Increase credit card spend (and get most of it back). What still works November 2016?

32

UPDATE: Please find an up-to-date version of this post here: Increase credit card spend (and get most of it back). What still works?


Increase credit card spend

There are many reasons you may want to increase credit card spend.  You may need to meet spend requirements on several new credit cards in order to earn huge signup bonuses.  Or, perhaps you want to earn high level elite status or other big spend bonuses, as I do with Delta.  Or, perhaps you simply want to earn extra rewards using cards with big category bonuses, or big rewards for everyday spend.

The key to increasing credit card spend is to find techniques that either let you use a credit card to pay for expenses that don’t normally allow credit card charges (e.g. mortgage, rent, taxes, contractor payments, …) or to find ways to spend money with your credit card and get the money back as cash.  The latter is often referred to as “manufacturing spend” or “MS” for short.

MS techniques are perfectly legal, but the same techniques are often used by criminals to launder money or to convert stolen credit card numbers into cash.  This leads many businesses to stop allowing those techniques to work.  One way of looking at it is that criminals indirectly steal our points by killing easy MS options.  Sidebar: Structuring is illegal. Read more here.

Another reason that MS options die is that the businesses involved realize that they’re losing money.  For example, Citibank used to allow funding new bank accounts up to $100,000 by credit card, for free.  In those cases, Citi was absorbing the credit card transaction fees.  Suppose they had to pay 1.5% in fees: When a person used a credit card to deposit $100,000, Citi was on the hook for $1,500 in fees.  It’s no wonder they stopped allowing this!

Regardless of why techniques die out, keeping track of what works and what doesn’t can be a challenge.  This series (which I expect to publish every few months) is designed to help…

Increase Credit card Spend: Summary of Changes

I last published a similar post in September (found here).  Since then, the following are new or have changed status:

  • Fund Student Loans or College Savings: Alive.  This one is new.
  • Gift Card Churning: Alive (Prev: Mostly Alive).  Since the last post, Amex has come on strong with many great Amex Offers which make it possible to buy new gift cards at a discount and resell for a profit.
  • KickFurther: Alive, but partially hobbled (Prev: Alive).  Kickfurther added a $500 limit to credit card funding.  Fortunately it is possible to make multiple credit card payments for the same offer if you’re interested in investing more than $500
  • Money Orders: Alive (Prev: Mentioned only under Visa/MasterCard Gift Cards).
  • Pay Rent via RadPad: DEAD (Prev: Alive).  RadPad has stopped offering the ability to pay rent through their service.
  • Prepaid Visa/MasterCard Reloadable cards: Alive (Prev: Accidentally left out of previous post)
  • Serve: Alive for Some: Readers report that loading via Amex credit card no longer counts towards minimum spend requirements.
  • Visa / MasterCard Gift Cards: Alive (Prev: Mostly Alive).  Gift cards loadable up to $500 have appeared in nationwide stores where they previously weren’t available, and they’ve been re-appearing in grocery stores where they previously were taken away.

And the following have not changed status (sorted alphabetically):

  • Bluebird: Alive for Some
  • Fund Bank Accounts: Alive
  • Kiva Loans: Alive
  • Pay Bills (Plastiq): Alive
  • Pay Taxes: Alive
  • REDbird: Dead
  • Reselling: Alive
  • Visa Buxx: Mostly Dead (Not available to new customers)

Detailed Descriptions Follow (sorted alphabetically)…

Bluebird: Alive for Some

Technique brief summary: Reload Bluebird indirectly with credit card, then withdraw money or pay bills

Updates:

  • Ability to reload: Only available to those who’s account has not been frozen. New cardholders are fine (until they too have their accounts frozen from reloads).
  • Buy Vanilla Reload cards to load funds: Extremely rare to find stores that carry Vanilla Reload cards and allow credit card purchases
  • Buy Visa/MasterCard gift cards and use as debit cards to reload in-store at Walmart:
    • Kiosks have been removed from most locations (and rarely work anyway)
    • In-person loads still technically work with many gift cards, but many stores have taught their employees not to allow reloads with gift cards. In some such cases, a gift card with your name on it (available online from giftcards.com, for example) will work since it can be validated against your ID.
    • Vanilla branded gift cards do not work at Walmart for load amounts of $50 or more
    • MasterCard gift cards do work at Walmart, but they require effort: you must quickly hit the “Change Payment” button after swiping the card to change to debit payments.

Bluebird is a prepaid reloadable card advertised by Walmart and issued by American Express. To manufacture spend with Bluebird, the trick is to find a way to indirectly add funds via credit card. Once funds are loaded, there are easy options for getting your money back: withdraw cash to your linked bank account; use Bluebird’s bill pay feature to pay your credit card bill; or withdraw cash from ATMs.

Unfortunately, in the past year Amex has aggressively gone after those suspected of manufacturing spend with Bluebird or Serve by freezing the ability to load new funds. This effectively makes Bluebird dead to anyone in that situation.

