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How to Meet $40,000 in Spending Requirements Next Month

Note: Apologies, folks! This post went live WAY before it was supposed to. Thanks to @MickeyBoggs for alerting me about the screw up. The post is now complete.

Jaws drop when I tell people I generate $40,000 in manufactured spending each month. For newbies this sum is unfathomable. For a seasoned vet, this is a drop in the bucket.

With new prepaid cards popping up every month, it’s becoming easier to meet large spending requirements through manufactured spending. Before you participate in any of these point-earning schemes, take a look at this Travel Summary post, which details the costs involved in using prepaid cards to generate manufactured spending. Please also keep in mind that no single card should be used for this much spend. Spread them across your accounts and you’ll steer clear of account closures and audits like the dreaded American Express financial review.

That being said, here is a simple way for one person to generate at least $40,000 in manufactured spending in just one month:

  • $10,000 on MyVanilla Debit (Vanilla Reloads)
  • $5,000 on Bluebird (Vanilla Reloads or Debit card)
  • $5,000 on American Express Prepaid (Vanilla Reloads)
  • $5,000 on American Express for Target prepaid card (reload at register with credit card)
  • $5,000 on PayPower (via ReloadIt cards)
  • $4,000 on Paypal (via MoneyPak or Paypal Reloads)

Variable

  • $2,500 per day with GoBank/$1,1250 at a time (via giftcards or Debit cards)
  • $2,500 per day ($10,000 balance limit) on Greendot Prepaid cards (via MoneyPak or Greendot Cash Reload)
  • $2,900 per day, per card on Walmart money orders

There are plenty of other options, all of them involving Vanilla Reload cards, Greendot MoneyPaks, and ReloadIT cards. Please take into account that not all merchants will allow MoneyPak, Greendot, Vanilla Reload, or Greendot Cash Reload cards to be purchased with a credit card.

Every Walmart I’ve visited requires identification and paperwork to be filled out on money order purchases over $3,000. Just to be on the safe side, I’d recommend buying $2,900 per day, per store. If you’re lucky enough to live near more than one Walmart (no sarcasm intended), you can generate even more spend.

How do I unload all of these cards

Most of us can’t afford to have $40,000 stowed away in giftcards, which is why there are many ways of unloading these cards. My strategy revolves around MyVanilla Debit, Bluebird, Paypal, Paypower, and occasionally Amex for Target. My brother has a MyVanilla Debit card that he lets me use for the purpose of unloading Vanilla Reload cards. Here is my strategy:

1. Vanilla Reloads. Load Vanilla reloads onto MyVanilla Debit cards. Cash out via money orders at Walmart, then take money orders to a Chase branch for payment.

2. Visa Giftcards/Bluebird. Load Visa giftcards onto Bluebird, then use Bluebird to pay off the credit card used  to purchase Visa giftcards. It’s possible to unload Visa giftcards by buying money orders, but I prefer this method since it saves me the $0.55-0.70 fee per money order, and allows me to pay off the credit card easily.

3. PaypalLoad Paypal debit card with either Paypal Reload cards or Greendot Moneypaks ($4,000 per month). Cash out via money orders or via cashback at grocery store registers ($200 at a time).

I found a Rite Aid in downtown Oakland that sells these cards without a fee, but accepts debit cards only. If you have a Suntrust debit card, which pays out 1 point per $1, this is the best option. If you have another debit card that pays out just 1 point per $2 spent, you have to weigh the cost of your alternative, which is to purchase Paypal Reload cards at $3.95 per $500 and earn 1 point per $1.

4. Paypower. Paypower can be loaded with a ReloadIt prepaid card. These have “cash only” written on them, yet some retailers ignore this. I recently found a grocery store that sells these in $950 increments and accepts credit cards! With my Amex Gold card, I come away with over 1,900 points for just $3.95.

5. Amex for Target. This is one of the most expensive ways to generate manufactured spend. You can load up to $1,000 onto your card at a Target register and pay a $3 fee. However, you’ll have to cash out the money in at least 2 separate ATM transactions. Amex allows one free ATM transaction per month. Costco ATM’s charge a low fee of $1.25 per withdrawal. In spite of all this, you’re still looking at paying $8.50 to cash out $1,000.

