Manufactured spending is a great way to generate more miles and points after a credit card sign-up bonus has posted. It’s how I earn most of my miles and points, as I was lucky enough to get into this hobby when opportunities were more plentiful. There was a time when things were easier (and more lucrative) than standing in a long line at Walmart and dealing with surly cashiers who give you the same look George Jung gets with a suitcase full of women’s clothes at a Columbian airport.
1. Vanilla Reload Cards
In the early days, Vanilla Reload cards were the gold standard of manufactured spending. They were readily available to pretty much everyone, you could load them to your Bluebird card online, and liquidate them via online bill pay. It was the easiest manufactured spending tool ever and went on for quite a while before it was shut down.
Not only that, but it was incredibly rewarding. Because Vanilla Reload cards could be purchased at CVS, 711, and office supply stores, the only thing you had to worry about was which credit card category bonus to choose: 6X points through the Hilton HHonors Surpass card, which translated to $131 out of pocket for a night at a top-tier Hilton hotel that was going for just 50,000 points at the time; 5X points at Office Depot through the Chase Ink Bold; or 2X points at 711 stores with the Chase Ink Plus, since 711 was categorized as a gas station.
2. Target Prepaid REDCard (AKA) Redbird
The Target Prepaid REDCard (i.e. Redbird) was so in-demand that entire businesses popped up that sold Redbird cards to people whose local Target stores didn’t stock them. This was another great manufactured spending tool that made it easy to earn miles and cash back with very little effort. I don’t think there is a more ideal place to go gift card churning than Target.
3. 4% Cash Back on Amex Gift Cards
Once upon a time, cash back portals like the now-defunct Big Crumbs, Top Cash Back, and Ebates offered 4% cash back on American Express gift cards. You read that right 4% cash back. At the time, American Express allowed up to $10,000 in purchases every two weeks. These gift cards came in denominations of up to $3,000 though cash back portals only paid out on denominations of up to $2,000. The best part? After you paid your ~$80 in fees and earned your $400 cash back, you could liquidate these Amex gift cards via Google Wallet or by purchasing Vanilla Reload cards at CVS! For a while, it was even possible to liquidate Amex gift cards via Redbird loads, which was super nice and easy. Manufactured spending in large quantities is nice, but being able to earn cash doing it? That’s the dream right there.
4. Barclay Rewards Boost for Amex Gift Card Purchases
What’s better than earning 4% cash back on Amex gift cards? Try 6.6% cash back. For a while, the Barclay Rewards Boost shopping portal offered 4 miles per $1 spent on Amex gift card purchases. When stacked with the 2 miles per $1 from the Barclay Arrival Card, that resulted in 6 miles per $1 spent. Back then, Barclay offered a 10% rebate on award redemptions and since 6 miles was equal to 6% cash back, buying Amex gift cards through Barclay Rewards Boost earned a whopping 6.6% cash back! If you managed to purchase $100,000 worth of Amex gift cards before this deal went bust, you earned an impressive $6,600 worth of travel cash.
5. Amazon Payments
Amazon Payments was one of those deals that wasn’t super lucrative but it was an easy way to meet spending requirements without stepping away from the keyboard. It went on for quite a few years before Amazon disbanded the service altogether. But for those few years, it was nice to be able to generate $1,000 worth of spend every month with a few clicks of the mouse.
6. The U.S. Mint Deal
The U.S. Mint Deal was how I learned about this hobby. Not because I actually participated in it, but after reading an NPR article about the U.S. Mint Deal, my obsession took over and I eventually started this blog. Unfortunately, by the time I had the guts to start applying for credit cards with $3,000 spending limits (!!!!!) the U.S. Mint Deal was dead and I was disappointed, thinking I had missed the big gold rush.
When each of these deals died, people were disappointed and thought, “it’s all going down hill!” Yet, it did not. Each deal ending resulted in people scouring for new opportunities which may not have been easier, but they certainly allowed manufactured spending in larger numbers.
What were some of your favorite manufactured spending deals of the past few years?
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