Free credit card spend. What’s left?


The end of free credit card spend

One by one, most free and easy options for increasing credit card spend have fallen by the wayside.  The US Mint used to sell dollar coins with no fees or shipping charges, and they let you use a credit card to payThat incredible deal ended in 2011.  Amazon used to allow $1000 of free credit card spend per month through its Amazon Payments system.  They ended that option in October of last year.  Amex used to allow $1000 of free credit card loads per month to its Serve prepaid product.  In April, they began restricting these loads to Amex cards only (but… there are still good uses for this feature!).  And, Target used to allow in-store credit card loads to REDbird (the Target Prepaid REDcard).  That option ended on May 6th.

Free spend remains

Free spend isn’t completely gone, but it is harder to find.  Here are a few options that still exist:

  • Load Serve with an Amex card. If it is issued by American Express, you won’t earn points but the load should still count as spend towards your minimum spend requirements.  If it is an Amex card issued by a different bank (consider the Fidelity Investment Rewards 2% cash back card, for example), then you’ll earn rewards too.
  • Fund a new bank account. When setting up a new bank account, many banks allow you to fund the initial deposit with a credit card.  Doctor of Credit maintains a list of banks that allow this along with reports of which credit cards do or don’t charge cash advance fees for doing so.  There are limits to how often you can do this, though, without causing problems.  Some banks do a “hard pull” credit inquiry when opening new accounts, so that can have a negative effect on your credit score.  And, most banks will check your ChexSystems report to see if there are any negative mentions (see Doctor of Credit’s post on ChexSystems, here).  At a minimum, if you do this too often, you may be denied opening new accounts simply because you have too many recently opened accounts on your report.
  • Buy fee free Visa/MasterCard gift cards.  These are not easy to find, but they do exist.  Check local credit unions, for example, to see if they sell gift cards and ask how much they charge.  AAA often offers fee free gift cards as well, but they’re pretty strict about limiting the total amount they’ll let you buy.  Then there are the occasional sales.  OfficeMax, for example, often has deals on gift cards (such as this recent deal) where the discount more than offsets the gift card fees.  Once you have these Visa/MasterCard gift cards, you can use them as debit cards to reload REDbird at most, but not all, Target stores; or to reload Bluebird or Serve at Walmart (but Vanilla Visa gift cards won’t work there).
  • Start with Amex gift cards to cover your costs.  (UPDATE: This approach is no longer useful now that Amex doesn’t offer portal rewards for denominations over $200). Many remaining credit card spend techniques cost money.  For example, most Visa/MasterCard gift card purchases incur a fee: usually around 1% for $500 gift cards.  You can more than offset this fee by going through a cash back portal to buy Amex gift cards (usually for about 1.5% to 2% cash back), then use those gift cards to buy Visa/MasterCard gift cards.  The main problem with this approach is that many merchants that allow purchasing gift cards with credit cards do not allow Amex gift cards for payment.  For example, neither GiftCardMall nor Simon Malls will accept Amex gift cards as payment.  So, while this technique can result in free (or better than free) spend, it can also be a huge headache, or even a financial disaster if you find yourself unable to liquidate the cards.

Paying for spend

As free spend options dry up, the next step is to look towards low cost options for increasing spend.  For example, you’ll be charged a 1.87% fee to pay federal estimated taxes with a credit card.  Or, you can pay your mortgage with a credit card through a service like ChargeSmart.  Fees for that service vary depending upon how much you pay.  Or, pay about 3% through a variety of services to use your credit card to pay your rent.

Is it worth it to pay for spend?  Stay tuned for a follow up post where I’ll layout options for paying for spend and I’ll attempt to answer that key question: is it worth it?

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Can anyone confirm that loading from Amex Starwood to Serve WILL count towards my minimum spend? I keep seeing the word SHOULD but no one confirming it works. Thanks.

[…] A solution to the minimum spend obstacle is called “manufactured spending”.  Manufactured spend techniques are ways of increasing credit card spend without losing much money. For example, until recently it was possible to fund the Target Prepaid REDcard (AKA REDbird) with a credit card and then use those loaded funds to pay off your credit card bill.  In that case, no fees were involved at all.  In a recent post, I showed options free manufactured spend that still exist.  Please see: Free manufactured spend. What’s left? […]

Brad Meyer

Here’s one: Anybody know if Serve will let you add money from a prepaid American Express card?

Brad Meyer

Yeah, I figure it’s a longshot.


Brett – I wish I were! Yeah, I said, “Oh really” and left. It doesn’t look like it’s hard coded in software – yet. I will try a different Target in the area and report back.


That will stink, this will definitely change up everything once again. I guess it’s time for me to liquidate these last few cards.


Targets now demand form of payment with your name on it… The end is near. (San Jose Ca).


You have to be kidding me, seriously?


Which Visa or Amex cards *are* loadable at the Bluebird kiosks?

Thank you


You can manufacture spending at Bovada – the old Bodog website. Your first deposit is free upto $3k and they send you a check right back and its super reliable. Unfortunately it’s 5% for every deposit after. You also get a $200 referral bonus for yourself and someone you refer:


Being a former professional online poker player and fellow MS’er I feel I have to put an * next to your post. While I agree in theory it can be done, it’s not worth the potential hassle. Let me explain.

Due to the US Gov’t closing payment processors and making the navigation through regulatory grey areas damn near impossible, Bovada and other U.S. serving poker sites have had to jump through several hoops to ensure their U.S. players can deposit. Note there is nothing illegal going on, it’s just a boatload of issues going on behind the scenes that make it hard for online sites to get your money loaded to their sites.

