On Monday and Tuesday of this week I discussed cards that can be used to manufacture spend in two of my favorite categories: gas stations and grocery stores. Together those categories make up about a quarter of my manufactured spend. The biggest part, about half, is made up of drug store spend, and the last quarter is miscellaneous opportunities that are valuable, but limited or inconvenient in some way: Amazon Payments, Visa Buxx, Kiva, and so on. In today's post I want to give a brief rundown of a few cards with bonus categories that can be worth exploiting under certain circumstances.
This is a tremendous opportunity if you have plenty of liquid cash and are able to get approved for one or more US Bank cards that have "Charity" as a bonus category, namely, the Flexperks Travel Rewards card which gives triple Flexpoints on charitable contributions (worth up to 6 cents) and the Cash+ card which has Charity as one of the 5% cash back options.
As I explained in this post, the bonus points and cash back given for Kiva loans made with these cards aren't some oversight on US Bank's part: rather, it's bank policy.
This opportunity is naturally limited by your willingness to tie up (and potentially lose) your money, although the risk of default can be minimized (although not eliminated) by selecting loans based on the successful repayment history of the Kiva partner organization.
This is a hack that Frequent Miler has blogged about extensively. If you're able to get a Citi Forward card, which gives 5 ThankYou points per dollar spent at bookstores, and an American Express Campus Edition card, then you can load the Campus Edition with up to $1,000 per month and $6,000 per year at a participating Barnes and Noble Campus Bookstore. That's worth $302.37 in student loan or mortgage rebate checks every year.
Unloading the Campus Edition card is a bit trickier than unloading a prepaid Visa or MasterCard debit card, since it can't be used as a PIN-based debit card at Walmart. However, the 5% cash value earned by loading this card with a Freedom card means that it may be worth simply emptying the card for free using Amazon Payments, paying just $47.40 in load fees and netting $254.97 every year.
The US Bank Cash+ card also has Bookstores as an optional 5% cash back category, if you choose not to use the combined quarterly $2,000 limit on Kiva loans (see above).
Office Supply Stores
For many travel hackers, using Chase Ink cards, which give 5 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar spent at office supply stores, is the beginning and end of their manufactured spend. The fact is, if you can find a store willing to sell you $200 PIN-enabled gift cards for $6.95, then you can manufacture Ultimate Rewards points at 0.67 cents each, which is a tremendous value. Personally, I find convenience stores coded as gas stations more lucrative in my own area, but that will vary a tremendous amount based on your own geography.