Whether you’re new to the game or a a seasoned vet, most of you guys probably read this blog for the manufactured spending content. Determining the best way to manufacture spend depends entirely on what’s available to you as well as the amount of time and effort you’re willing to put into it. One thing that can help reduce the amount of time you spend buying and liquidating gift cards is choosing the right credit card for this activity. It can be difficult to justify spending 10+ hours per week liquidating thousands of dollars worth of gift cards at a rate of 1 mile per $1 or 1% cash back. That’s why it’s important to make sure you’re earning some kind of incentive in the form of category bonus or annual spending bonus from your credit cards. Taking this criteria into account, I’ve compiled a list of what I consider to be the 10 best credit cards for manufactured spending:
1. Discover It Miles Credit Card
The Discover It Miles Credit Card may be lacking a sign-up bonus, but it has lots of other features to boast about. First, there’s the fact that it earns double cash back during the first year. Since the normal cash back rate is 1.5%, that amounts to 3% cash back for the first year. The Discover It Miles card has no annual fee, which is why the $30 worth of in-flight wifi statement credits every year is so awesome. The best part about this card is that it miles can be redeemed towards travel in the form of statement credits or transferred to your bank account. Even better? There is no minimum redemption amount.
2. Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature
I had a change of heart recently and decided to re-apply for the Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature Card. Time will tell if I’ll get the sign-up bonus again, but in the meantime this is a great card for generating free nights at Club Carlson hotels via manufactured spending. It takes just $14,000 worth of spending to earn enough points for a top-tier Category 7 award, which is much less than other co-branded credit cards, which require as much as $60,000 in spending for top-tier award nights. The $75 annual fee is easily off-set by the 40,000 point renewal bonus as well as the free night certificate that’s issued annually and can be redeemed at any U.S. Club Carlson hotel.
3. Chase Ink Plus Credit Card
The Chase Ink Plus Credit Card has long been a favorite for it’s 5x bonus at office supply stores, cable, tv, and cell phone providers. Considering both the value and ease of redeeming Ultimate Rewards points, this category bonus is a great way to earn up to 250,000 points per year for an out of pocket cost of less than $1,500. For a lot of folks that seems incredibly steep, but if you’re redeeming miles for premium travel (or even just four roundtrip economy class flights on United during a busy travel season), it can be worthwhile.
4. Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Cards
What makes the two Starwood American Express cards great for manufactured spending is the 5,000 point bonus on point-to-miles transfers of 20,000 points or more. So essentially, cardholders can earn 1.25 miles per $1 spent. If you’re trying to stock up on American, Alaska, Delta (please don’t), Flying Blue, or Singapore Kriflyer miles, this is a great way to do it at an accelerated rate. Keep in mind that American Express might hit you with a Financial Review if you overdo it with this card, so keep it at a reasonable level (i.e. don’t spend more than your reported annual income) and be sure to mix in regular spending on this card.
5. Hilton HHonors Surpass Card from American Express
The Hilton HHonors Surpass Card from American Express is a great card to have if you have access to a supermarket or gas stations that lets you buy Visa gift cards with a credit card. The Surpass card earns 6 points per $1 spent in these categories, which means you’re even closer to a free night. Hilton HHonors is one of the most rewarding hotel loyalty programs when it comes to earning free nights via credit card spending as well as for non-elite members. This card helps you score those free nights faster. The annual fee is also a very reasonable $75, which you can easily off-set by taking advantage of Amex Offers throughout the year. On top of it all, cardholders who put at least $40,000 worth of spend on this card every year get upgraded to Hilton HHonors Diamond status.
6. Barclay Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard
The Barclay Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard is a great card for manufactured spending because it earns 2 miles per $1 on all spending. Cardholders also get a 5% rebate when they redeem miles for travel, so this card effectively earns 2.1% cash back. Yes, the new $100 minimum on travel redemptions is less than ideal and means you can’t redeem miles for the $89 annual fee anymore. However, I put hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of spend on the card annually, so I do get more than $89 back through the extra 0.1% in rewards. For me, the Barclay Arrival Plus card is a great way to generate extra travel cash quickly.
7. 2% Cash Back Cards
The Fidelity Rewards Visa Signature Card is great for those who want a 2% cash back card without the annual fee. I got this card years after I earned a total of 100,000 miles through a Fidelity Brokerage account deal. I still have the account open, so all of my 2% cash back earnings get deposited into that brokerage account. It’s almost like a secondary savings account for me, especially on the occasions when I use the card for giftcards.com purchases, on which I earn about $40 worth of cash back per order.
Any time I cover 2% cash back cards, people wonder why I leave the Citi Double Cash Back Credit Card off the list. There’s no reason other than that I don’t have this card and thus don’t think about it much. Similar to the Fidelity Rewards Visa, the Citi Double Cash Back Card has no annual fee (or sign-up bonus for that matter). Cardholders earn 1% cash back when they charge purchases to the card and another 1% when they pay for them. Ideally you should be doing that anyway, but it’s worth keeping in mind.
8. Chase Freedom Unlimited Credit Card
The Chase Freedom Unlimited is another great card for earning Ultimate Rewards points via manufactured spending. It’s also nice that despite having no annual fee, the card comes with a $150 sign-up bonus after $500 spent within 3 months. For manufactured spenders, the 1.5% cash back rate (which can be converted to 1.5 Ultimate Rewards points if you happen to have another Ultimate Rewards earning credit card) is the main reason to have this card.
9. Amex Everyday Preferred Credit Card
The Amex Everyday Preferred Credit Card isn’t exactly a favorite in our community, but it’s 50% point bonus can be significant for manufactured spenders. The card earns 3 points per $1 spent at grocery stores, 2 points at gas stations, and 1 point everywhere else. The category bonuses are limited to the first $6,000 spent per year, but cardholders can maximize their everyday spending with the 50% bonus that is paid out each month they rack up at least 30 charges on the card. That’s essentially 1.5 Membership Rewards points per $1 spent, plus you get access to Amex Offers, a program that can save you hundreds of dollars on spending – manufactured and otherwise.
10. Southwest Credit Cards
If you’re a heavy manufactured spender, you might want to focus on a credit card that offers an annual bonus based on credit card spending, like the Southwest Premier Rewards Credit Card or Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business Card. Earning 110,000 miles in a year earns you the very valuable Southwest Companion Pass, which you can use to significantly reduce your travel costs – both in terms of points and cash. I wouldn’t channeling $110,000 on a single credit card (or even on two cards for that matter), but channeling at least some of your manufactured spending towards either credit card can be incredibly rewarding.
Which credit cards do you think are best for manufactured spending and how would you rank them?
Subscribe to Blog via Email