Increase credit card spend (and get most of it back). What still works September 2017


This is the latest in our ongoing series of what’s new in the world of manufactured spending. Our last update was in August (here).  In that post I detailed the continued opportunity to earn 3X through bill payments, and the fact that Amex had added language to their signup offers to be more explicit about not allowing “gaming”.  As you’ll see below, Amex has begun to enforce that new language in certain specific situations…

As always, you can find an up-to-date complete roundup of techniques for increasing spend here: Manufactured Spending Complete Guide.

Amex: Simon Mall Gift Card Purchases Not Counting for Minimum Spend

Amex’s signup bonus terms have long prohibited gift card purchases as a means for meeting minimum spend, but they’ve rarely enforced this clause.  Here’s their standard signup bonus language (I’ve underlined the gift card bit):

Qualifying purchases do NOT include fees or interest charges, purchases of travelers checks, purchases or reloading of prepaid cards, purchases of gift cards; person-to-person payments, or purchases of other cash equivalents. Additional terms and restrictions apply.

The only time I’ve known Amex to enforce these terms before was when private 100K Platinum card signup bonus offers were leaked to the public.  In that case, Amex clawed back points from everyone who did anything that could remotely be construed as breaking the offer terms, including buying gift cards.

I’ve warned before about buying gift cards to meet Amex minimum spend requirements, but honestly I never thought they’d widely enforce it.  Now, however, many have reported that Simon Mall gift card purchases are not counting towards minimum spend requirements.  To be clear, the purchases still earn base points.  Amex still counts these as valid purchases… they’re just not counted towards minimum spend requirements for signup bonuses or other bonuses (such as the recent SPG bonuses for adding authorized users).

What to do?

Even though gift card purchases from other vendors are counting towards minimum spend, It’s not a good idea to rely on that.  Instead, go with just about any other technique for increasing credit card spend found in our Complete Guide.  Some techniques worth considering are:

You can also simply prepay bills that accept credit card payments. I know people who have overpaid their cable and phone bills, for example, so that they’re covered for the next year or two of charges.

Plastiq Mortgage Payments Dead for Amex & Visa

The Plastiq bill payment service lets you pay bills by credit card for a 2.5% fee. While that’s more than I’d recommend paying in general (unless you can earn bonus points), it’s not bad when you’re trying to meet minimum spend requirements for a new credit card.

In June of this year, Visa stopped allowing Plastiq to accept Visa cards for mortgage payments.  And now Amex has done the same.

You can still use your Amex card through Plastiq to pay rent, services, employees, etc.  For more details see: Complete Guide to Plastiq.

If you scheduled repeating payments before this change, they’ll probably continue to work.  Also, it’s worth trying to pay your mortgage to see what happens.  Some have reported that payments to their usually lesser known mortgage companies have continued to work even when paying with Visa or Amex cards.

Gift Card Buying Resource Pages

I added a new page to the site: Instant Gift Card Deals.  This is a listing of the best options for buying 3rd party gift cards when you want a good deal, but you need it in a hurry (you’re about to check out in-store, for example).

Similarly, Doctor of Credit added a new page: Complete List of Methods to Buy Gift Cards with Discounts and Bonus Rewards.

Discover Debit 1% or Not?

Discover’s checking account page announced that 1% cash back on all gift card purchases was coming soon.  Then the notice disappeared.  Will they or won’t they?  Looks like we won’t know until early 2018 at best.

Bad News / Good News

Ability to use Target gift cards at Target to buy 3rd party gift cards

  • Bad News: Some have reported that the registers no longer allow this
  • Good News: Others have reported that it still works.

More here.

Drop App Changes

  • Bad News: The Drop App now caps earning for ongoing offers at $5 per week.
  • Good News: You can still earn more than $5 per week for one-time offers.  Plus, Drop has stopped cracking down on manufactured spending activities.

More here.

5 Back Visas at Simon Mall

  • Bad News: 5 Back Visa gift cards will no longer be available at Simon Malls beginning November 1st 2017.
  • Good News: 5 Back Visa gift cards had already lost most of their valuable partners anyway so we can go back to buying regular Visa gift cards that don’t come in hard to open packages.

More here.

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[…] This is the latest in our ongoing series of what’s new in the world of manufactured spending. Our last update was in September (here). […]

[…] week, Greg published a post called Increase credit card spend (and get most of it back): What still works September 2017. Some readers might be surprised to hear that I’ve never bought a gift card or made a […]

M Chin

If I request an increased credit line on my long time Amex, will that count against any future Chase 5 card rule for new card apps?

Nick Reyes



Re Plastiq and Amex: “If you scheduled repeating payments before this change, they’ll probably continue to work.” Nope. I received emails from both Amex and Plastiq telling me that my recurring payment to BoA would end in September.



On a related note, what is the current status of Serve VCG loads at Rite Aid, etc? I have a few OneVIP cards that I sockdrawered when the shutdowns started. Is Amex still shutting down cards quick or have they sort of forgotten about this? I haven’t heard much in the past year. Does the technique of louding $2k then paying a bill and closing the card before they can close it to then apply for another one work?

Nick Reyes

I have a green Serve. I’ve been loading it at Family Dollar — my local Rite Aid won’t take a debit card to load Serve (hard coded to the register, we tried). I haven’t done enough volume to be shut down. Last I heard, the technique you’re talking about still worked.


Thanks Nick. Does FD still have the $500 per store per day limit?

Also, how low of a volume are you talking per month?

Nick Reyes

I assume they do. I haven’t tried more than $500 in a day there. In the beginning, I was just doing $200 cards. I’ve done $2K or less per month, and I’ve been seasoning the card by using it for actual spend rather than bill payments (floating for a while to see if it helps).


Definitely not. I have two cards and I have loaded $700 to each in one trip (4 transactions total).


Just as a datapoint – I’ve still been able to pay my mortgage (payment to a credit union), so keeping my fingers crossed that this does not change anytime soon!


So what will tell me if buying GC from Simons with an American Express CC doesn’t go towards meeting the minimum spending?


Anyone can help with this question?

Nick Reyes

I’m not sure I understand your question. If you’re looking for other ways to meet your spend requirements, this post is full of a bunch of other great suggestions. Pay your taxes, pay rent, Kiva loans, reselling…see the links within the post and the various headings for more information on each of those. If that’s not answering your question, can you explain what you’re asking?


Send a SM to Amex asking how much MSR you have left