How to spend $10,000 in three months, and earn 90K Ultimate Rewards along the way

We’ve all been there.  We get excited about a credit card signup offer… or two… or three…  Next thing we know, we have card(s) in hand, but have to figure out how to spend an outrageous amount of money in a short amount of time in order to get those signup bonuses.  Specifically, I’m often asked how best to meet the Ink Bold’s requirement of spending $10K in three months to get the full 50K bonus (half of the bonus is given after first spend, but the rest requires the full $10K spend).  Just a few days ago, for example, I heard from a reader who’s thinking of getting the Ink Bold, but his monthly spend is only $1600 so he doesn’t think he can get the full bonus.  The truth is, though, if you’re willing to put in some effort, you can

Below is a step by step approach to spending $10K in three months assuming $1600 per month of usual spend.  The steps below assume you would be using an Ink Bold card, and will produce the most extra points with an Ink Bold card, but should work with any card.

Preparation: Sign up for an American Express Prepaid card

American Express offers a free prepaid card that works a lot like a credit card, but requires that money be loaded into it before it can be used.  I’ll explain in the following steps how this card is useful, but for step 1 just order one without loading any money onto it yet.  Signing up for the card doesn’t result in a hard credit pull so it will not affect your credit score in any way.  Because of limits to how much can be loaded to each card, many people find it helpful to order two or three.

Sign up here: American Express® Prepaid Card (I do get a very small kickback for each signup through this link).  It should take about a week to get your card in the mail.

Monthly Process

The following steps are intended to be done monthly until the $10K spend is met. To spend $10K in three months, you should target just over $3300 in spend per month.

Buy $2500 in Vanilla Reload cards at Office Depot

Unfortunately, not all Office Depot stores sell these cards, and not all allow you to use credit cards to purchase them, but most stores do.  Take a look at “Where to buy Vanilla Reload Cards” to see if others have had success in your area.

At Office Depot, look for cards that look like this:

Take five of these cards to the register and ask for $500 to be loaded to each one.  Each card has a $3.95 fee, so the total should come to $2519.75.  Some people like to throw in a pack of gum or other items to ensure that the total varies from month to month.  The fear is that if Chase sees recurring identical orders they may become suspicious that something is amiss.  So, even though you’re not doing anything wrong here, it can’t hurt to mix things up a bit.  You can also spread out these purchases throughout the month rather than buying them all at once.

Once you have the Vanilla Reload cards at home, go to vanillareload.com to move the money from the reload cards to the Prepaid Amex that you ordered (see “Preparation” above).  You can move at most $1000 per 24 hour period, and at most $2500 per month onto the card.

Spend $1600 using a mix of the Ink Bold and the Amex Prepaid

The scenario here is that the cardholder normally spends about $1600 per month with a credit card.  The idea is to spread the spend across the Ink Bold and the Amex Prepaid.  Ideally, spend $700 using the Amex Prepaid and $900 with the Ink Bold.  Since the Ink Bold gets 5X for office supplies, phone, and cable, use the Ink for those expenses.  Also use the Ink for gas and hotels where it gets 2X.  Mix in some 1X spend as well.  One reason for putting spend on the Ink Bold instead of exclusively on the Amex Prepaid is to reduce the chance of Chase deciding you are a bad customer (see “Why Chase cancels accounts and how to protect yourself”).

Make two $400 ATM withdrawals

The Amex Prepaid card allows one free ATM withdrawal each month and thereafter charges $2 per withdrawal.  ATM owners usually charge a fee as well.  Assuming the ATM you go to charges $3 per withdrawal, two $400 withdrawals will cost you a total of $8.  Spread out the withdrawals across the month.  If you don’t need that much cash on hand, you can proceed directly to your bank to deposit the cash. 

Caution: I don’t recommend doing more than two $400 withdrawals a month.  Such activity would likely be noticed by American Express, and you would likely face a financial review.

