Last week was my first time trying manufactured spending. Manufactured spending is something that miles/points chasing frequent flyers are familiar with. For the rest of us, what exactly is manufactured spending? Manufactured spending is when you use your credit cards that earn miles/points to buy something in which you can liquidate and get your money back, while still earning miles or points on your credit cards.
Manufactured Spending with the Mint
There are many ways to do this and one of the most popular ways is to buy gift cards. The best way to manufactured spending WAS buying presidential $1 coins from the mint. Unfortunately people were abusing this, buying thousands upon thousands of dollars and taking them straight to the bank. The government caught wind of this and put a stop to it, making manufactured spending a bit harder for miles/points chasers.
Buying Prepaid Gift Cards
The next best thing is buying gift cards. The easiest way to do this was to buy a vanilla reload pack at the store and load it to your bluebird account. In some parts of the country this is still a viable option, but for others it is no longer an option. Some stores no longer accept credit cards to purchase these gift cards. This is because identity thieves using your credit cards to buy prepaid gift cards such as the vanilla reload, Visa, MasterCard and Amex gift cards. Once a credit card is reported stolen or something comes up as fraudulent, the credit card is useless. Gift cards are not associated with ID’s and are harder to trace. If you search on the web there are some stories of thieves using these cards, one in particular that I read about, was about thieves stealing $45 million from ATMs!
Vanilla Reloads with Amex Bluebird Account
If you don’t know what a vanilla reload pack is, it is basically a prepaid gift card that lets you fund a debit card account such as the Amex Bluebird. There are other options out there for this as well, but the Amex Bluebird is the most common. You can then use your Bluebird account to withdraw from ATM’s, make purchases, get money orders, pay rent, mortgages, loans, and your credit card bill. The reason most people choose the Vanilla reload card is because you can load it to your Bluebird account online. Other cards like the Visa gift card and MC gift card has to be loaded at a Walmart. MillionMileSecrets has full details on how to load your gift cards at Walmart and loading using Vanilla reloads.
Gift Cards from TopCashBack
For those, like myself, who live in a part of the country that can’t purchase prepaid gift cards from the store with a credit card, you can always buy gift cards online. The best way to do this is to go through a shopping portal like TopCashBack (TCB) and buy Visa or MC gift cards from GiftCardMall to receive cash back from TCB. When you receive the gift card, you then call to active it and get the pin number. Take that card to a Walmart and load your Bluebird card with your gift card. A more advanced way to do this is to go through TCB, buy Amex gift card from Amex, use that Amex gift card to buy a Visa or MC gift card from GiftCardMall, then load your Bluebird account. Bluebird does not allow you to load using a Amex gift card.
Buying Gift Cards at Walmart
There is another way and it maybe a cheaper option. I say maybe cheaper because you would buy Walmart gift cards on ebay, but you never know what the ending price will be till the time runs out. Walmart online sells gift cards, but it has a smaller limit of $200 per card and you can’t get cash back from TCB. To do this, go through TCB to GiftCardMall and buy ebay gift cards. Then sign up for Ebay Bucks to get additional cash back from ebay. The hardest part now is winning the auction.
Buying and Selling
Another way to manufacture spend besides gift cards is buying and selling items. Some people buy items on sale, that they know they can resell. Most of the time they either take a small loss or break even, but once in a great while they will actually make a profit. The value of points on a sign-up bonus outweighs the small loss of money and it is worth it for the right items. To do this, use sites like slickdeals to find items deeply discounted and check how much they are selling for on amazon. If it is cheaper, buy it and sell it using the amazon fulfillment process.
Free After Rebate
Another way is a bit time consuming, but you will not lose any money if done correctly. It is to buy items that are free after rebate and with free shipping. This is a bit time consuming because items that are free after rebate are generally cheap, ranging on the higher end of about $30. I have never tried this, but I would assume you could donate those items for a tax deduction. While looking for free after rebate items, I stumbled upon Freebie Depot which lists items everyday from different vendors of items free after rebate. I’m glad I found this site as it will cut down on the time for those who are willing to go this route.
In the end there are many different ways to manufactured spending. Essentially all you are doing is moving money around while earning miles and points along the way. Be advised not to abuse this system because some people have reported getting their accounts shut down. The reason people’s accounts get shut down is because they abuse the perks of their accounts. The companies lose money and consider them unprofitable, so do not abuse the perks! Spread out your spending on different credit cards, using it mostly to meet spending requirements on new credit cards. For more information on manufactured spending like strategies, deals, rules etc. check out the manufactured spending forum at flyertalk.com.
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