Since I started this blog a little over a year ago I read MANY more blogs on a daily basis. I think that each blog brings something unique to the table and I wanted to catch up with some of them. That’s why I’m starting a Q & A series that is focused on picking the brains of the best miles and points bloggers and travel hackers out there. Please feel free to ask them questions in the comments!
This week we’ll be talking to Travel with Grant about some of the best ways to manufacture spend.
First let’s start with how you got started earning miles and points?
I started my blog in May 2013 after flying back from a Frequent Traveler Conference in Washington DC. I got into the crazy world of miles and points a few years ago when I stumbled onto Frequent Miler’s blog. He is still one of my favorite bloggers and we exchange emails frequently. He is a great speaker and I enjoy listening to him speak at FTU events. I’ve got a blogger crush on him, if that makes any sense. I am a recent college graduated, still living at home. Both my parents have great credit, so I help them with their app-o-ramas. Plus, since they work a lot, I “borrow” their miles and points for trips, help them plan family vacation with miles, and help them reach sign up bonuses with multiple trips to CVS and Walmart.
You have written a lot of great resources about manufacture spend methods, what’s your favorite method?
My favorite and one of the easiest ways is Vanilla Reload and Bluebird. If you have any questions about how Bluebird works, you will probably find an answer in my 10+ post series. A few months ago, you could buy Chase gift cards with a Chase credit card with no activation or shipping fees. That was a great way to reach the minimum spending on my Chase Southwest Credit Card. By the way, I have had the Southwest Companion Pass since last November, but have yet to use it. Maybe one of these days I will use it…
What’s are the biggest differences between the different methods?
All manufacturing techniques take a bit of work, some cost less than others and some can be done from your couch (Amazon Payments). You really need to be organized and on top of your finances, otherwise you will start forgetting where all your money is spread out.
And Plink, what’s that all about?
Plink is awesome. Plink earns a commission every time you shop at one of their merchants and Plink shares their commission with you in the form of Plink Points. Each Plink Point is worth a penny and you can redeem Plink Points for gift cards like Amazon, Walmart or several others. If you normally shop at restaurants/stores that participate in Plink, you earn money for purchases you were already going to make, along with any credit card rewards you would normally earn. My favorite Plink merchant is Staples and you earn 300 Plink Points = $3 worth of Amazon gift cards for any purchase over $60. I buy $200 Visa gift cards (with $6.95 activation fee) at Staples, use my Ink Bold, and earn 1,035 Chase Ultimate Reward Points per gift card. Since my out of pocket cost goes from $6.95 to $3.95 (thanks to $3.00 in Amazon gift cards), I am purchasing Chase Ultimate Reward Points for 0.38 cents per point! Plink on!
I know for anyone up here in the Pacific NW it’s hard to come by Vanilla Reloads. How heavily and easily do you use them for manufacture spend?
I am in Southern California and drive by 4-5 CVS stores every day. I go to my local CVS by work 2-3 times a week and know all the cashiers. It helps if you become friends with the cashiers because they are more likely to help you earn miles and points. Some stores have Vanilla Reload Cards on the gift card racks, sometimes they are hidden behind other gift cards, and sometimes cashiers keep them behind or under the front counter. You have to figure out each store because every CVS is different.
What are some of the biggest risks associated with manufacture spending?
If you go too hard on American Express credit/charge cards, don’t be surprised when you get a call from the American Express Financial Review team. I’ve gone through it once before, and it really isn’t as bad as everyone makes it out to seem. They just want to verify that you have the income or a bank account large enough to support your shopping behavior. After the financial review was finished, they lowered some of my credit lines, but I have still been able to get new cards and upgrade basic cards to preferred cards. As for other banks, I wouldn’t worry too much. Just start small and gradually ramp up your spending. Don’t spend $5,000+ on the first day your new card arrives.
Just like the dollar coins, nothing good lasts forever. How long do you think these manufacture spend methods will stick around?
It is funny that you talk about the dollar coins because I am an Ebay seller and at the time I was selling state quarters. After the state quarter program ended in 2009, I dabbled into buying dollar coins from the US Mint, but the profit margins weren’t there. So I almost fell into the dollar coin magic world by mistake. But at that time, I would have been only 19 years old and didn’t have any credit cards yet, just a simple PayPal Business Debit Card that earned 1.5% cash back on all purchases. Anyways, back to your question. The last great manufactured spending movement that ended in “my lifetime” was the Vanilla Reload Cards at Office Depot. That was an amazing time to be in the world of miles and points. You could earn 2,520 Ultimate Reward Points for $3.95, so you could get a round trip from LAX to HNL for around $40. Talk about amazing. But all good things come to an end. I am surprised Amazon Payments is still around, as well as CVS selling Vanilla Reload Cards and Bluebird allowing debit card reloads for free. Nothing lasts forever, so stockpile now, you never know when the gravy train will run dry.
Do you have any other helpful tips for anyone getting started on manufacture spend?
Everyone seems to like Kiva. Heck, I used to love Kiva. I even bought a shirt to support Kiva. But Kiva does not like me. If you pull your money out of Kiva too often, they put you on a blacklist where a person has to manually send you a PayPal payment, usually it takes 2+ weeks for you to see your money. Luckily, I have about $5 withstanding, but it is annoying having to wait 2+ weeks to see my $1.15 PayPal payment from Kiva. With that said, if you can handle that type of customer service and don’t mind floating a couple of thousand of dollars for a few months, Kiva is great for manufactured spenders. But if you are starting out, stick with Vanilla Reload Cards and Bluebird. You have to learn to crawl before you can learn to run.
Grant, it was great catching up with you, and thanks for a great first Q & A Friday. If you have any questions for Grant, ask them in the comments!
Is there a topic or blogger you’d like to see on this Q & A? Leave your suggestions in the comments!