My Week in Manufactured Spending: A Scary Moment on Halloween

It’s been a very unproductive week in manufactured spending for me, largely due to jury duty. I was one of those insane people who thought jury duty would be fun. It started off as entertaining and then became the most excruciating, frustrating, cringe-worthy thing I’ve ever witnessed. And it didn’t help that it went on for three full days and kept me from my manufactured spending duties. 

After this 3-day torture fest came to an end, I dedicated an entire day to Walmart-hopping in order to liquidate some of the gift cards I’d acquired the previous week. I’m happy to report my Chase Ink Plus replacement card has finally arrived, though I haven’t been able to try my luck at any OfficeMax or Office Depot stores yet. In the meantime, I’ve been liquidating my stash of Visa gift cards from the previous week.

I was in the Davis/Dixon area on Halloween, where things got off to a scary start – I tried to purchase a $998 money order using two Metabank Visa gift cards and the transaction was declined with the pin pad showing a “unable to accept card type” message. I confirmed with the cashier that she had selected the split payment option and specified $500 for the first card. She confirmed it, so I tried another card but got the same message. She did point out that if I was using a gift card, then that is likely why the register was rejecting the transaction.

I stopped at another Walmart and had no problems using the same two gift cards for a split payment transaction. Some of you have been asking me why I never use KATE to purchase money orders and it’s because I haven’t found a working kiosk in over a year. Even at the locations I visited on Saturday, the kiosks were out of order.

Neighborhood Walmart money center

One thing that Neighborhood Walmart stores have now that makes shopping for money orders convenient is an option to call over a customer service rep with a simple swipe of the PIN pad. A lot of times the customer service center at Neighborhood stores are deserted, so being able to get assistance with a simple swipe of the PIN pad is very useful – and so unlike Walmart. 

On my way home, I picked up about $9,000 worth of money orders and proceeded to deposit them into my checking and savings accounts. I recently opened a Wells Fargo checking account, which is going to be very useful in liquidating money orders since the branch is right inside Safeway, where I’ve been going to stock up on $500 – $1,000 worth of Visa gift cards every other day or so.

A good thing that came about this weekend was me finding another Neighborhood Walmart store within reasonable driving distance. It’s actually pretty close to the one I normally go to and there’s a CVS across the street. I find very little use for CVS now that I can’t load their Vanilla branded Visas to Redbird anymore, but I do occasionally pick up a PayPal My Cash Card, which I expect will to end any day now.

On Sunday, I went back to my normal Neighborhood Walmart and encountered the same issue I’d experienced at the Dixon store: Split payment transactions kept getting rejected. Oddly enough, an Assistant Manager was processing the transaction with the help of a Customer Service Associate. She even showed her how to process a split payment (being sure to enter $500 for the first card), but the transaction kept getting rejected even when I used a different card. It did go through, however, when I cancelled the $999.30 money order purchase and instead opted for two separate money orders for $499 each. This meant I’d be paying the $0.70 fee twice, but at least it worked.

That was pretty much it for me this week. I expect to be doing a bit more manufactured spending next week and will hopefully not encounter some of the same issues I ran into. Someone recently remarked that I have the worst luck with manufactured spending sometimes. I certainly hope it’s just that and not yet another instance where an issue like gift cards being rejected for payment end up foreshadowing the death of yet another manufactured spending tool.

I’d love to know if you’ve experienced any issues at Walmart lately when trying to split payments on money order purchases. Please share in the comment section.

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Ariana Arghandewal


  1. I had a simlar problem last week. Tried splitting payment and it didn’t work. Tried again yesterday and it processed as usual. In both cases I was using US Bank issued VGC.

  2. You have the worst luck with ms because of your high volume. But I appreciate your testing and stories. Same here. I’ve been rejected at the counter, had Family Dollar ban me, had my license number logged. Over the weekend i tested 3 methods of ms. All were failures. My friend (I only showed him the bare minimum if the hobby) no issues ever.

  3. Yesterday I was able to process a $1000 debit card (from the Citigold checking offer) but failed to process 2 separate $500 cards. In fact, even when I tried to run them separately they both failed. What to do?

  4. 9000 in money orders – depositing at a bank? Hopefully you are aware of the term “structured transaction”.

    • I’m depositing them into different accounts – a checking/saving at Bank of America and another checking account at Wells Fargo. I think with any other mo’s this month I’ll just walk to a bank branch and use them to pay off credit cards.

      • And that is exactly what structured spending is. Banks have algorithms to check for patterns. Stay safe out there!

        • Thanks for the heads up. I think I’ll start depositing some of them into my extended family members’ accounts going forward. And maybe it’s time to pick up a Bluebird again.

      • Btw, why not use Money orders to pay off the credit card bills directly?

        That would be a 49 cent stamp cost to post the MOs to the credit card payment address and would save all the hassle of involving bank accounts. Unless I am missing something?

        • I do that sometimes, except I take them to the bank branch directly. The only bank branch I have access to is Bank of America and Chase, so that’s a bit limiting since I put most of my spend on the Barclay Arrival card.

          • I’m new to MS and wondering why you use your GC and get MO instead of loading a Serve and the withdrawing via ATM? What is it I’m missing?

          • I don’t have a Serve card right now. When I do get one, I’ll probably continue buying money orders since my gift card purchases exceed the $5k Serve limit.

  5. I bet these are failing for you folks because the Wal-Mart drone isn’t hitting the right button on the register. If they don’t designate the right code (debit), it hits as a credit, and boom..the machine rejects it, of course. I had this issue with the US Bank cards, in which in incorrect entry, will alter the debit card useless, and turns it to credit only. Make sure they know how to properly split payment when requesting M.O’s.

