Manufactured Spend is the process of using your credit card to purchase items that can easily be converted back into cash. This allows you to meet spending requirements and to earn rewards without actually spending any real money, or at least spending very little money.
Plastiq (Codes as Travel for Chase Ultimate Rewards or Citi ThankYou Points)
Volume: Your rent or mortgage payment
Limits: Monthly, or however often you pay your rent or mortgage
Plastiq is a billpay service that allows you to pay virtually any business with a credit card. There is a 2.5% fee, though, which means that in most cases, the service is too expensive. An exception to this is using a credit card that earns greater than 2.5% cash back or its equivalent in points (BankAmericard Travel Rewards Card w/ Platinum Honors, Alliant Visa Signature Credit Card – first year only, Discover it Miles Credit Card – first year only).
Another exception, which is the main point of this section, is that rent and mortgage payments have been triggering category bonus points for many cards, usually due to being coded as travel. While not quite manufactured spending due to the need for legitimate billers to send payments to, this is still a useful strategy for racking up Ultimate Rewards or ThankYou Points if you use one of the cards below:
3x: Chase Sapphire Reserve (Ultimate Rewards)
3x: Chase Ink Preferred (Ultimate Rewards)
3x: Citi AT&T Access More (ThankYou Points)
2x: Chase Sapphire Preferred (Ultimate Rewards)
Ultimate Rewards and ThankYou Points are easily worth over 1 cent each, giving you an effective return of 3% back or more when you use one of the first three cards in this list. The Chase Sapphire Preferred may also be worth it depending on how much you value Ultimate Rewards points. Aside from what I’ve mentioned above, there are some other neat tricks that can result from the payments being treated as travel. As one example, the BankAmericard Travel Rewards Card provides the best return when points are redeemed against travel purchases, meaning that you can redeem against Plastiq rent/mortgage payments if you don’t have any travel purchases to offset.
As a general rule, try making a small test payment first to verify that the purchase will code as travel with your credit card. While most data points from people using this strategy have been positive, it does appear that some rare mortgage/rent and credit card combinations do not trigger the bonus points.
Money Orders (Walmart)
Volume: As much as the store will allow you
Fees: About $0.70 per $1000 money order, but it varies per store
Limits: As much as your bank will allow you to deposit
One way to manufacture spend is to purchase money orders at Walmart with PIN-enabled gift cards. These gift cards can be purchased from most major grocery or drug stores, such as CVS or Rite Aid. Typically, you can load a gift card with $500 for a fee of $4.95.
If you have the Chase Ink Card, which earns 5x UR points at office supply stores, you can also purchase $300 Visa gift cards online from Staples. These cards come with an activation fee of $8.95, but you will earn 1,545 UR points on the purchase.
I don’t have any Walmarts located near where I live, so I do not use this method, but here are a few tips:
- Walmart does not accept gift cards issued by Bancorp, namely Vanilla Visas, so you will need to use another flavor if you want to do this method.
- Walmart allows split-tender payments, but a maximum of 4 swipes per transaction. Thus if you have $500 gift cards, you can ask for two $999.30 money orders at once and pay with four $500 gift cards.
- Banks are required to file a suspicious activity report with the government for cash transactions of $10,000+. While you’re not doing anything illegal, you might want to keep your overall volume low enough so that these reports aren’t triggered. Also be aware of what structuring is (look it up if you don’t know), and don’t do it.
- Some banks do not like large and frequent money order deposits and will close your account if you do it too much.
People like using this method because they can manufacture a LOT of spend at low cost. In any case, I can’t give a full treatment of it here due to lack of personal experience. For more information, check this Flyertalk thread.