The title of this post sounds backwards, doesn’t it? Normally, we manufacture spend so we can travel. But for some folks it’s the other way around: They travel so they can manufacture spend more efficiently. Last year, when Redbird was still a viable ms tool, I tagged along on a trip to Michigan with my sister for the purpose of picking up a few Redbird cards (which weren’t available in California at the time). Other than this, the furthest I’ve “traveled” for the purpose of manufactured spending has been an hour from home. On those trips I also visited my sister, but I arranged it to coincide with a large gift card haul.
In the next couple of weeks, however, I’m planning to go out of town for a bit to do some large scale manufactured spending with the Wells Fargo card. Unfortunately doing this where I live is pretty much out of the question.
I tweeted about this and got a few helpful DM’s from folks willing to share their ms hotspots with me. I knew vaguely where they were, but it was nice to get specific locations. Generally, people in this hobby aren’t willing to share things publicly for fear it will get ruined, which is understandable. If you tell the wrong person about your gold mine, you’ll return only to find it completely wiped out. But I won’t be doing any lasting damage as a short term visitor and there’s only so much manufactured spending one person can do. In other words, there is room for two mammals at the watering hole.
Anyway, I’m planning my manufactured spending trip and wanted to offer some insight into what I’m doing in preparation. Here’s a checklist that might be helpful to those who are considering doing the same thing:
1. Pay off all credit cards. If you’re about to travel a good distance to load up on gift cards or whatever else, the most important thing is to pay off your credit cards before you get there. After all, what’s the point of going out of town to buy gift cards when your card is practically maxed out? You want to make the most of your limited time out there, so be sure to pay off your credit cards well in advance.
2. Ask people for help in generating an ms route. You can reach out to fellow manufactured spenders on Reddit, FlyerTalk, Twitter, or even the Travel Codex forum. No guarantees you won’t get pelted with tomatoes, but it’s worth a try. I have a pretty efficient ms route, but it took a lot of trial and error to get that together. There are certain stores I avoid because they’re no longer ms friendly and others where the lines are ridiculously long and not worth the wait. If you’re in an area for a limited time, you can do a lot more manufactured spending in that brief period if you know exactly where to go. So send out a tweet telling people where you’re headed and if they’re willing to share their ms hotspots with you. You never know, people might surprise you and be helpful.
Once you’ve received feedback from locals (or not), you can create the most efficient route for visiting various locations every day. Do this ahead of time and then use it to make your decisions about where to stay…
3. Look into hotels and figure out local transportation. Once you’ve got your ms route figured out, it’s time to look into accommodations. Of course, you’ll want to book the lowest category hotel to minimize out of pocket cost (both in terms of cash and points). In some cases, booking an Airbnb might be cheaper, so that’s an option worth checking out.
Also, reach out to your friends to see if any of them are planning remote mattress runs. If they’ve got a Category 1 hotel booked for the purpose of earning elite status and they won’t actually be staying there, it might work out well for both of you if you stay there. You get a free place to stay and they have someone who checks in for them, eliminating the need for a cooperative hotel manager who is ok with checking them in remotely.
At this point, you should figure out which transportation option is best. Should you rent a car or opt to use Uber everywhere you go? Renting a car is probably a better option, unless you somehow find an ms hotspot in a metropolitan city where you can walk or take public transportation everywhere.
4. Book your flight. When everything else has been figured out, it’s time to book your flight. You’ll obviously want to book the cheapest flight possible at least two weeks out. You might even want to consider booking a one-way flight, so that if things go well or you decide to travel to another city nearby, you’ve got the flexibility to do so. I recommend ITA Matrix for low fares, but be sure to compare paid flights vs. frequent flyer award redemptions to get the best value possible. No matter how much of a haul you’re coming away with on a manufactured spending trip, it’s wise to keep out of pocket costs as low as possible.
5. Let your bank know you’ll be out of town. Large purchases are enough to trigger fraud alerts on their own, but making these purchases out of town can make things even more difficult. Call your bank ahead of time and let them know where you’re traveling to. That way, they don’t think some criminal in Dallas got a hold of your credit card number.
Do a lot of research, plan ahead, and keep your out-of-pocket costs low to make your manufactured spending trip worthwhile.
Have you ever gone out of town for the purpose of doing some large scale manufactured spending? Please share your experience in the comment section.
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