Top 10 ways spend a lot of money (and get most of it back)

For up-to-date tips on how to spend money and get most of it back, please see:

Manufactured Spending Complete Guide

The original post follows…


The end of the calendar year is just about here. If you’re like me, you have a credit card or two that gives bonus perks for reaching high spend thresholds within a calendar year and you desperately want to ensure that you spend that final amount ($2K? $3K? $10K?). One card in my wallet, for example, is the Delta Platinum card that gives 10K bonus miles and MQMs when you reach $25K in total spend (and again at $50K). The MQMs are particularly valuable to me (for more about MQMs, see Delta Diamond without Flying) so I like to make sure that I end the year with exactly $25K (or $50K if I can swing it!) of spend on that card.

Another reason many people are eager to spend a lot of money is to earn credit card signup bonuses. Many credit cards these days offer very lucrative bonuses, but only if you spend a certain amount in a limited time. For example, the Chase Ink Bold requires $5K of spend in three months.

So, without further ado, here are Frequent Miler’s top 10 ways to spend a lot of money (and get most of it back):

#1: Gift Card Churning

Merchant gift cards are special in that you can usually buy them without paying any sales tax, shipping, or service fees. Often, you can buy them at a discount or with cash or points back. I’ve written several posts in the last few months showing ways to buy, sometimes upgrade, and then liquidate gift cards. For an overview, see The Art of Gift Card Churning. Unfortunately, the best opportunities for this come and go frequently. See, for example Mileage Run Shopping: Buying 162,000 Miles for $500. That was a good example for how to spend thousands of dollars and get all of your money back (and then some) in the form of Ultimate Rewards points. Since UR points can be transferred directly to cash you could actually use a scheme like this to directly spend a lot of money and then use the profits to pay your credit card bill. Personally, though, I value UR points at more than the 1 cent per point that you’ll get in cash back so I wouldn’t cash them in unless I really needed the money. Anyway, I’m hoping to publish a new scheme like this at least once per month, so stay tuned.

#2: Kiva Micro-Loans

Kiva is a nonprofit organization that provides micro-loans to enterprising individuals around the world so that they may earn their own way out of poverty. You can make loans using your credit card for as little as $25 each. Kiva reports that 98.96% of loans have paid back. For details about this, see How to maximize points and virtue through Kiva loans

#3: Pay your taxes

Usually there are options with both income taxes and property taxes to pay with a credit card. Yes, you will be hit with an extra fee, but if you’re trying to spend a few thousand dollars in a hurry, that fee might be worth it!

#4: Pay your mortgage

A company called ChargeSmart allows you to make mortgage payments using your Visa, Mastercard, or Discover card. Watch out for their fees, though, they can be steep.

#5: Coordinate Events

Recently a friend bought a package of basketball tickets for about 15 people and asked each person to pay her back. She coordinated this so that we would all have seats together, but she also got to spend a lot of money on her credit card. I just hope she was using a cash or points earning card!

#6: Pay Friends

In the same example in which my friend spent a lot of money in coordinating basketball ticket purchases (see above), I was able to pay her for my family’s tickets using my credit card. I used Amazon Payments, but Venmo is another option I could have used.

#7: Prepay Insurance

Most insurance companies allow you to pay with credit cards. In some cases, when paying an insurance bill, you can opt to overpay simply by typing in a larger number.

#8: Give to Charity

Most charitable organizations accept credit cards, so consider using yours to donate. If you are using the Chase Freedom card, you still have some time left in the year to get 5% back since charities are on this quarter’s 5X list! Except for Capital One, credit card companies charge transaction fees for charitable donations so consider giving a little extra to cover that expense.

#9: Healthcare

The default option, when walking out of the doctor’s office or hospital, is usually to have the healthcare provider seek payment from your health insurance company. Another option may be to pay up front, and get sent a check once the healthcare provider is paid by the insurance company. Each provider has different policies so make sure to ask.

#10: Buy Gift Cards for future spend

If you really need to get your spending up in the short term, one easy option is to buy yourself gift cards that you know you will use in the future. Grocery store and gas gift cards are two good examples. GiftCardGranny.com is a good site to use to find discounted cards so that you can save some money too! Another option is to buy bank gift cards and get cash back. For example, you can go through Big Crumbs to buy American Express gift cards that can be used just like credit cards and you’ll get 1.6% cash back!

