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My Favorite Cards for Manufactured Spend

Colorful stack of credit cards and shopping gift cards. Macro with extremely shallow dof.

Manufactured spending is a great way to keep earning miles beyond the sign-up bonus. While I generate quite a bit of miles via manufactured spending, I’m pretty risk-averse and try not to overdo it. The goal is to earn a large number of miles without getting shut-down.

I try to achieve this by focusing on credit cards that are MS-friendly, offer large category bonuses, or generate more than 1 point per $1 spent. That being said, here is my list of 5 favorite cards to manufacture spend with (in no particular order):


Chase Ink Plus

The Chase Ink Plus is my all-time favorite credit card for manufactured spending. Thanks to the 5x point office supply store category bonus, I’ve been using it for years to generate an easy 250,000 Ultimate Rewards points at office supply stores. As far as manufactured spending costs go, this actually works out cheaper than most other gift card churning options.

Plus, Office Max often runs promotions that not only off-set Visa gift card fees entirely, but also leave you with a small profit. The Chase Ink Plus is a definite keeper. If you don’t already have this card, you can opt to earn 5% cash back with the Amex SimplyCash Plus Business Card or 3 Ultimate Rewards points per  $1 spent with the Chase Ink Business Preferred.

Chase Freedom Unlimited

The Chase Freedom Unlimited is a great option when you’re buying gift cards at merchants that do not qualify for category bonuses. The card earns 1.5% cash back. However, if you have another Ultimate Rewards-earning credit card, you can convert your cash back to 1.5 Ultimate Rewards points instead. UR points are incredibly valuable, so I love being able to earn 1.5 points per $1 whenever I’m buying gift cards at my local mall. Again, I try to do this in moderation since I don’t want to get on Chase’s bad side.

Barclay Arrival Plus

Not to beat a dead horse, but my Barclay accounts got shut down last year when I began using Walmart Bill Pay to pay off the balance. It was a convenient way to liquidate gift cards but I totally regret it because it cost me my Barclay Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard. What I really loved about that card was how the miles posted pretty much right away. As soon as a transaction posted, the miles were available for me to redeem. I loved that! In addition, Barclay was very ms-friendly up until that point. I had generated thousands of dollars in travel credits and it was a great card for manufactured spending. If you’re using the Barclay Arrival card for MS, just make sure not to use Walmart Bill Pay to pay your balance.

Starwood Preferred Guest Card from American Express

The Starwood Preferred Guest Card from American Express is a great card for manufactured spending because you’re earning miles at an accelerated rate. The card may only earn 1 point per $1 spent, but those points transfer to airline miles at a 1:1 ratio, plus a 5,000-mile bonus for every 20,000 miles spent. I’m big on earning points that are flexible and Starwood fits the bill with its line-up of airline transfer partners. Really, it takes care of helping me earn miles that I can’t transfer Ultimate Rewards points to.

Bank of America Alaska Card

I love Alaska miles. They’re one of my favorite currencies – easy to redeem, valuable, and you can fly some of the world’s best premium products using these miles. Bank of America doesn’t have much in the way of rewards credit cards, so maybe that’s why they’ve been fairly MS-friendly. I’ve been using the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature Card to generate hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of MS over the years. If you have a Preferred Rewards account, you can earn up to a 75% bonus via your credit card. That makes it a terrific card for manufactured spending.

Discover It Miles Card

I love the Discover It Miles Card. For starters, Discover is pretty MS-friendly (at least in my experience). During the first year, the card earns 3% cash back on all purchases, which makes this an absolute no-brainer for manufactured spending. But now that I’ve had this card for almost two years, I’m not letting it go. Sure, the 1.5% travel cash isn’t up there with the Freedom Unlimited or a standard 2% cash back card. But if I find myself doing large amounts of MS, it helps to have a back-up card and this Discover card is IT (lame pun intended). The annual $30 in-flight wifi credit is also a nice bonus, considering the card has no annual fee.


Those are pretty much my favorite credit cards to manufacture spend with at the moment. They earn me valuable, flexible rewards at a slightly accelerated rate. That being said, I want to hear from you. What are some of your favorite credit cards to MS with?


For more FlyerTalk on manufactured spend, head here.

Comments are Closed.
pointchaser December 14, 2017

@dealaddict everything in moderation.

DealAddict December 12, 2017

Um, Chase doesn't like MS. Lots of shutdown stories

Counsellor December 11, 2017

Maybe I'm misunderstanding, but I always thought there was a difference between MS and bonus miles. You get bonus miles for actual spend with most airline- or hotel-branded cards, but the money you spent is permanently gone. I always understood MS to be manufactured (as contrasted to actual) spending, i.e., spending where you effectively get the money back, e.g., through buying travelers' checks or gift cards that can be used to buy other stuff or redeemed for the purchase price (or at least most of the purchase price). This article seems to focus just on how to get maximum points on actual spend. I don't see any information on how to get the money back (unless you're selling the stuff you buy to others on E-bay or something). Am I missing something?