My Week in Manufactured Spending: Rediscovering a Goldmine

I visited my sister last week and it was a very good trip. Not only because I got to spend time with her and my nieces, but it was productive in terms of manufactured spending. I unloaded a ton of Visa gift cards thanks to her help and finally beat that cough I’ve been battling for months.

The Gift Card Rack at Safeway The Market

The Gift Card Rack at Safeway The Market

Over the past few weeks, there have been times when I’ve passed Walmart stores and didn’t feel like going in. I’ve been buying Visa gift cards at Safeway whenever I’ve shopped there, but other than that it’s been pretty quiet on the manufactured spending front. When I visited my sister, I brought my stash of Visa gift cards with me just in case. She not only encouraged me to unload them, she offered to help. “I’ll take you to as many Walmart stores as you want” – that’s becoming her tagline.

In the afternoons, we’d get into her car and drive around to different Safeway, CVS, and Walmart stores. I’d get out, buy some money orders, then she’d go out after me and do the same. The kids would doze off for their afternoon naps and we’d get our work done. Two birds, one stone. We unloaded about $5,000 worth of Visa gift cards (mainly in $200 or $300 denominations), and I purchased another $4,500 worth of Visa gift cards and Paypal My Cash Reload Cards. I even got to cover the cost of some of these gift cards with a winning lottery ticket…$16! I would make some lame joke here about not quitting my job, but I already did that.

In all, we did about $10,000 worth of manufactured spending and I felt like I was on a roll. On my way home, I stopped at my local mall to pick up some Metabank Visa gift cards. The last time I did this was almost two years ago, when Kendra from Points and Pixie Dust was in town and we decided to do an ms run. At the time, the paperwork and low purchase limit put me off and I never went back. However, I figured even if purchase limits were low, this was a good way to diversify spending on my credit cards. So I went to the customer service center and filled out the paperwork to buy $5,000 worth of Visa gift cards.

I made a comment about how I hoped my card wouldn’t decline and the representative informed me that if this happened, she wouldn’t be allowed to run it again – even if I spoke to the bank afterwards to clear the transaction. I’d have to try a different card. This is the exact opposite of my local Safeway’s policy – they won’t let you use a different payment method if your card gets declined. I decided to play it safe and call Barclays before running the card, which worked out well.

While ringing up the transaction, the representative explained that several people in the area buy large quantities of these cards on a regular basis and that she’s aware of the reason (apparently we’re known as “gamers” in their circles). She even asked me what I was planning on doing with my miles. She thought the whole thing was great and encouraged me to come back and clean out their Christmas themed gift cards, since nobody was buying those anymore.

I went back the next day, this time intending to max out the full $9,500 daily limit and was glad to see the same rep working the desk. Since my Barclay Arrival Plus card was approaching its limit, I decided to use my dad’s card (on which I’m an authorized user). In my experience, credit cards with chips tend to incite fewer fraud alerts, so I was surprised when the card got declined. The rep told me she’d break the aforementioned rule and run the card again if I wanted to call my bank and clear the transaction. Unfortunately, I left my phone at home and when I told her this, she pulled out the landline and told me to use it: “Once we know you, you get privileges around here.” I called Barclays, confirmed the transaction through the automated service and tried again – the card went through! I walked out with $9,500 Visa gift cards at a cost of $75.05 and earned $201 worth of travel credits on my Barclay Arrival Plus card – a profit of $125.95.

After this, I hung around Starbucks to work for a bit and then went to two Walmart stores nearby, unloading $4,000 worth of gift cards. This brought my stash of money orders to around $9,000. I’ll be using part of this stash to pay off credit cards at bank branches and the rest I’ll deposit into my checking account.

I did pretty well this week and my focus on gift card churning helped take my mind off the fact that I lost out on a job I really wanted. If anything, I think my time might be better spent churning gift cards with a 2% cash back card.

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. Would really appreciate knowing what banks Accept he money orders for bill payment. I know it’s possible with Citibank, but have not tried others.

  2. I’ve been a regular at Simon Malls for over two years always buying the $9500 limit at least 2x’s a month. Now that Bluebird has been shut down I feel like a fish out of water. Do you know anything about “Go Bank” at Walmart? By the by, thanks for all your postings. They have helped me a lot.

    • gobank just like serve/bb you can use it to load at kiosk or cashier register, but just like recent serve/bb they have much more notorious shutting down people’s account with people loading..their limit is 3k a month , and a montly fee about 9 . use it with caution.

  3. Hi there…. Can someone please explain the math on this…

    ” I walked out with $9,500 Visa gift cards at a cost of $75.05 and earned $201 worth of travel credits on my Barclay Arrival Plus card – a profit of $125.95.”

    • She didn’t actually make that in profit. She didn’t include the liquidation cost (MO fees). Or, she’s using something else to liquidate. It comes out to about 1% net gain and then you get 5% back in Arrival points on the amount you redeemed for travel. So, if you redeemed 10,000 points ($100 value) you get back 500 points (5% of 10,000 points) which is a $5 value (another travel credit later). Yes, it’s a lot of work for 1% net gain, and that’s why it’s a ‘hobby’.

      • Liquidation costs for $9,500 worth of gift cards comes to $5.50 total (9 x $1k mo’s + another $500 at $0.55 cents a piece). It’s not so much a profit than a massive discount on future travel. Plus, I occasionally book travel with my card for family members. I redeem my Arrival miles and essentially cash out my miles when they give me cash.

    • I’ll make a few MO’s out to myself, my brother and parents, who will deposit them into their accounts and use the funds to pay off the Barclay cards. The remaining MO’s will be used to pay off credit cards directly at Chase and Bofa branches.

  4. Can you explain the process of getting a MO at Wal-Mart? How do you get a $1K MO with $500 VGCs? I had heard that WM wasn’t allowing purchases of MOs without a name on the Visa card, is that not the case?

  5. yes, how do you do a split payment buying a MO at WM? Don’t they get suspicious as to why you are using two “debit” cards” to pay for a say $1000 MO?
    also, I noticed MO fees vary between WMs – anywhere from 55 cents to $3.75.

  6. As a data point, I believe you suggested in a previous post (the one about the death of Bluebird) to try to liquidate Metabank VISA gift cards by buying MO’s at the post office. Tried this last week (had a $200 GC from Staples, and asked for a $190 MO). Payment method was “declined” twice and I know for sure I was entering the last 4 on the card as the PIN. I’m really trying to get into manufactured spending gradually, but so far having VERY bad luck with gift cards! And don’t get me started on how awful it is to visit my local Walmart (Paso Robles). I only ever got $200 onto my Bluebird, so I’m just spending it down & will close it out.

  7. My Metabank Visa gift card doesn’t seem to work at Walmart and RiteAid any longer as a debit transaction for non purchase purposes. It worked fine this past Saturday, so maybe something changed. I was attempting to load $500, but perhaps smaller amount will work? Just planning to spend the balance and then focus on my work instead from now on.

  8. Ariana, this is probably a stupid question, but if I read the article and comments correctly, you’re saying that you can use a MO that you bought at Walmart to pay the credit card company directly at a branch?

    So you can walk in to a branch and write the name of the CC company on the money order to pay? No need to deposit the mo first on your own acct then pay the credit card company using Bill pay feature?

    • Not stupid at all. Yes, you can take the money order to a branch (I usually do it at Chase or Bank of America), make it out to the bank, and then tell them you want to use it to pay your credit card bill. A money order is like cash, so it gets treated as such for direct credit card payments.

Leave a Comment