Well we are back in the States for Drew’s sister’s wedding and for the holidays. One thing that’s nice about being back in the States is taking care of “manufactured spends.”
What is a manufactured spend?
Basically the idea is this: if you are earning miles by signing up for credit cards with great bonuses, each card may require you to spend a certain amount of money in a three or four month span in order to earn those miles or points. If you’ve applied for three or four cards, those spend requirements can really add up. The solution is not to go out and spend lots of money you wouldn’t have spent otherwise and, at least in our case, our average expenses in a three month span barely would cover even one card’s spend requirement.
So, the popular solution is to make a manufactured spend: spend money on something that can be easily liquidated back into money to pay of the expense you made in the first place.
At one point in time, you could literally buy money to do this. The U.S. Mint wanted to put dollar coins into circulation, so they let you order them with free shipping. This meant that if you spent $1,000 on dollar coins, you received exactly $1,000 worth of dollar coins which you could then take to the bank and pay off your $1,000 spend.
I lived in a small town so this was awkward as all get out. The banks were so suspicious of our coins and thus, suspicious of us. It was uncomfortable but over all, easy.
But that opportunity is over. The U.S. Mint changed it’s policy and no longer allows purchases with credit cards, or at least, they now charge a large fee to do so.
But there are still other methods that are arguably easier, such as the Vanilla Reload and Blue Bird:
So when I say that this is arguably easier than hauling twice my weight in coins to a bank where tellers will make me feel like a con, I don’t mean to say that it’s simple. It’s a little complicated and there are quite a few methods depending on who you ask.
But the method I’ll talk about here uses the Blue Bird card by American Express and Vanilla Reload cards.
Blue Bird + My Vanilla Reload Cards
1.) First you’ll buy “My Vanilla Reload” cards. These can be purchased at some 7/11’s or CVS’s but it takes a bit of hunting to find out which stores a.) carry the cards and b.) allow you to purchase them with a credit card.
When you purchase the cards, each has a $500 limit and you can only load $1,000 per location per day.
Basically you’ll find as many locations as possible and buy two Vanilla reload cards from each, loading each card with $500, using whatever credit card you need to meet a spend on. Do this every day if you need to.
2.) Next you’ll want to go to WalMart and purchase a Blue Bird card.
3.) Use the accompanying instructions to set up an online Blue Bird account.
4.) Once the account is set up, request your permanent card to be sent. This is supposedly automatic but for whatever reason, I had to call to remind them to send me my card.
(Also note that there can be issues if you have previously signed up for a SERVE account with American Express as you can’t have both SERVE and Blue Bird. They’ve had a sort of glitchy system for cancelling the one to enable you to get the other, so it can actually take a month to wait out the SERVE termination.)
5.) Once you receive your permanent Blue Bird card, activate it and load your My Vanilla Reload cards onto your Blue Bird online account.
Note that if you have a My Vanilla Debit card you can’t load this directly onto the Blue Bird as you can with My Vanilla Reload cards. At least when I tried this I found that the input field for loading your Blue Bird with a debit card requires the correct number of digits for an ordinary debit card, and the My Vanilla Debit has one too few digits compared to a normal debit card.
6.) Use your online Blue Bird profile to pay off your credit card bills.
Another option sans Blue Bird:
Alternately, you can skip the Blue Bird and work entirely with My Vanilla though it will require another card.
1.)Step one of purchasing My Vanilla Reload cards is the same as above.
2.) Instead of buying the Blue Bird card, with this option you will buy a My Vanilla Debit card, generally found wherever My Vanilla Reload cards are sold.
3.) Sign online to set up your My Vanilla Debit online account. Again, you will receive a permanent card to replace the temporary card, though if I recall, I think we began loading ours before the permanent card ever arrived in the mail.
4.) Load your My Vanilla Reload cards onto the My Vanilla Debit using the online profile. (I was only able to load a few thousand a day, but it didn’t seem to be consistent as to how much it would allow me to load per day.)
5.) Take your My Vanilla Debit card to WalMart and use it to buy money orders. I think there is a $1,000 dollar limit for money orders or perhaps it’s a limit per transaction for the My Vanilla Debit, but for whatever reason, we had to buy our money orders in $1,000 increments.
6.) Take your money orders to the bank and deposit them as you would a normal check. I write the money order out to Drew since it will go into our joint account but that may be an unnecessary step. Maybe I could just write them out to myself.
OR if you want to skip step 5, you could go straight to the bank and use your My Vanilla Debit to get a cash advance (which you’ll then deposit.)
Drew and I don’t do manufactured spends often, in part because you have to be in the States to do this, so if anyone has any other notes or input, please feel welcome to comment.