The Defense Travel System Manufactured Spend
How I Used DTS for Manufactured Spending
On a recent TDY to undisclosed, secret squirrel locations the Middle East, the DTS TDWise Guy missed a flight due to mission requirements. This is how he discovered a manufacured spending pathway within the DTS system.
What Is Manufactured Spending (MS)?
This blog has, and always will, err on the side of churning caution. We do this to avoid slaughtering the proverbial golden goose that is waived annual fee credit cards and the perpetual benefits they provide US Service Members. As such, you will read very little about MS here for two reasons: it looks a heck of a lot like money laundering and it pisses off banks.
MS is the process of using your credit cards to purchase financial devices that can be liquidated to cash and then used to pay off your credit cards. It generates credit card spend points without actually spending money. The popular path goes something similar to this: gas station sells visa gift cards, you use a credit card that gives 3x points at gas stations to buy visa gift cards, you then use the visa gift cards to buy money orders, you then use the money orders to pay off your credit card and profit 3x points per gift card dollar.
Money Laundering and Structuring
I’ve looked into it, it can be lucrative if you have the patience and approprate pathways in place. It can also be a massive pain and not worth your time or the risk of clerical and point-of-sale errors. Regardless, you generally have to buy bulk gift cards, typically daily, in order to generate worthwhile points. Buying that many gift cards and subsequent money orders looks a heck of a lot like money laundering. Even if you are not doing anything wrong, your activity will start to be tracked. If you attempt to avoid that tracking by keeping spending below the tracking trigger amounts, thats called structuring and is a felony regardless if the origional spending is legal or not. Hard pass from this blogger but your mileage may vary.
Banks are Friends Not Food
The other reason MS might not be the best path forward is that banks will shut all your fun down if they notice this pattern. I’m not too sure why credit card companies care since they profit from the tractations like any other, but the accounts you deposit into take great offense and you will not get warnings when they’ve had enough. Perhaps its because you force them to file the tracking paperwork and no one likes doing more than they have to.
Anyways, Back to DTS MS
The above discribed cycle is rough to navigate, but MS via normal spending means is a lot safer. Such avenues could be using a credit card to fund a new bank account or buying US currency and depositing it directly into your account. Then theres DTS.
Most international airlines will not reticket you for a missed flight with the same ease we are accustomed to with the major US carriers because of a lack of free market capitalism. ‘Murica. Even though I was flying on a Y Class (full fare) ticket. After dealing with a significant language barrier, because why have customer service speak the common language of Earth, I called the CTO emergency line and had them book a new ticket and request refund for the unused segment. I made the new flight, 20 days went by, and it was then time to complete my travel voucher.
No Refund For You
I checked the Citi government card website and didn’t see a refund from the airline. I called the local CTO office and they assured me that I would not get refunded for that ticket due to the carrier’s terms of service. So I filed the voucher, added an explanation to the approving official on why I was expensing two tickets to the same destination, and attached both tickets along with a copy of my government travel card statement as substantiating records. Fortunatly, I serve in an organization that cares about Soldiers and the voucher was paid with quickness.
Nevermind, Here’s Your Refund
A few weeks go by and I received a system generated email that my refund on the missed segment for $246.50 had been approved. Because DTS already paid for this ticket, career jepardizing ethics suddenly became a part of this equation. Valuing this great country and my paycheck, I created an amendment to my voucher and thus a debt due to the United States. Once the approving official approved the amended voucher, a weeklong process began that eventually resulted in an email explaining the debt, a 30 day deadline, and a link to a payment website where the debt can be settled. Since minimum spend is always happing, this situation created a manufactured spend of $246.50 with no surcharge for using a credit card.
Overall the process was rather seamless compared to typical transactions with the local finance office. Unfortunately this was the cheapest flight of my trip, but the potential has been realised. When foreigners screw up your government funded flights, you have a path to knock out some minimum spending.