This is the latest in our ongoing series of what’s new in the world of manufactured spending. Our last update was in August (here). In that post I detailed the continued opportunity to earn 3X through bill payments, and the fact that Amex had added language to their signup offers to be more explicit about not allowing “gaming”. As you’ll see below, Amex has begun to enforce that new language in certain specific situations…
As always, you can find an up-to-date complete roundup of techniques for increasing spend here: Manufactured Spending Complete Guide.
Amex: Simon Mall Gift Card Purchases Not Counting for Minimum Spend
Amex’s signup bonus terms have long prohibited gift card purchases as a means for meeting minimum spend, but they’ve rarely enforced this clause. Here’s their standard signup bonus language (I’ve underlined the gift card bit):
Qualifying purchases do NOT include fees or interest charges, purchases of travelers checks, purchases or reloading of prepaid cards, purchases of gift cards; person-to-person payments, or purchases of other cash equivalents. Additional terms and restrictions apply.
The only time I’ve known Amex to enforce these terms before was when private 100K Platinum card signup bonus offers were leaked to the public. In that case, Amex clawed back points from everyone who did anything that could remotely be construed as breaking the offer terms, including buying gift cards.
I’ve warned before about buying gift cards to meet Amex minimum spend requirements, but honestly I never thought they’d widely enforce it. Now, however, many have reported that Simon Mall gift card purchases are not counting towards minimum spend requirements. To be clear, the purchases still earn base points. Amex still counts these as valid purchases… they’re just not counted towards minimum spend requirements for signup bonuses or other bonuses (such as the recent SPG bonuses for adding authorized users).
What to do?
Even though gift card purchases from other vendors are counting towards minimum spend, It’s not a good idea to rely on that. Instead, go with just about any other technique for increasing credit card spend found in our Complete Guide. Some techniques worth considering are:
- Fund College Savings or Student Loans with Gift of College gift cards
- Pay Bills with Plastiq (but not mortgage… see below)
- Pay Federal Taxes
- Pay Friends with Venmo or Paypal
- Pay Rent with RadPad
- Pay Rent with Rentler
- Kiva Loans
You can also simply prepay bills that accept credit card payments. I know people who have overpaid their cable and phone bills, for example, so that they’re covered for the next year or two of charges.
Plastiq Mortgage Payments Dead for Amex & Visa
The Plastiq bill payment service lets you pay bills by credit card for a 2.5% fee. While that’s more than I’d recommend paying in general (unless you can earn bonus points), it’s not bad when you’re trying to meet minimum spend requirements for a new credit card.
In June of this year, Visa stopped allowing Plastiq to accept Visa cards for mortgage payments. And now Amex has done the same.
You can still use your Amex card through Plastiq to pay rent, services, employees, etc. For more details see: Complete Guide to Plastiq.
If you scheduled repeating payments before this change, they’ll probably continue to work. Also, it’s worth trying to pay your mortgage to see what happens. Some have reported that payments to their usually lesser known mortgage companies have continued to work even when paying with Visa or Amex cards.
Gift Card Buying Resource Pages
I added a new page to the site: Instant Gift Card Deals. This is a listing of the best options for buying 3rd party gift cards when you want a good deal, but you need it in a hurry (you’re about to check out in-store, for example).
Similarly, Doctor of Credit added a new page: Complete List of Methods to Buy Gift Cards with Discounts and Bonus Rewards.
Discover Debit 1% or Not?
Discover’s checking account page announced that 1% cash back on all gift card purchases was coming soon. Then the notice disappeared. Will they or won’t they? Looks like we won’t know until early 2018 at best.
Bad News / Good News
Ability to use Target gift cards at Target to buy 3rd party gift cards
- Bad News: Some have reported that the registers no longer allow this
- Good News: Others have reported that it still works.
Drop App Changes
- Bad News: The Drop App now caps earning for ongoing offers at $5 per week.
- Good News: You can still earn more than $5 per week for one-time offers. Plus, Drop has stopped cracking down on manufactured spending activities.
5 Back Visas at Simon Mall
- Bad News: 5 Back Visa gift cards will no longer be available at Simon Malls beginning November 1st 2017.
- Good News: 5 Back Visa gift cards had already lost most of their valuable partners anyway so we can go back to buying regular Visa gift cards that don’t come in hard to open packages.