My Week in Manufactured Spending: January Wrap-Up

If you didn’t visit the blog last week, don’t worry you didn’t miss much (other than a Watts Riot-type situation). Thank you to all the readers who emailed, DM’d, and left comments on various posts – your support and positivity are appreciated. Some of you expressed concern that I would stop blogging, which I assure you is not the case. Things happen, people get mad and hopefully we’re all shallow enough to get over it one week later. Now, let’s get into last week’s manufactured spending activities before visiting hours are over…

Last Tuesday, my sister came to town and we did our usually routine: Head to Starbucks for a few hours of productivity, grab lunch, then run errands – which includes buying money orders. On this particular day, we went to two Neighborhood Walmart stores, which are just three miles apart. She unloaded $1,000 at each store, while I did $2,000. This was followed by the occasional money order purchase throughout the week when I was in the immediate vicinity of a Walmart store.

A few days later, following an afternoon of procrastination at Starbucks, I walked across the street to Walmart to unload my last two gift cards for a total of $800. At this particular location, they have such a large staff pool on rotation that I never seem to run into the same cashiers more than once per week. Another odd thing about this location? Nearly everyone working at the money center seems to have a management title (except for the occasional trainee). While the transaction was processing, I caught bits and pieces of a conversation two of the cashiers were having. They were discussing a man who had apparently  just left:

Cashier 1: “You know that guy that always comes in here?”

Cashier 2: “Older white guy or young Indian guy?”

Cashier 1: “Young Indian guy. Greg said to cut him off. No more money orders.”

Cashier 2: “He was just in here. Why are we cutting him off?”

Cashier 1: “He comes in all the time and…he has to do the paperwork if he wants to keep buying money orders. He keeps trying to get around it. So Greg said no more.”

It seems this guy was getting around the daily $3,000 purchase threshold (which requires paperwork to be filled out) by making multiple trips to the same location every day. This process requires recording the purchaser’s Social Security and Driver’s License number, which is kept in a binder somewhere in the back. Needless to say, I don’t blame the guy since this seems far from secure. I felt bad for a fellow ms’er, but glad that the cashiers were having this conversation in front of me – which means they haven’t identified me as a frequent customer who more or less does the same thing.

Aside from unloading money orders, I also ordered $2,500 worth of Visa gift cards from giftcards.com with my Alaska Airlines credit card along with another $2,000 order using my brother’s Barclay Arrival card. The card was declined when he tried to purchase $9,500 worth of Visa gift cards a few weeks ago and since I’m trying to build up his point balance (and can’t trust him to do it himself), I thought this was a good solution.

For those of you wondering, the $1,500 order I placed last week arrived on Friday, which was a lot faster than I had anticipated. What’s more, the purchase was in fact tracked by the iConsumer cash back portal and the 1.6% cash back is showing up as pending. While I assumed the 1.6% cash back would not be applied to gift card and shipping fees, I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was in fact applied to the entire purchase. 

Giftcards.com cash back pending on iConsumer

Giftcards.com cash back pending on iConsumer

According to the iConsumer FAQ page, it will take 90 days for the funds to become available for withdrawal, so it will be a while before I see any of that cash and can call the points earned from this transaction “free.” 

iConsumer has since reduced the payout on giftcards.com purchases to 0.8% cash back. A $2,507.45 order (Consisting of four $500 gift cards and one for $465.25, plus fees to stay under the $2,500 purchase limit)) would generate $20.05 in cash back, which brings the cost of $2,487.40 worth of gift cards down to $2,465.25 – meaning you’re paying $4.43 per gift card. That’s higher than the normal $3.95, though some people will appreciate the fact that they won’t have to leave the house to buy gift cards. Personally, I wouldn’t continue purchasing gift cards online at 0.8% cash back, but now that I know my transactions have been tracked, I’ll at least check into iConsumer occasionally to see whether they’ve increased their cash back offer.

Now for the $40,000 question: What did I do with all those money orders purchased this month? I’m happy to report no felonies were committed. This was the first time in many months that I’ve had more than $5,000 worth of money orders left over (largely due to prepaid cards and low volume gift card churning). Around $15,000 went towards paying off several Chase Ink Plus cards in-branch and $3,500 went towards two Bank of America credit cards. The remaining money orders were deposited and used to pay off a Barclay Arrival Card, Starwood Preferred Guest American Express, Barclay Aviator Red Card, and a Citi AAdvantage card. 

This month, I plan on doubling my numbers in time for a pre-AAdvantage devaluation award. The goal is to get the spending done in two weeks or less, then head off on a much needed break. Location to be determined, but I prefer some place cold and rainy (without metals bars or concrete walls)…

How was your week in manufactured spending?

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Ariana Arghandewal


  1. I really enjoy the tongue-in-cheek humor with a touch of irony. Keep up the good work!

  2. Thanks for the all the first hand info! How long did it take for your iConsumer purchase on GiftCards.com to show up as pending? I made a purchase about five days ago and the gift cards were shipped about two days ago, but I still don’t see them on my Stats page. Did yours take as long?

  3. Your math seems a little fuzzy, can you double check? Maybe I am interpreting it wrong. If so, just let me know. You’re ordering 5 cards worth $2500 plus $1.99 shipping on each card. Isn’t that $2509.95? You’re applying the cashback calculation to the entire order, but the cashback from iconsumer does not get applied to shipping costs. So $20 back. That brings your order down to $2489.89 for $2465.25? Thats $24.64 in fees versus the $22.15 you are showing. You calculate $4.43 fee per card based upon total fees divided by $5 cards but compare that versus $3.95 from simon mall, each simon mall card is worth $500 whereas with your example each card is only worth on average $493.05. So it is kinda misleading to compare them directly. On a per $500 basis the difference in acquisition cost is more like ~$1 instead of the ~50 cents you are showing.

    • Sorry, I should have explained that part. It’s $1.99 per card OR you can choose a flat $7.99 fee for an upgraded shipping option. When I ordered 4 or more cards, that’s the option I chose.

  4. Next week’s PointChaser topic will be opening credit cards in strangers’ names to earn extra bonuses and get around the one bonus per lifetime rule.

  5. I did my first Walmart money order today and it went much easier than I expected. I always found working Walmart kiosks when BB still worked so I never had to bother with MO’s. I’m trying to complete my Barclay AAviator offer of spend $2500 for 6 months to get 30,000 bonus miles. I’ll be heading back to Walmart next week to do another $1500.

    • Wondering if you use the kiosk or service desk? I tried the kiosk and they said they don’t do MO there anymore we have to go to the money center. I always get nervous because I’m afraid of getting rejected. Haven’t tried it yet just scared.

    • Hey Scott. Can you walk me through the procedure. I too am scared. I want to know the exact steps to take to purchase and then redeem the mo’s. Thanks so much!!!!

  6. Ediza–the kiosk didn’t have the option to do MO. I went to the money center and was surprised at how easy it was. I was also nervous. I’ve now gone to three different Walmarts in the past week and all accepted gift cards for MO’s without any problems. It’s also very easy to split the transaction into several gift cards. I’ve found it easier to deduct the .70 fee from the gift card total than to pay the fee in cash.

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