My $38,000 Week in Manufactured Spending

It’s getting tough to keep these weekly manufactured spending posts somewhat entertaining/original. Unless something interesting happens, it’s pretty much business as usual: I buy a bunch of cards, unload them, then do it all over again. This week it was to the tune of $38,000. For the most part, these were gift cards purchased at Simon Mall, office supply stores, and from Giftcards.com (thanks to the iConsumer and Yazing promotion). For the most part, it was smooth sailing – except for some trouble I had with the gift cards purchase from Giftcards.com.



The Giftcards.com Visa gift cards are issued by Bancorp, which are PIN-enabled. When a bunch of them arrived early last week, I activated them online and changed each card’s PIN number to the last four digits of the card. I’ve never had an issue activating cards online before. However, when I tried to unload them, the cards kept getting declined. It happened with pretty much every card. After tweeting my frustration about this, my friend Spencer notified me that he had the same problem after activating his cards online. Apparently, it’s quite common for Giftcards.com Visas not to activate at all – even after you set a new PIN and despite the fact that the automated service will confirm the card balance.

He suggested I get the Giftcards. com app. Now I’m pretty averse to cluttering my phone with apps – the only ones I have are a few King games, rideshare and social media apps. However, Spencer explained that the Giftcards. com app has a scan feature, that not only makes looking up your card balance and PIN convenient, but will detect if your card has not been activated.

I downloaded the app, scanned a gift card, and sure enough: The PIN and balance displayed correctly but a message popped up that my card hadn’t been activated. With a single tap, I authorized the app to activate my card and proceeded to do the same with the rest of my gift cards. It was super convenient and definitely something I’ll utilize going forward.

On my way to my favorite Neighborhood Walmart, I did stumble upon something I didn’t think I’d ever see in the area…a Dollar General store. I’ve driven through this area dozens of times – I have no idea how I missed it before (maybe the yellow sign blends a little too well into the tan building).

Dollar General: A rare sight in this neck of the woods

Dollar General: A rare sight in this neck of the woods

I walked in and saw something else I hadn’t seen in a long time (or ever, since they’d been completely redesigned from the old days): Vanilla Reload cards!

Vanilla Reload cards on display at Dollar General

Vanilla Reload cards on display at Dollar General

Unfortunately, there was a sign stating all prepaid cards had to be purchased with cash. I confirmed with the cashier that this applied to Vanilla Reload cards as well. I also asked whether they sold money orders and was directed to the liquor store next door. I walked over to a storefront straight out of Cops and asked the cashier whether I could pay with a debit card. This is a slightly shady part of town, so I wasn’t surprised when I was told it was cash only.

It was really unfortunate when I struck out twice, but I did unload a bunch of cards at the aforementioned Walmart, so I was happy with that. Overall, I managed around $38,000 worth of manufactured spending this week. None of this has been as time consuming now that I’ve got a reliable route and a great source for buying gift cards. If I really dedicate myself to it, I could easily do over $50,000 a week. It’s just a matter of motivating myself to do this rather than something else that may be more productive…

How has your week been in terms of manufactured spending?

Disclosure: The Yazing link in this post is a referral link. If you use it to shop at Giftcards.com you will not earn a commission (but I will). If you do click through with my link, please remember to sign up for your own Yazing account and shop at Giftcards.com while you’re logged in.

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Ariana Arghandewal


  1. Do you unload it at Walmart via KATE or cashier at Money center? KATE never works in my neighborhood and cashiers want the name on gift card to match with id 🙁

  2. What is the cost to buy $38k or $50k worth of gift cards every week?

    All of this MS must cost you money – granted, not as much as a trip itself but there must be significant costs per week/year of MS’ing?

    Also, what cards are you using for MS activities?? How do you go about determing where you put your spend activities on each card??

    • I haven’t done the math on that yet – 72 gift cards would normally cost $300, but I did earn cash back buying the GC.com cards (which off-set the fees completely) and I’ve also used cash back cards for ms to off-set these fees. For the most part, I used Arrival Plus cards for these purchases, along with the Amex SPG card – these points get me the most bang for my buck.

      • Hi Ariana,
        I am new to this. But i am so glad i came across yoru website.
        I have a question. Even if each of the 72 cards were for max allowed $500, the activation fee for the giftcard is 6.95 each. So that will 72*6.95=499.68

        How are you able to do it for $300?

