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My Month in Manufactured Spending: $2,000 Worth of Points, Miles, and Cash Back in September

I realize my weekly manufactured spending posts are getting tedious to read, so rather than repeat my Walmart trips in fascinating detail every week, I decide instead to write  about my Walmart trips in fascinating detail every month how much manufactured spending I managed to do in a single month. This turned out to be fairly easy (researching this post was the hard part). Nowadays, I pretty much stick to buying Visa gift cards online, so finding out how much manufactured spending I’d done was a matter of logging into five different Giftcards.com accounts and tallying up the number of orders. 

Earning points and miles through manufactured spending September

Thanks to $110,550 worth of gift card churning, I was able to earn over $2,000 worth of rewards this month

In total, I had 39 orders for $2,492.20 and three orders for $2,035.25 each. There was also one day when I was running low on gift cards and picked up $9,071.10 worth at my local mall. Finding all of information on so many gift cards was tricky and I’m sure the numbers won’t be 100% accurate, but it’s close enough. Here’s a summary of what I spent and earned in cash back:

  • Total amount spent on gift cards, excluding fees: $110,550
  • Total fees (gift card, shipping, bill pay/money orders): $1,909.45
  • Total cash back earned via Yazing: $1,287.39 ($690.99 has posted so far, as it takes 30 days)

This brings my total out-of-pocket cost to $622.06 so far, without factoring in any of the rewards. How much did I earn? I ended up with following rewards earned from a combination of airline, cash back, and bank rewards credit cards:

  • 90,413 Arrival Miles = $904.13 travel statement credits
  • 89,714 Discover It Miles = $897.14 cash back or travel statement credits
  • $470 cash back via the Fidelity Rewards Visa
  • 4,984 Alaska miles
  • 12,460 SPG points
  • 3,239 American AAdvantage miles

The two Fidelity credit cards earned a combined $470 worth of cash back. Since miles earned from the Discover Card can be redeemed for cash in the form of bank transfers, I’ll use $152.06 from that stash to cover all of the remaining fees incurred during this process. That leaves me with $745.08 worth of cash back from the Discover It Miles card and $904.13 in travel statement credits from the Barclay Arrival Plus card, for a grand total of $1,649.21 worth of travel credits. 

I didn’t earn many airline miles or hotel points, but that’s because I’ve been focusing on cash back and points that offer flexibility on future paid travel. That being said, I’m sure I’ll easily get 2 cents per point out of the airline miles and hotel points that I did earn. The Barclay Aviator Red AAdvantage card was offering a 30% bonus on purchases made through the end of September (up to 5,000 miles), so I managed to put one Giftcards.com order on the card. Not a huge haul, but at least I earned more than the standard rate. Plus, I can always put AAdvantage miles to good use.

The 12,460 SPG points I earned will undoubtedly come in handy at some point. I haven’t decided whether to transfer them to Alaska Mileage Plan or convert them to Marriott points for a Hotel + Air package, but either way – there’s no such thing as too many SPG points.  I don’t like to transfer points speculatively, so I’ll probably just wait it out until December, a.k.a award booking season. My previous travel plans will have to change since I just learned that the Calais refugee camp (along with the organizations running the camp) will be evacuated on October 31. I’d still like to go to Europe, but now I have to find another city to volunteer in and that might affect which airline miles I need to focus on earning. 

This whole process was actually really productive for me and I think I’ll do it every month – to keep both myself and readers informed about the amount of time and money I spend on this hobby and the rewards I reap as a result. The numbers I pulled are actually on the low end. If I put in a bit more time, I could easily have purchased at least another $10,000 worth of gift cards per day and tripled my rewards. However, that would require more than the 1-2 Walmart runs per week I’m currently willing to dedicate to gift card liquidation. 

In any case, I think I did pretty well this month based on the amount of time and effort I put into earning these rewards. So how much time did it take? I can usually liquidate around $28,000 worth of gift cards during a Walmart run that takes me to four locations and around 3 hours to complete. So we’re looking at 12 hours spent on four gift card runs. Let’s factor in another 3 hours spent ordering the gift cards, activating them, paying off credit cards, and keeping track of the entire process to make sure it all runs smoothly. That’s 15 hours of manufactured spending that earned over $2,000 worth of airline, travel, and cash back rewards. Who said manufactured spending was a waste of time?

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Ariana Arghandewal

49 Comments

  1. Hi Ariana,

    I don’t think your MS posts are tedious at all! I LOVE them. They give me hope that one day I will be able to rack up the huge number that you do. Thanks for that.

    Kelli

  2. The comes out to approx $133 per hour. I have been wondering if I couldn’t make more with a lot less effort promoting some of the deals and coupons on Yazing to online shoppers without purchasing anything? What do you think?

  3. Great post, Ariana! I enjoy your regular MS weekly reviews, but this was even better – thanks for putting in the research and sharing.

  4. Are you kidding me, I love reading every detail of your posts. So well written too. Don’t you have to be careful about the timing of purchases so as to get the money back in your bank account to pay the CC off and not incur a fee.

    • That’s good to hear, thank you John! I do have to be really careful about paying cards off before the statement even closes. I do have a spreadsheet that helps me keep track of this.

  5. Keep up the great posts. I’m curious why you’re putting so much spend on you Arrival card. Doesn’t that card offer at best a 2.22% cash back? Is it because you’ve maxed out your monthly Discover 3% and this is the next best opportunity for you? Also are you filling out the additional paperwork for over 3k in MO’s at each of the Walmart’s on your route?

    • Exactly. There’s only so much spend I can put on the Discover cards and Arrival is a great alternative – kind of like my travel savings account. I do fill out the paperwork at WM for the $10k purchases I make.

