My Week in Manufactured Spending: Post-Vacation Edition

If you think going back to work after vacation is hard, try picking up your manufactured spending routine where you left off. There are several obstacles that make the task more difficult: First, you’ve got jet lag to deal with. Once that’s out of the way, you may find yourself forgetting your routine and which stores are ms-friendly. That happened to me this past week. When I got home, an order of Visa gift cards arrived and I still had $3,000 worth of Amex gift card to unload. However, I was so out of practice that I had to refer to older posts about where to unload them!

Airplane luggage travel

I decided to make things easy by sticking to a local CVS store where the cashiers had previously been ok with me using Amex gift cards to buy Paypal Reloads as well as Visa gift cards. The limit is $2,000 per day (including fees), so I purchased a combination of gift cards at $495 each. I came back the next day and wrapped up a little under $1,000 – I think I currently have a balance of $10 left on the Amex gift card. That’s going straight into my Starbucks account.

Next, I visited a RiteAid store that had previously been friendly. However, the cashier had a concerned look on her face and went to consult with her colleague about protocol. He told her it was fine as long as my credit card matched my ID. She asked to see my card and ID, then claimed I couldn’t use an Amex gift card to purchase another gift card. It’s supposed to be treated like credit, I told her, but she disappeared once again to consult with her supervisor. She was gone for a good 10 minutes, then came back and told me they couldn’t accept a card that didn’t have a name matched to an ID. I left it alone but will likely give it a month or two before I go back there – hopefully by then that particular employee will either have moved through the revolving door or I’ll come across someone less stringent when it comes to following the rules. 

While my town has become a good place for buying gift cards, it’s not great for unloading them. For example, just before I left for my trip, my sister got busted at my local Target for trying to load a Redbird with a Visa gift card. There’s another Target 10 minutes away but that one has also been a hit/miss. So when my mom decided to visit my sister for the weekend, the timing was perfect and I decided to go along. There are at least three Target and four Walmart stores within 5 miles of her house, so it’s a great place to unload gift cards. I managed to do away with just under $5,000 worth of gift cards with minimal hassle.

Since returning from my trip to Asia, which was incredible, I’m more excited about manufactured spending than ever. It certainly helps that I found a local source, which makes it easier and less time consuming for me. While my recent trip cost me around one million points and miles, I do still have a substantial number of airline miles leftover. In December, I’d like to go to either the Middle East or Australia, so I need to bulk up on airline and hotel points, as well as some Arrival Miles to cover the cost of taxes, fees and incidentals. I don’t know that it will happen, since award availability will be tough to come by, but one of these days I’ll sit down and do the math on how many points I need and then set about meeting (and documenting) that goal. Even if the trip doesn’t pan out for December, I’ll at least have the miles stashed away for another time.

Do you struggle with maintaining your manufactured spending routine after a vacation? How do you go about regaining your momentum?

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Ariana Arghandewal


  1. I dont quite understand paypal reloads that you buy at cvs with a visa card, can you please go into more detail

    • also interested in liquidating paypal reloads – heard rumors of shutdowns – i’ve only been doing $500/$1000 a month liquidating by serve debit card. any other suggestions? will withdrawl to bank account cause shutdown?

  2. Can you be more specific about the Visa gift cards, like Staple cards or what. And about the Combo store/debit card/Gift card that did work. Thanks

  3. I used to only buy 3 VGCs at a time at my local CVS to be under the limit. The cashier actually helped me by telling me I could buy 4 since the fees don’t count towards the limit. I always buy 4 now and have done so at multiple CVS, Just so you know.

    • Have you tried that recently? That hasn’t been the case for me. I started buying them for under $500 because at several stores, the cashiers reported problems when I tried for cards for $500 each. One guy even volunteered that it might be because it’s going over their $4k limit.

  4. I’m curious about the risk of the MS. Isn’t it too risky if you use your credit cards to buy a lot of GCs and then pay back them in a short period? I mean, it might draw attentions from bank(s) since they might monitor abnormal spending activities on every customer.

    Recently two of my friends got their Chase Credit Card accounts shut down simply because they recently opened several accounts and did MS in the last months.

  5. I just wish I could get to the level of MS that you do. I do $5,000 a month which really leaves me questioning if it’s worth it.

    I just booked a trip for 3 of us to Australia for next year. It’s costing about 600K in miles and points for air and hotel for the 3 week trip. (which also includes a stop in SE Asia) I’m freaking out about spending all those miles (even though going to Australia was the #1 reason I started doing this in the first place) I need to work on replenishing them.

    • I also experience “buyer’s remorse” when cashing out lots of miles and points.
      It is VERY similar to working at your job: You put in the time, get paid, and spend.

      When you look at the time you put into MS and chasing points, the spend “stings”. BUT, think about the experiences you’re about to embark on… and especially compare it to what you would be paying to have those experiences. Realize you’re earning these opportunities and experiences at a magnified/leveraged level via MS. As we all know, travel isn’t *free*. But traveling the world, more than probably 95% of the global population, for 50%-90% discount… well, that always feels great!

      Enjoy your trip! SO & I spent a week in Fiji and then another in Sydney, and LOVED it.

      … then rebuild those points again! 😉

      • Thanks! I completely agree. After returning from my trip and experiencing everything my manufactured spending activities have gotten me, I know it was time well spent.

  6. You crack me up only because I’ve been in your shoes and I love your honesty. Regarding RA, do you have the AmEx Gold or Biz card? Its perfect for this. I keep the AmEx cc card and the AmEx GC in my hand where ever it is I’m spending the AmExGC. If they ask to verify signature I hand them the Gold Card and my DL and no issues(slight of hand?). They look at signatures on my cc and my DL and all is good.
    Your trip looked amazing. A use of million miles/points is nothing to sneeze at. You go girl!

  7. Including USPS, there is NO place in Dallas, TX area which will let you buy money orders with loaded gift/debit cards with PINs. Is this now national?

  8. I just took advantage of the top cash back offer of 2% back on purchase of American express card. I purchased the $2,000 card. What is the best way to turn this into cash?

  9. Why don’t you just buy Visa GC and load it to the Redbird instead of AMEX CG -Visa GC – Redbird route?

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