Make one $1000 Amazon Payment

Amazon has a feature that allows you to make payments to friends and family of up to $1000 per month (total across all recipients).  The service is free and they allow you to use your credit card to make these payments.  So, the trick here is to get a family member or friend to help: 

  1. Send your friend/relative $1000 through Amazon payments.  Use the Amex Prepaid card to pay.  Make sure you mark the payment as “good/services”.  Your friend/relative can immediately withdraw the money to their bank account.
  2. Have your friend/relative return $1000 to you via check or some other means.

Please see this post by Million Mile Secrets for a full description of how to use Amazon Payments.

Add it up

If you follow the above steps, you will spend over $10,000 in three months.  Your total out of pocket cost (from reload card fees and ATM fees) comes to $27.75 per month or $83.25 total.  This trick should work with any credit card, but if you use the Ink Bold in particular, you will benefit greatly from the Ink Bold’s 5X category bonuses.  From the purchases of the Vanilla Reload cards alone, you will earn over 37000 Ultimate Rewards points!  With the additional spend put on the Ink Bold directly, you will easily top 40K Ultimate Rewards points in addition to the sign-up bonus! When you combine this with the Ink Bold’s 50K signup bonus, this means that you will have earned a total of over 90,000 Ultimate Rewards points in 3 months!

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About Greg The Frequent Miler

Greg is the owner, founder, and primary author of the Frequent Miler. He earns millions of points and miles each year, mostly without flying, and dedicates this blog to teaching others how to do the same.

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  1. […] If you’re a regular Frequent Miler reader you probably already know that I love the Ink Bold business card.  Like the Sapphire Preferred, the Ink Bold rewards you with Ultimate Rewards points which can be incredibly valuable when transferred (instantly and for free) to airline miles or hotel points.  Where the Ink Bold beats the Sapphire Preferred is in the ability to earn points quickly.  The Ink Bold offers 5 points per dollar when used for office supplies, phone, and cable bills (for up to $50K in purchases per year).  For a few examples of how to maximize this benefit, take a look at “How to spend $10,000 in three months, and earn 90K Ultimate Rewards along the way.”  […]

Comments

  1. I have an easier way. Prepay your cable company (also in the 5x category), after you get your points, ask for a credit check, it may take >2 months to get your money back, but if you don’t mind, that’s so much easier!

  2. Here’s one without any induced headache. Wait for the spending requirement to dip back down to $5,000. It’s only a matter of time.

  3. Do you not think that two $400 ATM withdrawals per month will cause a problem with AMEX? I have no prior experience with this, but it kind of seems like a lot to me.

  4. I have 2 prepaid Amex cards and go to various ATMs around town (credit unions usually charge less than major banks, but if I do go to one of those, I like to go to Chase bank). I usually do 3-4 ATM with drawls per card per month and haven’t had any problems, but it could be risky.

  5. FM: just some poorly spelled anecdotal evidence presented on TPG’s blog in the comments for July 20th post on maximizing IB rewards. Probably just people reaching their spend limit across several cards at the same time…..or making up stories for the heck of it.

  6. Any idea if there is a similar trategy for Staples? We only have one OD in NYC and it doesn’t sell gift cards… Thnak you.

  7. I’m endlessly amused by your cleverness in concocting these schemes. If I had the time I would participate but do enjoy reading about them and recall you writing if you didn’t have a blog you probably wouldn’t go to all this trouble. But fortunately your readers are willing to go along for the ride and serve as a laboratory.

  8. Lantean: at Staples the best I’ve seen is $200 visa cards for $206.95. You could buy those and then use amazon payments to liquidate them. I wouldn’t do gift cards through Amazon too often, though, as it’s sure to get your account flagged

  9. If you’re military, or have access to military installations, most (not sure if all) have ATMs with waived fees, so that $8 for two ATM withdrawals can be cut down to $2

  10. I just found another possible way to leverage the Vanilla reload cards. I received a targeted offer from Citi of 3x points on gas, groceries and restaurants on my AA card. The Vanilla cards are sold at Holiday gas stations in my area. Not quite as lucrative as 5x UR but a nice diversification of points.

