My Week in Manufactured Spending: Walk of Shame Edition

Here I am being a hypocrite, going back to churning Visa gift cards when I’ve said long ago I was done doing that. That’s the nature of the beast – the points and miles game is an addiction and I can’t seem to kick it for very long. So I did what I swore I was not going to do again – I ordered $6,000 worth of Visa gift cards, most of which will be unloaded via Redbird loads (if I’m lucky) as well as money orders. I also did a stupid thing and decided to order $5,000 worth of Amex gift cards. Back when these could be loaded onto Redbird, it was easy to justify even a $50,000 order, but in the post-Redbird era, they are a pain in the a** to unload. So I set about doing just that, with embarrassing results.

My embarrassing week in manufactured spending

I was in San Jose two weeks ago, making the rounds at different grocery stores to try and unload the Amex gift cards first. There was one particular grocery store where I had luck buying ReloadIT and Visa gift cards in the past, so I tried to find that store again. However, I looked up the wrong location and ended up at the wrong store, near downtown. I decided to give it a try anyway and picked up two $500 Visa gift cards, intending to pay for them with my Amex gift card. To my surprise, the cashier did an override and approved the transaction – no questions asked. Not even an ID check. 

So I pulled up the Yelp app and attempted to find the other Safeway store, which I finally did! I picked up a $1,000 Reloaded card along with a $500 Visa gift card. Again, the transaction was approved with an override and the cashier didn’t even bother checking the card I was using or asking for my ID. With my pathetic $2,500 worth of gift cards in hand, I was going to make another round but I had to pick up my sister, who was in town for work. 

The next day, I had some time on my hands so I headed out with the intention of unloading some of these cards. On the way to my local target, there was a Neighborhood Walmart location where I’d successfully used Visa gift cards to purchase money orders in the past. The service at these Neighborhood stores tends to be better and the cashiers don’t appear to be up on the rules like their Walmart Superstore counterparts. I went in and requested a $500 money order. However, the $500 Visa gift cards kept getting declined! So I pulled out the $200 cards instead after confirming with the cashier that I could split the payment (“Sure! You can use as many cards as you like”). While I only managed to unload $500, at least I know this location is ms friendly, so I will be back to unload some more.

Next, I headed off to reload my Redbird cards at a Target store staffed with mostly college students – my favorite kind, because they are the most apathetic and lax when it comes to imposing store policies. However, my cashier was a man and as sexist as this may sound, it’s been my experience that men between the age of 19 – 35 make the worst cashiers. They’re absolutely adamant about following rules and making others do the same. That’s fine when you’re manning a self-service frozen yogurt shop, but not at a manufactured spending hot spot where I’m trying to hit my loading quota before my credit card bill is due.

He asked me what type of card I was going to use and I semi-lied with, “debit.” In my defense, those gift cards do have “debit” written on them. He repeated, “A debit card?” “Yes.” He must have seen right through me because he then asked to see it and shut me down. “Sorry, but we only accept debit cards from actual banks.” But this card has a PIN and is processed as a debit card. “Sorry, but it has to be a real bank.” There’s no sense in arguing, so I left and called it a day.

This has got to be the most embarrassingly low amount of manufactured spending I’ve ever managed in a week, but it’s the best I could do at the moment. As a last-ditch effort, I even did a walk of shame back to my local Walmart Bluebird kiosk to see if I could churn out some money orders. I was rewarded with a piece of paper with “Out of Order” written in big, angry capital letters.

None of this has discouraged me, they’re just minor annoyances. I am headed back to San Jose next week where I plan on unloading all of these gift cards once and for all. With my Asia trip coming up in two weeks, I need to get this last round of cards unloaded so I don’t have to worry about it when I return in August.

What has your week in manufactured spending been like? I’d love to know what you’re all doing to meet spending requirements and generate extra points and miles.

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Ariana Arghandewal


  1. Meh – I have never had trouble with Target allowing me to use VGCs to load to Redbird! You are making me nervous since I have 5k in gift cards I bought a couple days ago to unload on Redbird

    • I think it’s a regional thing. In general, manufactured spending in my area has been tough. Even during the Vanilla Reload days, my store either didn’t stock them or they wouldn’t let me buy them with a credit card.

  2. What are you using to load the reloadit to? T-mobile? I’ve been seeing some crazy things going on with reloadit safe lately….

    • Reload it’s aren’t as easy to unload unfortunately, so I did use it to pay my T-mobile bill. Back in the day I would use bill pay to pay off credit cards, but they have a new set-up that excludes credit card bill pay or bank transfers.