  6. I enjoy your MS posts too. Keep ’em coming.

    I’m surprised it only takes you about a month to get your cash back from Yazing. It hasn’t been my experience with them. I still have cash back from early July that still hasn’t posted and prior to that I had to wait over two months to get cash back on previous purchases.

    • It takes about 30 days after the transaction is recorded. It’s been pretty smooth so far and I’m much happier with Yazing than the other portals, which can take up to 4 months to pay out.

    • I had a similar issue but it turns out that orders from GiftCardMall are slower to payout that GiftCards.com. So I just use GC instead for faster cash back.

      • oh, good to know, Thanks! I’ve been using GCM because I recall some kind of problem with GC being spotty in issuing metabank cards. Or, something along those lines… I guess, that’s no longer the case?

  7. That’s a great rundown- thanks for sharing. It gives me hope that I won’t get shut down for the relatively paltry amount of MS I’m doing! How many arrival cards are you spending on? My eyes seem to be failing me, but I think I read that you have 4 or 5 discover it cards. Also, curious why you use Yazing instead of TCB. I like the tracking TCB offers.

    • I do have access to five Discover It Miles cards (one belongs to me, the rest to family). I’m only using four of them regularly though. That said, I do deposit these mo’s into a separate bank account that I set up for this purpose. If it does get shut down, it won’t affect my regular banking activities.

  8. Love this level of detail! It helps me understand what I can aspire to and how to do it. For your MO purchases, sounds like you use the Visa $500 gc’s at WM. Lately, I have had trouble with MC $200 cards at WM…they seem to set off bells with customer service. Any advice on not setting off “bells” with MC $200’s? Do you have that problem with the Visa $500 gc’s. Does customer service not suspect the $500’s are gift cards so readily? Thanks for your blog posts!!!

    • I would try combining them with the $500 cards. That way you knock out a larger number each time and it doesn’t sound as fishy as multiple $200 card swipes.

  9. Why do you limit your VGC orders to between $2000 and $2500? Seems like you could order more during the same transaction and lower your overall fee percentage because the shipping rates are the same.

    • Unfortunately, the purchase limit is $2,500 per order. A few times I’ve ordered $2k was because my credit cards had approached their limit and that was the most I could manage.

  10. Great post! Keep them coming. You reference 5 diff gc.com accounts. Are these both diff in name and address? What frequency of orders/account do you keep each gc.com account to?

  11. Ariana, can you clarify what the ultimate RULE for MO’s at Walmart is? For example, you do four 2.5k transactions to do the 10k daily limit? Then, what kind of info they ask from you? Also, can you tell me what happens if I follow your referral for the Yazing link. I get it you would get some commission, but would that not track properly on my end for my gift card purchases?

    • I do the $10k daily limit at locations that allow me to split the purchase into five transactions, using four cards each. Right now I only have one store that still allows me to do this. As for the Yazing link, I believe I removed my referral links. Initially, I was told it would be better for Yazing’s SEO if I used it, but now I just link directly to the site and will not get anything if you use it (if my name and photo appear on the page you’re directed to, then it’s a referral link). To avoid inadvertently giving me your cash back commission, just sign up for your own Yazing account, make sure you’re logged in, and then click through to the Giftcards.com page.

  12. I am very impressed. I have been wondering one thing. If you can liquidate $28,000 in gift cards in one run, that would mean that by the end of the run you are carrying around $28,000 in money orders. If something was to happen to those money orders (robbery, accident, etc) the financial consequences could be disastrous. Doesn’t that ever make you nervous?

    • Not really. I usually head straight to an ATM to deposit them. I also hold onto the gift cards that I used to purchase the mo’s (along with all the receipts) so in case something does happen, I have some recourse for getting some of the money back.

  13. Ariana! I literally just stumbled upon this. I am new to the game and am looking for my next card. I am 3/24 (Chase Freedom, CSR, Chase Hyatt) and am looking at the Chase Ink Business (60k for $5000/3mo). I have NEVER manufactured spend before and am a little nervous on getting started. (All my minimum spends have been met by family since I don’t have much as I just graduated).

    The plan was to get GC’s from Staples for 5x and then use them to buy money orders to deposit into my checking account? Does that seem right to you? Anything I should be wary about?

    I am so glad I found this and have tabbed a few more of your posts to read!

    Your writing is so concise and I look forward to being a dedicated reader!

    Thank you so much!

    • Thank you for your kind words! I’m glad this site has been useful. Yep, that’s right. I would work in some normal spending too (bill pay, groceries, everyday spending) just to keep your spending patterns looking normal.

  14. I have no idea how you do this at walmart – i’ve never been able to buy VGC there with Credit card nor liquidate and purchase money orders? How do you get so much through at walmart? I have to do $2500/day at Post offices and want to rapidly scale my production! $110K a month seems crazy given I do $15K on a good month! I’ve hit $110K YTD and I thought that was good, but you have to teach me your ways!

    • I think it’s because I’ve built trust at this particular store. After my recent run-in with the asset protection team, it reaffirmed to them that I’m not doing anything wrong. The post office is really tough, but if you can find a WM that’s amenable, you’re golden.

  15. Additionally CVS limits me to $2,000 per 24 hrs and Walgreens limits me to $500 per day. I haven’t been able to figure out how to maximize otherwise. Not sure how you get away with 5 accounts at GCM – but I’ve been limited to $15K/month in GCM purchases! Any advice?

    • They’re not all in my name and I can only place two orders per day, max. I have five accounts more for practical reasons than anything else – if my credit cards get maxed out, then I can continue to ms using my family’s cards and their accompanying gc accounts. For you, it might be good just to start off with one GC.com account and do $2,500 per day. Then, if you can easily liquidate that, just up it to two $2,500 orders per day and then maybe work in Simon Malls if you want to go even bigger.

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