How to increase credit card spend

UPDATED 9/15/2016

Please see the following updated post: Increase credit card spend (and get most of it back). What still works?

Signing up for credit cards is, by far, the easiest and quickest way to get huge numbers of points and miles. There is, though, a significant obstacle to this approach: Most big signup offers have big spend requirements.  A typical offer, for example, requires $3,000 of spend within the first 3 months of card membership.  Some spend requirements are much higher.

Whether your goal is to meet minimum spend requirements, or to earn a credit card big spend bonus, there are many techniques that can be used to increase credit card spend.  Some of the following options result in getting all (or most) of your money back.  Many options are ways to use credit cards to cover expenses that can’t normally be paid by credit card.

Pay and get your money back, with no net cost

Pay and get your money back, less fees

With the following options, you can use a credit card to pay and get your money back (less fees and expenses):

  • Kiva loans: Estimated “fee” (loss due to defaults + cost to tie up money): 1.5%.  Kiva does not charge fees for making loans via credit card, but you do risk losing money due to loan defaults. By sticking with “safe” loans, you can minimize this risk, but you can’t avoid it altogether. There is also a cost to tying up your money long-term since loans typically take 6 to 12 months to repay.  For full details about manufacturing spend through Kiva loans, please see: Kiva: loans, points, and miles
  • Credit card processing (e.g. Square Reader): Estimated fee: 2.75%. Several companies make it easy for small businesses to handle credit card payments.  One very popular example is the Square Reader which charges 2.75% per swipe.  Theoretically, you can set yourself up as a business and then manufacture spend through the credit card reader. BUT: Most services will shut down your account if they suspect that you are paying yourself.  This approach is not recommended.
  • Gift cards / reload cards: Estimated fee: .8% to 1.3% for $500 gift cards; 3.5% for $200 gift cards.  It’s possible to buy Visa or MasterCard gift cards and use them as debit cards in ways that will result in getting your money back.  Fees vary quite a bit both with regards to fees for buying gift cards, and fees for liquidating gift cards.  See: Best options for buying Visa and MasterCard gift cards

Pay friends

A few services exist that let you pay friends with credit cards. In these situations it should be possible to manufacture spend by paying a friend and asking them to pay you back directly (with a check, for example).  You could also set up a circle of friend payments: Person A pays Person B who pays Person C who pays Person A.  Unfortunately, the fees for doing this are pretty steep:

  • Paypal: 2.9% + 30 cents
  • Venmo: 3%

Pay bills

A number of services let you use credit cards to pay bills that you might not otherwise be able to pay with a credit card (e.g. mortgage, rent, utilities, etc.).

Here are a few such services that offer a broad range of bill pay options:

  • Plastiq: 2.5% fee. Amex, Visa, MasterCard
  • TIO (formerly ChargeSmart): Fees vary.  Amex, Visa, MasterCard, Discover

Then there are services specifically for paying rent:

And there are services for paying federal taxes (the IRS maintains a list here):

  • 1.87%. Amex, MasterCard, Discover. 2.29% for Visa.
  • 1.87%. Amex, MasterCard, Discover. 2.29% for Visa.
  • 2.35%. Amex, Visa, MasterCard, Discover
  • 1.88%. Amex, Visa, MasterCard
  • 1.87%. Amex, Visa, MasterCard, Discover
  • 1.87%. Amex, Visa, MasterCard, Discover


  1. I pay my verizon and cable bills directly with my INK card. it pays 5x for telecom. That’s about $500/month for me or 30K UR points for absolutely zero effort.

    Not exactly what this page is about, but close enough to be worthwhile, I think.

  2. For payments between friends, does the Paypal 2.9% fee still apply when you choose the “gift” option? I thought not.

  3. I’ve been having success with MS buying PayPal MyCash cards at CVS with my Delta Reserve card, loading them up on PayPal, and then using the linked PayPal Debit Card to load up a Bluebird card at Walmart.

    Unfortunately, they’ve just frozen the PayPal account, even though there’s nothing in this process that’s a violation of the TOS.

    From what I’ve read on the net, fighting this will be a losing battle, so can you point me to an article that will provide some alternatives to replace the MyCash-to-PayPal Account-to PayPal Debit Card steps in this process?


  4. When you state “amex”, are you referring to AMEX credit cards, or AMEX gift cards, or both? I’d love a clarification on this.

