My Week in Manufactured Spending: Pre-Vacation Edition

I took most of last week off after having a very productive weekend. I figured I had all the miles I needed at the moment and focused my efforts on redemption ideas (the AAdvantage devaluation is happening tomorrow, so you might want to explore your options as well). My sister has been working hard in school and wanted to go someplace relaxing for spring break. Initially, I had a trip to New York planned, but then I made a last minute change and booked a week at the Hyatt Ziva Los Cabos instead. If this interests you at all, stay tuned for a post where I go over how to find cheap rates when rooms aren’t available on points. After booking this trip, I decided to earn those miles back and to try and do it before the trip started. The vicious cycle continues…

Neighborhood Walmart money center

I got a late start this week but did manage to buy and unload $40,000 worth of gift cards. Nowadays, I have a nice and short manufactured spending route down, which allows me to unload at least $10,000 per day easily. I did run into a few small issues.

The rep at my local Walmart, whom I thought I’d buttered up the previous week by entertaining her conversation about Youtube covers of popular songs (her recommendations were actually pretty good), suddenly acted like she’d never seen me before. She even asked to see my cards! And when I showed them to her, she became uneasy and said, “I’m not accusing you of anything, but there are people out there who buy prepaid cards with other people’s credit cards. So that’s what goes through my head when I see these cards.” She still let me proceed with the transaction, and I think it helped when I pulled out a couple of gift cards that actually had my name on them. This was really the only hiccup I encountered, which was amazing considering the much higher number I was able to churn out that week.

Next, I sent my brother to go buy some gift cards at a local mall and for the third time in a row, his Arrival card was declined (even after he called ahead to tell them he was making a large purchase). Once again, he had to resort to his Starwood Preferred Guest credit card. On one hand, it’s great that his SPG account balance will go up by almost 30,000 points this month – on the other hand, we’d like to avoid an Amex financial review, so these large purchases can’t happen regularly.

For the most part, I’ve been taking advantage of iConsumer’s 1.5% cash back offer at Giftcards.com. This eliminates pretty much all gift card churning fees and I don’t have to make an extra stop on my route. So I’ve been using this offer to generate some (close to free) miles on my Alaska and Discover It Miles cards, as well as a few other cards belonging to close family members.

It’s been pretty frustrating to place these small orders, which is why I’ve been using Arrival for larger purchases – the card has a higher credit limit and I like seeing large amounts of miles post to the account within days of purchasing gift cards. Plus, the card earns the equivalent of 2.1% cash back, which helps off-set the gift card fees. I have a cousin who’s just starting to build her credit (i.e. all she has is a store credit card) and when she booked a trip to Europe for the summer, I offered up my Arrival card. She paid me back in cash and I was able to pay the card off and cash out my Arrival miles at a good rate. Other than this, I like to use my Arrival Miles for heavily discounted hotel stays and airfare.

I do enjoy the trips to my local mall and those who know me know how much I despise malls to begin with. There’s always lots of parking near the customer service entrance and the reps I interact with are just the best. They’re always super friendly, supportive of the hobby, and they’ve recently gotten into the habit of sending me off with jelly bean packets and chocolate gifted to them by their corporate clients. Apparently, some of their gamer customers (their terminology, not mine) aren’t very nice, so when I come in without a chip on my shoulder and ask about their day, they appreciate it. So be nice to people – it goes a long way in making things pleasant for everyone.

That pretty much wraps up my week. Other than the fact that I finally bought a money order at the post office, nothing out of the ordinary happened. I probably won’t make it a habit, since they cost more than Walmart money orders at $1.25 per $500. It’s still nice to know there’s a back-up in case I ever need it.

How was your week in manufactured spending?

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Ariana Arghandewal


  1. I’m sure you’ve answered this before…but how many banks are the MO being spread across to do 40k/wk? Forget the debate about the stupid debate on if it is right or wrong…I’m more amazed at how much that goes right in the face of what everyone always says about how MO will get you shut down lol. Good job.

    • I’ve been depositing the funds into a WF account for the most part. I don’t need that account anymore, so if they shut me down it saves me a phone call. Occasionally, I use mo’s for direct payments at a bank branch, to speed up the pay-off process. But this can also be risky, so I keep it to a minimum.

