Manufactured Spending aka MSing aka spending money I don’t have to get money

Ever since I started getting into credit card bonuses, I’ve been curious about the best ways to spend without spending.

For example, there may be a card that, after signing up and spending, say, 3k in 2 months, you get a $400 bonus or 30k points or whatever. $3,000?! That’s a lot to spend on a credit card, no?

Well, I don’t spend 3k in 2 months, but others definitely do – and pay with a debit card or with cash. Fail. Let me pay for it and venmo me or pay me with the cash you would pay them! Boom. I get points or free money and maybe you’ll get the flexibility to pay me in a few weeks. I don’t care. I have a month-ish to pay it off anyway. Of course, this comes with a lot of trust that people will pay you back. I usually don’t worry about that and it hasn’t bitten me in the ass ever.

I want to write this now because I just opened a new checking account with BofI and I was pleasantly surprised that I could fund it with my credit card. Whaaa?! How long and how much?! For an initial deposit, I could only fund up to $100 so I immediately put in my info from my new Ally credit card which has a $100 bonus when you spend $500 or more in the first 3 business cycles. Score! That’s $100 “spent” to help me reach that goal.

For other MS purposes, I usually am not focused on bonuses but on my points, especially from travel and large purchases in different cash back categories. For example, if my Chase Freedom card is giving me 5% cash back on groceries, best believe I’m telling my family to let me swipe after a $100+ purchase of theirs. Give me the cash and I’m straight to the ATM next door to put in my account.

I remember I used to have a Chase checking and just my Freedom card. My favorite MS moment was when a bunch of people would be out to dinner with me and they all want to pay with cash. I remember getting hooked on MS after a birthday party put about $900 in cash on a bill which I swapped to put it ALL on my card. I had/have about a 20k spending limit, so it wasn’t so bad. I think I ended up with $100+ in cash back which paid off my part of the meal and more.

My favorite ways to MS whether for an intro offer or just to get points/cash back are:

  1. Giving my card to my favorite travelers who book their flights and pay me right away  One of my favorite buddies is in Finland and has my Chase Sapphire Preferred card saved and uses it as much as she can. Thank ya, El!
  2. Helping others book their flights then asking them to just pay me (sometimes I use points and end up making way more cash =])
  3. Swiping for others when they’re paying cash for groceries or other in-person shopping
  4. Swiping for a stranger who’s putting $10/$20+ on their metro card and I’m all – heyyyy I need cash and can I just swipe you?
  5. Signing up my sister or good friend as an authorized user for my existing cards
  6. Buying gift cards for others who will give me cash for them
  7. Kiva loans! Not only do I love supporting microloans, but I get my money back at some point =)
  8. Putting my credit card on my mom’s EZPass then having her give me cash when the bill comes in

Side note: I’m currently trying to find a checking act at a physical bank which doesn’t have a bunch of minimums and fees. I think Capital One 360 may be the answer but I haven’t tried bringing coins to a teller yet. I do believe I can deposit bills into the ATM, though. I’ll double check. [Update: I can use a Capital One ATM to deposit cash into my 360 account, however, I would need to roll my coins to get them deposited. CoinStar charges 11% for their coin machines! ugh) I suppose I could also jump on my mom’s checking acct at Chase if needed. I believe she’s grandfathered in for no minimum… I’ll check.

Ways I don’t MS because they are currently illegal or too much work:

  1. Buying and reselling things
  2. Buying currency and then depositing it into a physical bank (no longer legal and I no longer have a physical bank to deposit cash).
  3. Using some Walmart bill pay thang. I’m in NYC and Walmart is in west bumble so no. It does sound convenient that you can buy a pre-paid card to buy a money order to then deposit $ into your account but… too much work.
  4. Using some AmEx Serve gift card thing… I’m pretty sure that was canceled. There are probably other ways, but… too much work. I think it also involves what I mentioned in #4.
  5. Prepaying costs like rent or mortgage… I haven’t figured that out yet.

MSing may seem like too much work or risking my credit… and maybe I’ll get more detailed about what I’ve earned from it… but I’ve become much savvier and have racked up so much!

I recently starting thinking about this more too because I wanted to sign up for the Sapphire Reserve which gives 100,000 bonus points after you spend $4k in the first 3 months. It has so many awesome bonuses but I decided against it for now because I don’t know how I’ll be able to get 4k in MS and that $450 annual fee is a doozy.

What’s your experience with manufactured spending? Any tips?

Some posts on MS I’ve read in the past week:

Written on November 16, 2016. Updated on November 22, 2016.