As you can see, there are many ways to generate tens of thousands of dollars in manufactured spend each month. It’s not always going to be cheap, but if you play your cards right, you can secure yourself a round-trip flight to Europe in business class for as little as $400.

What are some of the ways you meet your spending requirements and generate manufactured spend?

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Ariana Arghandewal

118 Comments

  1. Is something missing… or I am not getting it? What is it that I will need? thanks!

  2. How many cards are you using for this amount of manufactored spend? Do you also have a large amount of regular spend to help off-set a red flag?

    • I’m using lots of different cards by different issuers: CSP, Ink, Citi AA, Citi Hilton, Barclays US Air, Bofa Alaska, SPG Amex, etc. Really important that you spread out your spending to avoid getting flagged.

  3. Yes, I’m curious about your regular spend. Also which cards do you use. Chase? Barclays? US Bank? Citi? I haven’t done it because of setting off a red flag.

    • I use a variety of cards from all of the issuers you mentioned. Spending all this on one card will definitely get you shut down, so be sure to spread it out across different cards by different issuers.

    • Absolutely! I use the money orders to pay off my credit cards in branch, and what ever is leftover gets deposited in small sums across 2 different banks.

  4. For the past few months, I’ve been successfully loading Paypal with either Paypal reloads or Greendots and sending the lump sums to my wife. Paypal charges 0% fee when you send money with your Paypal balance. Only set off an automated fraud alert phone call the first time I did it. That was easy to get past and it never happened again.

    • I’d be really careful with Paypal. They’ve been known to close accounts and hold on to your cash for several months. I prefer the grocery store cashback/money order way. 🙂

        • Kroger is a popular choice. Some Safeway and Raley’s stores do as well, but I’ve never had any luck at my local stores. The post office is another source.

  5. Great post. I’m no where, but have increased my manufactured spend considerably in the past 6 months, mostly through advice from you and a few others.
    I will definitely look into opening another checking acct to diversify deposits. Brilliant.

    • Thanks, Jose! UFB Direct is a great bank. They offer an airline check card, earning you 1 point per $2 spent, and you can deposit money orders via mobile app.

  6. Wow, suprised you are able to continue w 10k a month on MVD card. Usually that gets someone shut down. I thought the paypal load limit was 4k a mo per acct. Nice breakdown of the spread out. 40k is an excellent chunk.

    • Yes, it is $5k. Fixed! It gets confusing with so many cards to keep track of. I’ve had no issues reloading 2 MVD cards (one belonging to me, and one to my brother) so far. Fingers crossed it stays that way!

  7. Great post, very informative. I’ve been using BB very conservatively to pay rent, but now I have to meet a rather high min spend (at least for me, nothing compared to you’re doing which is very impressive) and was concerned about paying the cc bills. Would you use BB bill pay to directly pay Amex or would it raise red flags? If so, could it be used to pay Chase for cards used to buy VRs?
    You also mentioned taking WM MOs directly to Chase branch, is it to pay CCs used to buy the VRs?
    Also, great tip on UFB Direct, I have only one bank acct, so this is a great tip. Keep up the great work here!

    • Thanks for the feedback! I’ve been using Bluebird to pay Amex, Citi, and Barclays directly for months without issues. You can do the same with Chase. In my case, I load all VR’s onto MVD, so it’s easier for me to cash them out via money order and walk them over to a Chase branch for a payoff. So yes, I’m using the money orders to pay off the Chase card used to buy the VR’s.

  8. Unless you earn 2x/$ it’s not worth it. $8 for 1000UR (Ink) + travel costs isn’t worth all the effort, IMHO. AMEX SPG may be, if you’re redeeming for a nice hotel. How many points in the various programs will you get from doing this?

    • Considering you’re essentially paying $800 for a Business class flight to Europe (100k miles), I’d say it’s worth it. I’m earning over 40k across various programs this way.

