Manufactured Spending for the Time Strapped & How I Can Meet the Minimum Spending on My Recent Application Round

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credit cards

How to Meet Large Minimum Spend Requirements

A couple of weeks ago I wrote in detail about my recent round of credit card applications. Between my wife and I we picked up 12 cards with a total required spend of $24,500 in three months to get the bonuses.

Several people commented on that post inquiring just how we planned to meet such a high spending threshold. Here are a couple of the comments:

Clare wrote,

Wow! That leaves you with a lot of required spending. With the current tightening up on manufactured spending, how are you going to accomplish this?

Anthony wrote,

Yeah, it’s financially feasible to do the gc route, however its no where close to being realistic if one is time strapped such as my wife and I w/ our 7 month old.

I’ve had to accept the fact that I can’t do as many of these deals as I would otherwise like to. Finding the quickest/easiest way is more important than the most profitable right now. Any type of underwear MS tactics is primarily what I’m looking for.

Would definitely like to see a follow up post with more options!

Is Manufactured Spend Tightening

First let me address Clare’s comment. I actually disagree with the assertion that manufactured spending is tightening. Sure we have lost some easy opportunities, but a lot of avenues still exist and new ones are opening all of the time.

For those of us who have been doing this awhile, this is just part of the normal routine. Some opportunities go away and new ones comes along. For example, we now have REDbird which allows for $5k per month in loading directly from a credit card. Amazon Payments was nice, but it wasn’t THAT nice.

Ways to Meet the Minimum Spend

manufactured spend time

My wife and I both have a Serve card, which gives us $10,000 per month in “cash reloads”. This means that our minimum spend requirements “could” be met with the Serve card alone. We have had quite a bit of business spending, so that isn’t necessary, but lets assume that we have to manufacture the entire $24,500 in spending.

Option 1 – Keep It Simple

Simon Mall Gift Cards – Most Simon malls sell $500 gift cards for a $3.95 fee. These same malls allow up to $10,000 in purchases per day and those purchases could be split between a couple of cards. A simple way to meet the spend would be to purchase 49 of these cards for a total cost of $193.55. These cards can be loaded to Serve at Walmart or liquidated in many ways.

Option 2 – Category Bonuses

Some of the cards we picked up have category bonuses. A good (albeit more complicated) way to go would be to manufacture spend around those category bonuses to reduce costs. For example, the Amex Business Rewards Gold card pays 2x points at gas stations. I might then want to MS at a gas station if that were possible.

Simlarly, the Bank Americard Cash Rewards Visa pays 3% back at gas stations and 2% back at grocery stores. A $500 gift card purchased at a grocery store (with a $5.95 fee) would net $10.14 back and trigger the $175 cash bonus on the card.

Option 3 – REDbird

manufactured spend time

I have written in the past as to why I decided to keep Serve instead of switching to REDbird. While I stand by my original position, I have evolved on the issue. For most people, getting a REDbird is the best move. (I plan to switch soon.) Since each card can be loaded with $5k per month, we would easily be able to meet our minimum spend requirements with no cost.

Is It Worth the Time

Anthony made a great point above about the time required to manufacture spend. Some people like Anthony have little children and huge time commitments, others have a heavy workload. Either way, many people find that there simply isn’t enough time to manufacture spend.

For that reason, I think option 2 above is not really realistic for most people. While it will result in reduced costs and increased bonuses, that is too much for most people to track and deal with. With option 2 out, lets look at the time required for option 1.

manufactured spend time
Walmart MoneyCenter kiosk

If my wife and I both went to our local Simon Mall, we could knock out the minimum spend requirements in 2 trips. Between driving and parking it takes about 30 minutes each way to get there and about 30 minutes once we arrive. That is a total of 3 hours.

Between loading at a kiosk and at a register, I average about 2 minutes to liquidate each gift card. Driving and parking adds 15 minutes each way to my local Walmart. Given the limits of Serve, I would have to make 5 trips to Walmart over the course of 3 months, since I could load $5k per trip ($2,500 per card).

Doing the math, it would take 3 hours at the mall, 2 1/2 hours coming and going to Walmart and 98 minutes actually loading the gift card. All-in the total time required is just over 7 hours, but lets call it 8 to be safe.

Does the Time Spent Make Sense

In our situation, I absolutely think spending 8 hours to MS would make sense, since we would be netting 85,000 Membership Rewards points, 23,500 FlexPerks, 22,000 ThankYou points, 98,000 Ultimate Rewards points and $360 in cash. (Some cards had instant bonuses which I am not counting here since they don’t require MS.)

Each of those points currencies has a different value, but if we just assign them a 1.5 cent value each, these bonuses are worth about $3,800. Subtract out the cost of the Simon gift cards and it works out to a gain of about $450 per hour spent manufacturing spend.

The REDbird Calculation

manufactured spend time

So I just went on about how spending 8 hours to manufacture spend is worth it. With that said, I am now a firm believer that REDbird is the way to go. With REDbird, we would make the same 5 trips, but we wouldn’t have to deal with the mall or having thousands of dollars of gift cards in our possession.

