My Week in Manufactured Spending: Low Volume Gift Card Churning

Maybe the title of this post should be “No Volume Gift Card Churning.” Ever since I came back from Asia, I’ve been off my game. First, there was the fact that I had to re-read old posts to remind myself which stores were ms-friendly. Then this past week, I placed a $9,000 Amex gift card order…remembering shortly after that TopCashBack doesn’t offer cash back on denominations over $2,000. I called, cancelled, then placed another order one for $10,000 shortly after. Anyway, I haven’t had a chance to unload them yet but I plan on getting the family involved this time around. Since there are five of us, we can easily convert $10,000 worth of Amex gift cards to Visa in one day. It won’t be at the same store, but at least it will get done faster than if I was doing it alone.

Credit card wallet

Recently, Target made some changes to their system, which has made reloading Redbird easier. Once the cashiers figure out which code to enter for Redbird reloads (from what I understand it’s 15), customers are asked to swipe the Redbird themselves, followed by the debit card. As a result, the cashiers are pretty hands-off and don’t even bother policing the card type being used. I don’t even hear the old “As a reminder, you can’t use Target gift cards to load these cards” anymore. Thanks to this new system change and the fact that I’ve found an ms-friendly CVS store in town, I’m keeping my manufactured spending activities more local. No more driving out of town, preying on clueless cashiers and avoiding 19 – 35 year-old males (“You go ahead. I’m trying to find my debit card” as I rummage through my purse, stalling for another cashier).  

Once I’m done with my $10,000 stash, I’m gearing up for another $40,000 order. With the 20% bonus on SPG to AAdvantage transfers, I thought I’d stock up on some extra AAdvantage miles courtesy of my Starwood American Express card. Plus, you can never have too many Barclay Arrival miles. While Australia isn’t going to work out in December after all, I want to get a jump start on booking a spring trip instead. That means lots of gift card churning so I can have peace of mind and book at least 6 months in advance. We’ll see how that works out. 

It took a while, but I finally have a local route, ms-friendly stores, and help in unloading a large volume of gift cards. A while back someone asked me whether my time ms’ing wouldn’t be better spent working, learning a new skill, or involving myself in activities that will advance my currently non-existent career. While ms’ing for my recent trip to Asia did pay off in spades (I’ve calculated a value of over $90,000 for the two week trip), I agree that ultimately I should be dedicating more time to important goals I want to achieve. With this new help I’m getting in earning points and miles, it’s the perfect opportunity to do just that. 

One of my goals? Writing at least three days a week on this blog. I’m also prepping for grad school admissions, which involves studying for standardized tests, getting old colleagues/supervisors to take time out of their day and write nice things about me that will convince the admissions committee I’m a well adjusted person capable of surviving three years of intense stress and academic hazing. Oh and I also want to shower on an airplane. If it’s between the two, I know I at least have a shot at one, thanks to this hobby.

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Ariana Arghandewal


  1. One issue you may not have encountered with the new Redbird reload process at Target, but I have, is that I can only reload $200 at a time. So the process ends up being MUCH more time intensive. In other words, I can swipe the Redbird myself and then the debit card and follow the prompts, but two cashiers I’ve encountered recently weren’t able to split a $1,000 reload for five different $200 GCs. That meant going through the entire process five times, once per $200 GC. A total hassle. This means I don’t want to do more than 5 GCs at a time, which means I have to go to Target more frequently. Totally sucks.

    • Usually I bring 4-5 Redbirds to load, so I’ve never done split payment or had that issue. I would advise against splitting payment across that many cards anyway, as it may draw negative attention. On the plus side, you can still split payment on money orders (I believe it’s now across two cards).

      • I’m realized I didn’t explain myself eloquently enough. I only have a single Redbird, and I like loading anywhere from $1000 to $2000 in a single visit. Now, I can no longer do that since that would take forever. So the new system is frustrating. What I’m not understanding is that if you have 4-5 Redbirds to load, and you only load a single gift card to each one, then doesn’t that mean that you’re at Target several times per week each month, in order to reach $25K. That would take a ton of visits. Am I misunderstanding? In any case, I want to achieve my monthly reload max ($5K) in 2-3 visits, max., so now I can no longer do that. That’s why I was saying that the new system sucks for me.

        • It does take more time that way, but it helps that there are two Target stores within a 5-mile radius of my home. Also, I’m mainly sticking to $500 gift cards, so doing $25k doesn’t take quite as long. A few times, I’ve taken my sister along with me – I’d load $2,500 across five cards, then she’d go in after me and do another $2,500. I’m trying to stay under the radar and mixing Redbird loads with Walmart money orders (in relatively small increments) helps me do that.

