In my previous installment, I gave a brief overview of what "manufactured spending" was, and introduced the main benefits of doing it: namely to fulfill pesky minimum spending requirements for signup bonuses and for establishing steady miles/point gains in your accounts. In this section of the manufactured spending series, I will go into detail on what I feel is the easiest way to earn a boatload of points every year.
The Bluebird card was introduced a little over a year ago as a joint venture between American Express and Walmart. Essentially, it looks to provide quasi-banking services to people who traditionally have not had access to those services. Whatever, your current financial situation, the most important feature of the Bluebird card is its ability to effectively transfer your credit card spend into cash for a very small fee.
There are many ways to load your Bluebird card employing credit card spend, but the most hassle-free way to do this is to buy Vanilla Reload cards. These are sold at many retailers, most notably CVS drugstores. In an ideal scenario, this is what happens:
1. Purchase Vanilla Reload Cards at retailer in $500 increments (maximum) per card for a $3.95 convenience fee. Total charge to your mile/point earning card will be $503.95. Purchase as many as ten $500 reloads per month, which is the monthly maximum load available on Bluebird.
2. Go to Vanillareload.com and enter appropriate information to load the balances of the Vanilla Reload cards unto your Bluebird account. Daily maximum load amounts are $1,000, but after five days, you will have loaded the monthly maximum into your account.
3. Use either the Bluebird "Billpay" feature to pay the balances that were incurred from the Vanilla Reload purchases or transfer the money directly into your bank account. Then pay off the original credit card purchases at your convenience.
Congratulations, that's basically it! Let's say you used a Chase Sapphire or Ink card for these purchases. In that case, you spent an additional $5,039.50 on your credit cards this month that you normally would not have incurred. At the bare minimum, you'd have earned 5,000 points for $39.50 which equals to roughly 0.8 cents per point. This is less than half the rate compared to the generally accepted value of 1.8 cents per point in the travel hacking community.
However, if you had signed up for the Chase Ink Bold card before this month, you would have fulfilled the minimum $5,000 spend requirement within three months with just the manufactured spending listed above. In this scenario, $39.50 worth of Vanilla Reload convenience fees would net you the 50,000 Ultimate Reward point signup bonus plus 5,040 points for a grand total of 55,040 points. 50,000 points could then be redeemed for 2 nights at a top tier Park Hyatt for over $1000 or a roundtrip coach or one-way business class flight to Europe which could retail for even more. Needless to say, this is a huge cache of points and miles for very little money.
Unfortunately, the ideal scenario is not always reflected in reality: VR cards are sometimes hard to find, other times retailers won't allow you to purchase them with credit cards, and so on. In the next part of this series, I will focus on other types of manufactured spending that use the Bluebird card with other financial instruments when things don't work out quite the way we'd like to with Vanilla Reload cards.