Manufactured Spending Without the Factory

Start your rewards card search here.

The biggest problem most people have with credit card bonus programs is meeting the spending requirements for the bonus. Business owners have an advantage. Landlords do too. Meeting a $3,000 spending requirement in 90 days is a snap of the finger for even a relatively small business or side gig.

But not every side gig has enough spending that can go on a credit card and if you only own a few rental properties and maintenance is not currently required you will need another source of spending to earn a bonus.

Readers of this blog tend toward the frugal side. Spending for the sake of spending for a bonus is crazy and you guys know it. Your personal spending is probably too low to earn many bonus cash awards or miles. Travel hacking gets harder when you save most of your income.

Manufactured spending is the solution bandied around the blogosphere. It sounds so simple at first. Find a source where you can recycle fake spending into cash and miles rewards. Well, how do you do that?

There are two problems with manufactured spending. First, it frequently requires a lot of running around and effort. It boils down to time and what you value your time worth. Running to the store to refill a debit card or jumping through hoops to add a few more dollars toward a spending requirement is a poor use of precious time.

The second problem with manufactured spending is cost. Recently I wrote a post on using the IRS and taxes as a way to manufacture spending. It’s a great idea to create massive amounts of spend, but it has a cost. The cost can be small, but costs, even small ones, add up. The cost of manufactured spending digs into the value of your rewards.

Turning Manufactured Spending Into a Cash Cow

I have never been a fan of manufactured spending. Recycling spending through a program to generate benefits is a fool’s errand. As fast as you can find a program to game the rules change. Siphoning off value costs somebody somewhere something. That somebody soon discovers the issue and changes the rules. Then you get to start the hunt for another source of spending to max out credit card rewards programs again.

There has to be a simple way to increase spending without real cost to the budget. To maximize the value of manufactured spending, the costs of creating this spend must be reduced or eliminated. Cost in this instance is more than just money; it is time, too. To be effective it must be fast, simple and no or low cost.

The ultimate manufactured spending would allow you to buy a large value amount of gift cards of a general use credit/debit card—a Visa gift card, perhaps. This in effect would extend the spending deadline, as required spending to meet reward qualifications are met, while the true spending could happen at a future date using the purchased gift cards.

Top Cash Back (affiliate link) has a unique program where you can buy American Express and Visa gift cards and get cash back. Buying a gift card frequently has fees attached and this case is no different. However, in this instance the cash back covers most, or all, of the fee.

Step-by-Step Process

Let me walk you through the process before I let you get on with your day.

Step 1: Research a credit card with a high cash back or miles reward that meets your goals. You can use this link to review just about any credit card reward program imaginable here. (If you use this link as your gateway into the CardRatings site and apply for a credit card and are approved this blog will receive compensation.)

Step 2: Apply for the card best fitting your cash back or travel goals. Maybe you are looking for a large cash back reward. Maybe you have a miles goal with a specific airline as you plan some travel. You can hone your efforts to any credit card you want without concern over meeting spending requirements.

Step 3: Once you have the credit card use it for all spending, as you have in the past, to get as much of the required spend used within the timeframe required by the credit card. Do NOT spend extra just to meet spending requirements for a reward. That kind of defeats the purpose of the program.

Step 4: As the deadline for bonus rewards required spending approaches, review your spending to see if you are short of the required spending.

Step 5: Go to Top Cash Back and order Visa or American Express gift cards to complete your required spending to earn the reward.

Step 6: You can either cash out the gift card (Visa only) immediately (there is probably a cost to this) to pay off the credit card bill or you can use it to cover future spending needs.

Many of the best rewards programs have daunting spending requirements. This no longer should be a concern for you.

There are many ways to manufacture spending. This is one additional tool to add to your workbench. No one program fits everyone’s personality or needs. The more ways you have to meet spending requirements the better and the more rewards you can earn.

Please consider using the links on this page to support this blog.

Bookmark this page for future reference and as a starting point in your research for additional rewards cards.

Please share this page on your social media. My ego needs the boost.

Share additional ideas in the comments section below.

Posted in

Keith Taxguy, EA

Keith started his tax practice in 1982 and went full-time in 1989. An enrolled agent (licensed tax professional) since 1992, Keith has focuses on helping businesses and individuals pay the least amount of tax allowed by law.


  1. SG on June 14, 2017 at 7:47 am

    Thanks for the article, could you elaborate on what is meant by “Step 6: You can either cash out the gift card (Visa only) immediately (there is probably a cost to this) to pay off the credit card bill or you can use it to cover future spending needs.”

    How does one cash out?

    • Keith Schroeder on June 14, 2017 at 7:57 am

      I don’t know of any way to get cash from an American Express gift card. Visa gift cards are also difficult to “cash in”, but it appears to be possible. A quick internet search yielded this article:

      According to that article you can buy money orders with the gift card at Wal-Mart. I don’t think Wal-Mart allows AmEx for that. If someone know more, please share.

      • Tim on June 15, 2017 at 4:37 pm

        AmEx GCs are not PIN-enabled, which makes them more difficult to cash out, but you should be able to (albeit for a fee of ~2-3%) via Venmo and perhaps others. Visa GCs can be used to purchase MOs at a variety of retailers, HOWEVER, not all Visa GCs can be used at all retailers. So don’t go buying a boatload until you know what you’re going to do with them. Reddit has a great resource: on the “churning” forum there is a weekly manufactured spending thread with hundreds/thousands of posts weekly.

