My Week in Manufactured Spending: (Slow) Race to the Finish Line

I don’t know if it’s the weather (depressingly cloudy, yet unbearably hot), but I’ve been in no mood to do much manufactured spending lately. Don’t get me wrong, I still do it – but the way the average kid does math homework. Attitudes don’t matter when you’ve got a $50,000 Amex gift card order to unload along with some extra cards left over from last week

I ended up placing that $50,000 gift card order before my current stash was liquidated (I know, that’s breaking the rules), but I figured I’ll get it done one way or another before the credit card bills are due. Plus, I’m on a schedule! A little thing like practicality can’t get in the way of that.

I’ve noticed that it’s taking much longer for American Express to process these orders. In the past, approval took a couple of hours and by the next day the order would be shipped out, then delivered two days later. Now the approval process seems to take a good 24 hours, followed by two days before the order is shipped, and then another two days for delivery! I know, for someone who is barely churning above $10k per week these days, I shouldn’t be complaining…

Slow and steady wins the race

Slow and steady wins the race

My older sister was in town last week and together we unloaded $8,000 worth of gift cards over two days. I figured since she saved me two trips, I could skip my CVS run the following day. This may have been a wise decision because the next day I found out that someone had been stabbed inside that CVS store around the same time I’m usually there! It was a totally random attack – no motive and the victim/assailant didn’t know each other. Baffling. The likelihood of getting shanked by a disturbed person on my next CVS run are slim, but I actually don’t have to go back to that particular location anyway since another CVS store just opened in a more convenient location. 

Aside from these trips with my sister, my brother has been helping me out as well. He’s unloaded $4,000 worth of Amex gift cards for me in the past week, but what I find impressive is that he found his own ms-friendly CVS. Oddly enough, I haven’t been able to ms in that same store for over a year! After he insisted it was ms-friendly, I went out there only to get turned away as soon as the cashier saw the gift cards in my hand (“you know you have to pay cash for those, right?”). What I want to know is why anyone would buy gift cards with cash – and pay a $5.95 fee for the privilege! It’s completely backwards if you ask me – gift cards should be turned into cash, not the other way around.

One thing that’s got me worried is the immediate future of Redbird loads. Let’s face it, Redbird will die eventually. It’s just a matter of time. However, lately I’ve heard of people getting turned away at the register when they try to use a PIN-enabled debit card to load Redbird. Recently, I came across a cashier who was doing a split payment load for me. After both cards were swiped, she asked to see them along with my ID. I handed them over, she looked at the two cards clearly lacking names, and handed them back without a lecture. Hopefully she didn’t take this back to the water cooler and raise an alarm among her co-workers about Visa gift cards being used for Redbird loads. 

Last week was pretty slow in terms of manufactured spending, but things will pick up this week when the monthly load limit on my Redbird cards resets and I can unload some of those Visa gift cards. In a few weeks, I’m heading out to San Jose, which has become somewhat of a manufactured spending goldmine for me. I’ve found a few grocery stores that let me buy Visa gift cards with Amex gift cards, along with a couple of good CVS and Target stores. If I end up unloading fewer Amex gift cards than I actually intend to this week, at least I know I can get rid of a large chunk during this trip to San Jose.

Side Note: A number of readers have asked for an updated version of the Newbie Guide to Manufactured Spending. I’m aware much of the information is out of date and will do my best to get this done by the end of the week.

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Ariana Arghandewal


  1. 50K and 10K per week! Ariana you are the MS Master 🙂 I just try to do 5K per month to feed my bird. Thanks.

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