  9. Too much time consuming and just asking for trouble, especially the money order deposit in banks whether 1 or 5 accounts, i once deposited $500 money order in my personal accpunt and my bank called me and had the guts to ask what was this MO for? All banks report all money order deposits to the government-suspicious activity-and this happened in spite me having a business account with the same bank where our daily deposit is well over $10000 and forma are filled again. . Also paying Chase with MO’s a few times will finally backfire.
    If you run genuine spending in the tens of thousands of dollars a month and then mix a reasonable manufactured spend along the way then you should be ok, but running just manufactured spend is asking for trouble.

    • As long as it’s done in moderation and across different banks, it should be fine. I do incorporate all of my personal spending into this strategy, so it’s not all manufactured. I’ve been doing this successfully for almost a year and I think it’s been working because I’ve been very careful about overdoing it with one bank.

      • Absolutely – it’s not for everyone, but it does pay off hugely. The most timewise would be to pick up Vanilla Reloads, load onto Bluebird, then pay off your credit card. That would earn you just 5k points per month though. The more time you invest, the bigger the payoff.

  10. Thx for the column! How many times during a month do you go to a Chase Bank with a $2900 money order? You mentioned not using one bank for money orders too much, so I am wondering what your experience has been?

    • Sure thing! I buy more than $2900 each month, but don’t deposit them all with Chase. Some of them go into my Bofa and UFB accounts, then I use those funds to make payments on my credit cards.

      • Thx! Do you think I might be okay doing 2 x $2900 to Chase if they were separated by 2 weeks each month? Have you ever done 2 in a month?

    • You can only load $5k worth of VR’s on Bluebird, but the MyVanilla Debit card lets you load $10k per month. That’s how I unload most of those cards.

      • There is a $3.95 fee for purchasing a $500 vanilla reload card. Is there a fee for loading the vanilla reload onto the myvanilladebit card?

  11. you can also buy PO’s at the PO in $1000 increments with your PP Debit…. also, withdrawing to your bank account in random amounts at random times seems to be safe.

  12. How long have you been maxing out MVD (10k/month)? How do you use it to make sure that it stays open?

    • ABC, I’ve been loading two cards (mine and my brother’s) with 10k for almost a year now. I have no idea how/why I haven’t been shut down. I cash out via Money orders at Walmart (under $3k each time).

  13. Thank you for sharing great tips! When buying MO do you have it made payable to the bank’s name or your name if you’re taking it to the bank to pay off CC?

    • Thanks for checking out the site, Jordan! This hobby is all about earning frequent flier miles in order to travel abroad in business/first class for little out of pocket costs. There are lots of ways you can earn miles cheaply or even free. To get started, check out the Beginner’s Guide (Upper left side of menu), where all of this is explained step-by-step. If you have questions, feel free to email me: ariana at pointchaser.com

  14. Ariana,
    I am new to manufactured spending and have just gotten my feet wet. so far, I have been able to purchase $1,000 of Vanilla reloads and successfully load it onto my Bluebird account. My question to you is whether or not it’s safe to use my Bluebird to pay off the CC I used to purchase the Vanilla reloads? Or should there be some sort of grace period before paying? The last thing I need is for my account to be flagged or shut down.

    • Thanks for commenting, Ben. It’s absolutely safe – I’ve been doing this for a year and have had no problems. Keep in mind, though, that I purchase VR’s using different credit cards – so when I’m done loading the maximum $5k on Bluebird, I’m using the funds to pay off 3-5 credit cards. This helps me stay off any single bank’s radar.

      • I have a more general question – yes, this is TOTALLY worth it to meet Minimum Spend for Credit Card bonuses, and I do it. But is it really worth it without a category bonus? All this work for a few thousand points a month? Now, if you can get a category bonus thats great – like 5x at office supply store when OD sold VRs. But without that, it’s hard for me to see (and I’m not arguing, I’m asking) how the labor + fees make it worth it to have to get if you want 60,000 points $60,000 dollars worth of VRs with all the driving to CVS’s and such. Am open to all views it just seems to me like a lot of work. Why can’t we have a 5x category for all this! 🙂

        • Trust me, I’m all for 5x category bonuses on spending. A single point isn’t ideal, but ultimately what you’re spending on points is far less than the cost of the ticket you’re redeeming it for. You can take advantage of some category bonuses. For example, Reloadit cards can be purchased at grocery stores, where you can earn 2x points with your IHG Rewards Visa or Amex Gold card. It’s not as good as the OD days, but still a relatively cheap/easy way to generate miles.