    • Jacob, usually “Amex” mentioned by itself in such contexts refers to the credit cards, whereas when mentioned as “Amex gift cards” or the abbreviation AGC it is the gift cards by Amex.

  5. Does anyone know If the ink plus business card will incur cash advance fees for purchase and / or load of Serve?

  6. I’m pretty much shut out now on funds recycling (manufactured spending) in Dallas, Texas. No one, including USPS, will let you buy money orders with loaded gift/debit cards with PINs. No Redbird here and I can’t use Bluebird. Citi will no longer accept those prepaid cards to pay your Citi credit card bills. I can only prepay so much on utility, cable, cell phone, etc. costs and pay off the credit card bills the next month. We can only use a limited amount from such cards for our usual expenses. So, like everyone, awaiting some genius to come up with a brilliant new method.

    • Jerry, when you say “No Redbird here” do you mean the Target stores in your area won’t let you load Redbird, or that they don’t carry the temporary Redbird cards? If it is the later, you can email me at and I can email you back today the info of an activated temporary Redbird card, for a small fee. I’ve done it for hundreds of people, you can see some of their reviews here:

      Whether a store carries the temporary Redbird card or not has no bearing on whether they will let you load the permanent Redbird card. Most Target stores around the country don’t have the temporary card but they let you load the permanent one. There are some that don’t let you load it though, it is hard to know which ones unless there’s recent reports from people identifying those stores. The no-go stores are usually–but not exclusively–in densely populated areas cities like NYC.

  7. Jerry,

    I’m in Fort Worth and use my prepaid redbird each month. You can’t buy the card here but u can load it here.

  8. Jerry, I wrote a longer response about how I can provide you via email the info of a temp activated Redbird for a small fee, but doesn’t show up instantly since it needs to be approved by a moderator due to it containing links. In the meantime, you can just click on my handle and should be able to find out more info about it that way.

  9. I just signed up the Plastiq service (1.99% charge) and brought $6000 AGC with 1.5% cash back though portal before it put a cashback limit to $200 AGC only. I used Plastiq to pay the mortgage and medical bill. Now since it is not a good deal to buy AGC this way. What is my options now?

    1. Buy VGC at office store ( $ 500 or $250) with Ink and earn X5, load to Redbird and pay bill.
    2. Keep buying AGC (3x$ 2000) pay whatever the fee is without cash back, pay bill with Plastiq, earn 1X with my CC.

    any advice is welcome.

    • I answered this same question in another thread as follows:
      1. Most office supply stores only let you buy $200 (or smaller) Visa gift cards with a credit card. While this can still be a profitable approach, it can be time consuming to use those to reload Redbird. Instead, consider buying $500 Visa gift cards:
      2. Without cash back, there’s no reason to buy AGC first. If you’re willing to incur the fee, just use Plastiq directly with your credit card. I would do this primarily for meeting minimum spend requirements but not for regular credit card rewards except in the rare case where the value of your credit card rewards exceed Plastiq’s fee.

  10. Hello,

    What abt amazon payments. I think we can link a prepaid gift card into amazon payments and send money from person A to person B. Person B withdraws money into his Bank account and send u a check or online transfer.

    Amazon has 1000 $ limit per month, Send and receive

  11. I didnt see this on the list….

    if you have a Marriott Time share you can pay your mortgage payment with a CC, but only if you call them. They do not offer it on the website. The website only allows for paying maintenance and taxes.

    The city of Pembroke Pines, FL allows you to pay your water bill online for a small fee and FPL allows a CC payment via Western Union for a flat fee of $3.00.

  12. I just opened Serve on 3/24/16 and have an AMX SPG card I need to meet the $3k minimum spend for my 35,000 bonus points by end of June 2016.

    If I use my AMEX SPG card to load my serve account the allowed $200 per day, $1,000 allowed per month. Will I incur a cash advance fee, and will it even count towards my minimum spend? Any help would be appreciated.

  13. I tried using Plastiq to pay my mortgage. They sent the payment and then emailed me about proving my identity with my webcam. I was to show my driver’s license and then my face. The images were not confirmed because they were blurry. I also sent a pic from my computer, but again, no dice. Plastiq then stopped payment on my mortgage check and returned the money to my credit card. Did anyone else go through this?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *