Reader Email Sundays: What is the Best Way to Increase Credit Card Spend At Lowest Cost?

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TPG Reader Sean writes:

I am new to the Frequent Flyer mile arena and I’m hoping to take advantage of the great information at sites like yours.

The problem is I don’t rack up a ton of credit card charges.  Thankfully our monthly charges aren’t that much and since it’s just my wife and I we don’t have exorbitant grocery or gas expenses.  I’d like to sign up for the SPG card and take advantage of the extra 15K points for reaching $15,000 in 6 months but there is absolutely no way we’ll get there through our normal monthly expenditure.  How can I rack up more expenses without buying new TVs or other stuff I don’t need?

Thanks for all your insight and help!”

TPG Response:
Unfortunately there is no magical way to accrue free credit card charges without assuming the liability to pay off the bill. If that were the case, everyone could charge millions of dollars of a year and get an unlimited cache of valuable miles and points.

However, savvy people have worked the system and found ways to minimize the cost of earning miles via credit card spend, though none are truly free. Most have risks associated with them and can be time-consuming, so do your research before you go crazy with any of them.

1) Buy US Mint coins. I have personally never done this, though I know many people who have. Mr. Pickles wrote about it here and you can also read this lengthy Flyertalk thread here or this Wall Street Journal article here.
Upside: Credit card spend at a very low cost
Downside: Debatable ethics, hassle of lugging coins to a bank and convincing them to accept your deposit, possible risk of getting banned from a bank if they find your activity abusive.

2) Pay your spouse for “payments” using a payment service like or Serve. There are usually fees involved, but some will waive them for introductory periods. I do not do this, so I can’t speak from experience, but if you read those threads you’ll get an understanding of how some people are using payments as a way to hit spend requirements.

3) Buy gift cards and then sell them for cash. You probably won’t get 100% value for them, but you can get close (just search Ebay for past sales). American Express gift cards are great for gifts though there is no way, that I know, to turn them into cash directly at 100% value.

I’m sure there are other creative ways that people have thought up to increase spend with relatively little cost or time incurred, so feel free to comment on your techniques.

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