  11. why would amex conduct FR for pulling out money from an ATM? this doesn’t appear to be violating any terms; if they didn’t want you to use ATMs they would place a limit on withdrawals (like they do on serve cards). i’ve pulled out far more than $800/month for several months without problems. take advantage of this until the deal is dead. anyone posting conflicting information is just strying to scare people off. nice try.

    • mmike: Amex runs fraud detection programs against all transactions. If someone were to simply load up the card and empty it out at ATMs over and over, this would trip their alerts. It would look like money laundering even if your goal is more innocent point harvesting. So, yes, I do expect Amex to freeze accounts under those circumstances.

  12. I have one of my prepaid cards listed as my primary at Amazon (where I spend 6-800/mo). It is kind of like getting 5x at AMZN.

    Note: I live in a rural area and do a lot of merchandise shopping at AMZN, taking full advantage of Prime membership’s free shipping.

  13. I went to OD and got the prepaid Amex loaded with 500.00, then stopped by Walmart and I got “decline” when I tried to use the prepaid?

  14. Is the only reason to transfer the Visa prepaid card dollars to the American Express Card so that you can use the ATM?

  15. Aren’t we already getting the 5X points buy buying the Visa cards? We won’t get any other bonus by transferring the funds from the Visa card to the American Express card, will we?

  16. Gary: the extra benefits are convenience of use like fraud protection, no foreign transaction fees, easy to use activity summary, etc.. Much easier to use the amex card than a plan prepaid visa.

  17. NOT IMPRESSED!!!!
    Any half-way decent idiot could have thought that up!

    Utimately, CC churning is not about making about a quick “buck”. But about making a SUSTAINABLE buck!!! Where everybody wins!!!!!

    And that’s where you fall short. You strategy is one of “slash and burn”. Good luck w/ that to you and your followers’.

  18. @Matt, you are making the boldest statement. Can you enlighten me up with your en-idiotic way to make a sustainable buck?

  19. Gary: here’s the confusing part: we’re not talking about buying Vanilla Visa cards, we’re talking about buying Vanilla Reload cards. Reload cards can’t be used until they are loaded onto a prepaid card like the Amex. As Rick said, the Amex is much easier to use than a Vanilla Visa, plus it allows ATM withdrawals

  20. @Matt: If you’re talking about the strategy described in the article, this is the type of thing FM works to explain to his readership. Many of us already know these things, but we’re always looking for another angle. FM often does stress moderation, but some of the strategies do tempt a person occasionally to push the limits. The ever-expanding industries of gift cards and prepaid cards and , yes, credit cards have created a fertile playground that inspire many of us to… well, play. If these products were not so profitable for their marketers, they would disappear instead of proliferate as they do.

  21. I would agree with the slash and burn comment in the sense if you lose, you lose big. I am starting to think of GC related office supply spend similar to a credit inquiry with an opportunity cost, but of a more permanent kind. With more and more bloggers highlighting the opportunities with Ink, I think it’s just a matter of time until we see repercussions and I’m somewhat regretting the extra 40K I earned over the last 3 months wondering if it was really worth the risk in hindsight.

  22. HikerT: BINGO!!!

    Get an INK $500 GC every month. Mix it it up w/ some spent. Then use Amex Blue Cash for another $500 at your local supermercado. Mix it up w/ various charges. After that, charge $500 on the Discovery Card of your wife (assuming it is the “season). Or she might have another another INK and Amex Blue…

    That’s a $2k spent @5% off for a saving of $100 for me. Good for me, but not good enough to support the author of this blog!

  23. Author makes their dough from the referral links (Amex prepaid). I guess if you bring the same thing up ten different ways you can maximize your URL exposure….

  24. Who forces anyone to read this blog? I use FM’s tips with care and caution. It works for me. Caveat emptor. But slamming his posts? There is no reason to visit if you’re not going to positively provide questions or well-spirited answers. And I sure as heck don’t think any cc blogger hides the fact they make on links. They should get some scratch for their time IMO.