Basically REDbird reduces our time spent from eight hours down to three and our cost down to $0. It also eliminates the complexity of dealing with gift cards as well. I think Anthony could probably carve out 1 hour per month to meet the spend on $3,800 worth of bonuses.

The one reason I was reluctant to change from Serve to REDbird was online credit card loads. Currently my wife and I get $1,500 per month in free credit card loads with our Serve cards. Since Amex makes it difficult to add new cards, we use the same 2% card every months to do those loads which nets us $60. Switching to REDbird thus costs us $720 per year, but we are gaining back precious time and saving the cost of buying gift cards so it is probably a wash.

Too Many Cards

I think it is also important for people who are time strapped to not go overboard with applications. Just because a bonus is available, doesn’t mean you need it. If you won’t be able to use the bonus, then why go through the hassle of manufacturing spend for it?

Stick to realistic earning and spending goals for your situation and your miles & points life will be much simpler.

Conclusion

Hopefully this post illustrates that there are numerous opportunities left to manufacture spend. The REDbird card has made it easier and less time consuming than ever for most people to do $0 cost manufactured spend.

If I am being honest, we could have easily met minimum spending requirements 2-3 times as high, but it would have been more of a process. Thankfully we have already completed the spend on all but one of our cards and will be enjoying the bonuses over this coming year.

Have you had to meet large minimum spends? How did you do it? What is your opinion on the Serve vs. REDbird argument? Let me know in the comments!


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16 COMMENTS

  1. For me it’s about time and sanity, both having equal value. While I do have access to a WalMart I loathe going there as it does not have a kiosk so that means having to either deal with the Money Center or a cashier, both can have longish lines while one may require more time due to improper training. So having the online method for Serve which is free to load and free to use bill pay I’m thrilled with using this. We don’t have the REDbird here yet, but I’m switching as soon as we get them! When I got 2 AA Citi Exec cards last year 2 weeks apart I had a little panic attack on how I was going to meet the $20k in 3 months spending requirements. I relied on OneVanila gift cards from one drugstore and money orders from the other. Thankfully it was a walk at lunch to do one and a slight detour on my way home for the other. But I did it in 3 weeks! Now with a new AA Platinum card and $3k in 3 months I can use Serve to finish it, but it’s back to sniffing out ReLoadIts and loading my Serve card….because I like going to that store , just for the added spending.

  2. ” I actually disagree with the assertion that manufactured spending is tightening. Sure we have lost some easy opportunities, but a lot of avenues still exist and new ones are opening all of the time.”

    Whuwhuwhat???? That’s just a bald faced lie or a willfully ignorant statement.

    • The word tightening indicates less opportunity. That simply isn’t the case. Perhaps some of the low hanging fruit methods are going away (i.e. Vanilla Reloads and Amazon Payments), but there are still plenty of ways to manufacture spend.

      Oh and then there is REDbird. It is one of the easiest and most lucrative MS opportunities to have ever come along.

      Thanks for commenting Paul! I appreciate your opinion.

      Thanks Paul!

  3. So, I have heard that you may not have a Bluebird and a REDbird account, is that correct? And if so, what happens if a person with a Bluebird account attempts to open a REDbird account?

    We do the Bluebird, but get frustrated having to drive around because it seems that the MoneyPass kiosks are any Walmart are down 30% of the time, so we have to find another in our town that day when they are “Not in Service.”

    • You are correct, you can only have one card. To get the REDbird all you have to do is cancel your Bluebird first. People do this all of the time.

      If you try to open REDbird without first closing Bluebird, it won’t let you.

  4. @Shawn,

    Thanks.

    So, I guess I will have to pick one up on a MR as they do not have one within more than 500 miles of our State! Perhaps they have a plan to market farther, sooner?

    • I know the plan is to roll it out and more and more stores are getting them. Some markets have them even if it hasn’t been announced, so it is a good idea to check your local store.

      With that said, I am in the same boat and have to get them somewhere else since they aren’t being sold in Vegas.

  5. You were approved for all 12 cards that you applied for? I tried to get Southwest personal and business and was rejected for the business card!

  6. Really appreciate you taking the time to write this post. I’ve only been doing this since late summer of 2014 and it’s definitely easy to overestimate the time involved in getting these deals done. The time allocation for actually completing each MS opportunity is one thing, but I believe an overlooked aspect is the time spent doing research before pulling the trigger on any opportunity. I think we all do this, at least to some extent, for the pleasure of it (like a vacation fund and/or hobby income) but it’s still time and when you’re drained from life responsibilities, it’s still consuming time and energy.

    MS isn’t a one size fits all as far as available time, logistics (proximity to MS locations), budget, credit score etc. and I believe this is one reason MS’ing is appealing to many people. I’ve taken the route of looking for opportunities that fit within a limited amount of time and within our normal routine and then potentially increasing (or reducing) from there. What I’ve done is use Serve online credit card and debit card options to earn cash back (and/or meet minimum spend) at the $1,500 monthly limit per card (wife and I). During the weekly trips (shopping, errands, etc.) I’ll go to Safeway and buy $500 GC’s, hit Staples sales on VGC and go to the Walmart Supercenter. I buy 1-2 $500 gc at a time at Safeway (right now for 5% grocery category + Amex BCP), add it to Gowallet app on my phone to set the pin, then go to Walmart to unload (Kate is almost never up anymore). For me, that’s the extent of my MS’ing outside of our house.

