My Week in Manufactured Spending: Post-Canada Edition

Update: iConsumer has lowered their Giftcards.com payout to 0.8% cash back.

There’s nothing like a trip to Canada to make you appreciate what you have back home (I don’t care that they have universal healthcare – I’ll take great ms opportunities over free healthcare any day). After spending a week in Ontario and witnessing the incredibly depressing manufactured spending scene, I went on a massive spending spree. I didn’t really keep track of numbers or have time to document it all but by my best estimation, I’ve purchased and liquidated over $40,000 worth of gift cards over the past two weeks.

A gift card rack at an Ontario drug store

A gift card rack at an Ontario drug store

Just this past week alone, I made two trips to my local Simon Mall, where I loaded up on $15,000 worth gift cards. I was worried when reports surfaced that Barclays was coding Simon Mall purchases as a cash advance in some regions, but thankfully that wasn’t the case for me. On one occasion, I brought my brother along and he picked up $8,000 worth of cards on his own without any issues. I did run into some trouble during the liquidation process, when the money center registers kept rejecting my Metabank gift cards for money order purchases. That issue was resolved a few days later, allowing me to burn through my remaining cards.

Another great gift card churning opportunity presented itself last week when Yazing began offering 2% cash back at Giftcards.com. When this deal ended, iConsumer brought back their 1.6% cash back offer, which was a great way to off-set gift card fees and bypass the time-consuming step of having to drive someplace to load up on gift cards. During these two promotions, I managed to place just under $10,000 worth of orders. As of this writing, iConsumer is still offering 1.6% cash back at Giftcards.com and I plan on placing at least one $2,500 order per day as long as the deal is still around.

Another way I loaded up on points and miles was by picking up a few new credit cards. After writing a post for Frugal Travel Guy about 2% cash back cards, I began to consider the Discover it Miles card as a serious contender. For one, I spent about $20 on wifi during my flight home, which could have been covered if I had the Discover it Miles card at the time. Cardholders get $30 worth of statement credits towards in-flight wifi charges every year – and the card has no annual fee! On top of this, the card pays out 3 miles per $1 on all spending during the first year, which drops down to 1.5 after that. Getting this card was a no-brainer, just based on the amount of manufactured spending I could do with it.

Next up was a second Alaska credit card, along with the Fidelity Visa and a Citi Business AAdvantage Platinum Select card. These all great cards that will give my mileage account a nice boost – especially in time for one last redemption before the upcoming AAdvantage devaluation. I now have $6,000 worth of spending requirements to complete, but that can be easily achieved with a couple of clicks of the mouse.

Not all was well, however. On Thursday I walked into my favorite Walmart store – the one that seems to have a new employee every time I go in – and wasn’t surprised when a new cashier greeted me at the money center. However, something was off about this woman – she was much more self-assured than most new hires. I requested a money order and told her I’d like to split the payment across two debit cards. She responded in the sweetest tone possible, “Sure, honey….Can I just see your card?” I handed her my Visa gift card, hoping she wouldn’t say anything, but she looked at it and then said in a patronizing tone, “You see…this is a gift card. We cannot accept gift cards for money order purchases. You see, money orders are like cash and you can’t turn gift cards into cash.” Rather than argue with her (which is always pointless) I feigned ignorance and left.

I’m pretty disappointed to have lost this location, but it’s temporary and chances are in a few months the revolving doors will work their magic and there will be a whole new set of clueless staff working the money center. Plus, there are a ton of other options in my area – there are four other Walmarts within a 10-mile radius (a fourth location just opened up) and there’s a cluster of easy Neighborhood stores 20 minutes away where the cashiers are super accommodating and nobody cares how many money orders I buy. It might just make sense for me to make a trip up there once a week and liquidate a ton of gift cards with minimal hassle. That will have to wait for a few days while I wait for my Giftcards.com order to arrive…

How much manufactured spending have you done over the past week?

Disclosure: The Yazing link in this post is a referral link. If you use it to shop at Giftcards.com you will not earn a commission (but I will). If you do click through with my link, please remember to sign up for your own Yazing account and shop at Giftcards.com while you’re logged in.

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Ariana Arghandewal


  1. Hi Ariana,

    I love to read your MS posts; they give me hope when others are all doom and gloom.
    For liquidation purposes, did you just deposit the MOs or did you go with other options?


