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Why I Don’t Manufacture Spend With The Starwood Credit Card

A lot of people ask me why I don’t use American Express Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Cards for manufactured spending as much, even though its such a valuable currency. The reason I don’t do it is because American Express isn’t the most ms-friendly bank. There’s no doubt that SPG points are some of the most valuable points out there right now. They can be transferred to airline miles at a favorable ratio, they can be redeemed for free SPG nights at a reasonable rate, but more importantly, SPG points can be transferred to Marriott Rewards at a 1:3 ratio. That may not sound like a big deal, but this transfer ratio makes Marriott Flight & Hotel awards and free nights much more attainable. So you would think putting tons of manufactured spending on the Starwood credit cards would be a great idea, right? Wrong. 

Rewards credit Cards in a wallet

American Express is notorious for their financial review, which can be triggered by abnormally large amounts of spending. If you’re spending twice your stated annual income on Giftcards.com orders, for example, you may get audited by American Express. Or maybe they’ll skip the financial review completely and just shut you down. That happens. So do credit card sign-up bonus claw-backs. You really don’t want to mess with American Express, especially since they are the only issuers of the Starwood credit cards. That’s a really valuable relationship you don’t want to lose while the Starwood Preferred Guest program still exists.

“But SPG and Marriott will merge and the Amex card will go away. Shouldn’t I milk it while I can?” We don’t know for sure when the Starwood-Marriott merger will complete. We also don’t know what will happen to the Amex Starwood credit cards. They may get converted to a Membership Rewards-earning credit card or Amex may issue a Marriott card, similar to how Barclay handled the American Airlines-US Airways merger. Either way, if you’ve had your SPG credit card for a while, it’s probably not a good idea to get it shut down, since it will negatively impact your credit. 

While I’m generally more careful about how much I MS these days, I’ve always been especially careful with Chase and American Express. Both banks have been known to shut people down for excessive manufactured spending and have even clawed back sign-up bonuses as a result. So while it’s unfortunate that I can’t really go all out with the Starwood Card (which happens to be one of the best credit cards for manufactured spending in terms of returns), I’m in this game for long-term gain and that means having to earn SPG points in smaller increments than I’d like.

Having said this, I want to get your take on how you’re using the Starwood credit cards for manufactured spending. How much spending do you put on these cards and are you at all worried about getting shut-down?

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Ariana Arghandewal

24 Comments

  1. If AmEx and Chase are the least MS friendly, what companies are more MS friendly?

    • If AmeEx and Chase are out of the window now which other credit cards would you recommend us for MS nowadays?

      • Citi and Barclay’s are the others that I have experience with. I don’t have any BOA cards.

        But as Arianna found out, you have to be careful with Barclay’s and using billpay to pay the balances.

        I don’t typically hit the Citi cards very hard. I use the Double Cash to earn enough cash back to cover fees incurred by points-earning cards.

    • In my experience, Barclays is ms friendly as long as you don’t go the WM bill pay route. Bofa is good, I’ve heard Capital One is decent and I’ve been ms’ing a lot with Fidelity and Discover lately.

  2. HI! I’m very new to MS. Just have started reading about this like few months ago and found out that i have missed out a lot on all the points. Oh well, so just got a new Hilton rewards cards by Amex and decided to start with only a $500 gift card to get the hold of it. Unfortunately got denied as the transaction didn’t went through. Tried different stores and still the same problem. My question is which stores are still letting you buy the gift cards on your cc or i just cant buy gift cards any more on my Amex? 🙁
    Thank you

    • This could be more because it’s a relatively large purchase on a new card. Take time to “season” the card first, putting regular spend on it. Depending on how new your relationship with Amex is you may want to go through at least one billing cycle before you try again.

  3. This presumes their systems can detect MS spend from regular spend? and based on reports, looks like they can verify certain types of charges. So here is the better question IMO, what if we just use the SPG card to pay rent? this is a large charge every month? Does AMEX get antsy over charges for just large amounts in general? More data points would be helpful here.

    • Rent should be fine. It’s a legitimate charge. But when they see thousands of dollars in purchases from giftcards.com, Simon Mall, or CVS each month that far exceeds your income, it’s a red flag.

  4. I MS with my SPG. I do 3k/mo at CVS until I hit 30k for the year for the points and the Gold status. I’ve done it long enough that in a pinch, I would do more in a short time period if I felt I had to.

    I also MS chase Inks to max 5x. I’ve never had a problem with either.

    I think the key is to moderate – I never cycle, and stay under 50% of the cl always.

    • I do something similar with my SPG. I typically do about 1K per week until I get to 30K. Got the whole year to reach it, so no rush. I will occasionally do more but don’t do that often.

        • No, at my CVS’s only OneVanilla’s are sold, which won’t work for MO at WM. Have to do it at a grocery store or USPS.

  5. I just MS’ed most of the SPG 5k spend, consequences be damned. The miles are already in my Marriott/UA accts so the joke’s on them. They lost me as an “ethical” customer when they clawed back my 100k. They can go to hell.

  6. I manufacture about 10 to 13K a month, using the personal and business, I’ve been doing this
    for 2 years and so far so good, the only incident was a weird call from amex asking me details about my business, I answered them truthfully and no FR so far.

  7. Anyone ever have any issues buying $500 VISA gift cards at WalMart, then redeeming them for money orders at the same WalMart?

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