Update 9/21/14: The Suntrust Delta Skymiles and Alaska Airlines debit cards are no longer available.
Debit cards are a great manufactured spending tool, especially if you have less than stellar credit and can’t get approved for reward cards. For seasoned credit card churners, mile-earning debit cards present a cheap way to supplement and diversify manufactured spending. Below is a list of debit cards that earn miles, along with the different methods of manufactured spending they can be used for:
Suntrust Delta Skymiles Debit Card
The Suntrust Delta Skymiles debit card has a hefty $75 annual fee, on par with most credit cards, but rightly so: It earns 1 mile per $1 on all spending, and 2 miles on purchases made directly with Delta. For the purpose of buying money orders, this card is by far the most lucrative. On the down side, you are earning miles with Delta, which makes it a hassle to redeem miles and seems to be on a never-ending quest to devalue their award chart. There is also a business version of this debit card, though it earns just $0.5 miles per $1 and has a ridiculous $120 annual fee.
UFB Direct Airline Check Card
UFB Direct offers an Airline checking account that comes with a debit card, which earns 0.5 AAdvantage miles per $1 spent. Earnings are capped at just 120,000 miles per year. The card has no annual fee, and since UFB is an online bank, you can deposit money orders using their smart phone app (which has it’s issues, but generally works ok).
Alaska Airlines Debit Card
The Alaska Airlines Debit card is going to be discontinued on May 31, 2014, but those who already have it can put it to good use until then. I wouldn’t even worry about using it moderately to avoid account closures – with two months to go, I doubt they’ll look too closely at your spending patterns. Plus, Bank of America is an awful bank and I wouldn’t mind if they pulled the plug on me. The Alaska debit card earns 0.5 miles per $1 spent.
All of these debit cards can be used to generate miles cheaply with the following tools:
Money Orders. Money orders are most often purchased at Walmart. Most of the Walmart locations I’ve been to will record your personal information (name, address, driver’s license number) if you purchase over $3,000 in money orders. I always stick $2,900 to be safe. The cost for Walmart money orders is $0.25-0.77 cents per $1,000. The amount varies by location.
While you can certainly hop around to different Walmart stores to stock up on money orders, be mindful of what your card provider’s daily limit is on PIN transactions.
$0 fee Greendot MoneyPaks. Riteaid carries Greendot MoneyPaks that have $0 fees. Buy these, load them onto your Paypal account, and either cash out via money orders or bank transfers (keep the latter in moderation).
Bluebird. If you don’t have access to a CVS (for Vanilla Reloads) or Walmart (to buy money orders or load Bluebird with a gift card), you can use your mile-earning debit card to load Bluebird free of charge.
Square Cash. Sign-up, download the app, link your debit card, and use it to send money to trustworthy friends/relatives willing to either transfer you the money or give you cash.
American Express Serve. The American Express Serve card can be loaded with both credit and debit cards. If you’re going to use a debit card, it makes the most sense to use the Suntrust Skymiles card, since it earns the most miles. At 0.5 miles per $1, it makes more sense to use a credit card.
Thoughts or questions about this topic? Please comment below.
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