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

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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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