Reader @AeroLance recently asked me which credit cards are safe for manufactured spending and I thought that question was worth addressing in a post. Over the last eight years, I’ve earned points and miles with lots of different rewards credit cards. Most of those points were earned via manufactured spending, mainly by churning merchant and Visa gift cards. I’ve found some banks to be more amenable to it than others, but keep in mind that can change. Everyone’s situation is different and an MS-friendly bank could turn unfriendly in a second. Below is a summary of credit cards that have been target safe for manufactured spending:
Banks that don’t have a big rewards credit card line-up
In general, the safest credit cards for manufactured spending are those affiliated with banks that don’t have a lot of rewards credit cards. I’m talking about Bank of America, Capital One, and Discover. They don’t have the same massive credit card line-up as Chase and American Express. Because of that, chances are they don’t have as many customers racking up spend and driving up costs in order to generate more miles. If large numbers of customers began manufacturing spend in huge numbers, that wouldn’t be sustainable and lead to shutdowns.
There are exceptions, of course. From the start U.S. Bank has been pretty vigilant about guarding against “abuse.” They made it extremely difficult to obtain a Club Carlson Visa and shut down customers using the Altitude Reserve card to churn gift cards. So just because a bank has a small line-up of rewards credit cards, that does not mean it’s 100% safe for manufactured spending. I have used both the rebranded Radisson Rewards Visa and SkyPass Card from U.S. bank to earn miles and points over the years. I just make sure to follow a few rules:
A few basic guidelines to avoid credit card shut-downs
I’ve followed three basic rules over the years and they’ve served me well: 1.) Don’t cycle credit lines. 2.) Don’t spend more than your stated annual income on a single credit card. 3.) Don’t use Walmart Bill Pay to pay off credit card balances. I know what you’re thinking: “You did use Walmart Bill Pay to off credit card balances!” After years of sticking by this rule, I got a little lax with the rules and started paying my Barclay Arrival Plus Cards off with Walmart Bill Pay. The result? All of my Barclay credit cards were shut down. Do as I say, not as I did.
Now you could well follow these rules and get shut down anyway. Maybe for some reason I’m not aware of. But these are precautions I’ve personally taken to avoid shut-downs and it’s worked well. Except when I violated #3. I recently got a little reckless with rule #2 and ended up getting a letter from Bank of America. It pointed out that I seem to be spending almost as much as my income and to call a number any of my spending was unauthorized. Just to be safe, I’m cooling it with the Bank of America Alaska card for a while. It’s not worth a shut-down.
Be nice to Chase, don’t make Amex mad
No other bank can compete with Chase when it comes to its rewards credit cards. Chase has the best airline, hotel, and flexible reward credit cards. Not to mention the Ultimate Rewards Travel Portal is one of the best ways to book hotels and airfare for less. So you really don’t want to alienate Chase by overdoing it with manufactured spending. Stick to the rules I outlined above. Diversify all of your spending so you’re not just using your Chase card to buy gift cards from the same merchant, over and over again.
I personally don’t care that much about American Express. I love the Hilton Honors Aspire Card and occasionally use the Amex Everyday Preferred when I need Membership Rewards points. But I don’t go out of my way to earn them and if Amex ever shuts me down, I’ll live. You may feel differently, in which case you should be careful with your American Express cards. That means meeting spending requirements without manufactured spending and following the rules I outlined above. Amex is known to send out Financial Reviews that can get quite tedious. Avoid it by just playing it cool. Or don’t. It might still work out for you.
In conclusion, there isn’t really a 100% “safe” credit card for manufactured spending. But in my experience, the banks with fewer rewards cards are less likely to shut you down. With that in mind, you should still follow some basic rules and avoid excessive spending on a single credit card. And stay away from Walmart Bill Pay.
In your experience, which credit cards have been the most MS-friendly?