  15. Curious if you’ve been shutdown by MVD yet and what volume you managed to put $10k a month through? I have more supply of vanilla reloads than I can put through my bluebirds and looking to spread the nest.

    • I haven’t been shut down yet. I’ve been taking it easy in the VR front, but I maxed out $10k probably twice now. I also use my brother’s mvd to unload VR’s, so that helps.

    • It still works. Though you can also use SquareCash to unload the balance. I’ll get into it more this week during the Manufactured Spending series.

  16. Hi! I have AMEX SPG, AMEX Premier Gold & AMEX Platinum cards – will spending 4000$ on each of this card flag my account ? Thanks in advance

    • I think you should be safe at that number. I’ve consistently kept manufactured spending at $5k and under, and it’s been ok.

  17. Any one from Austin TX ? Please share the store details here which accept CC payment for Vanilla reloads.

        • You are right! but that will only confine me to 5000$ month spend. Vanilla reloads/Net Spend cards will help me spend more

          Wish I Could find one store here that accepts CC payment

  18. Question…… I’m young and new to this….. I have an Bof A Alaska Airlines card Visa(5k), Barclays World Hawaiian Air MC(5k), Chase Freedoom(5k), Capital One No Hassle Rewards Card MC(3k), Capialone Quicksilver(2500), so my Man spend would be $20500? I have my bluebird setup already. I just set it up in March, I’ve done $2500 on my Hawaiian this month for my house payment and other bills that I can’t charge. Should I do it ALL on bluebird? or do I need to open up more accounts? I’m confused, and when you do the man. spend, do you let the charge sit on your card all month, than pay it off, or do you pay it off as soon or a week or 2 after you charge it??? I see you can only do 5k on Bluebird? Thanks for helping a young person out.

    • Happy to do it! You can only load $5,000 per month on Bluebird. If I were you, I would go ahead and load Bluebird with the maximum $5,000 per month. Only use Bluebird to pay the bills that you can’t pay directly with a credit card. Use your credit card to pay bills like your utilities, phone bills, etc. – most providers do accept credit card payments for these bills. Whatever balance remains should then be used to pay off the credit card that you used to buy the Vanilla Reloads.

      It’s very important that you pay your card off as soon as possible. If you wait until the end of the billing cycle, the high utilization rate will get reported to credit bureaus and your credit score will decrease. Let me know if you have other questions!

      • Sweet, that’s what I always do, I charge and then wait 2 days or when everything posts and I pay off what I charge…… phew……..so I need to setup my account to pay off my CC? or whatever balance I have in my BB I use? So I don’t want to keep a balance in my BB? Also, I’ve found VR’s at CVS, Savemart, Walgreens, can I use other cards to reload my BB? I do have a paypal bus. debit card, but I never carry a pp balance. I saw where I could buy v/mc gc and pin? them to my bb? but it has to be done at wally? is that the same for the pp? thanks for the quick answers!

        • You want to avoid carrying a balance on your credit card. If Savemart and Walgreens still take credit cards for VR’s, you are Golden. In my experience, Walgreens has a cash-only policy and Savemart is actually owned by the same company as CVS, so they may be going cash-only soon too.

          You can load Visa/MC gift cards onto Bluebird, or you can use them to buy money orders at Walmart. Paypal Reload cards can be loaded online.

          • to load the visa/mc gift cards to my bluebird, I thought i had to go to walmart? paypal reload cards can be done online for bluebird as well?? now i’m a little confused…

            i’ve only bought the vrs at CVS, i just happened to find them at Savemart and Walgreens. We also have a Dollar General here, but i haven’t gone into it yet….

            so I don’t want to carry a balance on my blue bird? or i don’t want to carry a balance on any credit cards? or both?