  3. Ariana — I just LOVE reading your blog! It’s my favorite one, by far. I haven’t done any manufactured spending since June 20 because I’ve been in Paris, France. I’m even posting this to your blog from the British Airways Business Class Lounge at Orly Airport. However, I’ll need to get my act together tomorrow to start off my manufactured spending for July the right way… I currently only have one $500 Vanilla Visa to offload, so I need to buy some Simon Mall $500 Visa gift cards ASAP (still working my way to $40,000 in spend on my AA Executive MasterCard to get those 10,000 EQM). And I have to admit that no longer being able to load Amex gift cards at Target has really made a dent in my manufactured spending…

  4. Oye, the pain of the game!

    Enjoy your blog and especially your writing style. Always a pleasure and chuckle to read. 🙂

  5. Just curious which neighborhood walmart in SJ let you get MO with split tender? You are right that the superwalmarts are all very up to date on rules. Thanks in advance!

  6. Enjoy your blog, though you sound far too cynical sometimes! So far, I’m still averaging a small monthly profit converting $40K AGCs into VGCs and OVs, then offloading via Serve (WM and FD) and WM MOs ($0.25/mo!). Know all the cashiers/managers/CSRs at the groceries and WMs (after 3+ years, I know a lot of their life stories, as well…). At WM, use Kate for Serve, but it’s faster to get multiple MOs with CSRs.

    • Haha! I agree. I’d like to think it’s a generational trait, but it’s probably just me. I’ve tried to befriend my local Walmart cashiers but they were not having it! If you care to share your sources with me, I promise to keep it to myself.

  7. Target in S’vale is no-no for VGC load, whiles others in SanJose/SantaClara/MV are at least hit/miss or completely welcome to VGC load. BTW, where/which store in SanJose could buy VGC with AGC, mind if share? Thanks, Ariana.

  8. Is the amount of time you spend traveling around doing all this MS truly worth it? Do you factor in the opportunity costs of what that time could be used for? I.e learning a new skill, helping others, or furthering your career in some way? What if by doing those things you were able to earn more money from your day job to pay for travel instead of trying to game the system somehow? In other words, if you spend 80-100 hours a year traveling between grocery stores, Targets, WalMarts, scouring the internet portals for deals, etc , do you really come out on top? Also, most of these places are not desirable places to spend time. They are aesthetically disgusting and depressing in most cases. I am not convinced this is a productive activity.

    • I agree with most of what you’re saying – except, Target and Neighborhood Walmart aren’t terrible places to deal with. In the past I didn’t spend much time doing this at all and with the cash back I was earning on Amex gift cards, it was absolutely worth it. Now that it’s getting harder, it’s not such a good use of time anymore, which is why I took a break from it. I actually am focusing my time on more productive ventures, but every once in a while I feel the urge to score 10k UR points with a $2k office supply store run that I can liquidate over time. I don’t travel exclusively for ms, but when I happen to be out of town I go on runs like this because it’s sometimes easier when the store employees haven’t seen you before.

  9. Walgreens just came out with a prepaid card. Anyone have experience yet?


  10. I am in San Jose right now. Had no problem buying visa GC at a Simon mall. In fact the guy said we could buy 19 at one time.
    Just got turned down at the Target on Hillsdale. They said they only accept “real” debit cards. So we are off to try one near our hotel in Milpitas. If I don’t have success there, there are several more to try over the weekend.
    I only bought 2 GC for this experiment.

    • Success loading both GC to redbird at milpitas target. Yay! Very convenient since I bought them at the Great Mall. I may buy a couple more before we leave next week.

    • Thanks for sharing, Laura. That’s insane! I might have to make a pitstop at the SM next time I’m in town. I’ve had success at the Target on Coleman Ave but it’s good to know Hillsdale is also good.

  11. Good to see you’re back and schlepping it out to Target and Walmart like the rest of us! There’s a Target by me where they’re very friendly and will let me unload as many gift cards as I’d like. But I can only do it at the customer service desk. As for Walmart, I have a list of Walmarts with money kiosks. Not only do I hit the ones by my home, but as I travel a lot with my wife on the Southwest Companion Pass, I’ll drive around whatever city we’re visiting and hit those Walmarts as well. My very tolerant wife understands that the reason we can take so many trips is because of all these visits to Walmarts. We joke around that our goal is to visit every Walmart with a money kiosk in the US!

    • It’s nice you’ve got a partner in crime to tag along on these trips! I gotta say I’m jealous of you Floridians. I have friends in the Miami area who are cleaning up thanks to working kiosks and lax Walmart cashiers.

  12. I’ve been buying $200 VGC at Staples.com for a bit now, but now the website says their discontinued. Is this true at the stores as well?

    • You’re right, they’re only selling them in $100 increments and limiting them to 3 at a time. I would try the story since they might have some leftover stock.

  13. Hi! I recently received a $500 Amex Gift Card and I’m desperately trying to just turn it into a Visa Gift Card.. Only because the place I want to spend it at does not accept Amex. I’m actually located in San Jose as well and was wondering what places accepts Amex Gift Cards as payments for Visa Gift Cards.

    • Sorry for the late response Stephanie. My suggestion is to hit up the Great Mall in Miltitas and use the Amex gc to buy a Simon Mall Visa gc at the customer service desk. I hope this helps!

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