  3. Hi Ariana, Glad all is working well for you and in such yuuuge volume (or so it seems) Thanks for the tip on the giftcards.com app — (I too avoid apps like the plague — but this one might become necessary if I ramp up even a little) Yet could you fill us in a bit more on your unloading strategies? Are you doing most of it nowadays at Wally world? If so, is that via mo’s or billpay or both? I’m still a bit uncertain too on how split payment works for either…. Sorry if you’ve covered this in a previous post, yet keen to (re) learn this better. (Happens I have many more Krogers & Kmarts nearer to me than wally’s)

    • Yes, pretty much just WM. Though I have walked into the post office a few times to try my luck but the lines are always too long. All the Kmarts in my area shut down, so this is pretty much my only option.

    • I’m guessing she has never really examined her rate of return closely. With all the fees + time spent , there are better ways to ‘make money’ if that’s what she thinks she is doing. Her life seems consumed with loading/unloading gift cards, burning gas driving all over the place to cash them out. Imagine spending all of that time doing something constructive like learning a new skill, perhaps starting a business to make extra money, etc.

      Btw, I’m sure she is on this list raking up 38K in MS : https://www.fincen.gov/about_fincen/wwd/faqs.html

      • There’s nothing criminal about buying gift cards, so this hardly falls under money laundering. Unless you’re following me around on these ms runs or are privy to what I do for a living, I don’t see how you could possibly determine how I spend my time. Thus, the conclusions you’re drawing here are baseless. What I find to be truly a waste of time is that you continue to come back and read this blog despite your constant insistence that what I do is pointless. I guess we all need hobbies (some more productive than others).

        • I will continue to comment on your silly blog so as to persuade others NOT to follow your advice. With your activities you still likely trigger Fincen reports ( I’ve seen them on OfficeDepot screens ) and cashiers are not obligated to tell you. They’re automated and especially trigger with gift card related purchases.

          That being said, if one day the government comes knocking on your door, regardless of whether or not you ‘technically’ did anything wrong, you still have to be able to explain to federal agents that your innocent. And then that also brings put issue of the IRS and your unreported earnings from semi-fradulent transactions.

          Plus, it’s just lame. Going to liquor stores to get money orders, hanging out at dollar stores, going to Walmart constantly because you think you’re getting a good deal.

          what kind of percentage rate return do you get on your investement minus expenses, i.e. fees, gas, time spent and is that worth getting shut down possibly by Fincen in the near future?

        • Why cant you block posters like these who do not contribute anything but wiered comments. This is your personal blog so I do not see any concept of freedom of speech. You chose who can post and who cannot.

  4. I envy all that have a Wally near them…..being in NYC…..it’s rough to MS…..*heavy sigh*

    • Yep! In the bank or using them to pay off credit cards directly in-branch. I usually do the latter with cards that I use frequently, to quickly free up the balance for more card churning.

      • Would like to know if it’s possible to use more than one MO to pay credit cards in branch? i.e. >$1000

  5. Wanted to ask what that 38k actually cost and I see another comment asking the same thing. Just wondering how much those miles actually ended up costing. I’m assuming it resulted in 38,000 miles earned, or was it more. I don’t dabble in this kind of MS as I have so many miles that were free and not enough time to use them.

    • Normally, it would cost $300 to buy that many cards. However, I did earn cash back buying the Giftcards.com Visas (which off-set the fees completely on over $12k worth of gift cards). I’ve also been using some cash back cards to earn cash that cover the fees for some of the other purchases.

  6. Ariana,

    I enjoy your weekly MS posts. I guess, I have the same question as everyone else. How are you ‘unloading’ these GCs? You did a great job describing the purchasing of the GCs part but, just brushed over the unloading part. Was it MOs? Did you just deposit them in your bank account? Incidentally, do you know what banks are OK with a constant stream of MOs being deposited? Thanks!

    • It’s pretty much always mo’s, since prepaid cards aren’t really worth getting into at this point (too many shutdowns). I deposit them into a bank account, or if I’m paying off a Citi, Chase, or Bofa card, I’ll usually pay it off in-branch with an MO. That way the payment posts faster (usually by the next day) and I can keep gc churning with that card. I suspect the bank will eventually shut me down for too many deposits, but that’s why I have a secondary bank account I’m doing this with. So if they do shut me down, it won’t interfere with my regular banking activities.

  7. How much do you typically unload per store? You seem to have very friendly and trusting cashiers in your area.

    • That depends on how long the line is and whether I have a friendly cashier. I’ll usually do a minimum of $2k, and if things are slow I’ll do $4k. There’s a cluster of WM’s that aren’t usually busy and where the cashiers seem oblivious to our hobby. That’s the ideal place to ms. I did get asked for my card a few weeks ago at a local WM and steered clear of it until my Giftcards.com order came in. Those cards have my name on them, so the cashiers won’t have a problem with me using them.