  25. Heh, if you want to see some spam recycling try any of the other BA blogs or The Pimp-all-referrals Guy. For example, how many times did you see a post here re. last chance to apply for the BA Visa? This blog is a breath of fresh air relative to the referral spammers.

  26. This method works.
    Long time no see FM.
    I float around 7500 credit on Ink each month.
    I have two Ink. I’m a primary, and a secondary is given to my wife.

    I also have three Amex Prepaid. Basically every weekend I go to my local OD and buy my office supplies and 3, 500 prepaid vanilla load, load it up to the Amex PP.

    I transfer amazon payment first, max the1000 transfer.
    Then I make payment to Ink once it clears into my checking.

    Second week repeat similar purchase, reload, ATM trip.
    I collect 1200, then deposit it into my checking. Setup payment for Monday.

    Week 3, repeat 2
    Week 4, repeat 2

    I do buy visa gc from Staples online to get UR points.
    I also use my Ink to pay expense in the 5x categories.

    Knock on wood, no FR and Chase cancellations.
    I don’t keep my UR points.
    Once I have them, I ship them into my different programs.
    Hyatt, United, are the main ones. I’m planning a trip for next year. It should be all free.

    At this pace, I should be getting a nice inventory of points.

    I do sell gift cards I buy at OD, so the numbers don’t look exactly the same each time.
    Remember friends, don’t go over your head in this game. Spend only on how much you can afford.

    • Mark, if you are putting $3,500 a week on your Amex PP, and only spending $1,000 (Amazon) the first week and $1,200 (ATM) each of the remaining 3 weeks, what are you doing with the remaining $2,300-$2,500 each week?

  27. @HikerT so true about the frequent miler, although I hate you for exposing me to such an addiction and huge time commitment I came in of my own volition and enjoy seeing actual mileage creation other then the same referral cross 10 different blogs. I don’t really hate you FM, well maybe just a little, but it’s the kind of hate you love. Keep doing what you do best… on a side note I’d love to know if you have a good method or source of finding daily updates of the best bonuses for different portals. I took up $1000 for the Sears rapid rewards so nonstop with the thousand in gift cards because I didn’t Double dip.

  28. He meant three, 500 reloads a week not 3,500 a week. 1500 in Vanillas plus 1000 in AP equals 2500 in first week spend.

  29. I buy “other office supplies” too
    So the numbers aren’t straight 1500 each time

    I do amazon payment the first week is because I don’t want to forget, and they are very quick in my account so I would pay those off first.

    I break even on gc sells or take a small loss.

    I no longer count TCB as part of my equation on the revenue side.
    It will be a bonus if they come at the end. I have yet receive any penny from them.

    A typical week is I buy on Friday, deposit the reload right away, buy some online gc, withdrawal from ATM SAT, deposit them, setup payment to be executed on Monday. I leave around 500 each on the prepaid Amex.

  30. I just went to OD next to my office.
    I see alot (over 20) of the amex prepaid card (temporary???), but none of the vanilla reload at all.
    What is the different buying 5 x $500 vanilla reload vs 5 x $500 temp Amex prepaid card?? only drawback that I am seeing is $5.00/$10.00 (3.95 vs $4.95/$5.95).

    can you elaborate?

  31. chris: the temporary Amex cards that you can buy in-store can’t be used at ATMs. You can convert up to three of them to permanent cards though (the money moves over automatically). OD is categorized as an office supply store

    • FM,
      yeah..I have no luck finding the vanilla reload…unless people in my area buying them all out of the shelves.
      How often OD replenished their stock?

  32. i truly agree with HIKERT,

    all other blogs are all about getting referral bonus for themselves. Everytime I read their post, it is nothing but request for card applications using their link.
    only this site and flyertalk is no nonsense, useful blog,

    thank you frequentflyer, I will make sure that from next time, if we apply for any cards, it will be from this site.

  33. regarding using IB card at OD for gift cards, I wouldn’t do it more than $200 or $500 a month cos I am reading several credible posts of people getting their chase IB shut down ! You don’t want CHASE to shut you down for life! that will be a lifetime mistake!

