My Manufactured Spending Strategy
In a recent post, The 240,000 point App Party, I revealed the three newest credit cards I’ve signed up for. These new credit cards will result in a total of 145,000 miles and points. I strategically sign up for multiple credit cards on the same day in order to keep my credit score in pristine condition. Accumulating 145,000 points in a single day is pretty exciting, but signing up for multiple cards on the same day presents a challenge.
Most travel credit cards with lucrative sign up bonuses have minimum spending requirement. This means that in order to get the sign up bonus, you must spend a certain amount of money on your credit card within a certain amount of time. Below are the minimum spending requirements on the three new cards I signed up for last month. By fluke, all three of them were exactly the same.
United MileagePlus Explorer Card – Spend $3,000 within the first 3 months of card membership
Barclay Arrival Plus – Spend $3,000 within the first 3 months of card membership
Citi Thank You Premier Credit Card – Spend $3,000 within the first 3 months of card membership
This means that in order to receive the signup bonus from all three cards, I would need to spend $9,000 within the next 3 months. We probably could have come close to meeting the minimum spending requirement just by making sure we paid for everything with these credit cards the next 3 months. However, patience isn’t exactly my strong suit, and there are way faster ways to meet a minimum spending requirement.
Since the demise of the Vanilla Reload and the Target Red Card, I’ve gone back to my trusty Bluebird + Visa Giftcard strategy. I’ve been using this strategy for over a year, but this time I decided to take things to a new level.
Before we get any further into the story, let’s recap for those of you who are new to manufactured spending. The premise of the strategy is to spend money without actually “spending money”. To do this I use the Bluebird + Visa Gift Card Strategy. It goes something like this…
Step 1: Go to Opry Mills Mall (My nearest Simon’s Mall), and buy multiple $500 Visa gift cards with my credit cards. I go to Opry Mills because their gift cards are the cheapest. The fee on the card is only $2.96, where most other places the load fee is $4.95+. It doesn’t sound like much, but it adds up quickly when you’re buying multiple gift cards.
Step 2: Set up PIN numbers on your gift cards. This is the annoying part! You have to call the number of the back of all your gift cards to set up a 4 digit PIN number.
Step 2.5: Set up a Bluebird account, if you don’t already have one. It’s completely free and your can order your cards online at Bluebird.com
Step 3: Take your new PIN enabled gift cards to Wal-mart and load them into your Bluebird account. You can load your Bluebird card at any register. The interaction will go something like this:
You: I would like to load money into my Bluebird account. [hand cashier your Bluebird card]
Cashier: How much would you like to load?
You: $2,500 in five separate transactions of $500 (the max you can load per day is $2,500).
Cashier: Ummmmmm…. I’m not sure if we can do that.
You: Can we just try and see how it goes? (This happens almost every time I load my account. I’ve gotten to the point where I just tell the cashiers, “Trust me, it will work. I do this all the time.”
Cashier: Ok, so you want to start by loading $500? [Cashier swipes your bluebird card and keys in the amount]
You: The screen will ask you to accept the amount of $500. [Click Yes]
You: Swipe your first gift card. It will ask for your PIN. Enter the PIN number you set up for the card.
You’re FINISHED loading your first card. Now rinse and repeat for the next 4 cards.
Step 4: Go home and log into your Bluebird. You have several options for getting the money out of your Bluebird account. You can withdraw cash at an ATM (up to $750). You can use the money in your account to pay bills online, and you can write checks out of your Bluebird account.
Personally, I use the checks to pay my apartment rent every month. Then, I use the money that’s leftover in my account to pay my credit card bills online.
Whew… Ok, back to the story. Last time I was at Opry Mills buying gift cards, I chatted up the cashier who told me that there were several other people who often came in to buy large amounts of gift cards (other travel hackers I assume). She told me that one guy had bought the max amount of gift cards possible… $10,000 in one day! This got me thinking…
I was feeling a little crazy last week, so I decided to see if I could meet the minimum spending requirement on all three of my new credit cards in 1 day by buying $9,000 worth of Visa gift cards.
Spoiler Alert: It worked!
Last week I went to Opry Mills and bought $9,000 worth of gift cards. It was super easy. The only extra step to buying this many gift cards was filling out a form. I believe if you purchase more than $3,000, you have to fill one of these out. The lady working the register was super nice about it even thought I created a lot of extra work for her. Loading 18 gift cards with $500 each takes awhile. Buying the cards went off without a hitch. I expected to get a call from credit card companies asking if the purchases were fraud, but nothing exciting like that happened (I’m not exactly sure how that makes me feel).
Now the real works begins. I have to make 18 different phone calls to set up a PIN number on each credit card. Then, I have to make 4 separate trips to Wal-mart to load the cards into my Bluebird account because the max amount that you can load per day $2,500.
All in all, it’s been a fun experiment. It wasn’t completely necessary because I could have meet the minimum spend on at least two of the cards through everyday spending over the next 3 months. I really just wanted to see if I could get away with buying $9,000 worth of gift cards, and it’s good to know that I can knock out a large chunk of minimum spending in a very little amount of time!
So what’s the moral of this story? As I see it, never let minimum spending requirements scare you from signing up for new credit cards.
Have questions about my manufactured spending strategy? Ask away in the comments section below!