One of the first questions I get when I mention how I earn points and miles via manufactured spending is “what is this costing you?” After all, with a few exceptions, Visa gift cards carry fees. Not to mention, the money orders you have to buy to liquidate those Visa gift cards. If you’re buying gift cards online, there are also shipping fees involved. While the fees amount to less than the cost of paid travel, the point of this hobby is to try and eliminate them altogether. That being said, here are five ways to eliminate manufactured spending fees:
1. Use the iBotta App. I learned about iBotta fairly recently and, as I explained last week, it’s a terrific way to eliminate Walmart money order fees. Through the Any Item Rebate feature, you can submit your Walmart money order receipt to get $0.25 – $0.50 cash back. Considering Walmart money order fees range from $0.2 – $0.75, this is actually pretty significant. Especially if you’re churning gift cards in large numbers – that’s when the savings really add up.
New users who sign-up for iBotta with a referral link also earn a $10 bonus after they claim their first rebate. It’s important to note that Any Item Rebate submissions do not qualify for the $10 bonus. However, it’s really easy to earn the bonus considering the 300 partners and hundreds of items that qualify for rebates.
2. Utilize Cash Back Portals. If you’re buying Visa gift cards online, you can eliminate a significant portion of the fees with cash back portals like Yazing and TopCashBack. At the moment, the cash back rate for giftcards.com orders is 1%. Factoring in fees and cash back, you’ll pay $17.20 for $2,500 worth of spend. That amounts to $6.88 per $1,000. That works out $1.02 cheaper than buying Visa gift cards at Simon Mall. This is a great way to save on manufactured spending fees.
3. Take Advantage of $0 Fee Gift Card Promotions. Speaking of Simon Mall, every year they run a $0 fee Visa gift card promotion, usually around December. This promotion usually lasts a week, giving you plenty of time to earn miles for next to nothing. A few years ago they did have this promotion in October and it only lasted a couple of days. To make sure you don’t miss out on Simon Mall’s $0 Visa gift card promotion, sign up for the VIP Club and opt in to receive emails. That way, you’ll be notified in advance. Last year, I took a break from a heavy MS schedule, then showed up on the last day of the promotion, completely clueless about what had been going on. Yeah, needless to say I was pretty angry at myself!
Simon Mall isn’t the only source that offers $0 fee gift card promotions. Last year, Gift Card Mall essentially paid customers to buy Visa gift cards. Now, I haven’t been able to get an order approved with Gift Card Mall in at least three years. A lot of other people have the same problem. However, if you can get your orders approved during one of these promotions, you’ll not only cover most of your manufactured spending fees, you’ll earn a nice profit.
4. Gift Card Rebates. Every once in a while, OfficeMax (or Office Depot, whatever they call themselves these days) will offer rebates on Visa gift card purchases. Not only do these rebates eliminate manufactured spending fees altogether, but they leave you with a profit. The best part? If you use your Ink Plus or Ink Preferred card for these purchases, you’ll earn 5x Ultimate Rewards points!
5. Incorporate Cashback Credit Cards Into Your Manufactured Spending Routine. Sometimes you can’t eliminate manufactured spending fees. Either you need to buy gift cards in large quantities or you miss out on $0 fee promotions. In those situations, it’s helpful to incorporate cash back cards into your manufactured spending routine. With a 2% cash back card, you’ll earn a small profit even when you’re buying gift cards at full price.
For example, if you spend $9500 on Visa gift cards at your local mall, you’ll end up paying $75.05 in fees and earning $189.52 in cash back. That leaves you with a $114.47 profit! You can certainly pocket this and use it for travel. Or you can put it towards fees for another $9500 gift card purchase paid for with a mile-earning credit card. Either way, using a cashback credit card in your manufactured spending strategy can be a great way to off-set manufactured spending costs.
If gift card churning is your manufactured spending method of choice, it doesn’t have to be expensive. Use cash back portals, relevant apps, and work in a cash back card if you have to. More importantly, keep an eye out for lucrative promotions that not only eliminate fees, but make it possible for you to earn a profit churning gift cards. If there are any tools out there that help reduce the cost of manufactured spending, please share them in the comment section.