Manufactured spending (MS) is a very interesting phenomenon in the points and miles world. It can be summed up as spending money on a credit card without spending money out of pocket. This may sound confusing for some because you have to pay for everything on your credit card. But with MS, you’re essentially buying cash equivalents where the rewards outweigh the fees.

Manufactured spending is one of the best ways to quickly hit a minimum spend threshold for a sign-up bonus or maximize a bonus category. It’s also a great solution if you need to increase credit card spend quickly.

Credit card issuers are aware of travel hacking and tools like MS and card churning. Therefore, issuers have created rules like the Chase 5/24 Rule and the Amex Once Per Lifetime Rule. Other rules exist that determine what counts as “regular spending.

 

Methods

MS fits nicely into earning rewards because you technically don’t have to spend anything to earn points.

Gift Cards

My favorite method is to buy gift cards from merchants that are within a bonus or rotating category. This is especially helpful for places that are not (often) bonus categories, such as Department Stores. Otherwise, such spend would be put onto a lower flat rate card.

For example, I have used my Chase Ink Business Cash in the past to buy Nordstrom gift cards at Staples for 5x Ultimate Rewards (UR) points per dollar. Doing this was a better option than earning either 3% cash back with my Amex Blue Cash Everyday card.

Avoid this option with American Express cards. You will not receive any points or cash back because the issuer has banned gift card purchases from earning points. It’s uncertain whether third party gift cards are also banned. However, I would not risk losing points either way.

Paying Taxes

Another method that can be used to earn extra points is paying taxes. There is a small fee for paying the IRS directly with a credit card. However, it can be worth it if the value of the points, miles, or status earned outweighs the fee.

Furthermore, paying a company such as H&R Block or TurboTax with a credit card is a good idea. You can get extra points and even take advantage of partner offers. Southwest Airlines is offering 1,000 Rapid Rewards if you file your taxes with TurboTax. American Express also has an Amex Offer that lets you save up to $20 if you use your card to pay for filing with Turbo Tax.

Paying Bills And Rent

Plastiq is a service that lets you pay your bills with a credit card. The service can be used by individuals and businesses alike. However, you must pay a 2.5% fee unless they have a special discount.

You can also use multiple services to pay rent using a credit card. RadPad, Rentler, and Urbanr are three of the biggest. RadPad has a 3% fee for each transaction. Rentler charges a 2.5% fee for each transaction and your landlord has to sign up with the service to accept payment. It’s very similar to Plastiq. Urbanr charges a 1.5% fee for each transaction and they don’t accept Amex.

 

Ethics

One of the biggest debates in the points and miles world is how ethical manufactured spending is.

Credit card issuers want you to use your card early and often. This is because they make money for every transaction in which you use one of their cards (this does not include interest). It’s also why they offer sign-up bonuses. Issuers also charge stores 2-3% in interchange fees. This means that the issuers make money for MS transactions as well as regular transactions.

As a consumer, all you have to do is follow the issuer’s rules and don’t violate your credit card’s user agreements. There are currently no laws that restrict or prohibit MS. However, if you open a card with an issuer that prohibits the practice, they can close your card.

 

Final Draw

Manufactured spend is a great way to earn points, miles, and/or status when you don’t want to spend out of pocket. It’s also one of the best ways to hit minimum spend for a sign-up bonus or maximize a rotating category.

Buying gift cards, paying taxes, and paying rent are only some of the ways to manufacture spend. However, you should only do it when the rewards outweigh any and all fees.

Hat Tip to reader Debit for giving me the idea to write this post