Those who still have live Bluebird accounts may find that options for loading them indirectly by credit card are also quite limited:

  • It used to be possible to buy Vanilla Reload cards at a variety of stores with a credit card, then go online to move those funds to Bluebird or Serve. Today, only a handful of very small chains around the country still sell Vanilla Reload cards and still allow credit card purchases.
  • Another option is to buy Visa or MasterCard gift cards and then use those as debit cards in-store at Walmart to reload Bluebird or Serve. For details on what works today with this process, see below: Walmart Kiosks, Walmart, and Visa/MasterCard Gift Cards. Short answer: It’s still possible at some Walmart locations, but not all.

Learn more here:

Fund Bank Accounts: Alive

Technique brief summary: Use credit card to fund new bank accounts.

Updates: Citibank no longer allows credit card funding of Citi bank accounts.

Read this Doctor of Credit post for details showing which banks allow this and how to avoid cash advance fees.

Fund Student Loans or 529 College Savings: Alive.

Gift of College gift cards are now available nationwide at many (but not all) Toys R Us and Babies R Us stores.  Each gift card can be bought with a credit card and each has a $5.95 fee.  When loading each card to the maximum amount ($500), the fee is a very reasonable 1.19%.  There is no fee to apply the value of the gift card to a student loan or 529 college savings plan.

More details can be found here: Pay student loans or 529 plans with a credit card!

Gift Card Churning: Mostly Alive

Technique brief summary: Buy merchant gift card at discount with credit card, resell to break even or make profit

Updates:

  • Amex Offers: Still alive and well
  • eBay: Gift card churning through eBay is alive, but hobbled now that they no longer allow buying 3rd party gift cards with eBay gift cards.
  • GameStop: No longer allows buying valuable gift cards with GameStop gift cards.

Gift card churning is the art of buying and liquidating gift cards for the purpose of saving money, earning money, earning extra points, and/or manufacturing credit card spend.

Please see: The art of gift card churning in 2016.

Kickfurther: Alive but hobbled

Technique brief summary: Use credit card to fund short term business loans (really consignment purchases). If all goes well, you can get your money back, with interest.

Updates: Kickfurther added a $500 limit to credit card funding. Fortunately it is possible to make multiple credit card payments for the same offer if you’re interested in investing more than $500.

See: Kickfurther review 2. Manufacturing profit and spend.

Kiva Loans: Alive

Technique brief summary: Use credit card to make micro-loans. Most loans pay back in 6 to 12 months, but with no interest.

Updates: Kivalens, a companion website used for filtering to “safe” loans and making many loans at once, has been completely re-written and is much better than it was before.

See: Manufacture Spend (and do good) with Kiva and Kivalens.

Money Orders

Technique brief summary: Use credit card to buy Visa or MasterCard gift card.  Use gift card as debit card to purchase money order.  Deposit money order to bank, or use directly to pay bills.

Updates:

  • Kroger no longer accepts gift cards or temporary prepaid debit cards as payment for money orders.  Permanent reloadable prepaid debit cards (those that feature the customer’s name on the front) will still be accepted at stores that accept debit payments for money orders.
  • Gift cards issued by Metabank no longer work at most/all US Post Offices

Notes / Cautions:

  • Many people have had their bank accounts shut down after depositing large amounts of money orders.
  • Structuring is illegal.  Don’t do it.  More info here: Manufactured Spend & Money Orders: What You Need to Know to Stay Out of Legal Trouble
  • Techniques that work or don’t work are specific to different regions, stores, or even to individual cashiers.
  • Visa gift cards tend to have fewer problems than MasterCard gift cards.
  • Vanilla branded gift cards to not work at Walmart stores for transactions of $50 or greater.

Pay Bills with Plastiq: Alive

Technique brief summary: Use credit card or gift cards to pay bills that can’t usually be paid by credit card.

Updates:

  • In some cases the Citi AT&T Access More card counts Plastiq payments as online purchases, so they earn 3X rewards. Search the Frequent Miler Laboratory for details.
  • MasterCard payments now 2.5% (previously 2%)
  • Plastiq now accepts Discover

If you have bills that can’t usually be paid with a credit card (e.g. mortgage, rent, car payments, professional services, etc.), then one option is to pay those bills with the Plastiq bill payment service. Current fees are 2.5% for credit card payments. Make sure the rewards you earn outweigh those fees!

See:Complete guide to Plastiq credit card payments.

Pay Federal Taxes: Alive

Technique brief summary: Use credit card or gift cards to pay federal taxes.

If you don’t mind giving the US government a loan, you can use a credit card or Visa/MasterCard gift card to pay your year-end and/or quarterly estimated taxes. Fees start at 1.89% for credit cards, or flat $2.50 fees for debit cards. Over-payments, if any, will be refunded after you file your year end taxes.

For full details, please see: Complete guide to paying taxes via credit card, debit card, or gift card

Pay Rent with RadPad: Dead

RadPad has stopped offering the ability to pay rent through their service.

