My Week in Manufactured Spending: A Downward Spiral

Last week was a pretty crappy week on all fronts and to top it all off, things went south in terms of manufactured spending. My Wells Fargo card got shut down for literally no reason. I barely took advantage of the 5% cash back bonus – I may have generated $600 or so before going on my trip to Europe and then I did a few rounds when I got back. I lost about $150 in cash back rewards and no explanation was given. At this point it’s spilled milk – people have real problems and when stuff like this happens, you put it in its appropriate compartment and move forward.

The register is becoming a grim place

The register is becoming a grim place

On Thursday, I was making my usual local Walmart rounds when I ran into a bit of trouble. You know that one Neighborhood Walmart store I wrote about months ago? The one with the super stringent money center rep who checked the cards I used and wouldn’t accept any “debit” cards that weren’t issued by an actual bank? Well I thought that location was safe to return to after a successful visit a few weeks ago, but when I tried to pay for my money orders with multiple gift cards, the newbie cashier seemed unsure and called over a colleague.

That’s when I was informed that their new store policy was not to accept multiple payment forms for money order purchases. One of her colleagues standing nearby asked, “Really? Why?” And she responded with, “Remember when the FBI came in here last week and audited our money orders? They told us to stop accepting multiple gift cards because of people who use them for fraud.” She then proceeded to explain how people buy these gift cards to “get money off stolen credit cards” and then liquidate them via money orders. Of course, I knew this was a somewhat common scam, but it kind of surprised me that they’re just now catching onto it and making an effort to combat it.

I told her that not everyone who does that is committing fraud – in fact, a lot of people buy Visa gift cards with credit cards to earn frequent flyer miles. The rep said that may be true, but they had a lot of cases of fraud at this store and after the visit from the FBI, they implemented this new policy. It’s pretty damn annoying that because of these a**holes our manufactured spending activities are being limited, but ultimately we can’t do anything about it, so we’ll have to just plow forward and find new places to liquidate our gift cards. Unfortunately, this makes two Walmart locations that are now restricting gift card usage for money order purchases. On top of this, my other reliable Walmart location is having major issues with their register and anytime I purchase an amount requiring more than two card swipes, the register acts up.

I still have a couple of other options, but they’re spread far apart, making it difficult to follow a cohesive manufactured spending route. I could drive an hour out of town and liquidate around $50,000 worth of gift cards easily, but that’s not something I can do daily. I think going forward I’ll just stockpile gift cards purchased from giftcards.com via cash back portals like Yazing and make a once weekly trip out of town to liquidate them. Or maybe it’s time to put that manufactured spending travel idea into action for a high-volume manufactured spending/vacation combo.

My dream scenario? Simon Mall will start a financial services division and start selling money orders in the same customer service office where they practically reward you for buying gift cards in large quantities. Until then, I just have to keep adapting to stay in the game.

There was one positive thing that happened last week when I was visiting one of the locations that are restricting money order purchases to one transaction. After paying for the money orders, the register printed out the receipt but the money order machine got jammed and then stopped working. The cashier had to void the transaction reimburse me…in cash! I was pretty relieved because things have been going downhill and I needed at least one win.

Have you had trouble with your local Walmart restricting the number of debit cards that can be used for money order purchases? Please share in the comment section.

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Ariana Arghandewal


  1. What is this magical place an hour away where you can liquidate $50,000 at a time easily? That would have been more useful info than the rest of this article combined…

    • That’s right, Sarah
      I would GLADLY drive 1 hr to liquidate 50k! In the WM’s in my town (there are 10 of them), often, I can’t liquidate 5k without driving 1hr and stopping in at least 5 of them! In the best one, that let’s me liquidate 2k at the time, I already had to deal with supervisors, loss prevention manager, etc… So, Ariana, consider yourself super lucky and don’t complain. Instead, give people more info, if you want your article to be useful.

  2. +1
    Would rather hear about those ‘couple of other options’ that are still left. Too many write about deals that go sour or no longer exist, but readers are more interested in what’s still available.

      • The key to MSing is to keep your techniques relatively under the radar. I would understand if Ariana didn’t want to leak her process on the internet because then it would increase the chances of it getting shut down.

        • That’s fine if it needs to be kept secret but… how about don’t mention it at all then? If this blog is just about what does’t work anymore and also some bragging about secret options that do still work….
          What exactly is the point?

          • Yeah, I know what you’re saying. The methods I’ve learned have been mostly from “hints” about how to MS rather than specific step by step outlines of how to MS. I think those step by step guides make it way to easy, and I think that’s a big reason why Serve was shut down earlier this year. But I do like to read about “hints” or “secrets” that let me know that there are still options out there, you just have to go through the trial and error process.

  3. I had the same issue with Wells Fargo but I lost about 1800.00 in rewards, the only explanation I got was “you are not a business projection for Wells Fargo”.

    • They definitely lose money on these 5% cash back deals when ms’ers get involved. Normal customers aren’t spending thousands of dollars in the categories each month and then cancelling the card, so its still somewhat profitable.

  4. A bought a small denomination Amazon card at Safeway the other day. The pin had already been scractched off. Called the Safeway gift card hotline (I didn’t know they had one before this) and got it refunded to my Amazon account. They contacted Amazon on my behalf – that was nice.

    Then I had about $200 in shell gas cards (from Staples) that have been sitting in the car for a while. They had all been drained, when I went to use them.

    I figured I’d get bit one of these day by fraud, but this is getting annoying and making me stick with shopping portals for a while.

    • Sorry to hear about that. That’s why it’s crucial to liquidate gift cards as soon as you possibly can. A while back a bunch of people ran into issues with Hyatt gift cards getting drained. Sure enough, a card I’d had laying around for a while had a $0 balance on it when I tried to redeem it. Lesson learned.

  5. If Ariana’s friend made her promise not to write about that ‘secret’ MS in this blog, perhaps she would consider sharing privately ( via email) with her readers? I am sure we all are pretty scattered geographically, so there is no imminent danger of overusing… I, for one, am willing to share in return one not overly publicized ‘avenue’ to explore.

    • It’s really not a secret ms method – just a city with ms-friendly WM stores. Most anyone has one of those within an hour away. She just asked me not to write about it because apparently when churners got wind of the ms-friendly Office Depot/Office Max stores in her area back in the day, they constantly wiped the place out and eventually the store implemented a purchase limit.

  6. Guys, please don’t push it. I mean it. Ariana has already been super nice and helpful in terms of giving us some hints. Don’t be in the game if you are not willing to drive around and explore more opportunities yourself.

    • I agree that Ariana had been nice and helpful. No one is pushing!
      But I can notice something brown on your nose, Bobby

    • Thank you Bobby. I’m all for sharing things I’ve discovered, but if someone shares something with the stipulation that I don’t share it with others, I have to respect that. This isn’t a new ms method either – just a location. It’s probably not relevant for most of my readers anyway.

  7. When I read your comment about the amount of ms that you do in 1 visit, I was wondering if it was in fact a new method, now that I read your answer that it is an existing method, this just confirm that YMMV when it comes to what is possible from site to site and from CSR to CSR; I can tell others that for a while I was under the assumption that we can only get 1K money orders at WM but this is not a hard rule; I found with some work on my part that there’s small business that take debit cards, do split without any hesitation. and allow you to get a good amount of MO per day.

    • Nice! The maximum at WM is $10,000 per day and some of them will let you do five transactions for $2k (so you can do the maximum 4 card swipes at a time). However, some stores are restricting this.

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