    • Thanks Kelli! I’ve deposited some, but others I just used to pay off cards directly at the bank branch. This is much more efficient, since it allows me to re-use the same credit card much more quickly. My Alaska card has an embarrassingly low spending limit, so this method is the only way I can do a lot of ms with it.

  2. I always appreciate your posts Ariana, though you put my MS activities to shame. I’m currently only floating about $10K in MS for the Citibank AA deal. However, I was just able to book HKG on Cathay next year for (3) people in biz for a total value of 9cpp. These are the things that make me LOVE what we do! 🙂

    • That’s awesome Kira! You’ll love CX business – it’s such a great way to get around. Btw if you’re in Hong Kong, don’t forget to take a trip to Stanley. It’s absolutely gorgeous and so not what I expected from Hong Kong.

  3. Ariana I have a question for you.
    Am I better off going to SM and getting my monthly cards in one go or breaking them down? Currently I go weekly and do $2500 on each of 2 cards?

    • Hi Ariana,

      Looking at Iconsumer looks like it’s at .8 cash back. If I’m wrong please correct me.

    • If you have a high credit limit, I’d do it in one go. I have at least two cards with $9k+ limits, so I max those out each time I go to SM. SM is ok with us “gamers” buying cards for miles, so there’s no reason to hold back if you have the credit limit for it.

      • Each SM has their own rules. There’s one near me that will sell as much as you want during M-F from 9-5. But any time after those hours they limit you to one card for $450. Another SM near me changed from $500 gift cards to only $200 ones. Luckily there are many SM’s near me so there are others I can go to get what I need.

      • FYI Ariana. Another yike for 2016. Many Simon Malls Will No Longer Sell Visa Gift Cards as of Today. Where else can I find $500 VGC or MCGC to buy with my CC? Does any WM sell any Sunrise bank issued PIN-enabled $500 VGC? If so, can it possibly buy it with CC at WM? Since Safeway no longer sell $500 VGC and MCGC and now Simon Malls. It’s getting tougher to fulfill newly opened CC’s minimum spending requirements.


  4. @Brian,

    I see the same thing. I even sent an e-mail to cashbackmonitor to alert them but they have not updated. Simplybestcoupons is at 1%. For the time being, i will go with GCM via mainstreetshares @ 0.90% plus the $2.00 off with lucky2016. You will have to wait longer for the cards but at a better cost overall.

  5. My local SM only sells MasterCard gift cards in a maximum of $200 each for a $2.95 fee. Is this standard?

  6. I tried unloading a couple of $200 Visas that I bought at OfficeMax the other day, both from Sunrise Bank, and they got rejected at Walmart. The message was “alt tender required.” The guy in front of me had loaded a bunch of Simon Mall gc’s with no problems. I had just loaded the Sunrise cards with no problems a couple of weeks ago.

  7. Ariana, I agree with Kira since “you put my ms activities to shame.” Since my BB dies, I kind of stop and take a break for the last two months ( no visit to WMT). My local banker was kind to “ugrade” me on a trial private client. Since I was pre-approved for the CSP, she submitted my application. I was aware of 5×24 rule, but she thought that it was a go. Yes, it got rejected, I turned around and got the targeted Hawaiian 50K. Thanks.

  8. Ariana – what bank do you use to deposit all the MOs you buy? I’m fairly new to “the game” and have only done prepaid card MS to this point, but my Serve just got shut down this week. I’m really hoping I can use a bank that accepts MO deposits through their mobile app to make that part a bit easier. I’ve read that paying Chase and Citi cards with MOs can cause those to get shutdown. Have you experienced that?

    • I have accounts with both Bofa and WF, so I deposit them into one of those accounts (depending on which branch is closer while I’m out running errands). With some of my most frequently used cards, I take the mo’s in branch and pay them off so I can reuse that credit line for more gift card purchases without waiting for the funds to clear and then the payment to go through. I haven’t had any shutdowns yet, but I am careful, esp with Chase. I couldn’t care less about Citi though. 😉

      • Awesome – thanks! Your blog is very inspirational, btw. A lot better than all the “THE SKY IS FALLING!” posts I read elsewhere.

        I read through the comments on that other post (you know the one!) – keep doing what you’re doing. Don’t let the ignorant exceptions get to you. You’ll always hear the negative more than the positvie – but for every negative comment there’s at least 100 people reading thinking “wtf is wrong with this person” but choosing not to comment.

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