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Newbie Guide to Manufactured Spending: Prepaid Cards and How to Cash them Out

I’ve had many hobbies: Travel, reading, writing, drawing (I know, it sounds like the hobbies get more and more boring). All of these things have given me a sense of calm and serenity. Chasing points, on the other hand, gives me a rush. While most other people would panic over a $1,000 purchase at a drug store, I get a thrill out of it. When I see 40,000+ miles post on the various accounts at the beginning of each month, I feel a sense of accomplishment.

Thus, I try to seize every opportunity to earn as many miles as possible. Manufactured spending is a major part of that strategy. The basic steps and key players involved in manufactured spending with credit cards are as follows:

Step 1: Buy Reload Packs

  • Greendot Moneypak
  • Greendot Cash Reload
  • Paypal My Cash Reload
  • REloadit

Step 2: Load Onto Prepaid Cards

  • ADP TotalPay cards
  • American Express Bluebird
  • American Express Serve
  • Greendot card
  • MyVanilla Debit
  • Netspend
  • Paypal Business Debit MasterCard
  • PayPower
  • Univision Prepaid cards
  • Vision Visa Prepaid cards

Step 3: Unload Prepaid Cards

  • ATM
  • Bank Transfer
  • Bill Pay feature
  • Cash back at grocery store registers
  • Money order
  • Square Cash

Direct Load Alternatives

  • Visa and Mastercard Giftcards

If you have numerous people in your household over the age of 18, you can capitalize on this even further.

The next post will go into detail about where to buy these cards and how to unload them at minimal cost. A good rule of thumb is to keep your costs under $10 per $1,000 spent. This way, you’re spending under $1,000 out of pocket for every 100,000 miles, which can be redeemed for a roundtrip business class ticket to Europe, or two off-peak economy tickets. We’ll go over redemption options in upcoming posts as well.

Before undertaking any manufactured spending activity, keep in mind that it’s very important to be organized and pay off your credit cards on time to avoid interest and late fees.

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Ariana Arghandewal

18 Comments

  1. I live in the Bay Area around South San Francisco, where can I purchase Vanilla Reloads with a credit card?

    • South San Francisco is the worst! Thankfully, you can head into the city and buy them at the two CVS stores on Market Street. There are also several stores in Berkeley that take credit cards.

  2. I’m new to this. I’ve obtained several credit cards and been able buy VR’s to meet min. spend. I have loaded the max to 2 blubird accounts. What is the best method to pay the cc’s? Can I do this in a way to earn more bonus miles/points?

    • I just use Bluebird bill pay to pay off my credit cards. However, you can also use a mile-earning debit card (i.e. UFB Direct Airline Check Card or Suntrust Debit Card) to buy money orders at Walmart. Then walk into a branch (Chase, Citi, Bank of America) and use the money order to pay off your credit card.

  3. Do you know any CVS in south bay or the peninsula area that would take credit cards? I looked at nearly all CVS in the Mountain View area but they all require cash. Lucky store also carries a lot of vanilla reloads but they require cash! 🙁 I don’t want to start the manufacturing spending game until I can locate the source of VR instead of just direct CC load on Amazon payment and Amex Serve. Thanks for the educational series.

    • Gosh, that is the worst place for VR’s! I’ve never had luck in that area. If you’re ever in SF, there are two CVS stores on Market street that take cc’s. There’s also my trusty source in Downtown Oakland, though they have begun imposing a daily limit of $2,000. Is there a Savemart in your area? I found one in Stockton a while back that took cc’s.

      • I rarely go to SF, and if I do, I am usually in downtown area. I never go to east bay except passing through on my way to Napa. 🙂 There is only one Savemart in Santa Clara, not sure if they stock VR and take cc. Visa prepaid cards are everywhere especially in Safeway, but not sure if walmart money center machine works in mountain view (which is the closest store to me). It is a pain! What do you think of Serve? The Serve with ISIS seems to have higher limits but it requires a special case to sign up.

        • I live near Napa! Never tried their CVS stores, but if you’re in Vacaville, there is a location near downtown that takes cc’s. Out of the way, yes, but if you’re headed to the uber popular outlet mall, there’s an option for you. 🙂

          You can only either have a Serve or Bluebird card – not both. I like the idea of loading Serve directly with a cc, but know that Amex and Citi often code those as cash advances. If I didn’t have a Bluebird card, I might have just gone for the Serve for that reason.

  4. I like SERVE, and have no need to look for bean cards, swipe, and say Thank You.

  5. no one seems to accept credit cards for purchases of these reload cards, I checked the local food emporium, staples, cvs, duane reade, 7-11… any ideas in NYC?

  6. If I buy a Visa gift card with a credit card, can I go to the grocery store and unload it with the cash back option? Will this be considered a cash advance?

  7. Hi! Any interest in updating this post for us super-newbies? I’m trying to get into the game, but have noticed that so many things have changed since this post was first written– Vanilla reloads and Amazon Payments, for example. I’m finding it harder and harder to get good, clear details on what works now. Any help you can provide would be so appreciated!

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