  34. I think as long as you mix in other purchases along with office depot purchases, Chase should not close you down. I wouldnt leave office depot with less than $900 worth of cards, but i try to varry the amount each time i go and go to different stores if possible.

  35. just curious how people get 3 prepaid amex card. I thought you can only have 1 in your name? Am I wrong? Thanks for all the update FM

  36. what an excellent post, thanks for the tips. Just wonder why specifically 2 x $400 withdraw from the AE gift card, can it be more? I understand the concern of withdrawing too much funds from the account rather than using it, but other than that is there any concern or limit? Is there a maximum of how much cash I can withdraw from the AE gift card per month? Thanks again for the tips and appreciate any response or help.

  37. Hey FM,
    Just wondering if you’ve look into this card: https://www.upsidecard.com
    Another tool maybe? Any thoughts?
    Thanks for your blog. It’s a great resource that is why I have you & gift card churning featured on my site.
    Side note: Never get it why people who don’t like what a particular blogger writes want to bash them instead of just reading elsewhere. Don’t they have better things to do. I guess not!

  38. Good sir, If I do an Amazon Payment to my wife’s amazon account would she be able to transfer that into her checking account without an issue if that checking account is a JOINT checking account with my name on it? Thanks!

    • @Mike H – I have done what you are suggesting several times but would not advise it long term. Have not experience any problems using our joint checking account but no that it could get flagged at some point. I have recently open a ING Direct checking account for the hubby. I make Amazon Payment to him and then transfer funds to his ING Direct account and then one more transfer to our main credit union checking account. You can also get a $50 sign up bonus with ING Direct. This is the regular sign up bonus.

  39. Hi
    Thanks for your wonderful article on getting 90000 points, its impressive and tempting. But I just saw on chase page that there is similar offer of 50000 points for chase ink plus card with 5x points for office supplies. Do you think that the same steps for ink bold can be applied to ink plus to get 90000 points. The only benefit for which I want the ink plus is, right now they have 0% APR for 6 months, and I think I may need that 0% APR offer. Can you please help me with this question? Do you have any affiliate link for ink plus? Thank you very much and appreciate all you do here!

  40. Miles Momma: Actually, I’ve looked a bit more and see that they expect only 1 credit card load per year (which you can’t do until 3 months of using the card). That plus the fact that it is backed by MetaBank (same as NetSpend) makes me wary.

  41. Hi FrequentMiler, I just came upon your site and I had a question regarding what you said in comment 61:

    “the temporary Amex cards that you can buy in-store can’t be used at ATMs. You can convert up to three of them to permanent cards though (the money moves over automatically).”

    Can you elaborate on the “convert up to three of them to permanent cards”? Does this mean that if I order a permanent card, I can only add three temp cards to the permanent card? My Office Depot doesn’t sell reloads, only temp cards, so I was wondering if I could perpetually add the temp cards to my permanent card. Thanks.

    • Jon Lee: What I meant was that you can order up to 3 permanent cards. When you order a permanent card, it asks if you have a temporary card. If so, you can put in its number and the cash will move over to the permanent card once you get it. You can’t (to my knowledge) add balances from temporary cards to existing cards.

  42. So since I don’t have access to the reloads, I’m assuming that I don’t have any options to add to the balance of any permanent cards that I have other than the first three temp cards that I convert into permanent cards?

    • WishyAnand: For most people I think the Bluebird will be a better option than the Amex Prepaid (but we need to wait and see if it works as well as advertised). Big spenders may see an advantage in having both the Prepaid cards and the Bluebird.

  43. I just ordered the American Express business card, where you nave to spend $10000 in 4 months and you get 75000 miles. Their fine print said that it does not include purchase or cash advances on prepaid cards. Have you run into this? How do I get around it?

  44. Patti: I’ve used Amex cards to buy Vanilla Reloads before and it showed up as a regular purchase. Maybe try buying one to see how it appears on your account and then buy more if it looks like a regular Office Depot purchase?

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