Reaching credit card spend requirements


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. img-section-hide
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.



23 Comments on “Reaching credit card spend requirements

  1. Well written. So basically I take it the other AMEX prepaid debit card is not useful anymore? I forgot what that one was called.

    But also what about just taking the money orders from the my vanilla and sending them directly to Chase to pay off the credit card? Or if you have a chase bank then take the Amex or My Vanilla Debit to a branch to get a cash advance to pay off the Chase card? Will this work too?

    • Actually I’m not sure about the AMEX prepaid debit card as it’s just not the avenue we went.

      Sending the money orders to Chase to pay off the credit card is an interesting idea I hadn’t thought of and I really don’t see why it wouldn’t work. If anyone’s tried this please chime in and give us your thoughts as to how it worked.

      Getting a cash advance is certainly another option. We did this whole rigamarole yesterday in fact and until i thought about the ease of avoiding human contact, the cash advance was the way we were going to go.

  2. I imagine that you each have a bluebird account, as it does seem to be the easiest way to manufacture spend. Some people have figured out a way to have multiple bluebirds themselves, though I have not been able to figure out how they do this.

    • Yes we do, though we had to deal with that mess in waiting for Amex to figure out how to close out SERVE accounts to allow for BlueBird accounts and we didn’t have time to “wait it out” as was their suggestion since we were about to leave the country again, so out of necessity we had to go the all MVD route, even though Bluebird is so much easier.

  3. I’ve been looking for other ways to do this manufactured spending and came across a method that I’d like to get your (and any one else’s) thoughts on.

    As an easier alternative to the MV-BB method, another blogger mentioned that he goes to grocery stores and purchases $500 US Bank Visa gift cards and gets a PIN for them, turning them into debit cards. He then takes the gift cards to Walmart and purchases $1,000 money orders that he then deposits into his bank.

    Do you or have you heard of anyone doing it this way? The MV-BB route is just a little too convoluted for me and has too many steps that could allow for something to go wrong. We’re talking about thousands here and I’d like to have that money transfer hands/accounts/cards/cyber links as few times as possible.


    • I definitely understand your hesitations there. I always get antsy when we get around to doing the MV-BB circuits. We’ve actually done a version of the money order thing too but that turned into even more of a hassle. Mostly due to the fact that we used an app to deposit checks and our nearest bank was a good 50 miles away otherwise. Though even when we did the money-order process we still did it using the MV-Reloads and the MV-debit and only did it that way to work around an issue BB had with making an account with a past SERVE account member. Something about the memberships not cooperating.

      Definitely go with whatever makes you feel comfortable. As for the process I have enough experience with to vouch for, that’s pretty much MV-BB.

      Also I wonder, is the process for getting a pin for the gift cards fairly simple? I imagine it’s just a phonecall, right? Maybe with a fee?

      Hmmm. I’ll look into it.

  4. Is this a way I can pay for rent so I can get points on my credit card? My rent is 1,650 so I’m not sure I can use the Vanilla card.

    • You could use your credit card to buy Vanilla Reload cards (as opposed to the Vanilla Debit card), then load those Vanilla Reload cards onto the Bluebird card (able to be purchased at Walmart) which is able to be used for bill-pay. This is a pretty popular way of reaching spend requirements and is definitely worth a try. I’ve never actually used Bluebird to send checks, but apparently it offers that feature and thus can even be used for paying bills that have been requested in check form.

  5. Hi Carrie. Another great, clear post for all. To confirm your last point, yes, you can write checks with bluebird too. (I got these printed checks free too) Nice to have when we encounter those situations where bluebird isn’t able to do an electronic payment. (like paying property & income taxes)
    Separately, I too have used our local CVS for buying the vanilla re-load cards @ 500 each time. (and currently I’m getting 5% cashback too boot on those purchases via a Civi Dividend card, which this quarter has 5% cb on drug store purchases)
    Question…. have you been able to get a gas station (Cville or elsewhere) to accept credit card payments for the Vanilla Reload cards? (such as Sheetz, 7/11, or Valero) I ask in part as Chase Freedom card’s current quarter (and again this fall) promotions include 5% on gas station purchases. (and those Chase URewards points transfer nice to airlines, as you know)

    • Thanks for your input on the question about BlueBird and checks!

      As for your question, yes we had success at about half of the 7/11’s we went to, and we didn’t try Sheetz or Valero. (Or maybe we did try a sheetz and they didn’t allow cc payments? I kind of forget now.)

      we’re rusty on our VR processes!

  6. Great site Carrie…I just wanted to share my experience with Bluebird. In short, terrible. First off, they made me send in a scan of my drivers license, which always makes me a bit uncomfortable, but I figured with AMEX its okay. The “approval” process took almost 2 weeks…why, it’s not credit? It’s now been another 2 weeks and I still have not received my permanent card…even though I’m getting emails from them saying I should have it and please activate it! You might be thinking, “Just call them”…well, it is next to impossible to get a live operator on the line. I’ve tried 4 times now and their system is just set up to completely avoid connecting you to a human. Turns out there is even a website dedicated to the crummy customer service issues surrounding Bluebird ( Anyway, just thought I’d share…don’t know if others have had the same experience I have, so just a word of caution.

    • Actually I have to be honest we had a miserable start with Bluebird as well because they had massive complications with people coming over to Bluebird from the previous “Serve” accounts. And everything they told me to do to get my Serve deactivated so that my Bluebird could begin didn’t work. Finally after hours of phone time someone concluded that things weren’t working right on their end and my only option was to wait a month.

      So instead, I just used a different method because I was leaving the country in a few days. (The other method being My Vanilla Debit and money orders).

      So I totally know what you’re talking about!

  7. Thanks Carrie & All, for the great info on this thread.
    Alecia — I was curious if you went ahead with the US Bank Visa gift cards approach, and if so, if you had success!?

  8. I just received my Bluebird card in the mail today. It went very speedy and hassle-free. I guess sometimes one gets lucky, and sometime unlucky (sorry to hear about your experience Kirk).

  9. I found a store with the vanilla reloads but I’m confused. Does the store load it directly onto the bluebird card because it has no card with it and the person there said I need a card in order to reload.

    • The only card that gets loaded at the store is the Vanilla Reload card (and there are fewer and fewer places that will do that with a credit card). Note, that we are referring to MyVanilla Reload cards as opposed to the MyVanilla Debit. All of that rest of that loading process happens online, so you must set up an online profile for your bluebird. Then, you can go to to fill in the pin of your reload cards and to specify which card you want to load (that being the bluebird.)
      Maybe this post will be helpful too:

      Let me know if you have questions about that! Were you able to load your cards at a CVS, or was this a different store? (CVS is the store that is ending their use of creditcard for loading VR’s).

  10. Hi Carrie,
    I stumbled across your website while browsing blogs. I can honestly say I’d never heard of this hobby before which made for a very interesting read. Keep up the great work and thanks for enlightening me 🙂

  11. I’ve been trying this manufactured spend twice now, and the Bluebird thing just doesn’t work anymore. They’re on to this game. My account got blocked when trying to use a debit card to load the money onto my BB account. Also, my Walmart won’t let me use anything but cash to buy money orders.

    • You’re right, since writing this post the process has changed/tightened up. Unfortunately I haven’t been in the states to test it out myself but based on what the other blogs are saying, it’s getting tougher and tougher! 🙁 I’ll report more on this when we’re next able to see for ourselves how the process has changed.

  12. I live in a rural area where there are no CVS or 7 11 stores. How would you suggest I manufacture a spend? I am brand new to this.

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