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My Month in Manufactured Spending: $2,198 Worth of Points, Miles, and Cash Back in October

October was a slow month for me. I had intended to really ramp up my manufactured spending in time for a December trip to the Middle East, but found myself lagging behind. Sometimes, days went by without me placing any gift card orders or making a trip to my local mall. This was mostly due to the week I took off to attend the Chicago Seminars as well as my grad school applications, which have kept me busy. I wasn’t going at this full speed like I currently am, which is reflected in the numbers I pulled in last month:

  • Total amount spent on Visa gift cards, excluding fees: $81,911
  • Total fees (gift card, shipping, bill pay/money orders): $1,512.14 – $1,516.24
  • Total cash back earned via Yazing: $815.74

Earning points and miles through manufactured spending September

This brings my total out-of-pocket cost to $696.40 – $700.50 so far, without factoring in any of the rewards. The reason I don’t have a concrete number for fees is because some of the gift cards were liquidated via money orders while others were unloaded via bill pay. This makes a small difference in the total out-of-pocket cost.

How many miles and points did I earn? I ended up with following rewards earned from a combination of airline, cash back, and bank rewards credit cards:

  • 59,024 Arrival Miles = $649 travel statement credits
  • Discover It Miles = $760.30 cash back
  • Fidelity Rewards Visa = $149.53 cash back
  • SPG points = 9,969 points
  • Ultimate Rewards points = 54,066

In total, I earned about $1,558.83 worth of cash back or travel statement credits along with 64,035 flexible rewards that can be converted to either hotel points or airline miles. It’s not a huge stash, but not bad for the roughly 10 hours of time I put into buying and liquidating $81,911 worth of gift cards. Valuing the SPG points and Ultimate Rewards conservatively at 1 cents each would  bring the value of my haul to around $2,198.

I’ve been questioned about the amount of time I spend liquidating gift cards and it’s gotten much easier over the past month – especially following my run-in with an asset protection officer. The entire staff at that particular location knows what I’m purchasing money orders for now and they’re completely fine with it. Even the manager is onboard with me buying $10,000 worth of money orders and doing another $10,000+ worth of bill pay in one visit. This has worked out quite nicely because I no longer have to drive to a second location to do bill pay. The staff has been trained on how to split payments and they finally figured out how to pay Barclay credit cards.

I’m going to take it easy making payments on my Barclay Arrival Plus credit card via Walmart bill pay because I’ve heard some people got shut down for that. However, using bill pay on three Arrival cards in addition to my five Discover It Miles cards means I can liquidate more gift cards in a short period of time. 

I do still go to one other store to buy money orders, since it’s right by the bank and my regular Starbucks, but only if I’m not able to liquidate all of my Visa gift cards at my main Walmart store in one visit.

One thing I plan on doing more, starting next year, is putting more manufactured spending on my Club Carlson credit card, which I re-applied and got approved for this summer. It hasn’t been a priority because I’ve been (cautiously) stocking up on SPG points and Arrival Miles for an upcoming trip, but it will come in handy for my summer travel plans. I find acquiring Arrival miles to be a safe bet because my three Arrival cards have high credit limits, making earning these miles in a brief period easy, and in many cases using Arrival Miles works out better than redeeming hotel points or even airline miles. So going forward, the Barclay Arrival Plus card will continue to be a huge player in my manufactured spending routine. 

I’d like to know how you all did last month: How many points and miles did you earn in October?

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Ariana Arghandewal

32 Comments

  1. Love your MS posts! You put my numbers to shame; I only purchased and liquidated $6,000 in gift cards in October. I have a LOT more to go to meet my goal. Are you still on track to do one million miles?

    On another note – didn’t you have a post in which you let us in on the cards that you are currently using for MS? If so, can you point me to it? I haven’t been able to find it.

    thank you!

  2. These are my favorite posts – I think they should be biweekly!

    The past two weeks I was able to do:
    7500 SPG points
    15,000 UR points (maxing out 2 freedoms)

    I plan to slowly ramp up my MS but my local WM is hit/miss depending on the CSR… One tip/thing I’ve noticed is that you need to tell the CSR how much in total you’re going to buy up-front – if you say you just want XXXX.XX in MOs and then you complete the first tx, and then say you want another, for the same amount, they get all weird about policy etc., but still did the second tx.
    Have you experienced this Ariana?

    • Thanks Raymond! I actually might start making these weekly again, since it will make tracking my monthly total a lot easier. I do the same thing – I tell them how many I need but that I’m splitting it up. Now that I’m a regular at my store, they know the deal and I don’t even have to tell them.

  3. Ok- How about a hint on how we can find the details about “Seriously amazing ms news coming soon!” you alluded to on twitter.

