Manufactured Spending

My $82,000 Spending Challenge: 2 Months Later

Håkan Dahlström / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0
Håkan Dahlström / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0

This was a tough month, with shopping portals pulling American Express gift cards and my general laziness when it comes to manufactured spending. Still, I managed to make a great deal of progress in meeting $82,000 spending requirements. If you’re wondering how I kept track of all the spending, this post will give you some insight. Here’s an overview of what I managed this month:

Barclay Arrival Plus Card – $3,000 (Complete)

The spending requirement for my dad’s Barclay Arrival Plus card was easy to meet. I had handed the card off to my dad so he could put all of his spending on it. We knocked down $700 the first month and the remaining $2,300 was completed recently thanks to his normal spend ($900) and $1,500 in Simon Mall gift cards. He could have certainly met the majority of the spend in another month, but I wanted this one off my hands and threw in a little manufactured spending to make it happen.

Citi Executive AAdvantage Cards – $20,000 (Completed)

Last month, I knocked off $5,000 in spend off each Citi Executive AAdvantage card. This month, I was able to get it all done thanks to a bit of regular spending. My sister had a $2,600 furniture store purchase she allowed me to charge to my brother’s Citi Executive AAdvantage card. That, combined with $800 of his personal spending, $1,000 in Amazon Payments, $500 in Simon Mall gift cards, and a few utility bills helped take care of the remaining $5,000. 

Here’s how the spend was met for the second Citi Executive AAdvantage card:

  • $1,000 via Amazon Payments
  • $2,000 in Simon Mall gift cards (liquidated via Bluebird)
  • $2,000 in direct loads via American Express for Target

Alaska Airlines Visa Signature Card – $20,000 ($6,000 left)

We have 6 months to meet the $10,000 spending requirement on each Alaska card. However, I prefer to get all of my spending requirements done within 3 months, especially so I can churn the Alaska card yet again. Last month, I knocked off a combined $6,000. With this month’s total of $8,000, we’ve got $6,000 left to go.

  • $2,000 in Simon Mall gift cards (liquidated via Bluebird) x 2 cards = $4,000
  • $2,000 in direct loads via American Express for Target x 2 cards = $4,000

SPG American Express Business Card – $9,000 (Completed)

While the spending requirement on the SPG American Express Business card was just $5,000, I needed 4,000 extra points for a trip I’m planning, bringing my goal to $9,000. I managed to get one $4,000 American Express gift card at 2.5% cash back before they were pulled from all shopping portals, which was an easy way to knock off the remaining spending requirement. I liquidated these gift cards successfully via American Express for Target, though it was a bit more work than I would have liked

  • $4,000 in American Express gift cards liquidated via American Express for Target

Barclay Arrival Plus Card – $30,000 ($21,100 left)

Generating $30,000 in spend on my brother’s Barclay Arrival Plus card was quite an ambitious project and I probably won’t meet my goals in time. However, I still got pretty close. After the first month’s $3,000, I was able to knock out another $4,000 this month via Simon Mall gift cards. Also, Safeway was running a promotion on variable load Visa and Mastercard gift cards: A $15 voucher when you buy two gift cards. The fees came up to $11.90 for two cards totaling $900, but I did get $15 to use on my next Safeway purchase.

  • $4,000 in Simon Mall gift cards (liquidated via Bluebird)
  • $1,000 in direct loads via American Express for Target
  • $900 in Visa gift cards from Safeway (liquidated via Bluebird)

After this month, I’ve got just $28,100 left to spend. Despite a slow start last month, I’m on track to complete all of my spending requirements by next month. Realistically, I probably won’t complete the entire remaining $22,100 spending requirement from the Barclay Arrival Plus card without raising a red flag. That’s completely fine. I’ll easily get $10,000 of it done, so we’re still looking at a substantial number of Arrival miles we can use to cover travel expenses.

Meeting $82,000 in spending requirements is child’s play for many veteran card churners, who could well meet that spend in less than a month. I’ve planned for 3 months in order to avoid red flags, fraud alerts, and other issues that might shut me down – or at the very least, slow me down. Plus, I’m getting a little tired of the whole manufactured spending routine.

There are other ways to meet spending requirements that are less than kosher. The methods outlined above are what I’m comfortable with for now. Next month, I’m going to incorporate some more regular spending and beyond that, we’ll decide which card stays and goes. The Arrival Plus card is definitely a long-term keeper. As I illustrated yesterday, there are times when it’s more prudent to charge travel to the Arrival Plus card than to redeem frequent flyer miles. For times like those, I want to be prepared with an abundance of Arrival miles and the ability to generate more.

Are you in the midst of a manufactured spending spree? Please share your progress below.

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  1. The one thing i’ve learned is that MS’ing is VERY time consuming, especially the AMEX for Target. Load at Target, go to Costco ATM, go to bank, and repeat, lol. I would be able to do so much more if i didn’t have a full-time job. Is the blog your full-time job? Or do you have another job? Keep the good posts coming.

