As much fun as I have with this hobby, it’s pretty time consuming and at times patience-testing. I’m currently in the midst of meeting $82,00 in spending requirements, so my frustration is at an all time high. From buying gift cards to unloading, reloading, and depositing funds, it gets exhausting fast. And sometimes I wonder if my time isn’t better spent doing something else. Existential crisis aside, here are five things that I absolutely despise about manufactured spending:
1.Earning points. I’m not a heavy card churner and with the exception of a few mega sign-up bonus offers, I earn most of my miles from manufactured spending. In other words, I work hard for my miles and that takes time and patience. Though it’s worthwhile when I do redeem miles (and save cash on travel), it’s practically a full time job.
2. Cashing out gift cards. It’s such a rush ordering $5,000 worth of gift cards and getting an email from American Express confirming the order hasn’t been cancelled like you expected. When they arrive, you are faced with the task of unloading them without appearing like a criminal. A bit of friendly small talk usually does the trick, but sometimes cashing out gift cards is a sigh-inducing experience. While this was fun in the Vanilla Reload days, the process of cashing out $40,000 in gift cards every month has become more of a chore since.
3. Going to Walmart. Going to Target to unload American Express gift cards via the American Express for Target card is fun. I pick up a drink from the in-house Starbucks, stock up on essentials, stroll the aisles of the home goods department – it’s as close to a spa day as manufactured spending gets. Walmart is the exact opposite in every way. It’s like they put up as many road blocks as possible to keep you out of the store. And when you muster up the will to jump through all the hurdles (having to park your car on the dark side of the moon, bypassing all the annoying solicitors), you are rewarded for your efforts with a broken Bluebird kiosk and having to spend 20 minutes in line to unload one Visa gift card.
4. The time commitment. Unloading anything over $10,000 per month in gift cards becomes a part time job. It makes sense in some cases, when you’re raking in 4% cash back or more. But sometimes you end up spending several days trying to unload your cards when the kiosk is broken, the lines are just moving too slow, and you have that other thing called a life that demands your attention. This really makes you question whether you’re using your time wisely, until you become desperate and decide to use Google Wallet as an unloading tool.
5. Finding award space. After you manage to do all of the above without pulling your hair out, you are rewarded with enough miles to book that trip you’ve been saving up for. Ever since my summer 2012 booking fiasco, my anxiety level goes through the roof any time I have to pick up the phone and call American Airlines to book an award. I tend to travel during peak times and not being able to go where you want, when you want after having saved up miles to do so, is extremely frustrating. Outsourcing the task to an award booking service just makes me feel like a failure, so I suck it up and do it myself.
So why put up with all of this? This is why. I’d rather chase points and miles for a better travel experience, than deprive myself year-round to save up enough cash for an inferior experience. Ultimately this list of complaints is minor compared to the rewards and any real problems that plague our everyday lives, but we all have to vent sometimes, right? What is it about manufactured spending that drives you up a wall?