Good morning everyone, I wanted to respond to Frequent Milers’s post (My manufactured spend strategy) and share my own MS strategy. You will probably be surprised by my strategy, maybe inspired, and maybe even disappointed. Let’s get started…
Every Sunday, Staples releases their latest Easy Rebate offers/coupons here. This week, we have more paper on sale and a few smaller deals, like $5 off food and tape.
I check American Express Offers twice a day (first thing in the morning and last thing I do at night). Here are the 2 newest offers I found in my American Express account:
I then check my Chime Card to see if there are any new offers, then skim through Fat Wallet Forum and Slick Deals. I haven’t found anything great there yet. Now I will compare my MS strategy with Frequent Miler’s strategy. Greg recommends creating a strategy, such as this:
I’ll probably elaborate on my 2015 goals in a future post, but for now here’s a short list, specific to manufactured spend:
- Continue to qualify for high level Delta elite status for myself and my wife (see “How to manufacture Delta elite status”).
- Sign up for the best credit card offers and meet minimum spend requirements.
- Take advantage of category bonuses and spend bonuses such as the Chase Freedom and Discover It quarterly 5X categories, and the occasional targeted offer (for example, my wife was recently offered 15,000 bonus miles if she spends $500 per month for 3 months with her US Airways credit card).
- Consider spending $40,000 on an AA Executive card to earn 10,000 elite qualifying miles
It’s worth pointing out some things that are not on the list:
- Earn cash back
- Maximize all avenues of manufactured spend
I agree with some of Greg’s goals, except for achieving Delta elite status (never going to happen for me) and spending $40,000 on the Citi AA Exec card to achieve 10,000 AA EQMs (never going to happen for me). As you can probably guess, I don’t care about airline elite status, I am a free agent and love it. I also like that Greg said that he does not MS solely for cash back and does not maximize all avenues of MS.
Old Blue Cash
I have an active OBC card, but only spend about $1,000 / week at pharmacies and grocery stores (some real purchases, but mostly MS). Since the OBC card has a $50,000 yearly cap on 5% cash back categories, spending about $1,000 per week for 52 weeks should reach the max toward the very end of the year. The cash back I earn on the OBC is used to offset other MS expenses (mainly $6.95 gift card activation fees for $200 Staples Visa Gift Cards).
Greg wrote a post a few months ago called Quickest spend to real stays. In that post, he compared the cost to MS the number of required hotel points for a mid tier hotel stay in comparison to MSing on a 5% cash back card. In all cases, MSing cash back was cheaper than MSing for hotel points, assuming a $300/night hotel stay. Even though the math is clear, it would be extremely hard for me to justify spending $300/night on a hotel. I mean, there has got to be a cheaper Courtyard Marriott, Hilton DoubleTree, or Holiday Inn Express around the corner, right?
Chase Freedom, Citi Dividend, and Discover It Cash Back Cards
I have a page devoted to these 3 credit cards and try to keep the cash back categories up-to-date. These 3 cards sit in my desk drawer until I use them at a 5% cash back category. For the Chase Freedom, I maxed out the $1,500 grocery store purchase on January 1 (post). For the Citi Dividend, I won’t use it at all this quarter. And for Discover It, I am buying BART tickets to qualify for the public transportation category.
Credit Card Sign Up Bonuses and Minimum Spending
I am a big fan of credit card sign up bonuses. I currently have 27 open credit cards (see complete list) and most are travel-related credit cards. If I had only 1 hour a month to devote to the miles and points world, I would just sign up for 2-3 credit cards every 3 months and work on meeting the minimum spend requirements through everyday spend and easy online MS.
Bluebird / Serve / Redbird Cards
Back in the day, I had 3 Bluebird Cards (me, mom, and dad). Then Serve came out and changed everything (online credit card loads). I have always had an iPhone, so I never dabbled in the ISIS / Softcard world. I’m happy for you Android users. Then Redbird came out and changed the game again. I got a temp Redbird Card from a friend in another state (thx N) and registered it in my brother’s name (he never had a reloadable card in his name). Loading and unloading the Redbird is a breeze. On my recent trip to Colorado, I picked up 2 more temp Redbird Cards. I recently closed my Serve and my dad’s Serve Cards and registered for 2 Redbird Cards. When I get those new Redbird Cards, I will have 3 Redbird Cards (me, dad, and brother) and 1 Serve Card (mom). If I get my hands on another temp Redbird Card, I will convert my mom’s Serve Card to a Redbird Card. I also have 2 AMEX Target Cards (lamer version of the Redbird Card) which I probably will never use again once my 2 new Redbird Cards arrive.
Redbird Loading Strategy
Redbird basics: you can load $2,500/day and $5,000/month at Target. You can load with credit cards, debit cards, and gift cards (PIN not required). I load my Redbird Card with direct credit card loads (great for meeting minimum spending), but you can also use a Chase Freedom / Sapphire Preferred / Ink (5,000 UR Points), Citi Double Cash ($100 cash), AMEX SPG (5,000 SPG), Citi/AMEX Hilton (15,000 Hilton), US Bank Club Carlson (25,000 Club Carlson), US Bank FlexPerks (10,000 FlexPerks = about $200 in airfare).
I also load a bunch of $200 Visa Gift Cards to my Redbird Card. Assuming I did the full $5,000 with $200 Visa Gift Cards, that would require 25 gift cards x $6.95 = $173.75 in activation fees, but that would net me 25,875 Chase UR Points. That comes out to 0.67 CPP. I know that 0.67 CPP is a lot more than 0.00 CPP, but as long as you get greater than 0.67 CPP when you redeem Chase UR Points (super easy), you come out ahead. It would take 5 months or 5 Redbird Cards to get the same 25,000 Chase UR Points, but would require more trips to Target.
Another approach is to buy $500 Visa Gift Cards at a pharmacy or grocery store. You would need to buy 10 $500 Visa Gift Cards, which would cost about $50 in activation fees. Those purchases would generate about $250 in cash back, for a net profit of $200 cash back.
In reality, I do about half and half direct credit card and gift card loading. It depends if Staples, Office Max, or Office Depot is running any gift card promos at the time or if my local grocery store is running a gift card promo of their own.
If you have any questions, please leave a comment below. I gotta run and grab another temp Redbird Card. Part 2 is coming tomorrow morning… Have a great weekend everyone!