          • Paypal Reload Cards can be loaded online. There’s more on how this is done here.

            As for carrying a balance you should not be carrying a balance on your credit card, since this can lead to a drop in your credit score. You also shouldn’t have a balance on your Bluebird card because that balance should be used to pay off your credit card.

            You might run into trouble loading your Bluebird online with a gift card – Amex has even shut some people down. It’s best to go Walmart to load your Bluebird.

  19. gracias!!! last one, and then i’ll get back to reading, so I paid off everything today, I also spent down my BB to 2.38… hahaha, go figure….

    If I read this right, I can buy ANY Visa/MC gift card and load it to BB at walmart???

    Thanks for the help! I’m trying to pile up the points on my Barclay’s arrival.

    • Sure thing! No, not just any gift card. It has to be PIN enabled. Make sure you check the back of the gift card before purchasing to make sure it allows you to set a PIN. An example of Visa gift cards that aren’t PIN enabled are the Walmart-branded ones.

      • ok, I was reading on flyertalk, MS is what this is called or are talking something different??? also, if you have the means to rotate, couldn’t you do this daily? If I read correctly, purchase GC, cash out via MO, or deposit into BB, pay off, and repeat? or am I missing something? I want to understand how these people are doing 40k-100k a month…

        • You read right, it’s MS (aka manufactured spending). You could do this daily, but moving money around in large quantities can lead to account closures and getting flagged by authorities for possible criminal activity.

          • got it, then how in the heck are these people doing 40-100k a month? That’s insane!

          • Spread the spend across different credit cards, and deposit the money into different bank accounts.

          • ok, so what would you say is a safe amount? I do have 3 bank accounts. My gf has 2…I probably could enlist my family, but then it gets to be more ‘work’, hahahahaha…….. I guess it’s all about how much you want to accomplish?

  20. What is the daily / monthly limit for loading Bluebird @ Walmart with prepaid Visa cards?

  21. If you live near WaWa convenience stores, they have fee-free ATMs. It’s a great way to access money at little to no cost.

    I just stick with Amazon payments, although you’re limited to $1,000 per month per person. But since Amex issues different credit card numbers for shared accounts, my husband and I send each other $950 via Amazon payments on the shared Amex account and then we both deposit into different checking accounts so as to not seem obvious.

    I also have a student loan that takes Amex/MC/Discover (no VIsa) for no fee so if I ever need a huge payment, I still have a $6,000 balance on that loan so that’s my big spend helper in the background.

    • Thanks for the tip, Tara. I don’t think I’ve seen a WaWa convenience store in my neck of the woods, but I’ll keep an eye out.

  22. Great Stuff!!!! Now how would you do this with out VR (No CVS here in WA) and no Walmart within 30 miles of you? Welcome to my world :'(

    • I’d recommend buying Visa/OneVanilla gift cards instead, but without a Walmart, unloading them is tough! You can try buying Amex gift cards via a shopping portal (for a large cash back payout) and then unload those via Amazon Payments (up to $1k per month). Not as huge as $40k, but it’s something.

    • In the past you could buy Paypal Reload cards from CVS and load them onto your Paypal card. Since CVS won’t let you pay with a credit card anymore, that option is out. Like commenter “r” mentioned, this was risky since Paypal is known for arbitrarily shutting down accounts.

  23. Paypal is too risky, if you really want to know please do the research. Flyer Talk has multiple threads on these items.

  24. Hi,

    As for Ink Bold/Plus, what do you think of 4k MS per month plus couple hundred real spend?

    Thanks,
    Bill

    • Hi Bill. Are you asking how to generate $4k to meet the Ink card spend?

      • No, I already did that thanks to Staples and Discover 🙂
        I’m talking about doing 4K of MS every month on the Ink Bold. Do you think that would be safe? I’m trying to not be too greedy and stay under the radar.

