Amex for Target on Amazon Payments. Thanks,

  15. Have you ever loaded Amex for Target w/ a gift card with pin, using it as a debit card. I’ve only used credit cards so far and was just curious. Thanks.

    • You can use PIN-enabled gift cards, but since those can be unloaded free of charge via Bluebird, I’ve never done it via AFT.

  16. Regarding reloading, can you reload at any Target or select stores that Amex has on their Website?

      • Thank you. I tried almost all of the Tampa stores mentioned in amex site and I couldn’t get a single store. Only one store had this display Ad and had a clue about this card, but unfortunately they have taken down those it seems since they are having issues with loading those cards.
        I will have to try somewhere outside Florida, when I am on vacation for this fall season.

      • My Amex code the Target near me as a discount store. Is that consider as groceries? Is there a way to find what Target gets coded as groceries using an Amex?

        • It’s not. When I had a Amex Gold card, I remember it used to charge Target as a grocery store. They might have changed that.

          • My local Target has a grocery store in it, but codes as discount store. Would have been nice to use the Everyday Preferred for loading.

  17. Ariana
    Sorry if this has been asked before. But can you withdraw AFT at target ATMs for free?

  18. Hi Arianna – have really enjoyed your blog the last 6 months – thanks for all the work and the entertaining $80K MS challenge! Amex for Target looks great for handling big minimum spend, although it is lots of ATM trips, and then big cash deposits which may look suspicious to your bank. Any other suggested liquidation options or thoughts? thanks again

    • I might have to do another challenge, just to keep things interesting around here. 🙂 AFT can definitely be a hassle, but the reason I use it is because it’s virtually free ms if you load the card with Amex gift cards purchased through a cashback portal. As for depositing it back, I stay under the radar by using the cash to make direct credit card payments in-branch. So I’ll go to the local Chase branch and make a $1k payment on my Ink card, then I head to Bofa and pay my Alaska card. The remaining cash I split between my savings and checking account. It has worked well so far.

      If you don’t yet have a Serve card, I recommend you get one. It’s an easy $1k in monthly ms. That’s pretty much all I’m doing these days to keep things frugal. Otherwise, you could hunt for Visa gift cards as well as ReloadIT cards and cash them out via money orders.

      • thanks Ariana – Thanks for sharing your cash strategy! I do have two Serve cards already and they are on steady use – I also like frugal options. But I also like having options, and Amex for Target sounds great for meeting minimum spend when I do a big signup card spree, especially for cards that won’t work directly with Serve.

      • I’m actually considering adding this AFT as well. I just got a free year of Amex GC premium shipping. I already go to Target to load RB. My normal shopping trip also includes stopping by Costco ($1.25/$400 w/d). I can even deposit to Chase (also on my way home) to help spread out the deposits.

        Curious how this challenge has gone for you? Also, when you are paying your cc in Chase, how exactly is that working?

        • I’ve since gotten rid of Serve in favor for Redbird. It’s much more lucrative. I still do AFT, unloading them via ATM withdrawals and occasional purchases. At the Chase Branch, you simply present the cash you withdrew from the ATM and tell them you want to make a payment on your credit card. You just gotta bring your card with you and it’s a quick process.

  19. I was wondering what do you do with all the cash? Do you use the cash to pay back the credit card like B of A or chase at the bank or do you deposit in the bank and then pay back the bill?

  20. For about two years I used the American Express Target Card. I had a pair of them. I bought American Express Gift Cards at cashback sites, periodically loaded $997 onto my AX Tgt Cards, withdrew $400 cash from each card each month, and spent as much as I could from those two AX Tgt Cards. The last two months I have had increasing problems loading the AX Tgt Card. I’m told that Tgt now prohibits loading AX Tgt Cards from gift cards. It’s clear now that it’s not just the clerks telling me the policy. The transactions simply cannot be initiated on their terminals. I think the deal is over. Now, I’m stuck with $8,000 in AX Gift Cards. True, I earned FF miles for the purchase of those gift cards. But I think it’s really over.

    • Sorry to hear about your troubles, David. You can try using those Amex gift cards to buy Visa gift cards, which can be used at some Target stores to load Redbird.

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