  4. Can you explain how to use VISA gift-cards for bill-pay? Does this only work for Barclay and Discover cards? (Is there any way this could work for AmEx, B o fA, Chase, or Citi credit cards?) There is a type bill-pay form I found while standing in those long lines at Walmart service counters, but none of the above are on the list (only Wells Fargo, various car & mortgage loan firms like Chase, correctional facilities, and the like). If you’re going to mention this strategy, it would help to explain it more completely. Thanks, as always, for your interesting posts!

    • So far I’ve only successfully done it for Barclays and Discover. Fidelity was a fail today and at some point, when I’ve got the patience for it, I’ll see if the cashiers can find Amex and Bofa in their system. I know Citi works too, though I haven’t done it. It’s really just a matter of asking the cashiers to check whether the card you want to pay is in their system. The payment process works exactly like with mo’s. Four card swipes per transaction and a $1 – $1.40 fee (depending on delivery speed).

  5. Can you please explain how to use Bill Pay a little more? Aren’t you worried about depositing so many money orders in your bank account and it looking suspicious?

    • I’m not really concerned because I have a separate bank account. So if the bank decides to shut me down for excessive MO deposits, it won’t interfere with my regular banking activities. I do a substantial amount of bill pay, so my mo deposit amounts aren’t as insane as they sound. I will do a post on WM bill pay, since a lot of folks have asked me about it. But it’s basically the same process as buying mo’s.

  6. Last month was my biggest MS month so far. Here is my spend breakdown from giftcards.com. I liquidate solely via MO’s purchased at WM and use topcashback for 1.25%. I don’t use WM bill pay anymore.

    Southwest Premier $9969.00
    Southwest Plus $9969.00
    Discover It Miles $9969.00
    Barclay Arrival Plus $9969.00
    Citi Double Cash $9969.00
    SPG $9969.00
    Chase Hyatt $9969.00
    Fidelity 2% card $14954.00
    Capital One Venture Rewards $19938.00

    I also did 1k ish on Chase Freedom at drug stores and 1k ish on Amex BCP at grocery stores.
    I figure I netted between $2000 and $2100 in points, miles and cashback. I value the Southwest points at 3% since I have the companion pass. 3% for Discover It Miles and 2% for everything else except 5% for Chase Freedom and 6% Amex BCP. You netted a little more $$$ with less spend. Probably because you have a lot of 3% Discover spend. Anyway, it looks like we’re pretty much playing the same game which is why I enjoy your blog and MS posts. Keep up the good work!

    • “I liquidate solely via MO’s purchased at WM.”

      What are you doing with all of those MO’s?

    • Wow! I’m really impressed. And envious. How do you keep all of this MS organised? Do you have a spreadsheet? If so, would you be willing to share a template?

    • Hi.. When you are using the SW cards.. how many points are you getting for about $10,000 worth of spend? Is that the reason for the use of the SW card when MS so you can get points for your CP? Also, then what is the purpose for the Discover it and Citi.. are those only for the purpose of cash back? So it you spent about $10000 on each of those.. how much does that give you cash back for each card? Thanks for your help

  7. When doing these monthly totals do you count a full 3% for your “It” purchases or are you only doing the 1.5% in these posts? Ever worry that Discover won’t honor the other half a year down the road?

    FWIW it looks like your $2198 of “income” doesn’t account for the excess of MS fees over Yazing cash back. Looks like you made $858 cash + ~65k SPG and UR points for a net of ~1500 on the month as opposed to 2200 in the title.

    I enjoyed the post, thx

    • I think her numbers look right. SPG and UR points are worth much more than 1 cent each. Closer to 2 cents each if redeemed properly.

    • I just count the whole 3%. It’s certainly a possibility they won’t honor it, but that’s a risk I’m willing to take. After the $815 cash back from Yazing is subtracted from the ~$1500 worth of fees, I’ve paid around $700 out of pocket. But I also earned $760 from Discover and another $649 worth of travel credits from Arrival, in addition to SPG and UR points.

  8. Are you buying the Visa gift cards with your name on them ? I was just rejected at Walmart.
    Thanks and love to read your blog !!

  9. Love reading your blog! It seems like you do a lot of MS with cards belonging to your family members in addition to your own. How much of each account’s credit limit do you go through each month to stay “safe”? 2x, 3x?

  10. I hear that some cards purchased at giftcards.com are rejected at WM. Perhaps there a chance that giftcards.com sell other than Metabank cards? and if so – how can you make sure you are ordering cards that would work at WM? is there a specific design on the card? anything?

    • They do sell Sunrise gift cards and you could end up with them if you get a certain design. I don’t know which ones, so I recommend you stick to the owl cards in the photo above.

  11. What is your experience in getting cash back through Yazing? I have been buying giftcards through Yazing for ~3months. Havent received any cash back yet. They do state 30-90 days on their website but just curious your experience.

    • I’ve had a great experience with Yazing. They do in fact pay out within 30 days for giftcards.com. Just make sure you’re actually logged into your account when clicking through.

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