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.



  1. Hey Annie, very interesting post. I have an AMEX Hilton card that I use quite frequently to “score” points towards Hilton stays. I roughly spend 20k a year which gets nets me about 80000-100000 points which I normally don’t use it all in a given year BUT typically we’ll do a long family trip every 2 years and burn through all those points(180k-200k+). On short trips (1 or 2 days) I like to use my Hilton points towards stays at embassy suites, my go to hotel (free cook-to-order hot breakfast!) Which will roughly cost between 30k-40k in points. Our short trips are normally stopovers from a much longer trip ie from Memphis to va beach. On much longer trips, we’ll stay at a Hampton Inn which can cost as low as 16k to 20k points (continental breakfast-eh); “roughing it out” allows for a longer stay without having to pay a dime (and no taxes mind you). Also note that I do travel for business and I always almost stay at a Hilton which also helps amass Hilton points. The combination of staying at a Hilton and my spending habits normally keeps me at a gold level which does provide awesome perks. Being a Hilton member also gets you into their rental car program which I just recently used in Cali and found it to be a better deal than going direct to Budget or through a third party such as expedia(but you have to pay in advance).

    Just recently, I’m delving into airline loyalty programs which I’m debating whether or not to pursue. Since my objective is to amass as much point to as possible to be able to use such points towards family vacation; it’s just not economical at the moment (flying a family of 5 is expensive!). I benefit more from hotel points than I do with airline points since most of our traveling get is done via automobile.

    So if you ever decide to stay at a Hilton, let me help you book your stay 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • Charles! I wonder how you found me =) Twitter? I picture you being very disconnected from the internet so being the first to post on my random new blog is awesome! Thank you.

      That’s cool that using 20kish on your AMEX Hilton Card allows you to have all those free/yummy/convenient family trips! It’s also very nice that you get to use work to help you amass points. Thirdly, I love that car rental is cheaper.

      As for airline loyalty, I find that hard because I usually just go with whatever flight is cheapest. I haven’t gone into that research much but one of my favorite bloggers/people Chris Guillebeau has written a lot about that. Instead of specific airlines, I like to use my Chase Sapphire Preferred’s points which go toward any flight (if you want one, I should check out to see if there’s a referral bonus!). Cash back cards are also friends of mine =)

      If I ever decide to stay at a Hilton, if they have a perk that you want to give away, or if I could book cheaper car rentals through your card, I’ll for sure let you know! Thanks again, Charles!


  2. Pingback: The cost of playing the credit card game | no sticker shock

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