  2. Dan on June 14, 2017 at 12:22 pm

    My preferred method of Manufactured Spend is to buy money orders. This works well when you have a relatively high dollar spend requirement and a low # of transaction requirement.
    Walmart is the cheapest at $0.70 per money order ($1,000 limit per money order). I use this for a prepaid debit card with $800 per month required spend. Every month, I lose 70 cents on the cash roundtrip but I make it back in benefits. Essentially, it is a closed loop. The same $800 is going from a) prepaid debit card to b) money order to c) deposited into my bank to transferred to the a) prepaid debit card.

    • Andrew R. on June 14, 2017 at 12:39 pm

      This is fantastic…

      How do you folks manage your credit score when churning these cards? There seem to be a couple of considerations:
      1) Multiple credit pulls – one for each of the rewards cards you apply for…
      2) Loss of credit in the “utilization” component of FICO (Balance/Total Credit) when you have to cancel a rewards card to apply for it again later.

      Or do I have this wrong – can you apply for a particular rewards card when you already have one?

      • Dan on June 14, 2017 at 1:04 pm

        I don’t do manufactured spend for credit cards for the reasons you cite. I use manufactured spend to fulfill requirements of high-interest checking & savings accounts. Opening a checking/savings accounts does not affect FICO. There is a separate ratings agency called Chex or Chexsystems that is used.

        • Andrew R. on June 14, 2017 at 1:41 pm

          Are you talking about the Mango prepaid debit card/savings account? And the money order counts as “direct deposit”? Can you have more than one? (or are there others?)

          This sounds like a great way to get a 6% return on liquid cash… I’d love to learn about more of these programs, if you have the time!

          • Dan on June 14, 2017 at 4:46 pm

            Mango is one. The $800 ACH transfer from my bank (Discover Bank) to Mango meets the net $800/month Direct Deposit. Somehow, I have to get the money out of the Mango account. If I ACH transfer the $800 back out, it nets the direct deposit to $0. As a result, I have to use the debit card for a point-of-sale transaction to get the $800 out. That’s where the money order comes in.

            Another manufactured spend option for debit cards is Circle or Circle Pay. That works better when you have a requirement of several debit card transactions per month.

      • Tim on June 15, 2017 at 4:45 pm

        You can/should do some research to confirm for yourself, but I think you will find that credit scores typically only drop a small amount when you open a new CC. If your credit is average/below average, this is not likely a hobby for you until your have a good score. But, many people have opened dozens of CCs over short periods of time (some of the “advanced” people might open 15-20+ CCs per *year*), and still maintain extremely high scores. Pay your balances on-time, keep utilization low, etc, so as to keep your score up. Also, it’s possible to convert older cards [that have annual fees] to no-annual fee cards so that you don’t have to close them = helps keep your age of accounts up = helps maintain/improve your score. If you’re young and have a thin credit file, you may need to/want to be more careful as your credit score may fluctuate to a greater extent. If you’re age 40+ with 15-20+ years of good credit history, and handful of accounts ain’t gonna change much. ALso, while a good credit score can be a great asset to have, it doesn’t do a whole lot of good for most people once they have their mortgage locked in.

  3. Blastmaster on June 14, 2017 at 9:04 pm

    6% savings rate? wow. I see Mango charges a monthly fee of $3 and they drop your rate way down over $5000 in savings. Question is do they drop it down just on the amount over 5K or does the whole account rate drop down? This is tempting as I have a bunch of cash at 1% waiting for a market correction. Thanks

    • Dan on June 15, 2017 at 3:37 am

      If you put in $5000, you get 6% or $25 per month. Separate from that, you are charged $3 per month. That nets to $22/month or an effective rate of 5.28%. However, the longer you keep the $800 in the prepaid account, it reduces the effective rate. The $800 earns 0.01% or something. The $800 comes out of a savings account earning 1.1%. I try to roundtrip the $800 in less than 1 week.
      I opened Mango before the $3 fee so I kept it open after they instituted the fee. I’m not sure I would open a Mango account now. There are easier accounts.

  4. Debt Hater on June 15, 2017 at 3:41 pm

    This is a solid strategy if you are able to unload the gift card, I never knew that Topcashback allowed you to void the fees. I guess the only issue there is making sure that it definitely tracks your transactions. Sometimes I do buy discounted gift cards and sell them for a very slight profit or try to break even. When you’re trying to hit a credit card bonus, every little bit helps.

  5. A Simple Man | The Wealthy Accountant on October 2, 2017 at 7:35 am

    […] area we can exploit: travel rewards. Once upon a time it cost money to travel. Today you can hack the system and get massive travel rewards to see the world for pennies on the […]

  6. […] The more AUs I have on a card the more I use it. I’m lucky. With a business I can find plenty of things to put on the credit card. A typical paper order (in our paperless office) runs 250 reams. You may wish to consider previously published alternatives to spending, too. […]

  7. Hello on January 24, 2018 at 2:07 pm

    What is everyone’s thoughts on buying groups? It seems like a great way to get legitimate spend. I know of a few that are our there but what has everyone’s experience been?

    My understanding is that they are companies that need help buying products from stores or online to circumvent promotional restrictions. You basically but it, ship it to them and they pay you.

    How can you tell which companies are safe to work with?

  8. When Maximizing Gains are a Stupid Idea on January 27, 2019 at 1:11 pm

    […] stocks or mutual funds on margin* (good to hear), sell your tradelines (maybe you should) or use credit cards with or without rewards and bonuses (why […]

Leave a Comment