Monday Morning Miles Talk – How I “Increase” My Spend For Amex Sign Up Bonuses

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Increase Spend For American Express Sign Up Bonuses

Monday Morning Miles Talk is a regular series that has some smaller, more quirky ideas to kick off the work week.  These are essentially random ideas that I wanted to share with you.  Here are the previous entries.

How To Maximize Your Flexible Spending Account

Increase Spend For American Express Sign Up Bonuses

American Express has starting cracking down on people who manufacture spend for sign up bonuses.  I think I have found a way to increase spend that will work within the new rules (emphasis on I think) but it is somewhat location specific.  The idea involves Meijer gift cards. Meijer is a grocery store chain located in 6 states in the Midwest (MI, WI, IL, IN, OH, KY).  I would suggest reading on even if you do not live or visit one of the States involved to give you some ideas of what may work in your area.

American Express Cracking Down on Churners

American Express has increased their pursuit of churners ever since denying people’s bonuses on the leaked 100k Platinum Amex bonuses.  They have even added the following to their terms for new applications:

“If we in our sole discretion determine that you have engaged in abuse, misuse, or gaming in connection with the welcome bonus offer in any way or that you intend to do so (for example, if you applied for one or more cards to obtain a welcome bonus offer(s) that we did not intend for you; if you cancel or downgrade your account within 12 months after acquiring it; or if you cancel or return purchases you made to meet the Threshold Amount), we may not credit bonus miles to your account. We may also cancel this Card account and other Card accounts you may have with us. Qualifying purchases can be made by the Basic Card Member and any Additional Card Members on a single Card account. Purchases to meet the spend requirement do NOT include fees or interest charges, balance transfers (balance transfers are not available on Delta SkyMiles® Business Credit Cards), cash advances, purchases of traveler’s checks, purchases or reloading of prepaid cards, purchases of gift cards, person-to-person payments, or purchases of any cash equivalents.”

I believe that American Express is looking for true cash equivalents and not third party gift cards.  I could be wrong with this theory, but I don’t know how they could deny you for buying a gift card to a store with your credit card.  Store gift cards are the most popular gift during the holidays and are not a true cash equivalent.  With the theory that 3rd party gift cards are not on American Express’ naughty list I have found a way to buy Visa gift cards using Amex credit cards.  This is where Meijer comes in.

Increase Spend For American Express Sign Up Bonuses

Meijer Gift Cards Discounted on eBay

SVM sells Meijer gift cards on eBay at a pretty regular interval.  I had briefly mentioned this in my last Moday Morning QB article.  SVM sells $100 Meijer gift cards for $94.  They had them on sale last week but the sale ended Sunday.  SVM limits these to 3 per order whenever the sale is offered.  You can usually find the cards listed in the discounted gift card section on eBay.

Where Meijer Gift Cards Shine

You may be asking yourself what is the big deal with Meijer gift cards?  6% off of groceries is nice but how is this going to help me put more spend on my Amex cards?

Well, Meijer gift cards happen to be one of those rare unicorns where their store gift cards work on 3rd party gift cards and even VGC’s!!! A majority of Meijer stores sell $200 VGC’s that come with a fee of $6.95.  You can swipe 3 gift cards to cover the cost entirely. $206.95 at 94% is a true cost of $194.53.  After paying the fee for a money order you still come out ahead by $4.77 per card purchased.  This allows you to essentially buy a VGC with an Amex card without having it show up as such on your card activity.

Another option is to use these cards on third party gift cards that are hard to get at a discount (like Target gift cards).

I usually check out in the self checkout lane to limit employee involvement. Just keep in mind that if you skip bagging on more than two items a cashier will need to come over to verify your purchase.

A tidbit for those who read the article all the way through – this also works with Best Buy gift cards somewhat…you are able to purchase 3rd party gift cards with Best Buy gift cards and Best Buy reward certificates.  They do not work on VGC’s as far as I know though.

Conclusion

Even though this deal has some limitations, geographically limited and only 3 Meijer gift cards per order from SVM, it gives you an idea of how to work within American Express’ new rules. Remember that this is based on the assumption that American Express does not consider 3rd party gift cards cash equivalents. This game plan does come with some risk so everyone needs to make their own decision on whether or not to use it.

It is a good way to beef up your spending within the first three months and you can even make a small profit.

Mark Ostermann
Mark Ostermann is a father, husband and miles/points fanatic. He left the corporate world after starting a family in order to be a stay at home dad. Mark is constantly looking at ways to save money and stay within budget while also taking awesome vacations with his family. When he isn't caring for his family or taking a weekend trip, Mark is working towards his goal of visiting every Major League Baseball ballpark.

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28 COMMENTS

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28 COMMENTS

  1. Why not buy Meijer GC at the store and then pay for VCG with the GC at the same time. They do run promos on VCGs all the time.

    • You can do that as well – the eBay route comes with a discount and a small money maker but if you were looking to just get spend done this would also be an option. I wouldn’t hit it too hard since it would be suspicious to Amex when talking about sign up bonuses.

  2. Did anyone try to use Meijer GC via NFC payment? (i.e Samsung Pay).
    My sis got the cards but it will bea day or 2 till i get them. But i do have serial/pin

  3. “purchases of gift cards” is listed right there in the AMEX Ts and Cs… buying from SVM on eBay is quite clearly “purchases of gift cards”

    If AMEX wanted to revoke a bonus based on your use of SVM to meet a min spend requirement, I think they would be standing on solid ground.

    • Well if you bought the VGC with all of your other groceries @ a neighborhood Walmart grocery via self check out then how could they code some purchases as grocery & some purchases not as grocery?

    • If you file a CFPB case against them over it would you win – I would lean towards no but I think that is an overreach on their part since almost everyone buys store gift cards at one time or another.

      While it is in their terms I do not believe it is something that will be pursued. I think they are looking at re-loadable VGCs and cash like equivalents. That is my take on it at least and like I said there is risk involved and everyone has to make their own decision.

      But, I don’t think some SVM purchases mixed in with other spend will be pursued.

  4. Can one purchase a VGC @ Walmart neighborhood grocery store with an AMEX BLUE CASH card & have it count as grocery purchase along with other groceries?

    • That entirely depends on how the store codes. Each one is different. I would would do a sample purchase of something and see how it bills. If it bills as grocery then it would work. Don’t do this when going for the initial welcome bonus but I do it at Kroger often with no issues.

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