Better than free credit card spend


There are various techniques for “Manufacturing spend.”  The idea is to spend money on credit cards and get most or all of your money back.  These techniques are useful regardless of whether your goal is to meet minimum spend requirements on new credit cards, or to get large-spend bonuses, or simply to earn more points from your credit card.  In the past, most manufactured spend techniques have cost money.  For example, buying and liquidating reload cards (such as Vanilla Reload cards) is incredibly easy (if you have a store nearby that will sell them to you with a credit card), but they do cost $3.95 or more per card.  At a top value of $500 per card, the $3.95 fee amounts to a very reasonable .79% fee.

Recently, new opportunities have surfaced to manufacture spend thanks to the ability to assign PINs to debit gift cards (see “Gift card PINs“).  Since then, I’ve mentioned a few times that it is possible to make a profit while manufacturing spend by first buying American Express gift cards.  For example:

  1. Go through BigCrumbs or TopCashBack to buy American Express gift cards for yourself and get 1.4% or 1.5% cash back.
  2. Use the American Express gift cards to buy Visa gift cards either in-store or online at  Pay about 1% (or less) in fees.
  3. Use the Visa gift cards at Walmart to load a Bluebird card (for an easy way to do this, see “Bluebird swipe reloads via ATM“).

You won’t get rich with the above process, but if you do it right you should come out slightly ahead financially while still manufacturing spend.  That’s a big improvement over paying to manufacture spend!

A better solution

A couple of days ago, blogger Tavel-Summary showed that TopCashBack is now paying 1.5% cash back for purchases of Visa gift cards through GiftCardMall!  After reading this, I immediately jumped online to try it.  I ordered two $1000 cards for a total cost of $2013.38 (which included card fees and track-able shipping).  Within a few hours, TopCashBack alerted me that $30 cash back was pending from GiftCardMall!  This new solution cuts out a step.  You can now earn money while manufacturing spend as follows:

  1. Go through TopCashBack to buy Visa gift cards at and get 1.5% cash back.
  2. Use the Visa gift cards at Walmart to load a Bluebird card.

I still need to test how easy it is to use the PIN feature on the cards mailed from GiftCardMall, but I don’t expect to have any issues.

Caution: Many readers have had many problems with TopCashBack in the past, so there is some risk here.  My experiences, though, have been very good.  For example, I bought an American Express gift card through TopCashBack and it tracked appropriately, and I was paid 3 months later (which is a typical payback period for cash back portals).  Also, via my Million Mile Madness month, I spent thousands of dollars at Staples to get 5.5% cash back from TopCashBack, and not only did all purchases track appropriately, but I’ve already received all of the money.

Earn more money

If you prefer getting more money over simplicity, you can stack these techniques:

  1. Go through BigCrumbs or TopCashBack to buy American Express gift cards and get 1.4% or 1.5% cash back.
  2. Go through TopCashBack to buy Visa gift cards at and get 1.5% cash back.  Pay with your American Express gift cards.
  3. Use the Visa gift card at Walmart to load a Bluebird card (for an easy way to do this, see “Bluebird swipe reloads via ATM“).

In total, you can earn up to 3% cash back, minus a small amount to cover shipping and gift card fees.

Earn even more money

Due to technical issues last month, TopCashBack had to abort a planned one day American Express gift card promotion, but the deal is now back.  Even better, at my request, they’re now planning a 1 day promotion for GiftCardMall as well!  Here are the deals to look for:

  • Monday April 22: TopCashBack will increase their American Express Gift Card payout to 2.5%.  One day only.
  • Monday April 29: TopCashBack will increase their GiftCardMall payout for Visa gift cards to 2%.  One day only.

These offers are a week apart.  American Express usually sends out their gift cards very quickly so it should be possible to stack these offers:

  1. April 22: Go through TopCashBack to buy American Express gift cards and get 2.5% cash back.
  2. April 29: Go through TopCashBack to buy Visa gift cards at and get 2% cash back. Pay with your American Express gift cards.

If all goes well, is should be possible to earn 4.5% cash back!


  • Do not use Citibank cards to buy gift cards online as Citi is known to treat these purchases as cash advances (and will charge high fees).  If you are unsure whether your bank will treat these purchases as cash advances, you can protect yourself by calling and asking for your cash advance limit to be reduced to zero (some banks won’t allow it to go all the way to zero, but at least you should be able to lower it to less than you plan to pay online).
  • Don’t go overboard.  If you buy tens of thousands of dollars of gift cards per month with one credit card, you are very likely to be targeted for a financial review.
  • American Express has strict, but not clearly defined limits regarding how much you can buy per transaction.  See “Learning Amex gift card rules the hard way
  • To pay less in fees for Amex gift cards, buy the cards shown in the top-left corner of the Amex Gift card page.  These cards can hold values up to $3000 each.  By going with larger value cards, the shipping and fees become a smaller percentage of the total.
  • You may be able to find Amex discount codes online to save on shipping or to waive gift card fees.  Readers have reported, though, that codes I’ve published in the past no longer work.
  • Readers have said that GiftCardMall is very picky about ensuring that the billing name and address that you list on their site is exactly the same as the one registered to the credit card (or gift card) you pay with.  I haven’t had any issue, though, in using an Amex gift card that I sent to myself.  Presumably it was automatically registered with my mailing address.
  • Don’t be surprised if it takes several months for cash back to become payable.



TopCashBack referral links:

Also, here is my BigCrumbs sign-up referral link (I’ll receive a very small commission each time you receive cash back if you signup with this link)

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