The way the online deposits work w/ cc at Bovada is you’ll most likely be processed by a payment processor outside of the U.S. and your transaction will be listed on your cc statement as something random such as golf ball services located out of Hong Kong. The issue here is your credit card will almost certainly flag this as fraud if you attempt a $3k deposit, let alone $1k.

Do you really want to cause eyes on your cc account? Is it worth the hassle of trying to have the transaction done again? If so, be careful of the Bovada system flagging your account as already redeeming the one-time cc deposit fee waiver because you’ll be charged for subsequent deposits, rendering this option in poker terms as ” -ev .”

Long story short, I wouldn’t recommend this option to anyone trying to MS. For that matter, I’d avoid anything poker/online gaming site related for several reasons.

jimmy shotgun

Ive used multiple books for a few withdrawals and deposits, no problems so far, as long as you met the requireent, they have to pay or you can get a 3rd party like sportsbookreview to get involved. bovada is really easy to meet the rollover because you can live bet and I usually do tennis and rugby, i met the requirement in a week over the first 2 rounds of a tennis tournament, but waited 30 days to withdrawal, bovada has never missed a payout supposedly. in my experience i usually close out the card after 1 or 2 deposits because of the annual fee but chase seems really easy to approve the purchase, capital one did not approve. im glad not a lot of people do this because a $1000 bonus Im getting a few times a year cant stick around if everyone jumps on board.

jimmy shotgun

a lot of people dont* do this. it takes some patience and you cant have a addictive personality or youll lose if you start going after the profit and not the bonus.


None of these sites operate under any regulatory body. Not domestically or globally. They have licenses to operate in whatever physical jurisdiction where they keep their servers. Beyond that they don’t have to abide by any government. So if you have any issues you’re more likely to go after whomever licensed the site and nothing else will really matter. Sure, you could smear them online but that’s not likely to get a payout, just piss them off!

I always avoided sports betting. While some claim there’s an edge, the variance is insanely high if you do enough betting. I only played poker. With that said, anyone w/ an addictive personality should stay FAR away from any gambling or skill-based (poker) game unless they have discipline of steel and can walk away when needed.

jimmy shotgun

He was just trying to get people to click his link for refer a friend. what he neglects to mention is that bovada, along with every other sportsnook has a 5 times rollover for the initial deposit and bonus before you can withdrawal. for ex; if you deposit $500 you will get a starting balance of $750 because you get a 50% sign-up bonus up to $250. Before you can withdrawal you have to wager 5 times the amount of the deposit and bonus ($750 X 5 = $3750).

Also there is a foreign transaction fee if you card doesnt waive it. thousands can be made, im up a few stacks this year so far from 3 different sportsbooks with their bonuses. either way you pay for either a deposit fee at the beginning or withdrawal fee at the end, usually around $50 for check/wire transfer.bovada has a free check per month but then there is a 5%deposit fee.

i wouldnt do it for MS, but as far as bonuses go, as long as you play the moneyline on extremely heavy favorites such as the first rounds of tennis matches on say djovokovic vs someone unranked and are are disciplined in gambling, this is a better scheme than bonuses from cc in my opinion. i do both, feels good to get bonuses gambling while abroad on a free flight from churning and free airbnb from travel expense reimbursements.

jimmy shotgun

forgot to mention, as long as you contact you bank before depositing and tell them about a ilarge international online purchase youll be fine, ive done it with chase and bofa.


The problem is the banks have their ways of eventually figuring out which payment processors are really behind those golf balls you bought online or the $1,000 in suntan supplies. Point is even if you get the green light you’re setting yourself up to possible flagging and account closure. Trust me, I’ve been around long enough to know.

Your point about the rollover is spot on. I forgot to mention that as well. Bovada, like most sites, will require a rollover. You can’t just deposit and withdraw and call it easy peasy. Think about it for a minute. Bovada is having to pay up the wazoo for these shady payment processors to help facilitate money to it’s customers. They’re not about to allow people to deposit, play one hand or bet one game and then cash out the rest of your $3k.


and before there were mint coins, I used to buy US Treasury bonds with credit cards… $5K at a clip.

Brad Meyer

Wow. Reading all of these comments really is making my head spin. It’s not easy gaming the system!!! Looks like it’s becoming quite a challenge to reload the AmEx Serve cards with the Vanilla Visa Debit cards.


Thanks for the post.

I am just curious about if there’re any ways (other than serve/blue/red bird) that allow me to reload my gift card.


The list of fallen tricks only mentions the end, not the earn. Not many of them were concurrent which leads me to believe there’ll always be new tricks.

[…] Free manufactured spend. What’s left? by Frequent Miler. Nice round up of what’s left for free manufactured spending. […]

[…] Free manufactured spend. What’s left? – With the loss of Amazon Payments, Serve non-Amex online loads and more, what free avenues of manufactured spend still exist? […]


You had me curious about chargesmart so I just did some number crunching on if it’s worthwhile or not to pay our mortgage this way.

Bottom line is for this mortgage payment it’s 2.65% fee. Where I’m really curious is with AGC and if they’ll accept them as a credit card payment. My net cash back is 3.8% – 4.1% w/ AGC so this deal could be 1.15% – 1.45%, which would allow me to 1) add in more than $20k minimum spend/year, and 2) profit a few hundred bucks/year.

Love some thoughts (or data points if anyone has any) on this.


How about “Merrill Accolades American Express” card. This gives world points. Any one have experience with this.