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My Week in Manufactured Spending

Credit card wallet

It’s been a while since I’ve given an update on my manufactured spending activities (or anything else, really) so I thought now is as good a time as ever. Two weeks ago, my Google Wallet account was shut down. I’ve been really careful with it for the past year but got a little impatient and unloaded over $8,000 at once. That did not go over well and Google notified me after the funds had been cashed out that I was no longer welcome to use their services. I’m not upset by this because really, it was the lazy person’s way of manufactured spending and I always felt guilty doing it. Plus, now that I have the Target Prepaid REDcard (aka Redbird), I can easily generate free points while keeping the hassle at a minimum.

I started last week by ordering $5,000 in American Express gift cards through Top Cash Back (my referral link). The 1.5% cash back isn’t anything to get excited about, but it’s better than nothing. I tried a $5,000 business gift card order using my EIN, but that order was cancelled. This is now the third time in a row that an American Express Business gift card order has been cancelled. So I opted to order another $10,000 under my dad and brother’s accounts, which were approved. We’re headed to Asia in July and I figured we can never have too many Arrival Miles for that trip or anything else that might come up.

By mid-week, I had $15,000 worth of American Express gift cards to unload. After successfully unloading a $3,000 American Express gift card onto three separate cards at my local Target, I drove 5 miles to the next town for round two. I always load my card at the customer service center, since those reps are more likely to be trained on how to load a prepaid card. I handed my card to the high school sophomore who looked at it, held it up to her colleague and said, “Look, Janet! A Target PrepaidRED card!” She turned back to me and asked where I got the card. “Michigan.” “Yeah this guy keeps coming in and asking about it. He said they only sell them on the East Coast. What’s so special about this card?” I explained that in addition to a 5% discount at Target, the card can be used for purchases anywhere else since it’s issued by American Express. “That makes sense,” was her response. 

I don’t know about you but I try not to let cashiers in on what I’m doing, mainly because it either sounds shady as hell or they just don’t get it. So I keep things simple and put the whole thing into a context they can understand. Once when I was questioned about the purpose of loading two Amex for Target cards, I told the cashier I used it as a household budgeting tool. The cashier notified me a while later that she picked up her own Amex for Target card after our chat because it sounded like such a great way to reign in her spending. She seemed happy with it, so far be it from me to burst her bubble.

Anyway, on that second trip I unloaded just $2,100 across three cards to avoid making a scene. Plus, I discovered on another occasion that loading $1,000 was fine but if I tried a second load, nothing over $900 would get approved. This was still a successful outing, with two gift cards completely cashed out.

The next day, I switched up my routine a bit. I drove to yet another town since I wanted to avoid being seen at the same stores too often. I do have to shop at my local Target and while I have a friendly rapport going with the cashiers, there are only so many times you can spend $2,700+ before they start looking at you strange. This time I drove a little further and successfully loaded $2,000 onto two Redbirds at the customer service center. Then I browsed the store a bit and bought into argan oil craze (side note: OGX’s Moroccan Argan Oil spray actually works and gives you that shampoo commercial shine that is otherwise only attainable through heavy airbrushing). I paid for my purchase with the Redbird I was loading and asked the cashier if she could also reload my card for me. Her response was, “Sure! You’re lucky you got me though, because most people working the cash registers don’t know how to do it.” I’m two steps ahead of you sister.

I successfully loaded $1,000 onto the card, bringing my total over two days to $8,100. On my way home, I thought of hitting up my local Target again but decided against it. I’ll give it a couple of days before making another appearance.

In all, last week my manufactured spending activities generated 30,000 Arrival miles (good for $330 in travel rewards) and $90 in cash back from buying Amex gift cards through Top Cash Back. Subtract $50.55 in shipping and gift card fees and I made a profit of $39.45. Getting free miles is one thing but getting paid to earn them is definitely a nice bonus! I haven’t fully cashed out the gift cards yet, but I’m trying not to get greedy and draw attention to myself by hopping to different cash registers or visiting the same store multiple times per week, let alone per day.

So far, I’ve been using all three cards for bill pay as well as the occasional non-Target spend (i.e. small Starbucks card reloads, the occasional drive-through purchase, etc.) to ensure I remain a somewhat profitable customer for both Target and American Express. I’m considering making a move to buying/selling merchandise for points, but really don’t like the drama that accompanies it. For now, I’m happy with my routine and will keep this going for as long as I can.

What have you been doing in terms of manufactured spending this week?

