Free First Class 2014: Manufactured Spending


This is the eighth post in a monthlong series that started here. Each post will take about two minutes to read and may include an action item that takes the reader another two minutes to complete. I am writing this for an audience of people who know nothing about frequent flyer miles, and my goal is that by the end, you know enough to fly for free anywhere you want to go.

One of the major ways to earn more frequent flyer miles is to “manufacture spending,” which is buying cash-like things with credit cards and then cashing them out.

Manufacturing spending increases the amount of money you spend on credit cards, which means you can clear more sign up and category bonuses.

Manufacturing spending is risky and advanced. I very rarely manufacture spending, and I only manufacture enough to clear mega sign up bonuses I couldn’t otherwise clear on cards with high minimum spending requirements. (UPDATE 7/25/19: While some techniques described below still work, some do not. Since we’re not big manufactured spenders, I recommend checking out Frequent Miler’s complete guide to manufactured spending which he updates regularly.)

I’ll run through a few of the major recent opportunities like Amazon Payments, Bluebird, Gift Cards with PINs, and Kiva and point you in the right direction to learn more ways to manufacture spending.

  • What are the main ways to manufacture spending?
  • What are the risks?

Amazon Payments

Amazon Payments is a payment service very similar to PayPal with one major difference. Amazon Payments charges no fee to pay someone with a credit card. You can send $1,000 per month per account without fees on Amazon Payments. You can also receive $1,000 per month per account without fees.

Please read detailed analysis of using and not abusing Amazon Payments from FlyerTalk.

I have used Amazon Payments to send my part of the rent to a roommate. I get miles for sending the payment, and he writes a check to the landlord.

Gift Cards

Visa gift cards now allow you to add a PIN to the card. This allows the cards to be liquidated by Amazon Payments, to buy a money order, or to load Bluebird.

The trick is to find a high value gift card (like $500) with a low activation fee at a place that allows credit card purchases. Check this FlyerTalk thread for a list of places that sell $500 gift cards.

Alternatively you can buy gift cards from stores where you can get a big category bonus, like $200 gift cards from with your Chase Ink Plus.


Kiva is a charity that gives microloans to entrepreneurs in the developing world. Microcredit is awesome, and it’s a concept that I personally support. Kiva relies on “donations” to fund loans through intermediaries in the developing world.

I put “donations” in quotation marks because the idea is that the amount you give to Kiva and loan out will be returned to you (without interest) and that you can then withdraw that money again if you’d like.

Payments to Kiva must be made via PayPal. You can make the payment with a credit card, and there are no fees at least on your end. Withdrawals of repaid loans are also via PayPal and can then be withdrawn to a bank account, again with no fees for you.

If you:

  1. load your Kiva account with a credit card
  2. make short term loans (Four-month repayment loans are widely available, and can be searched at
  3. make no concomitant donations to Kiva’s operating expenses
  4. get 100% repayment of your loans
  5. and withdraw all repayments to your bank account

you will earn miles at the opportunity cost of floating the money for a few months.

To be clear: I think that’s a very bad deal on its own. Unless you also support the mission, you shouldn’t do it just for the points.

I have personally loaned $11,900 through Kiva in the last two years. I’ve already gotten $8,300 back. I have lost $0.59 on two loans. Only 1.17% of my loans are delinquent, and zero have defaulted. (My less-than-a-dollar loss is from currency conversion losses on two loans.)

You should not participate in Kiva

  • until you fully understand it–this blurb does not suffice, see Kiva’s explanation for more
  • unless you have sufficient money to float
  • unless you also support the mission

If you do participate, you won’t be the only person in the miles-and-points community. The third biggest Kiva lending team of all time is the milepoint team with $8 million dollars loaned.


I’ve covered Bluebird fully here. I think Bluebird is a bit more complicated than Visa gift cards at the moment. But Bluebird has some really cool features, like getting a check book with your account and online bill pay.

Bottom Line

This is a beginners’ series, so I want to make you aware of some ways that others are using to put more of their spending on their credit cards that you might not have thought of on your own.

This is not an exhaustive explanation of any of these methods. All of them are complicated and carry risk. Investigate them fully–starting with a google search–before deciding whether you want to do any of the things mentioned here.

You can earn millions of points without the ideas in this post, and you can fly to exotic destinations in First Class without them too.

For more information on manufacturing spending, see this FlyerTalk subforum.

Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

The comments section below is not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all questions are answered.

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  1. […] If you’re a small spender, it’s possible the new offer is worse for you. The total spending requirement has been lowered, but actually works out to more per month on average ($1,000) than the previous offer of $5,000 in six months ($834.) Maybe you could average $834 per month a new card, but not $1,000. (Although there are easy ways to bridge that gap and spend more on credit cards now without spending ….) […]

  2. […] Though outside the main scope of this article, once you get the cards, you’ll want to meet their minimum spending requirements to unlock the $650 credit for a smartphone (AT&T card) and 50,000 bonus ThankYou Points (Prestige.) The combined minimum spending requirements will be $5,000 over three months and eight days. If that’s more than you normally spend, here are some ways to increase the amount of money you spend on credit cards without increasing the total amo…. […]

  3. I was using the visa gift cards and bluebird for a while, but the last few places Ive gone to wouldn’t let me use credit to buy the gift card. They said its always been like that, which i know instate true, but has anyone else experienced this? Im thinking maybe they’re tightening up on it.


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