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How Much Does Manufactured Spending Cost?

Whenever I explain my gift card churning routine to people and how much I’ve spent in the past, I always hear, “Wow! You’re probably spending a lot of money on fees.” Last year, I managed to not only earn over a million miles via gift card churning, but I earned a 3.5% profit doing so. This year, things are different. Without any promotions or bonus points, $1,000 worth of Visa gift cards will cost me $7.90 – without liquidation fees. But that still doesn’t mean you have to pay through the roof to earn points and miles. Depending on where you buy gift cards, you can save on fees through deals or an accelerated earning rate. Here are a few gift card buying options and the MS costs involved:



Buying gift cards at drug stores can work out cheaper if you’re earning up to 3x points per $1 spent. Most drugstore gift cards cost $4.95 per $500 – at least around my area. The downside? These gift cards can’t be liquidated at Walmart and now that the post office is out of the question, that leaves me with no liquidation options…

  • Blue Cash Everyday from American Express – 3% cash back
  • Amex EveryDay Preferred – 3 points per $1 on the first $6,000 spent (plus a 50% bonus after 30 or more purchases per month)
  • Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express– 2 points per $1
  • Amex EveryDay– 2 points per $1 on the first $6,000 spent (plus a 20% bonus after 20 or more purchases per month)
  • IHG Rewards Club Select Credit Card – 2 points per $1


Grocery Stores

Grocery stores are a great place to buy gift cards cheaply. Not only do grocery stores often have double gas rewards promotions, but you can get up to 6x points per $1 spent on these cards. Usually, a $500 gift card carries a $4.95 fee. If you’re a Hilton Surpass cardholder, that amounts to $9.90 per 6,000 points. If you save up 95,000 points for a top-tier award night, it will cost you just $156.75. Not bad, for a pool suite at the Conrad Koh Samui! Note, that the Hilton Surpass Card will soon convert to the new Hilton Honors American Express Ascend Card.

  • Hilton Surpass Card from American Express – 6 points per $1 spent
  • Blue Cash Preferred from American Express –  6% cash back on the first $6,000 spent per year
  • Amex EveryDay Preferred – 3 points per $1 on the first $6,000 spent (plus a 50% bonus after 30 or more purchases per month)
  • Chase Freedom – 5% cash back (during select quarters, on the first $1,500 spent)
  • IHG Rewards Club Select Credit Card – 2 points per $1


Office Supply Stores

Office supply stores are my favorite category for earning points at minimum out of pocket cost. Most office supply stores sell $300 Visa gift cards for $8.95. That amounts to roughly $20.90 per $1,000. Or $4.18 per 1,000 points, if you’re earning a card that earns 5x points per $1 spent. The best part? Office supply stores often run discount promotions that not only off-set gift card fees but even leave you with a small profit.

  • Chase Ink Plus Card – 5 points per $1
  • SimplyCash Plus Business Credit Card from American Express – 5% cash back on the first $50,000 per year
  • United MileagePlus Explorer Business Card – 2 points per $1


At the end of the day, I don’t mind paying a little out of pocket for manufactured spending if it gets me better travel and involves minimal hassle. One way that I’ve been able to recoup some of my losses now that my other fee-eliminating tactics are dead is through apps like iBotta – the app offers cash back when you upload your receipts. The payout isn’t huge, but I do have a lot of receipts and after I’m done maxing out the limits on my app, I hand over receipts to family members to do the same. Again, it’s not a huge amount but it does get me a few hundred dollars back.


Regardless of how much manufactured spending you’re doing, be responsible and avoid the pitfalls. It will save you a lot of hassle and ensure that whatever travel you redeem points for doesn’t end up costing you way more because of fees and lost gift cards.

Comments are Closed.
PtsJunkieWI February 25, 2018

PRG and IHG card are not bonused at Drugstores... Not sure about the others, because I don't have them. But some fact checking is in order.

sdsearch February 24, 2018

And when was this written??????????????????? It says "The Hilton Surpass card will soon convert to the new Hilton Honors Ameirican Express Ascend Card." Huh??? That ALREADY HAPPENED, back on January 18! Like I said, WHO PROOFREADS THIS STUFF?????????????

sdsearch February 24, 2018

WRONG!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! The Amex EveryDay cards DO NOT give bonus points at DRUGSTORES, only at grocery stores, and the Preferrred gives 2x at gas stations. (In fact, if you want to earn bonus points on prescription or over-the-counter drugs with an EveryDay card, you have to use pharmacies/drug sections inside supermarkets, not standalone drugstores.) https://www.americanexpress.com/us/credit-cards/card/amex-everyday-preferred/ https://www.americanexpress.com/us/credit-cards/card/amex-everyday/ Who proofreads this stuff???