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Tips for Doing Large Amounts of Manufactured Spending

A reader reached out to me recently with the following question, that I thought was worth answering on the blog:

How long did it take before you ramped up to $40K in MS/month? Perhaps you could share some of the lessons you learned via mistakes/successes while on the way to $40K/month in MS.

Visa Mastercard gift cards

My post on how to generate $40,000 in manufactured spending each month is one of my most popular ones to date. While it’s still quite easy for me to generate that caliber of manufactured spending, I’m not really doing it much due to the time it takes to unload those gift cards. Once I learned about manufactured spending, it probably took 6 months or so before I had the resources in place (i.e. a reliable Vanilla Reload source, a mile-earning debit card, and a “route” I could follow to easily load/unload gift cards and deposit money orders, etc.) to hit that number.

The way I approach manufactured spending is to just do what I can and then take on more as I see fit. I can easily unload $10,000 in American Express gift cards per month, so that’s what I start off with. When the cards arrive (within 1-2 days), I unload most of them within 1-3 days.

Once this is done, I look over my statement closing dates and decide whether I can do another round of gift card churning in time to pay my credit cards off before my statement closes. There’s also the issue of time: If it looks like I’ll have to hold onto a set of gift cards for longer than a week, I don’t place another order until I can set aside time to go to Target or Walmart to unload them in a timely manner.

So if you’re considering ramping up your manufactured spending, start out small, plan out any additional purchases and unloading, and take on more (in small doses) as you get comfortable with your own process. More importantly, keep track of when your credit card bills are due, hold onto all of your receipts, and remember to have a back-up plan in case your go-to method of unloading gift cards goes bust – like the recent discovery that Bluebird could no longer be loaded with a Vanilla Visa gift card.

As for mistakes, the biggest mistake you can make is to take on too much, too fast. You don’t want to be left with thousands of dollars in gift cards you can’t liquidate because of a small bump in the road (i.e. you’ve hit your maximum load on Amex for Target, the Target cashier won’t let you use American Express gift cards to load Amex for Target, the Bluebird kiosk is down and the Walmart cashier won’t accept a “debit card” without your name on it, etc.).

Paying interest on your credit card because you waited too long to liquidate your gift cards and pay off the balance is another common mistake you want to avoid. It all comes down to being organized, keeping track of where all the money is going, and not biting off more than you can chew.

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Ariana Arghandewal

19 Comments

  1. My local Kroger lets me buy $500 Visa gift cards with a credit card then buy a MO at the little money center at the customer service desk. I have been buying one every time I go to the grocery store, which is usually 2-3 times per week. I simply go out to my car to load my groceries and set the pin over the phone. Then I go in and buy the MO real quick. That is about the most MS I can do with my busy schedule and 2 kids…but $1,000 per week is plenty for me at this point.

    • That’s the ms jackpot right there. I hear about so many people who do their ms at Kroger’s – I wish we had those here in California.

      • Yep, that’s why I’m trying not to push it!
        I just buy a $500 gift card each time and then buy a MO with it. My bank (Chase) is literally in the Kroger parking lot so it is not a hassle by any means. I hope this method doesn’t get shut down EVER.

        • Kroger and my chase branch are close. But I feel like such a sketchy dude if I ke it frosting money orders. I’ve literally never used one. Chase branch hadn’t been weirded out by it? I suppose I could just say it’s my way of using a cc to pay rent?

          • Wow. I type on my cell phone and it often makes no sense. I meant to say I’ve never done money orders and it feels like if look super sketchy.

          • I fill the money orders out as if they are from my husband. I never give an explanation. Chase is my bank but it is none of their business why I deposit money. If they asked, I would probably tell them that it is none of their business. They have never asked or acted the least bit interested though.

          • In my case, from my wife I assume? Wasn’t thinking about who to say who it’s from.

          • Yeah, CheapBlackDad. I just fill them out from my husband to me. They barely look at them though. If you don’t do it all that time, I’m sure it won’t be a problem.

          • Rather than just redepositing it into your account, you can use some of them to pay your credit card bill at Chase. Or deposit the cash into a spouse’s account, as you pointed out.

  2. Can you give some more details on how you unload $10,000 in AmEx gift cards in 1-3 days?

    • Mainly just via Amex for Target cards – I have access to three of them, so I can do $3k per day. Plus, I would use them to buy Visa gift cards at grocery stores, then load those onto Bluebird. However, now that Visa gc’s can no longer be used to load Bluebird, that’s out of the equation.

  3. How much time do you devote to this and do you think your time value is positive?

    • That really depends on how much I’m doing, whether the Bluebird kiosk is working, and other hurdles that may come up. Buying and unloading $10k purely via Amex for Target probably takes about 5 hours tops. I earned a profit of about $300, so it’s definitely worth the time.

  4. Ariana, you sound like an interesting person and we live in the same neck of the woods, well within 100 miles I guess. I have a couple of questions for you and I am hoping we could perhaps meet up one day when you are traveling my way or I am going yours to discuss this subject.

    Question: I have a number of AMEX Prepaid credit cards that I used to load with VR cards, but now I don’t know how else to load them – any suggestions?

    • I love meeting readers and one of these days I will definitely organize a get-together. I’ve got a few suggestions for unloading your Amex prepaid cards. I just wrote up a post that will go live later on tonight outlining all the different options.

      • Actually, I meant the old blue Prepaid cards that you could load with VR cards – not the AMEX prepaid cards you buy and use and then dump that you are referring to in this issue.

        • Sorry about the misunderstanding. You can unload those in a similar fashion as you would Amex for Target cards. Another option is to request a PIN-enabled permanent card from them, then cash out the funds at the ATM. If the balance is smaller, Amazon Payments is a good way to unload them free of charge.

          • Sorry, I am not making myself clear: I want to LOAD these cards, not OFFLOAD them. I used to load with Vanilla Reloads but they are not available anymore (well, not with benefits). Is there a reload-type card I can get at CVS or similar that will reload these AMEX Prepaids?

          • Sorry, I just read your post from yesterday and got my answer!
            Thanks, all is now well.
            Look forward to a meetup one day.

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