  2. Hi Ariana,
    How often do you place orders with Giftcards.com? I have had no luck with them for over a week. All orders get cancelled for all 3 accounts for my family. Arrival + has been a pain for me as well. I have tried to use it at giftcardmall and orders keep getting cancelled because card gets declined. I have cleared fraud alert 3 times already but still no luck.

    • I would start small with Arrival – sometimes if you go for big numbers ($4k+) right off the bat, they keep declining. That’s what happened to my brother. Next time I’m just going to have him do a $3k purchase and then work his way up. I’ve been placing a giftcards.com order every day this week – but not always for myself. I alternate between orders for myself, my dad, brother, etc.

  3. Some malls are great with gift card purchases. I have one that has given us free luggage, lots of candy and they’re currently giving out hats.

    • That’s awesome! Aside from the free stuff (my rep also gave me a coupon book with some amazing deals in it), I just like interacting with them. They’re super sweet and supportive of what I do.

  4. Hi Ariana,
    It blows my mind how you have the courage to do this. I want to also but have stopped at buying the $200 Staples cards. I have a reminder to buy two today as they are offering the $20 staples gift card from the 20th for three days.

    I wonder what you would recommend as a start out amount to get into the MS hobby?

    • I purchase those too sometimes. I would say think about how much time you have to devote to it. I only have a 4-hour work week and an easy ms route, so doing $40k is totally feasible. Maybe start off with $5k per week to see how you can handle that and go from there.

  5. This sentence has me confused: “..bought a money order at the post office, nothing out of the ordinary happened. I probably won’t make it a habit, since they cost more than Walmart money orders at $0.89 per $500.” AFAIK, MOs at Walmart cost $0.70 for up to $1K, while the USPS charges $1.25 for an MO up to $500 and $1.65 for an MO betw. $500-$1000 (see: https://www.usps.com/shop/money-orders.htm). How is a $500 MO costing you $0.89, and where are you buying it?

    • Thanks for pointing it out Lola. You’re right – it’s $1.25 per $500. I was thinking of the fees charged by gas stations ($0.89 per $500) when I wrote that (well past midnight). I’ve updated the post to reflect the correct price.

  6. I see. Darn it. I was holding out hope maybe you’d discovered a secret way of paying $0.89 per $500 MO at the USPS. Thanks for clarifying. 🙂

  7. How the heck do you manage to find the time to unload $40k worth of gift cards? If I want to do $2500 or so per month is walmart still my place? What is the limit of $1,000 money orders before they said enough?

    • As a freelance writer, I’ve got a lot of free time on my hands. Plus, I’m surrounded by WM stores, which makes it easy to do a lot of ms in a short time. You can definitely do $2500 per month at WM. I always get them in $2k increments (so I can split payment across 4 cards) and it’s usually not a problem.

      • “$2k increments (so I can split payment across 4 cards) ” This answers the question I just posted on the blog. Please disregard the 1st question in my previous post. But I still would like to know which Gas Station is selling MO and how to do get rid of $200 VGC if any? Thanks.

  8. Nice post! Seems that it takes iconsumer a long time to pay out. 1.5% is really nice, but do you they are trustworthy?

  9. Thanks for sharing all of this information to help other also. Few questions.
    What $ amount are you buying for each order from giftcards? and what shipping option do you select from them?

  10. Just to confirm if it’s true that WM only allows max 4 swipes on MO purchases. I did it with 4 $500 VGCs to purchase two MOs in one receipt. But I do have $200 VGCs purchased at Office Supply Stores as well. It looks like most of your VGCs purchased at Simon Mall and GiftCards.com (via Yazing.com or iConsumer with 1.5% cash back) are $500 face value, right? Just wonder if you ever get to need to liquidate any $200 VGC. if so, how and where? I have the same question as OZ, “Which gas station is selling MO?” Thanks!

    • I liquidate the $300 gc’s from time to time, which is a bit more challenging. The money order link goes to a page that explains which gas stations sell money orders.

  11. Just wondering if this $40k included only MO’s or the secret MS place you recently found which you think could go on forever?

  12. Hold on I must be way behind… I have a chase sapphire, citi prestige, Ritz Carlton chase, penfed platinum reward, hsbc reward discover it and quicksilver and arrival + and seems like I have been under utilizing my potential point earnings…could someone please school me how this is done?

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