My Week in Manufactured Spending: Visiting My Favorite MS City

It’s been another low key week in manufactured spending. No $23,500 gift card churning feats or Redbird drama. It’s partly because I haven’t had the time to churn out big numbers like I used to. Whenever the opportunity presents itself, I buy MetaBank Visa gift cards from Safeway since they’re easy to unload. This past week I was in San Jose again. I’m loving this area because pretty much every Safeway and Target store is ms-friendly. It does have some of the worst Walmart stores I’ve ever been to, but who needs Walmart when there are a dozen Targets? Plus, there’s a Philz Coffee in downtown San Jose – if everything else about the trip had sucked, Philz would have made it worthwhile.

Visa gift cards at Safeway

Visa gift cards at Safeway

So while my sister went to work, I drove around downtown San Jose with my mint mojito iced mocha in hand. There’s a Safeway Market (or “The Market by Safeway” to be accurate) in downtown. For those who are unfamiliar with this type of store, it’s basically a cross between a 7-Eleven and a Trader Joe’s, but without all of the good snacks like cookie butter and garlic naan. In the past, I’ve been able to use Amex gift cards to purchase Visa gift cards at this store but now that those are out of the picture, I just use my credit card like normal people do.

Next was another ms-friendly Safeway store a few miles away. I loaded up on $1,000 worth of cards since that seems to be a safe amount for avoiding fraud alerts (another thing that made buying Amex gift cards handy). There was a CVS down the street and I stopped by to buy a new USB cable for my phone…along with a couple of Paypal My Cash cards. Paypal STILL hasn’t shut me down though I expect this to be my last month (again). I stopped at a Target store to unload some Vanilla Visas I had purchased at CVS the previous day. They loaded without problems. 

My sister got done with work, so I picked her up and we drove to Santana Row. There’s a CVS and Safeway store across the street so she helped me stock up on gift cards since I’d maxed out my daily $2,000 limit at CVS that morning. While there, she decided on a whim to purchase a lottery ticket. Yesterday she told me someone in San Jose won $15 million…with a lottery ticket purchased at the Safeway store next door (“That could have been me! It could have been me!”). 

We got our cards and then focused on getting out of there since traffic is absolutely out of control between the hours of 2:30 PM and 2:30 PM. You would think with so many smart, tech-savvy people inhabiting the area they would find a way to fix the traffic problem but that doesn’t seem to be a priority. That’s the one thing I absolutely despise about San Jose – traffic on the way home is a special form of purgatory. 

We stopped at the Emeryville IKEA on the way home to buy things that are going to break by the next installment of this post. The $8 french press I purchased the last time I was there? Broke within a week while I was washing it. I don’t even know how it happened but the glass just self combusted. I also picked up some Cinnamon Rolls – because no one has better cinnamon rolls than IKEA (I don’t care if Cinnaholic was on Shark Tank – I went there before they got famous and the rolls were inedible).

After that, we stopped by a nearby Target store that had given my brother some trouble in the past. I stood in line for a long time while a woman tried to parent her hyperactive kids and find a receipt in her bag. I was in line for a good 20 minutes while the sole cashier handled whatever problem she was having. When my turn came, I decided to really milk it and load a total of $5,000 across five redbirds. The cashier was surprisingly cool about it – probably because she felt bad about how long I waited. 

I didn’t keep track, but I think I churned about $10,000 worth of gift cards last week. Nothing to get excited about, but manageable for the sad state of manufactured spending I’m finding myself in these days. I’m heading to Chicago this week for the annual Chicago Seminars and don’t expect to do much manufactured spending while there. Unless I find a Neighborhood Walmart in the city – then I might skip the event altogether and churn until they arrest me on suspicion of money laundering.

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Ariana Arghandewal


  1. i’ll be in Chicago for the seminars also….look forward to meeting you :). take me with you to the Neighborhood Walmart! haha

  2. I’ll be in Chicago too–first time. Are you given a talk or ‘hosting informally?’ (smile) Enjoy the week.

  3. Hi Ariana, I am new to your site and have been reading over the post. I have several questions to ask you. Mainly regarding Vanilla Visa and Mastercard purchases. I do not think this is probably the most appropriate place for me to ask you questions and tell you my little story. Is there a way I can email you? I need some advice and I need help settling some confusion in my head over the ms spending world. I am a newbie! Please help!!! Thank you so much! Sincerely, Summer

  4. I need to purchase a gift card and would like to try giftcardmall.com for the first time. I want to purchase a visa that is pin-enabled. I tried searching for Vanilla since I’m comfortable with this card and I know the places that will accept this card for purchasing MO’s. When I look at the Visa cards there are tons to choose from.

    For example; I liked the look of the: ABSTRACT ROSES VISA GIFT CARD. I tried reading the terms for this card to make certain it was pin-enabled. When I click to read the terms, it states:

    To locate the applicable Cardholder Agreement, click the link that matches the first six digits on your Visa Gift Card.

    4267 31 issued by Sunrise Banks, N.A., Member FDIC.
    4358 80 issued by MetaBank, Member FDIC.

    First, how do I know which bank will be associated with this card? When I read the Sunrise terms it states that it does NOT come with a pin. The Metabank does come with a pin #. I am afraid to order and end up getting the Visa issued by Sunrise Bank. Please help me!!! I was really looking forward to a new place to order pin-enabled Visa’s from.

    Also, is there any place that you are aware of that I can order pin-enabled Visa’s using my paypal balance?

    Thanks in advance for anyone out there that can help me out! Sorry for all the questions! I’m still learning! 🙂

  5. Hey, you were in my hood! (I’m in Emeryville) the MS is really excellent in the Tri-Valley area too, if you’re ever around there. I regularly load $12,500 to Redbirds (5) in one visit with the same cashier…they don’t bat an eyelash here, so there’s no reason to be conservative on how many Redbirds you load here. 😉

    • I’m in Tri-Valley too! (Livermore), which Targets are so lenient around here? Just getting into the MS myself 🙂

    • I was there again today. I didn’t get a chance to hit up the Target there but I did go to Pinole and Valejo and it seems they’re hard-coding their registers to reject gift card loads. Have you tried loading Redbird today?

  6. If you want to read it, I put together my educated guesses/speculations (ramblings that is) about why I think Redbird is dead; pros and cons of possible reasons for it being dead or not, along with a picture of the error you get as of Oct 12th: http://www.noonradar.com/blogs/news/70367683-redbird-target-prepaid-redcard-is-dead-as-of-october-12-2015

    If you read the entire article you’ll see the irony about me just commenting now about it.

    Needless to say, I sure do hope that I’m wrong about reading the events of the day. We can all benefit from that, from me being wrong about this and Redbird continuing to live on.

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