          • When you load on five redbirds, does this mean getting in line five times with different cashiers, or can you reload all five in one shot?

          • Sorry I’m not getting this: you can present multiples and they don’t care, even though you can only have one card in your name?

          • Yes. They’ve never questioned me over it but if they did, I would just tell them these cards belong to my family members (we all have the same last name) and I’m loading them because we use these cards as budgeting tools.

  2. It help me helpful what combination works locally. I mean combo of store/re loadable card/gift card worked for you locally.

  3. You mentioned a 40k order and then converting SPG points. How are you gonna get the 40k order to points before Aug 31? Don’t you have to wait for the statement to close and all? So they wouldn’t be available for transfer till after the promo was over. Did I misunderstand you?

  4. Ariana, can you elaborate on the new target system for loading Redbirds? My husband was turned away yesterday at two different targets in different states (we were traveling) because the cashiers didn’t know how to load the Redbirds. He tried telling them to use the “K8” or, the “extras” option but the cashiers still couldn’t make it work. Now, I see you mentioned code 15… what is that? How does that work? Thanks!

    • It seems the cashiers are confused about which code to enter for reloads. Based on what I picked up, it appears they type in code 8 and that doesn’t work (I think that was the code they would enter previously). However, entering code 15 (“other”) does the trick. Tell them to do that next time and make sure you swipe the Redbird on the customer swipe machine rather than having the cashier do it on their end.

      • Leave it to Ariana to figure out the internal Target codes that cashiers type. Great! Thx, will make a note of it in the guide…can you or someone else pls see if you can double check/verify that next time you load, for the sake of data points? I would myself but personally I’d feel a bit uncomfortable telling them internal codes, because I visit these local Target stores so often (mostly to activate temp Redbirds) and I try to come across as I don’t know it all when I guide cashiers.

        Otherwise, the cashier can just scan an item for purchase and K8 shows up on their screen and remains there even if they void the item….I’ve tested this myself.

  5. Laura and others, I wrote the guide on loading the Redbird (prepaid REDcard) at Target with the new registers, the link that Radster has posted above (this: https://goo.gl/gjNp7Y). For loading multiple GCs at once I def recommend the cashier split method. I will update the guide if anything changes, but If any of you had any diff experience, pls let me know via a comment.

    On the multiple Redbirds note, like Ariana I don’t get any grief from Target employees, but I do sometimes say preemptively things like they’re for business purposes, to separate expenses, etc. For anyone thinking of having family members and friends help them as such with registering for another Redbird, keep in mind that while most stores across the country will likely have no issue with it, there’s some stores that check to make sure your ID matches the name on the Redbird. From reports it seems mostly stores in dense areas/cities where fraud incidents are also higher. You won’t know for certain until you try, but recent local data points sure help.

    • Hi Noonradar,
      Wow! Your guide to loading Redbird with the new registers is awesome. I highly recommend other people read it, if they have a Redbird and want to avoid problems. THANK YOU!!

  6. I don’t really MS much but I do want to say: If you do get into grad school, I wish you the best! I’m in my final year of my Master’s and it’s been stressful with balancing a full-time job!

  7. Terrible news from TopCashback.com! Going forward, only Amex gift cards in denominations of $200 or less are eligible to receive cash back. Buying a $200 Amex gift card with a $3.95 fee per card (2%) to receive 1.5% cash back (or 2.25% on business cards on certain promotional days) doesn’t seem worthwhile.

  8. I ordered 2 $ 2,000 AX gift cards and went to 2 CVS stores and had no luck converting them into Vanilla Visa gift cards. In the mail im waiting for my pre paid redcard since California has no participating stores.

    I asked one Cashier at CVS and he told me I can load the vanilla with a credit card, but I’m afraid since to do that and I take it to Target and the cashiers tell me they don’t reload red cards since Cali is not a participating state. Any tips?

    • Ana, whether a Target store offers the temporary Redbird card has no bearing on that store letting you load the permanent Redbird. The only two states that have their registers hard coded to not load Redbird are NC and AR. Most Target stores across the country don’t offer the temp Redbird but they let you load the permanent one. Some stores don’t let you load it though, they’re usually in dense metropolitan areas like NYC, but not always. As to your particular store, if you share the city, people in your area can help with data points and feedback, these things change by location.

      If you got the info of a temp Redbird and registered online, then just wait for the permanent one to arrive and try it. If you didn’t, you can buy a temporary Redbird card online, for instance see this post of mine for more info: https://plus.google.com/u/0/+NoonRadar/posts/DTLVuZFe3Bp

Leave a Comment