  8. I appreciate your weekly reports even when there isn’t anything out of the ordinary to share.
    I’m new to this and I used to use my bluebird card until it was shut down two weeks ago.
    So finding your blog was refreshing to see I can still go a different way unloading the cards. Have you tried the ones from Ralph’s they’re US Bank issued. Those were the ones I was using before, but it seems that Simon’s Mall’s card are working well for you.

    • Thanks Mia! Nice to know there are still grocery stores selling gc’s. We don’t have Ralph’s in my area, but there is Raley’s. The fees are a bit higher on these cards, but it’s totally worthwhile with a bonus category credit card.

  9. Wow. Great article. I love how you don’t code everything and make it so easy to read. Thanks for all the info!! My speedway has the MyVanilla personal reloadable Prepaid Cards. They have a 3.95 fee and I would purchase with my freedom card. Do you think this card would work at WM to purchase MO’s?

    • I just tried purchasing the vanilla reload with my freedom card. The terminal would not allow him to do it. Do you know if the green dot Visa cards are the same. I noticed they have them as well.

    • Every one of the gift cards I got from Giftcards.com is issued by Bancorp. The difference is that they do work at Walmart.

    • Can vanilla visas that are issued by Bancorp be unloaded anywhere to purchase money orders? Do you know of any grocery stores, or pharmacies that sell the ones issued by metabank or sunrise

  10. Awesome app that helped you to activate VGCs conveniently. It looks like Yazing 1.5% is still up. May I know how many $500 VGCs do you usually place in one order? For example, can I place one order of 5 $500 VGCs and place another order of 4 $500 VGCs the next day? I am worrying to get my orders cancelled if I submitted them too frequently using the same address. Thanks.

    • Right now the maximum is $2,500, so I’ve been doing four for $500 and one for $450, just to keep things nice and tidy. I have had no problems getting orders processed so far – except for one time when my card got declined because I’d inadvertently gone over my limit.

  11. If I only have one Yazing account mapped to my PayPal. Is it possible for my family member to share my Yazing portal purchasing VGCs at GiftCards.com with their own credit card? We just don’t want to open and maintain so many sets of Yazing accounts. Usually, how soon does Yazing post the transaction? And how long will the cash back be sent to Paypal account? Thanks.

    • Unfortunately, the funds get transferred to the Paypal account linked to your Yazing account. So ideally, they’d have to get their own accounts if they want the funds deposited in a specific Paypal account.

  12. Hey Ariana, been following your blow for a while, you have an awesome writing style which I thoroughly enjoy. With how many cards are you pushing this much volume? I am bit of weary of ramping up that much but might do this for a few months to top off some balances for an upcoming trip. Hope to hear back. Thanks.

    • I’m using a few different cards. I’ve been using my Discover It Miles card for online orders, a couple different Arrival and the SPG card for Simon Mall purchases, and the Ink cards for Staples Visas.

  13. how much can you buy on gc.com per day? i thought the limit was 2k? I’ve never made an order over 2k a day, then i’ll order another 2k a couple days later

  14. Ariana, a few questions here please if you don’t mind. You mentioned that gift card orders from Giftcards.com has your name on it, but do those card still debit cards – meaning that you can assign PIN to them? The other is – if you are buying through cash back portal, doesn’t that mean that you would forgo category bonuses? I bought $2K worth of visa card last month, with Amex card that has 2x category on grocery. So that nets me 4K MR points, but cost is roughly $24, so about 0.6 cent per MR point. If I buy through cashback portal, I would net only 2K MR points. How much normally do cashback portal pay out and offset that cost?

  15. Is there any certain “brand” of VGC you buy at Walmart?
    I was buying Walmart V GC by Sunrise Banks with my cc’s and then I would load them to my BB but now that BB has been shut down I am wondering about doing the MO route. I had 1 Walmart VGC let that was left during the BB shutdown and when I tried to use it to purchase a MO from the money center it got denied and was actually locked. ( The clerk is completely cool with my tiny little churning operation so it wasn’t her) It took nearly a month before they would unlock and I could use the $500 I had loaded to it….so I am a bit hesitant to try it again.
    Reading some of your other posts I wonder if it was about the same time frame as everyone else was having issues in early Feb….and it was a coincidence it was my first try at MO purchase. Thanks in advance!

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