  6. My walmarts on long island had stopped allowing me to use GC to purchase MO. Did you run into that problem now or in the past and do you have a work around??

    • I’ve actually had that problem before (about a year ago). I avoided that store for a few months and went I went back, they had new employees who couldn’t care less.

      • That’s a great alternative to by MO at your familiar Walmart after the demise of Target RedBird. Have you recently converted your RedBird to either BlueBird or Serve to try PIN enabled VGC (Debit) reload in these WM stores? Other users on the blog reported success on this. Btw, 9K MOs deposited into multiple personal checking/saving in one day is still under the radar, I assume?

      • Are these regular Walmart stores or Walmart neighbor hood stores? How much will they allow you to do in one day or one transaction before they ask for ID or what form of payment you are using?

  7. Split payment money orders are still working fine for me at Walmart, but I only buy them from a sweet, elderly lady who has never gotten the message that you aren’t supposed to use gift cards as payment for money orders.

    My local Walmart has a new, odd thing programmed into its registers: I can only have six card “swipes” to load my Bluebird on any given day before the cash registers reject additional payment. Forget the $2500 a day load rule, if any Bluebird is swiped more than six times, it is shut down. I haven’t heard of this anywhere else in the area, so I may do some driving to see if other stores are doing the same thing. I haven’t found a working Kate in over six months, anywhere.

  8. You have problems because of being “cute” with split money orders. Just buy a $1,000 money order and tell the clerk you are paying cash for the fees.
    No place in Dallas, TX area will sell money orders using gift/debit/PIN cards.

  9. Hi Ariana,
    Thank you for posting all your successes and failures with MS! It’s amazing how much you can do. I did 2 test runs. My local WM SS and loading BB with VGC worked fine but the line SUCKED. Then I went to my Walmart Neighborhood Mkt where there was zero line and it’s just 1.5 miles from my house. No problem loading 5 VGC onto BB there. Next test will be MO’s at the WNM.

    I do have a question though – I opened up 3 cc accounts so far in the last 2 weeks and plan on opening 2 more this week (Chase SW, Hilton amex, Amex Platinum, Citi Hilton, Citi Premier). How do you recommend I spread out my MS over the next 2 or 3 months?
    I mainly buy 2 $500 VGCs from Kroger at a time because we shop there so often anyways. I worry that Chase and amex will shut down or freeze cards if I don’t do this right. I need to buy $11k VGC per month starting now to meet spend (and get SW companion pass this year!)
    Any advice would be extremely appreciated!

    • I would actually advise against applying for those cards so soon. Usually it’s best to stick to one application batch every 90 days. You may still get approved, but some banks may not issue you more credit so soon after they’ve already approved you for another card. As for ms, I’d stick to less than $5k per month, per card to be safe. Especially with Amex – you don’t want to get hit with a financial review.

      • Awesome, thanks for the advice! $5k per month on each card is plenty for me! Do you think banks have a flag for when multiple large purchases are made each day at the same store? i.e. buying $1k in gift cards at Kroger 3 or 4 days in a row on the same card? I know it would be preferable to spread it out more and to do it on different cards but I’d like to meet spend by the end of the first billing period (at least it’s not my amex card!)

        • I honestly don’t know. However, buying $1k per day should be fine since I’ve done way more than that across different cards. You may, however, have to deal with occasional fraud alerts.

      • Also, forgot to ask – how many cards do you apply for during every application batch? Or maybe I should say the max? I consider all 5 that I’m opening part of 1 batch. I had to allow for 6 days between 2 Citi apps and did the same for 2 amex as well since I had to do it for Citi.

          • Have you ever tried buying VGCs at Walmart? My local Neighborhood Walmart has variable load $20-$500 VGCs with only a $4.55 fee (or was it $4.95? it was definitely less than $5). I almost bought one. I’ll give it a try next time, but I didn’t know if walmart has some restrictions to buying VGCs in store like cash only.

  10. About your opening comment about Kate’s never working for you …. yes, we see that a lot in the points & miles o-sphere…. Funny thing, for me, over the past two years of using Kate’s wherever and whenever I’m near one (all across Virginia, Florida, Vegas, NM, etc), I’ve yet to encounter one totally out-of-order. Ok, once, a few minutes before midnight, encountered one acting up — and manager quickly figured out the machine was in midst of a borg-like evening regeneration…. ten minutes later, switch flipped, and new roll of printer tape, it was working….

    I know, I’m due for a disappointment…. (figure when that day comes, I can always go to the miserable registers or worse, deal again with the long, unhappy lines) Maybe it’s just that Kate he’uh in old virginny just don’t get used much by the traditional folk ’round these parts. Nah, that’s not it…. we do our share of ms here…

    to whit, had to check all five Office Max locations around Richmond last night, before I found one that had a stock of the variable load M/C’s — and yes, they worked nicely with loading via Kate to bluebird too. (pin in the package, and no “tricks” needed at the miserable registers)

    oh, and one more thing about the Office Max and the v/l gift cards…. all five of the stores had spots on their g/c racks for them…. (and all were “empty” — though in the one I found them, they were in a stash inside the display rack…. ya need to ask, and they are popular)

  11. I have 2 working KATEs near me, but they don’t seem to sell MO? Not sure what I’m doing wrong. I stood in there last night and stared at the screen for several minutes and hit every button on the touchpad. No option to purchase money order. And I wasn’t about to go to the Money Center. So I just loaded the VGC to BB.

    Do all KATEs sell money orders???

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