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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:
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?
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
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
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.
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
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.
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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