Prepaid Visa/MasterCard Reloadable cards: Alive

Technique brief summary: Use credit card to buy Visa or MasterCard gift card.  Use gift card as debit card to reload prepaid card.  Liquidate by paying bills (some offer free bill pay), ATM withdrawals, buy money orders, etc.

  • Techniques that work or don’t work are specific to different regions, stores, or even to individual cashiers.
  • Visa gift cards tend to have fewer problems than MasterCard gift cards.
  • Vanilla branded gift cards to not work at Walmart stores for transactions of $50 or greater.
  • Fees can add up quickly: It can cost up to $5.95 for each $500 Visa gift card and then another $5.95 to reload your prepaid card.  In that worst case scenario, total fees = 2.38%!

See also: Connecting the dots: Prepaid cards that allow debit reloads

REDbird — The Target Prepaid REDcard: Dead

Technique brief summary: It used to be possible to load in-store with credit card and then withdraw money or pay bills.

Updates: Cash only loads kills REDbird for manufacturing spend.

Reselling: Alive

Technique brief summary: Buy merchandise at discount with credit card, earn portal rewards, resell to break even, or make profit, or for a slight loss (this is often a cheap way to indirectly buy airline miles when portals offer big bonuses)

Updates: Amazon has made life more difficult, and in some cases, more expensive for resellers. See: A Dark Time for Amazon Sellers.

Manufacturing Spend through reselling has always been a tough but potentially very rewarding option. In some cases people start reselling for the purpose of manufacturing spend, but soon realize that it is a great way to earn money in general. That said, it takes effort and considerable risk to pull it off.

For an overview of manufacturing spend through reselling, please see: Increasing Spend through Reselling.

Serve: Alive for Some

Technique brief summary: Reload Serve indirectly with credit card, then withdraw money or pay bills

Updates:

  • Number of cards:  An individual can now have up to 5 different Amex Serve accounts.  Details here.
  • Ability to reload: Only for those who’s account has not been frozen. New cardholders are fine (until they too have their accounts frozen from reloads).
  • Buy reload cards to load funds: Extremely rare to find stores that carry reload cards and allow credit card purchases
  • Buy Visa/MasterCard gift cards and use as debit cards to reload in-store:
    • Possible at some Walmart locations (see Bluebird, above, for details)
    • Possible at some Family Dollar and Dollar General stores. If you can find an accommodating store, all brands of Visa and MasterCard gift cards that have a PIN should work.
    • No longer an option at Rite Aid (cash only)
  • Load via credit card: Amex cards only. Amex cards issued by Amex do not earn rewards, and load amounts NO LONGER COUNT towards signup bonus minimum spend and big spend bonuses.

Serve is a reloadable prepaid card built on the same platform as Bluebird. Since Serve is not tied to Walmart in any way, though, it has broader capabilities. Beyond the options for loading Bluebird, detailed above, Serve can also be loaded at a number of stores besides Walmart, and can be loaded with other reload cards in addition to Vanilla Reloads: Money-Pak and ReloadIt. Serve can also be loaded online via Amex credit cards.

Learn more here: Complete guide to Bluebird and Serve.

Visa Buxx Cards: Mostly Dead

Technique brief summary: Reload online with credit card, then withdraw money or pay bills

Updates:

  • Nationwide Visa Buxx: No longer available to new customers. Hobbled for existing customers.
  • TD Bank Visa Buxx: Alive, but only for loads with TD issued credit cards
  • US Bank Visa Buxx: Dead

Visa Buxx are prepaid reloadable Visa debit cards designed for teenagers. The great thing about these cards for manufacturing spend is that they can be loaded by a parent online, with a credit card for a small fee. Then, they can be unloaded either by using as a debit card to pay bills via debit card, buy cash equivalents, in stores that allow cash back for debit payments (many grocery stores, for example), or via ATM withdrawals.

Visa / MasterCard Gift Cards: Mostly Alive

Technique brief summary: Buy gift card with credit card, use as debit card to pay bills, buy money orders, reload prepaid cards, etc.

Updates:

  • Gift cards loadable up to $500 have been re-appearing in grocery stores where they previously were taken away.
  • Gift cards loadable up to $500 have appeared at many Whole Foods stores nationwide.

The trick to manufacturing spend with Visa and MasterCard gift cards is to find ways to buy gift cards with a credit card. Ideally, you’ll find gift cards with low fees as a percent of the total gift card value or where you’ll earn a large credit card category bonus. Many good options still exist.

For detailed options, please see: Best options for buying Visa and MasterCard gift cards.

Unloading gift cards is tougher. Online, I can only think of two good options: 1) Use gift card to fund your Kiva balance; or 2) Pay estimated federal taxes for a small flat fee. In person, look for places that offer bill pay services, prepaid reload services; and/or money order purchases. In some cases (which vary regionally), they’ll allow debit payments for these services and then you may be able to use your debit gift cards to pay.

Email:*
Please enter all required fields Click to hide
Correct invalid entries Click to hide
Subscribe
Notify of
guest

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

32 Comments
oldest
newest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments