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5 Best Category Bonuses for Manufactured Spending

Earning miles via manufactured spending can be tedious. Most of the time you’re earning 1 mile per $1 spent and even if you’re buying Visa gift cards in large volumes, the fees eventually stack up. It can be tedious work, which is why so many people don’t even bother. If you’re like me and have found an ms-friendly Walmart store, your only challenge when it comes to manufactured spending is doing it efficiently. A big part of that is making use of credit card category bonuses so you’re getting the most miles possible out of every dollar spent (not to mention the fees involved in liquidating those gift cards). So what are the best credit card category bonuses for manufactured spending? There are five of them and I’ve outlined them below:

Gas station Credit Card Rewards

Best Drugstore Category Bonus Cards

Drugstores used to be a really hot category for manufactured spending back when Amex offered 6 points per $1 spent with the Hilton Surpass card. This was before Hilton’s massive award devaluation – back when a free night at a top-tier hotel required just 50,000 points. As you can imagine, people went nuts buying Vanilla Reload cards to earn super cheap 5-star hotel bookings. How cheap? Generating 50,000 Hilton points for a free night at the Conrad Koh Samui or Conrad Maldives cost just $67.15. No, that number is not missing a zero. Needless to say, Amex put a stop to that by eliminating the 6x category bonus. Still, if you find a way to manufacture spend at Drugstores nowadays, the following cards still offer bonus points in this category:

Best Gas Station Category Bonus Cards

I haven’t tried to buy a gift card at a gas station in a long time. Like, since the Vanilla Reload days. However, I’ve walked into plenty of gas stations that sold PIN-enabled Visa gift cards. I doubt much has changed in my neck of the woods recently. Maybe one of these days I’ll give it a try and see if there’s a goldmine in my backyard that I don’t even know about. If you’re able to buy PIN-enabled Visa gift cards at gas stations with one of these mile-earning credit cards, you’re in for a substantial point haul:

Grocery Store Category Bonus Cards

Grocery stores are probably the easiest bonus category for maximizing manufactured spending Grocery stores easily accessible to most people and now that Safeway has implemented chip readers, $500 Visa gift cards are back! If you have one of the below listed credit cards, you’ll be generously rewarded for your grocery spending. Personally, I’d probably focus on Hilton Honors Surpass card or the Blue Cash Preferred from American Express. Blue Cash has a $6,000 limit, forcing me to go easy and avoid another shut-down. If free nights at Hilton hotels seem out of reach, keep in mind that with the Hilton Surpass grocery bonus, it takes just $15,833 worth of manufacture spending to earn enough points for free night at a top-tier hotel.

Best Office Supply Store Category Bonus Cards

This is probably my favorite bonus category of all times. Back in the day when Office Depot carried Vanilla Reloads, I would walk in with my Ink card and walk out with $3,00 worth of prepaid cards and 15,000 Ultimate Rewards points. This was easily a minimum of $150 in travel rewards earned at a cost of $23.70. I can’t think of an easier or more rewarding manufactured spending method (except maybe the defunct U.S. Mint Deal). There was no need to go to Walmart, stand in line, fill out paperwork, etc. The liquidation process was done entirely online via Amex Bluebird card loads. 

While it’s not quite as cheap as it used to be, manufacturing spend in the office supply store category can still be lucrative. Yes, $300 Visa gift cards are a major pain to liquidate, but the fees are reasonable and this is a great method for stocking up on Ultimate Rewards points. If Ultimate Rewards aren’t your cup of tea, there are plenty of other credit cards that offer generous bonuses for the office supply category:

Best Retail Category Bonus Cards

The retail category bonus offered by a limited number of credit card companies can become quite lucrative during the holiday shopping season. For example, there might be a great sale on merchant gift cards, in which case you can buy a ton and sell them to The Plastic Merchant. You can earn 3 Membership Rewards points per $1 spent or up to 5% cash back doing this. Some would argue that the value of Membership Rewards (and the fact that there’s no spending cap) makes it the best option. That really depends on how you end up redeeming your points. Personally, I’d rather earn 3-5% cash back:

  • Chase Freedom – 5 points/5% bonus during select quarters (on the first $1,500 spent)
  • American Express Business Gold Rewards – 3 points per $1 spent on computer hardware, software, and cloud computing purchases.
  • Blue Cash Preferred from American Express – 3% cash back (select department stores)

Final Thoughts

The most lucrative credit card bonus categories at the moment are probably office supply stores and grocery stores. I have yet to find a gas station that lets me buy prepaid cards with a credit card, but that may well change. The key is to always be on the lookout for gift card sources from lucrative bonus category merchants. How do you find these merchants? Always check your credit card statements for any unusual categorizations (i.e. Target as a grocery store). Make this a habit and you might eventually come across the next big manufactured spending deal.

If you’re not into manufactured spending or want to maximize your non-bonus category spending, be sure to check out the following posts:

Which of these credit card category bonuses do you use to maximize manufactured spending?

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Ariana Arghandewal

16 Comments

  1. just fyi , chase no longer offers ink plus with the 5x, so for those who is downgrading or cancelling , you won’t have this product anymore if decided to MS the office 5x catagory…the chase ink cash however is the only product do still carry the office 5x, but then you will not able to transfer to partners nor pooling to your other chase ultimate reward cards…

  2. Most gas stations will sell you there brand of gas cards using a credit card. When Freedom has the 5% bonus at gas stations, I buy gas cards and then use the rest of the year to buy gas for my cars. Also, Freedom and Discovery had a 5% bonus at discount stores. Sam’s sells MasterCard gift cards and will let you buy with a CC as long as it is not their card.

  3. Ariana, as you receive Gold status with the Hilton Surpass Amex, what is the advantage of MSing up to Diamond, other than some extra bottles of water and fast internet? Thanks.

    • Good point, Lee. Diamond members are guaranteed lounge access while Gold members are *only* guaranteed breakfast. Sometimes the hotel will offer you lounge access and you can have your breakfast there. With Diamond status, I’ve often received both (restaurant breakfast + lounge access). To me, $40k is not that much spend so I may as well put it towards the Hilton card and end up with 120k points and top-tier status. You’ve given me a post idea though, thanks!

  4. You can also buy restaurant gift cards with a CC. Freedom now paying 5X on them. I load up with gift cards for restaurants I go to anyway. Before do this, need to see what the discount is for aftermarket gift cards, and if they are available. If you buy them through cardcash using PP, get 5X if use ink card. Coded as a “utility” on your statement.

  5. If banks tend to shut accounts down for too many deposits of money orders, can’t you just cash them for cash at the place that issues the money order?

    • Perhaps you can do that Rob, but depositing massive amounts of cash is as bad as depositing money orders.

  6. When you buy Visa gift cards, how do you get you money back from them?

  7. Doesn’t the old American Express Blue Cash card give 5% cash after the first $6500 in spend?

  8. The best “gas stations” to find gift cards that can be bought with CC are convenience stores. 7-eleven is very YMMV, but Royal Farms and Wawa are pretty reliable choices. I usually find the ones with attached gas stations, but that isn’t necessary. There are a ton of regional convenience stores across the country and it’s worth testing the coding. I avoid hitting the cards too hard, figuring that $500 or more in gas is suspicious!

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