Manufactured Spend: Over Easy!


Warning: Manufactured Spend is an advanced technique used either to obtain miles and points or for monetary gains. To all my readers who don’t know what I’m talking about here, please do not dive in. You need to read a lot on the topic to avoid dire consequences. Yes, really!

It’s been a while since I announced that I’d changed my mind about Manufactured Spend. The reason I did avoid it for a while, was that it’s difficult here in NYC. We don’t have Walmarts; Vanilla Reloads are very hard to get by; and other methods require a lot of diligence, hard work, and some serious dedication.

And as I’ve said time and again, I’m against hard work and time-consuming activities when it comes to my beloved hobby. There is a daytime job for that! Besides, I was always busy meeting the spend requirements, and didn’t really care about anything else.

Things have changed, however. As the mile and point benefits get more and more diluted, and spend requirements get higher and tougher to meet, I can’t ignore the simple facts anymore. The facts that I would have to dive into the Manufactured Spend murky waters one day because avoiding new opportunities would be beyond lazy. It would be stupid, alas.

Still, I’m a strong adept of a theory that if you have to do something anyway, you might as well do it right. To me it means not spending any more time than absolutely necessary to meet my objectives and to keep it relatively easy and low-risk.

I will list the things I do as I keep learning (and earning). If you are an experienced hobbyist you might know most of these techniques,  but keep reading anyway. I bet I will be able to surprise you.

Amazon Payments

Amazon Payments is the easiest tool for Manufactured Spend, but you won’t see a lot of play with it, unless you’re going to… well, let’s say stretch your boundaries. AP allows you to send up to $1,000 monthly via a credit card to another person, however nothing prevents you from opening more than one account, and make it persons, as in plural. I consider three AP accounts to be enough, although I know people who have four and they seem to be doing fine.

Please do not go crazy! Amazon Payments does shut down people’s accounts, and if that happens, you will lose a very valuable tool to meet the spend and earn a little extra. The Chase Freedom card will have 5% cashback on Amazon again in the 4th quarter. So pace yourself.

Remember that in order to open multiple AP accounts you need different names and addresses. And while you’re at it, why not use the banks that offer some extra sign up bonuses?

NB. I was going to list a few offers (some of them that we used), but I noticed they are not available any more. I’ll cover the current bank promotions tomorrow.

The King of Kings or Vanilla Reload, Where Art Thou?

Vanilla Reloads in association with an American Express Bluebird account is the king of kings of Manufactured Spend. Using it is incredibly easy and you can make out like a bandit if you have what it takes.


  • American Express Serve or Bluebird card that can be ordered online. You can either have Serve or Blue Bird, but not both.
  • The ability to buy Vanilla Reload cards with a credit card that has big enough cashback to make it worthwhile. If you don’t live in a large metropolitan area, the chances are you do have a CVS store, 7-11, or some gas stations that not only have your favorite beans in stock but don’t insist you pay cash for them.

American Express Bluebird allows you to load up to $1,000 per calendar day and $5,000 per calendar month. Then you can use your Bluebird account just like you can use any online bank account, and your Bluebird card just like any other debit card. The process is super fast and easy. With a BB account, you will be either writing checks or making online payments to your other accounts that you can’t pay directly with a credit card. By using your BB card for regular purchases every now and then, you would buy stuff you need anyway to try and convince AMEX that you are just another underbanked fellow for whom this service was invented in the first place. 🙂

American Express Serve is similar to Bluebird, but it has some advantages. In addition to loading Vanilla Reloads, you can also load up to $1,500 with a credit card and the same with a debit card. However, to get these terms, you should go with Isis.

Isis is a mobile wallet application available on Android phones and iPhones. That’s the reason I didn’t link directly to an Amex Serve website that limits your loads to $1,000 with a credit or debit card each. In addition, you will get some other perks from Isis. This is what one TBB reader has to say about it (HT to JB for sharing this information).

I switched to Serve and it was completely painless. 10min call to cancel Bluebird, about 15min call to get serve manually approved. Got the full card a week later. Follow the directions in the FT Wiki.

I signed up via Isis (a smartphone payment app) and I got $50 instantly for just signing up, plus I can load $1500/mo, $500/day directly via credit card. Debit loads are the same. This is in addition to the $5K with VR/etc. Better than regular Serve/Bluebird. There’s a new promo for $1 off every purchase of $1 or more with Isis/Serve, up to $50/mo for 4mo. $50 bonus for 2x$250 direct deposit before Jun 30th.

There’s also the $220 from Wells Fargo, free daily Jamba Juice, free cokes (actually the occasional bottled water, the Jamba is enough sugar for the whole family). I did have to pay $69 for the case for my iPhone, but I’d say its a good investment. No investment if your android/provider supports it.

These are quite impressive goodies. I guess, this would be the right time for me to regret switching to Windows phone. I’ll have to see whether or not my old Android phone supports the app.

However, Serve has one major shortcoming. It doesn’t give you the ability to write checks, although you can transfer money to a person directly, up to $2,500 a month.

Here is Serve/Isis website for more information.

I opened the Blue Bird accounts for me and my cousin Timmy, but I have been procrastinating to do the same for the wife. Good thing I have, I guess. Will open a Serve for her and see how it goes.

To Be Continued

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Can an individual have more than 1 bluebird account? I currently have 1 and would like to have an additional. That 5K amount gets maxed out pretty quick!


I’m looking to apply for the Citi AA 100,000 pt card. I should have applied when it came out. The 10k spend will become a little more challenging now. Visa gift cards appear to still be available to purchase though. I got in on the tail end of the coins and reloads were definitely convenient.

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