        • That should be fine. Will the $4k be spent in one place (i.e. Safeway, Target)? If so, be sure to mix in spend from other places as well (i.e. a gas fill up here and there, Starbucks, etc.).

          • It’ll mostly be cell phone, tv/cable, and Staples/Officemax for MS every month. Should I mix in more regular spends?

            I just saw on another post that you only put 2K/month on Ink.
            The people who really went for it, do you know how much they MS/month?

          • If you want to be really safe, I’d definitely mix in a bit of non-category bonus spend on that card. From time to time I’ll charge a grocery run or energy bill to the card, just to keep the spending diverse. I remember reading that people who kept their office supply spend below $5k per month were ok. I think it was numbers above that which triggered account closures.

          • Hmm, dunno why I can’t reply on the thread but here goes.
            Why would people go above around 4K/month. Isn’t the 5X capped at 50K/year?

          • It is capped, but some people were in a hurry to hit the max and thus bought large quantities in a short period, which got them in trouble. Chase cited that these people were not using the card “as intended” which is why it’s important to make your spending (esp if the majority is in the bonus category) look normal.

          • Ahhh ok. I gotcha now. So if I have Ink Bold and Plus, I can safely MS 8K/mo?

  25. Greetings! Did I read correctly in the comments that a pin enabled amex gc
    Can be used at the PO to purchase a “MO” ? Thank you, John

    • Unfortunately not. However, an Amex gc can be used to purchase Visa gift cards, which in turn can be used to buy mo’s at the bluebird kiosk.

  26. Ariana, Just found your site and love your articles! Thanks! For years, I was buying store specific gift cards at the supermarket with my blue cash when we were going to make a big purchase at the store, like home depot or bed bath when shopping for the kids going off to college. Feel foolish I’ve been missing out on the bigger picture.

    But maybe I’m too analytical. I commiserate on you talking about 40K / month and it basically being a chore with all the steps : ). Yes, for a new account bonus, it’s worth the troubles. But some of the comments above talk about rewards as low as 1 point per $2?

    Other than the new card bonus payouts, what’s the typical net gain for that $40K of purchases? For me, that’s 40K * 5% back from Amex Blue cash – gift card fees (usually $6 / $500 card but sometimes I find places that waive the fee, so lets say 20K / 500= 40 cards * $6 = $240 card issue fee, then money order fees of $1 / $500 = $80.

    So for $40K, I can expect to net something like $1680? Sound right? that’s 4.2% Is that good or bad? Some cards get you airline points, so the math is harder (what’s a point worth)…. And that $1680 takes a bunch of trips to supermarkets for the gift cards and places to get the money orders…

    but 1 point for $2? Seems not worth the trouble?

    • Thanks Mike! Your math is right – you’re basically earning part time income doing this. There are folks who are generating four times this amount, which I imagine it’s a full time job. Most folks are earning at least 1 point per $1 on their ms activities (either at a cost or cash profit). As for the most lucrative ms route, I outlined this a bit in a previous post. Hope this answers your questions!

  27. Hello Ariana,
    What would you recommend for manufactured spending AMEX cards? I am planning to apply for AMEX business card which requires $5000 for 3 months. I am a low spender and my credit card bill is normally ~2000 for 3 months. Normally, I use Amazon payment and buy visa giftcards from drugstores to meet min spend, but for AMEX it sounds like those activities would trigger FR and I would losing the 50k point already in my AMEX account. I am thinking, if I buy say, $1000 giftcard per month, would that be suspicious? I know that it’s kind of a YMMV situation, but want to see if you have any experience and heard from other readers about it.
    Thanks for your advice.

    • Hi Katye! As long as you’re doing those activities in moderation with Amex, you will be fine – $1k per month is totally safe. As for Amex for Target, I wrote a post about that card and how to ms with the card. It’s now one of my preferred methods because it’s so easy to do. Hope this answers your question!

  28. Do u know if we can set a PIN# with the “OneVanilla” cards (not the Vanilla visa)?

    • You can set a PIN with OneVanilla, but you can’t use that card to load Bluebird anymore.

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