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Ariana Arghandewal

34 Comments

  1. such a douce on showing off the conversation with Target cashiers…. pathetic

  2. I thought top cashback didn’t give cashback on gift cards above the denomination of $2,000, yet here you mention first unloading a $3,000 gift card….do you know a secret that I don’t?

  3. Wow, you must have a lot more time (and patience) than me. I have 3 Redbirds that I manage and I load $2500 on each all at the same visit with the same CSR. The next time in the store I do the same thing for the $5k max/mo. Never had any issues.

    • Seeing that I’m now unemployed a freelance writer, I do have more time to fritter away. 🙂 Plus, I’ve run into problems loading more than $900 on the second load, so I kind of have to split it up.

  4. I JUST got my first RedBird. My niece in MD got it for me. 🙂 Yesterday I loaded $325 on it using my Chase Sapphire card. No problems at all.

    Just to be clear…you can use AMEX GC to load the RedBird? If so, I need to order some. 🙂

    There is only 1 Target within reasonable driving distance of my house, so I have to do all my RedBird loading there. (the joys of living in a small town)

    • That’s awesome Laura! Yes, you can use Amex gc’s – for the most part. Every once in a while you’ll run into a cashier who says you can’t. When that happens, just pay with your credit card and try another cashier later.

  5. Does anyone knows if I’m able to load my redbird in a state other than the ones where they sale Redbird card? Like can I load my red card in California or Arizona?

    • Absolutely, Hugo. I got mine from another state, but I live in California and have been loading it at Targets here in SoCal for a while now. No problems at all. But I do what Ariana mentions. I always go to Customer Service. They know exactly what they’re doing and the entire transaction (depending on how many GCs or from how many CCs you’re loading) never takes from than 5 minutes! It’s awesome. Naturally, I’m doing as much as I can, because I do think something as easy as this is definitely getting shut down at some point…. I have no information. I’m just making an educated guess since I’ve been MS-ing for several years now and MS techniques come and go.

  6. My concern is the tracking from TopCashBack. I tested a few purchases from cardpool and raise. Not all cash back has been credited.
    Can you share the steps that you follow to make sure you get credit for the cashback from TopCashBack?

    • I always take screenshots throughout the purchase process (i.e. one shot on the TCB Amex page showing the payout, another one of the page confirming I’m earning cash back on this site, etc.). A lot of people complain about TCB but in almost two years I’ve never had to follow up with them about a payout.

  7. Forgive my newbiness but I have screwed this up a few times already… After purchasing Amex giftcards on top cash back portal… You are unloading them how? On to another card? If I pay for them with my ink card… How do I pay my ink bill?

        • I don’t use the entire balance to pay the bill. I use the card to pay for everyday purchases and then use the bill pay feature to unload the remaining balance – normally I try to wait at least a week after loading to do this, though sometimes that’s not possible because the cc payment date may be sooner.

  8. @Ariana, do you care to also elaborate on the Google Wallet shutdown? Did you load Google Wallet with $8K all at once or? And how exactly did you unload them?

    I haven’t used Google Wallet for any MS, or anything other then the occasional online purchase, so was just curious to see what limits do you think you pushed that got Google to close your acct. Thx.

    @Laura, theoretically you can use any credit card or gift card to load Redbird, other than a Target gift card. I don’t personally do much gift card loading and haven’t use any Amex ones with Redbird (have only used visa gift cards with Redbird), so Ariana can chime in more as to what kind of issues did cashiers gave her.

    • Yes, I did $8k at once which was about triple what I normally do. I just sent the funds to a family member and both of us were shut down. I wouldn’t do it, especially now that there’s a cheaper and yet convenient method (Redbird).

  9. still don’t understand how you unload- when you Billpay from a Redcard that is not in your name, does the bank or other recipient not care that its not listed as coming from you as long as the account number is correct? Thanks

    • While I’m not certain, I believe that when it comes to electronic transactions from one bank to another, they see acct numbers, not names of the acct holders. Either way they don’t seem to care, I do this also since I have 3 Redbirds and load & unload them with my credit cards. Some people have a lot more than 3.

    • I use my dad and brother’s account, for example, to make payments on cards that belong to them but that I’m an authorized user on (and which I use to load their Redbirds). Basically, I’m earning miles for them and all of us just share. I don’t know that Amex has a problem with paying off other people’s cc’s though.

  10. Where and how can I use an Amex Giftcard? Only on a RedBird acount? or is there other ways I can use it to pay bills? what about Serve or bluebird? do they take AMEX

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