    I have a binder with baseball card sleeves and use an excel document and currently use billguard (and am looking into other options, as Mint doesn’t do everything I want) in hopes I can stay organized. That’s one of the biggest issues with being time strapped imo. It’s very easy to lose track of things because you never have an hour or two to just jump into MS related things and never be bothered with tasks or babies crying so being able to stop and go has been huge for me. Having my smartphone (Note 2) has also been a life saver because I can get a lot done on it. I’d say to anyone looking to get into MS, make sure that you can stay organized and to start slow and small!

    I’m strongly considering switching one of our Serve cards to REDbird. There are however some downsides. I’ve done the Googling and searching of differences and pros vs cons for Serve vs REDbird over the last few months and there were four reasons I held back.

    1) It’s not available in California (although some test markets appear to be around but people don’t give out their honey holes).
    2) It requires standing in line and burning time waiting for the cashier to deposit for me (with potentially a cashier who gives me the deer in the headlights look because it’s foreign to them since it’s not sold in California).
    3) You lose Amex Offers. I had two sub Serve accounts so I’m losing three Amex Offer cards. For SBD alone that’s a $30×3 = $90 loss. The opportunity cost I set conservatively at $200/year.
    4) I’ve read reports (probably nothing more than opinions) that REDbird may lose it’s ability to deposit with credit cards, at which point I’d pull my hair out if I had to switch back to SoftServe, especially if I was in the midst of strategic cc loading to meet minimum spend.

    With that said, number one and three I’m at the point where I can obtain and also justify the transition. I can get a REDcard, although not for free. While I would lose out on Amex Offers, having a larger ability to churn more minimum spend (and cash back) would offset the $200/year loss of Amex Offers. MS’ing is always a calculated gamble, and number four is no different. This is why I’d only want one REDbird to hedge the risk of a change to their cc terms (and also is in line with my start off slow by not ditching my other Serve card).
    Also worth noting that this year we’re not going to have much time (or extra money for that matter) to vacation due to paying tuition for my wife’s master’s program, reduced work hours and our daughter. We’re trying to stay out of debt as much as possible (would never leave a balance on a credit card, I think I’d throw up before that happens) until we’re leveraged into a better situation mid-2016+. I also don’t like leaving a lot of points/miles in my accounts. For this reason, I’m looking for opportunities to exchange for cash or statement credits. I’m still trying to study which cards and programs have decent cash conversion before I jump into any. For example, I know I’m not going to do the Barclay arrival+ for cash. I’d do this offer for travel expenses.

    Anyways, thanks for this post and maybe you can shed some light on what you think about the concerns I listed for REDbird.

    • Thanks Anthony. I am fairly certain that credit card loads on REDbird will go away eventually, although it doesn’t seem like it will happen soon. The loss of Amex Offers is a concern for me as well, but I don’t use them that often on my Serve cards. (Of course Small Business Saturday was a different story.)

      For me the convenience of just walking into the store and loading outweighs the loss of unique Serve benefits. If/when REDbird no longer allows credit card loads, it isn’t too difficult to switch back to Serve. Thankfully Amex has made switching products pretty easy.

      • How long was the process for you to transition to REDbird? Can you deposit to your REDbird card using an AU card of your wife’s cc?

        Reason I ask is because asking my wife to come with me to deposit is like trying to sell snow to an Eskimo. In all fairness she’s also time strapped so I can’t blame her. If I’m going to transition to REDbird, I have to assume I’ll be the only one doing the trips to Target. If she’s not coming, the 1.5k online load limit with Serve is better utilized in her situation (because I’ve read you can’t load to REDbird at the register like you can with Serve).

        My plan is to keep Serve in her name and REDbird in mine. Assuming I can use an AU card, we’ll effectively increase from 3k to 6.5k cc load limit per month.

        • I haven’t yet switched over, but most people report being able to do so immediately after closing out their Serve card. I also know several people who have no problems loading funds on to someone else’s card.

  7. My 2 cents…I use 2 red cards (wife and me), we have a young one as well. I drive past Ttarget regularly, so it is not inconvenient (live in SoCal, bought redcards on eBay). I’ve been loading both redcards for two months now, without her being with me (the cc is in my name). It takes 5 stops at Target per month (each visit, I do two swipes of $1k each, even though the limit is 3/day & $2500….I feel less conspicuous doing it that way..call me strange!). I recall one time where the cust service rep asked for ID since the “female” name on the redcard clearly wasn’t the name of the male who was swiping the cc! I explained I was loading for wife, rep took a quick glance at my DL to see that it matched name on cc, and no more issues. She said “I’d be thrilled if my husband put $1000 on a debit card in my name!” We both laughed.

    As I walked to the car, I was thinking ” yeah, but your happiness would fade once you realized he was using your debit card to pay the mortgage”

Comments are closed.