Traveling for Manufactured Spending

The title of this post sounds backwards, doesn’t it? Normally, we manufacture spend so we can travel, but for some folks it’s the other way around – they travel so they can manufacture spend more efficiently. Last year, when Redbird was still a viable ms tool, I tagged along on a trip to Michigan with my sister for the purpose of picking up a few Redbird cards (which weren’t available in California at the time). Other than this, the furthest I’ve “traveled” for the purpose of manufactured spending has been about an hour from where I live. On those trips I also visited my sister, but I arranged it to coincide with a large gift card haul I had coming in.

In the next couple of weeks, however I’m planning on going out of town for a bit in order to do some large scale manufactured spending with the Wells Fargo card, which unfortunately is pretty much out of the question where I live.

Airplane seats

I tweeted about this and got a few helpful DM’s from folks willing to share their ms hotspots with me. I knew vaguely where they were, but it was nice to get specific locations. I know generally people in this hobby aren’t willing to share things publicly for fear it will get ruined, which is understandable. If you tell the wrong person about your gold mine, you’ll return only to find it completely wiped out. But I won’t be doing any lasting damage as a short term visitor and there’s only so much manufactured spending one person can do – in other words, there’s room for two mammals at the watering hole. 

Anyway, I’m planning my manufactured spending trip and wanted to offer some insight into what I’m doing to prepare for it. Here’s a checklist that might be helpful to those who are considering doing the same thing:

1. Pay off all credit cards. If you’re about to travel a good distance to load up on gift cards or whatever else, the most important thing is to pay off your credit cards before you get there. After all, what’s the point of going out of town to buy gift cards when your card is close to maxed out? You want to make the most of your limited time out there, so be sure to pay off  your credit cards well in advance.

2. Ask people for help in generating an ms route. You can reach out to fellow manufactured spenders on Reddit, FlyerTalk, Twitter, or even the Travel Codex forum. No guarantees you won’t get pelted with tomatoes, but it’s worth a try. I have a pretty nice ms route where I live, but it took a lot of trial and error to get that together. There are certain stores I avoid because they’re no longer ms friendly and others where the lines are ridiculously long and not worth the wait. If you’re in an area for a limited time, you can do a lot more manufactured spending in that brief period if you know exactly where to go. So send out a tweet telling people where you’re headed and if they’re willing to share their ms hotspots with you. You never know, people might surprise you and be helpful.

Once you’ve received feedback from locals (or not), you can create the most efficient route for visiting various locations every day. Do this ahead of time and then use it to make your decisions about where to stay…

3. Look into hotels and figure out local transportation. Once you’ve got your ms route figured out, it’s time to look into accommodations. Of course, you’ll want to book the lowest category hotel to minimize out of pocket cost (both in terms of cash and points). In some cases, booking an Airbnb might be cheaper, so that’s an option worth checking out.

Also, reach out to your friends to see if any of them are planning remote mattress runs. If they’ve got a Category 1 hotel booked for the purpose of earning elite status and they won’t actually be staying there, it might work out well for both of you if you stay there. You get a free place to stay and they have someone who checks in for them, eliminating the need for a cooperative hotel manager who is ok with checking them in remotely. 

At this point, you should figure out which transportation option is best. Should you rent a car or opt to use Uber everywhere you go? Renting a car is probably a better option, unless you somehow find an ms hotspot in a metropolitan city where you can walk or take public transportation everywhere. 

4. Book your flight. When everything else has been figured out, it’s time to book your flight. You’ll obviously want to book the cheapest flight possible at least two weeks out. You might even want to consider booking a one-way flight, so that if things go well or you decide to travel to another city nearby, you’ve got the flexibility to do so. I recommend ITA Matrix for low fares, but be sure to compare paid flights vs. frequent flyer award redemptions to get the best value possible. No matter how much of a haul you’re coming away with on a manufactured spending trip, it’s wise to keep out of pocket costs as low as possible. 

5. Let your bank know you’ll be out of town. Large purchases are enough to trigger fraud alerts on their own, but making these purchases out of town can make things even more difficult. Call your bank ahead of time and let them know where you’re traveling to so they don’t think some criminal in Baltimore got a hold of your credit card number (which happened to my brother, twice). 

Do a lot of research, plan ahead, and keep your out-of-pocket costs low to make your manufactured spending trip worthwhile.

Have you ever gone out of town for the purpose of doing some large scale manufactured spending? Please share your experience in the comment section.

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Ariana Arghandewal


  1. I don’t think I would go as far as booking a flight somewhere. I think the hard hitters have it pretty easy in Texas(?) and the midwest where I live is not too bad either. I have driven 45minutes- an hour n’ 15 minutes for MS. There are 2 Simon malls that are about 15 minutes from each other and I have done 10k at both once. Otherwise smaller amounts that you are probably not used to hearing (just 2k). I wouldn’t drive there just to do 2k each (although I probably would for 10kea) but I have family there and also go shopping so its super convenient.

    • I have it pretty easy for the most part, but its grocery stores that are giving me trouble where I live. I actually found a way around it yesterday, so I may not need to travel after all.

  2. without naming locations, could you at least outline what MSing with WF card involves?

  3. Didn’t you get the warning letter from WF? I thought MS was dead on that card.

  4. Re giftcards.com, are you ordering more than 10k/month on 1 acct? Or multiple accts? What total limit do you use per giftcards.com account per month? Don’t want to be banned. Also, do you use 1 or mult cb accts at yazing or TCB specifically for gc.com?

    • PS my question is in this thread because we were discussing WF ending… anyone?

    • More than $10k but across multiple accounts. The daily limit is $2,500 per person but I haven’t maxed that out every day. For convenience sake, I’ve used one Yazing account but going forward I’ll use separate accounts, since I’m told earning more than $600 in referral revenue will generate a 1099.

      • Interesting re 1099. Is that for yazing only, or also for TCB?
        Also, i thought daily limit for gc.com was 5k? I have done 4k…

  5. The Visa gc on giftcards.com, is that pin-equipped, and is it usable for mo purchase at wm? I bought one for a test, for $100 but the issuer is a bank that I’ve never heard before and end up using it to pay regular bills.

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