    • It is ridiculously time consuming, which is why I sometimes just use the Chase ATM at Target to cash out my cards. I recently quit my day job and am working as a freelance writer. It affords me more time for ms, but it’s still pretty damn tedious!

  2. I am currently on my third Capital One Spark Business card ($500 bonus after spending $4,500, 2% on all purchases). I don’t MS often but I do need a little bit of MS to get these done. I hate going to Walmart! Totally worth it in the end though. =)

    • Walmart is the absolute worst part of this. However, if you can find a Neighborhood Walmart store, those are so much easier to get in and out of. No Bluebird kiosks, but you can load Bluebird at the register.

      • I’ve just discovered your blog and I’m really enjoying it. So I just wanted to say that at my Neighborhood Walmart, there is a kiosk, and most of the time, it’s working! I can walk to it, get exercise, and unload to BB. Win/win!

  3. Do you buy Simon Mall gift cards at a Simon Mall? Or do you buy them online? Can you buy gift cards from Simon Mall online? what kind if Gift cards? What denomination?

    • Yes, you can buy them online in denominations of $497 (see this post). I did a combination of online/in-person. Fees are higher when you buy them online, but it’s more convenient.

  4. I admittedly have not had a chance to research or post this question elsewhere but I also have a SPG Business card whose spending requirements I am trying to hit. The conditions for my card very clearly and boldly state that gift card purchases do not count toward the spend and of course using the card directly to buy AGCs makes that very obvious that is what one is doing. I imagine you won’t know until it closes but have you received full credit for such purchases in this or other such purchases in the past?

    My current plan was to just knock off $2K with Amazon before it is gone and then do Serve loads (which I have no opened yet).

    • The terms may state that, but it’s never been the case. In the past, I’ve used gift cards to meet the spend on the SPG personal card and still got the bonus. Serve is a little different. From what I hear, you will not earn points from Serve loads with an Amex card.

  5. For the Citi Executive Advantage why can’t you just buy simon gift cards and than buy a money order and go to citibank and use the money order to pay the bill? Would that not be cheaper than doing AFT.

  6. With the “$4,000 in American Express gift cards liquidated via American Express for Target” did you do liquidate via 10 Costco ATM visits? or is there another way other then buying stuff?

  7. Can you use the Simon GC at the kiosk at WM to load BB? The Visa terms says it can’t be used at an ATM.

  8. Is it safe to use the Citibank American Airlines card to buy gift cards at Simon Malls? (Will they be coded as a purchase and not a cash advance?)

    When you buy Simon Mall cards online, do you order one at a time? They want a social security number/ Tax ID number to do the corporate bulk orders.

    Thank you!

    • Yes, it’s safe. You can only purchase on card online at a time.

      • Thank you!

        • Ariana — yes, I’m in the midst of a manufactured spending spree, and I have good days and bad days. I’m only doing $28,000 and after 2 months, I still have $6,000 left to go. $15,000 of it is via American Express gift cards, which have been getting harder and harder to liquidate (the entire $6,000 left to go is in American Express gift cards). As you know, loads onto Amex for Target are hit or miss, and I’ve been getting mostly misses lately (sigh). But the most FUN thing this past week was finding a no-fee ATM at a Wawa gas station in Virginia! And today, paying off my Citibank credit card at the bank with cash from the American Express gift cards was fun, too. When I start getting tired of multiple runs to Walmart and to Simon Malls, driving 12 miles to a Walmart, being told “can’t load / use a gift card for a gift card), etc, I just think of you and how much fun I’ve had because of everything I’ve learned from you, and I get a big smile on my face. Thank you again for being such an inspiration and a wonderful teacher.

  9. How often do you churn the Alaska card??

    And BTW your MS sprees amaze me! I could never do what you do and I am surprised I was able to complete the $30K for the 3 Citi Executive cards I got!

    I loathe Walmart and am currently taking a break from MS. I was having fun with the cash back on AMEX cards and Amazon payments and then BAM!!! I thought that was a sign to lay low for awhile.

    • Not regularly, but I’ve done it three times so far. Give it some time – you’ll get your routine down and you’ll surprise my numbers, guaranteed!

  10. They get the business squared away with the new AmEx Target REDcard and it’s a store I’ll be visiting considerably more often, beginning soon after I’m finally permitted to register the card.

  11. I’m getting tired of the whole MS routine as well. I did about $80k last month and it was a lot of work driving to Target, Walmart, the bank, and other stores. I think I need a break, lol.

  12. Ariana,
    Just wondering if you are loading BB at Vacaville WM next to Albertsons?

    • I’ve been doing it at the one by the outlets. The Neighborhood WM by Albertsons is also good, though they don’t have a Bluebird machine so all loads must be done at the register.

  13. I had been doing the Simon Mall GC/Walmart BB kiosk for several months without issue. But the kiosks have been down at all 3 WM’s in my area for the past month and I’m now stuck with $3K in GC’s. Do you have any recommendations on how I can unload these?

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