How to Take Advantage of Credit Card Bonus Categories to Earn Millions of Points and Miles

Everyone loves when they earns points and miles on their credit cards, but sometimes it seems like earning those rewards take forever.

In this post, I’ll go over one of the hacks I’ve used to generate millions of points and miles. It’s not so complicated as you think.

Here’s how to take advantage of credit card bonus categories to rack up your points super fast!

Ninja Update 7/9/21: Revised to clarify a reader’s question on gift card fees when churning them for points.

Introduction

We’ve all seen this – companies like American Express and Chase offering dozens and dozens of credit cards, each with a different rewards system.

Earn 2 bonus points on travel! Get 3% cash back at restaurants! Receive 5 miles for buying groceries! Being a shrewd ninja, you try to maximize your earning potential as much as possible.

Maybe you even have a bunch of credit cards, using specific ones that gives you the best rewards for a certain category. It gets pretty complicated juggling all your cards and remembering which earns what.

But… what if I tell you that it doesn’t have to be that way?

Earning Millions Of Points And Miles

There are advance ninjas out there earning millions of points and miles every month. This isn’t new. A small group of people who understand how the system works have been doing it for years. I’m one of them.

In the last three months alone, I’ve earned almost 1,000,000 points with American Express and Chase:

Chase Ultimate Rewards balance
American Express Membership Rewards balance

The secret is to let your brain get a little creative and think outside of the box.

A popular option for many is manufactured spending, but if you want to do it organically, here’s an example to get your creative juices flowing.

Focus On Credit Card Bonus Categories

I have a Chase Business Ink credit card that normally earns 1 point for every dollar I spend, but it gives me 5 points for purchases at “office supply stores” like Staples and Office Depot.

At first glance, it doesn’t sound too exciting. I mean, how much can people spend at Staples?!? I’m not a teacher, there’s only a limited amount of Five Star notebooks and Bic pens I need in life.

Well, it just so happens that most of these stores have a section of racks that sells gift cards. Remember, ANYTHING you buy at office supply stores qualifies for the 5 bonus points. Gift cards are included as well.

Gift card rack at Staples

Have a Netflix subscription? Instead of paying Netflix directly and earning only 1 point per dollar, I can buy a Netflix gift card and pay my own account off, earning 5 points instead.

Need to fill up your car with gas? Don’t do it at the gas station! Buy a Shell gift card and use it to pay next time you need to refill your tank.

Flying somewhere? Buy a Southwest gift card to pay for your next flight home!

You get the picture. All of this really adds up over time. Still, this may not earn you the millions of points you’re craving. Let’s increase our ninja brain power up another level!

VISA and Mastercard Gift Cards

You may have noticed that these stores also sell Visa and Mastercard-branded gift cards.

They work exactly like cash. So why not buy them, earn the bonus points, and use the Visa/Mastercard gift cards for everyday purchases?

Visa gift cards at Staples

Here are the general steps:

  1. Go to an office supply store
  2. Buy a $500 Visa/Mastercard gift card, earning 2,500 points ($500 x 5 bonus points per dollar)
  3. Use the $500 Visa/Mastercard gift card everywhere you would have normally spent with your credit card
  4. Once the gift card is used up, go to the office supply store and repeat steps above
Chase bonus points earned at office supply stores

A reader pointed out that these Visa and Mastercard gift cards usually has an activation fee that gets added.

And that’s true. It will make your overall profit a little bit less, but there are ways around it.

Staples, for example, regularly has the Visa gift cards and the Mastercard gift cards on a promo that waives the activation fee.

Ninjas-in-training, this strategy essentially gives you a permanent bonus anywhere you shop! You might as well throw out your credit card’s earning structure out the window.

Although the card I’m using above is not available for new sign-ups, there are many credit cards out there that have bonus categories, so the underlying technique is the same:

  • Use a credit card that gives bonus cash/points/miles for certain categories (e.g. office supply stores, supermarkets, gas stations)
  • Find out if those categories have something you can take advantage of
  • Earn rewards a lot faster than you normally would
  • KA-CHING – enjoy your ninja lifestyle

The Bottom Line

Some ninjas have scaled this to size or mixed this up with a little manufactured spending.

There are top-tier ninjas out there who generate millions of points every month. Others do it to gain a few more thousand than they would otherwise. A lot of people are also somewhere in between.

What other creative ways have you thought of?

6 thoughts on “How to Take Advantage of Credit Card Bonus Categories to Earn Millions of Points and Miles”

  1. I have accumulated thousands of frequent flier miles with different airline programs. I haven’t traveled since the pandemic started and some of the miles are going to expire soon. I don’t plan on traveling for awhile. I have been shopping online just to renew the expiration dates. I have to monitor the miles every few months so they don’t expire. Is it possible to convert these miles into cash? If so, how? Thanks.

    Reply
  2. I mean, it’s a bit more complicated than simply “$50 pure profit”. You have to buy them somewhere you are getting a better than average points/cashback (in this case office supply with Chase Ink I assume) and no activation fee. Then you ALSO need to spend the gift cards in places you normally get worse than average points/Cashback. Since cards with flat 2% and 3% Cashback are widely available, your profit is only $20-$30 for $1000 spend over those and that’s only if you use the gift cards on things you don’t get a similar rate back on just by spending normally. I feel like up to 5% is available for nearly every category besides rent (given enough cards). If you get 5% buying the cards and then spend them eating out instead of using your Citi Custom Cash for 5% at restaurants (one example) that’s pretty much net zero plus a ton of hassle. I see this as mostly a good way to reach sign up bonuses that you can’t hit organically.

    Reply
    • My bad I followed a link from your staples promotion post and didn’t read the top bit to realize this was about getting tons of points all on one card so my other response doesn’t make as much sense.

      Reply
  3. You dont have listed in here the 3%-5% fee on the gift cards. That makes it not worth it. At all. $500 GC = $515 with fees (at least) points on a 5% back = $25 worth, and that is IF your CC rewards redeem them for statement credit equal to 1%, most only do 1% on gift cards, If you want purchases refunded its more ( example $35 item should be 3500 points, but it will cost 5200 ).
    So how do you get around the fees to make it worth it???
    “manufactured spending” is not the answer either….High Amazon and ebay fees make it impossible. Most people do not even know how much they are really paying in fees. Bad idea.

    Reply
    • Hi Amy – thanks for your feedback. This article could use some clarification, but my point is, you should always buy a gift card with a credit card that has a high category bonus.

      For example, I use my Chase card that gets 5% in Chase Ultimate Rewards points at office supply stores, which I can redeem as a statement credit.

      You can regularly buy Visa and Mastercard gift cards for no fee:

      https://themoneyninja.com/staples-fee-free-200-visa-gift-cards/
      https://themoneyninja.com/staples-fee-free-200-mastercard-gift-cards/

      So every $1,000 worth of gift cards I purchase, I’m getting $50 back. That is pure profit without any additional expenses.

      Let’s say I do buy gift cards with an activation fee. I can buy $500 denominated gift cards for a $5.95 fee. I’ll get $25 back in as cash back. For me, a ~$19 profit is worth it. You can stretch that out even more by redeeming the points for a business class award flight if you like to travel.

      Reply

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