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.

More articles by Greg The Frequent Miler »

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Christian
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Christian

Question on your Kiva strategy of withdrawing and re-loaning again:
Doesn’t this mean that Kiva has to pay the merchant fees each time you make a new loan? Or are non-profits exempt from merchant fees?

Also, the post might be updated to note that, while Kiva loans used to post at a set time eacch month, now you get your credit back whenever the loan payment arrives (and is entered by a Kiva volunteer/staffer).

SM
Guest

Thanks for the round-up! I recently heard about ChargeSmart for my mortgage payment and tried a test-run, but got nervous b/c I never got to a point where they divulged fees, so I cancelled the payment.
Any idea what the fees are, or where they can be found?
Thanks!

Michael
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Michael

This article on wikipedia seems to suggest that ChargeSmart fees total about 2.5% of the cost. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ChargeSmart

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[…] (typeof(addthis_share) == "undefined"){ addthis_share = [];}Last week I posted Frequent Miler’s Top 10 ways to spend a lot of money (and get most of it back).  #3 on the list was to pay your taxes by credit card.  And, yesterday, Million Mile […]

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[…] addthis_share = [];}For those of you who, like me, are always on the lookout for more ways to spend a lot on your credit card and get most of it back, here’s another possibility: get a cash advance from your […]

Mike
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Mike

For health expenses, if you have an HSA credit card, use your points earning card instead to pay the doctor. you would then need to pay yourself back from your HSA card with either a check or an ATM withdrawal. You would need to make sure you are going to keep track of that or you could lose the tax deductible savings of using a tax free health savings account.

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[…] those of we who, like me, are always on a surveillance for some-more ways to spend a lot on your credit card and get many of it back, here’s another possibility: get a income allege from your […]

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[…] In this post I detailed how to go about getting Walmart gift cards with as big of a discount as possible.  There are, however, many other ways to meet the minimum spend on your credit cards.  For some examples, please see “Top ten ways to spend a lot of money and get most of it back.” […]

dan
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dan

got my new house closing next month….the big Q: to include taxes and insurance with the mortgage?

if i dont, then i can pay allsate for the insurance with a CC for miles…easy. but the taxez? city website charges 2% convenience fee…sucks.
what if I used OPEN AMEX cards to purchase VISA gift cards from Staples or Officemax to get the 5% off and then use the VISAs to pay the city?

FrequentMiler
Guest

Dan: Yep, that sounds like a great idea. Note that you’ll only get 5% back at OfficeMax (not Staples) with an OPEN Amex. If your city website allows you to make multiple small payments, that should work. When you buy $200 visa gift cards at OfficeMax, there’s a $6.95 fee, but you still end up with a net savings of 1.7%. So your overall cost would be only .3% per dollar. Presumably whichever OPEN card you are using gives rewards that are worth much more than .3 cents per point so overall you’d really come out ahead if this works.

Chieko Ledl
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Chieko Ledl

Hi my associate! I want to say that this article is amazing, nice written and can include most vital infos. I would like to see more posts similar to this .

bf
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bf

Re #10, please note BigCrumbs is at 1.4% for Amex GCs and has been for some time.

FrequentMiler
Guest

bf: That’s true. At the time I wrote this post it was still at 1.6% though. I don’t usually go back to old posts to correct them for changes like this, so thanks for pointing it out!

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[…] to spend money via credit card and get most (or all) of it back.  For some ideas, see “Top 10 ways spend a lot of money (and get most of it back).”  My goal is to average $9200 per month across both cards.  As the end of each month […]

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[…] expertise here and here, while Frequent Miler has seemingly made a profession out of doing it here and here, and lots of other places. Oh, and Target seemingly made it easy for us a couple of […]

IAD-Addict
Guest

#11 Something I’ve done with my Chase Ink card is to prepay cable, internet and cell phone for a few months and get 5x points on the payment. You know the bills are coming and you can go ahead and book the points now. Nice way to top off your account if you are short a few points for a trip.

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[…] expertise here and here, while Frequent Miler has seemingly made a profession out of doing it here and here, and lots of other places. Oh, and Target seemingly made it easy for us a couple of […]

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[…] a big spender, this card is a surprisingly strong contender!  Personally, I plan to use tricks for spending a lot of money and getting most of it back in order to spend $60K per year on this […]

Kg
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Kg

Has anyone used raise.com?