Manufactured Spending

My Month in Manufactured Spending: $4,000+ Worth of Points, Miles, and Cash Back Earned in November

November was a good month in terms of manufactured spending. A lot of great merchant gift card deals popped up that I took advantage of. In total, I managed to earn over $4,000 worth of points and miles at very little out-of-pocket cost. This was thanks to some really great gift card promotions and Amex statement credits, which translated to $28,777.59 worth of free manufactured spending. I was able to resell those gift cards to The Plastic Merchant. I still haven’t decided whether gift card reselling is worth the trouble. It can be time-consuming when you consider how long it takes for gift cards to arrive and payment to be processed. But that’s a topic for another post.

Earning points and miles through manufactured spending September

In November, I earned 306,595 points and miles from manufactured spending, $1,187.50 worth of credit card cash back, 70,000 points from credit card sign-up bonuses, and two free nights from the Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve Card. Gift card fees totaled $907.75 after portal cash back. Now my math might be slightly off because all of this spend was spread across several credit cards, but I’m sure it’s close enough. Here’s a complete breakdown of my manufactured spending cost for November:

  • Amount spent on gift cards, excluding fees: $189,436.94
  • Fees (gift card, shipping, bill pay/money orders): $2,095.25
  • Cash back earned via cash back portals: $1,187.50

Most of the rewards I earned came from easy sources: The Barclay Arrival Plus card and a combination of Ink Plus and Chase Freedom Unlimited spend. This is the most Ultimate Rewards points I’ve generated in a month, only because I was trying to stock up for a trip I’m taking later this month. Going forward, I’ll continue to play it safe with Chase.

  • Arrival Miles =  116,340 miles/$1,163.40 travel statement credits
  • Ultimate Rewards points = 98,022 points
  • Alaska miles = 31,595 + 30,000 sign-up bonus = 61,595 miles
  • Amex Membership Rewards points = 4,052 + 40,000 sign-up bonus = 44,052 points
  • Discover It Miles = $634 cash back
  • Fidelity Rewards Visa = $306.71 cash back
  • SPG points = 24,339 points
  • Hilton points = 21,943 points
  • American Airlines miles = 10,304 miles

The main reason I was able to generate so much manufactured spending on the Ink card was thanks to a 20% off promotion Staples ran on Gap gift cards. The Plastic Merchant bought these gift cards at 80%, allowing me to earn points at $0 out of pocket. There were also deals on iTunes gift cards at Staples, Sam’s Club, BJ’s Wholesale Club, and Best Buy. When my Ink cards maxed out, I used other credit cards to continue buying gift cards. This included the SPG Amex, Hilton HHonors Reserve, Bank of America Alaska, and Barclay Arrival Plus card.

Reselling gift cards to TPM yielded a small profit of $0.50 – $1 per card. I also managed to take advantage of several Amex Offers, which resulted in another $500 worth of free manufactured spending. Sam’s Club also ran a promotion on Starbucks gift cards, which allowed me to meet $3,025 of the $5,000 spending requirement on the Amex Platinum card at $0 out of pocket. Time will tell if this will result in the sign-up bonus getting rescinded.

During this time, I also met the $3,000 spending requirement on the Amex Hilton Surpass card for my grandmother. This was by far the most difficult spending requirement I’ve ever completed. Why? Because the credit limit was just $1,000 and transactions as little as $200 would get declined! I ended up meeting this spending requirement via normal bill pay and some gift card churning, but man was it hard!

All in all, this month’s gift card reselling was painless…except for a pretty bad cut I got on my index finger from prying a Starbucks card out of the hard plastic package. I wouldn’t do gift card reselling full time, but it is a nice way to supplement my Visa gift card churning routine.

How many points and miles did you earn this month?

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  1. With gift card reselling is it worth using sites like raise and cardpool through

  2. amazing … i envy/admire you!

  3. I can’t imagine spending that much money. You must have a large amount of savings in your bank account or investments. When you apply for a new card do you claim an annual income high enough to explain this much spending? I realize this is spread out over many cards but…wow! Your November spending was way more than my annual income. I would think I would get flagged for spending more than I make in a year. Or do the CC companies not often look at these? I have only been trying this hobby for about 18 months so still consider myself a newbie. I am not trying to be rude, just wondering how you manage this, and learn from your experiences. Thank you for all the helpful posts! I truly appreciate them!

    • This wasn’t all on my credit cards. My dad, brother, and mom all have decent credit limits that I’m able to put to use. Plus, with cards like the Arrival, I pay off the balance multiple times in order to reuse the credit line. Trust me, this is not a normal month for me – I will definitely be slowing down in January. Especially with Chase and Amex.

  4. How do you keep track of all that spending. Keeping and managing a spreadsheet is a headache in itself.

  5. With all due respects, these posts are becoming irrelevant to what I believe you have aimed to achieve with your blog.

    The methods you now discuss are generally unavailable to the “MS’er in the street”, add very little to MS education or conversation and are beginning to come over as braggy and somewhat self indulgent, The fact that you announce at the top of the post that you have decided to continue keeping a ms tip secret is superfluous at best and inflammatory at worst.

    I say this with the best of intentions and hope it will be received that way at least by you if not by others. Maybe its time to re-evaluate your aim and intent of these posts.

  6. Wow. Just wow. I am gobsmacked!

    And I totally do not agree with Jen; I love these posts and find them very inspirational and not self indulgent.

    I would, however, suggest that you don’t dangle a ‘secret’ way of MS unless you intend to share it.

    On another note, you have said in previous posts, that you pool these miles and share them among your family members. How do you do this? Do you have all of the accounts going to the same (your) frequent flyer accounts? I’m asking because I wanted to transfer some United Miles that I had MS’d on a family member’s card and the cost to do this was $800.00.

    • Thanks Kelli! The only reason I mentioned it was because I figured a lot of folks would ask me about it when this post was published. As for how I share the miles, they’re in each person’s individual account and I make use of them whenever I need them. So if I need to book a United flight and don’t have enough miles but my brother does, I’ll use his account to book it. I wouldn’t recommend transferring miles between accounts, since the fees are quite high.

  7. Hi Ariana! Great post! I really need to get into the gift card reselling…I’m just always worried the resell side will not work out right and I’ll be stuck with thousands of dollars I can only use at a normal store or take a bigger loss than if I just bought visa gift cards. I really should have put my Chase Ink+ card to way better use this past month!!

    I’ve been wondering this for a while. I know you spread out your spend amongst lots of cards, but how much per month do you put on each card? like 50% of credit limit, etc? Is it different for different card brands?

    Oh, and when you say you do billpay to liquidate, do you mean you pay bills directly from WM or do you mean you deposit them to your bank accounts first then use the bank bill pay?

    Thank you for continuing posts like these and others on MS despite criticism from trolls 🙂

    • I’ve had issues with sites like Raise, but TPM has been great so far. They were actually founded by fellow points/miles enthusiasts and were present at the Chicago Seminars this past year – that’s how I learned about them. The only problem with gift card reselling (even with TPM) is that it can take a while to get your funds cashed out. Visa gift card churning is easy – you can buy cards in-store, hop over to Walmart, cash them out via money order, deposit them, pay off your card and do it again in a matter of 2 days. With merchant gift cards, you have to wait for them to arrive (even e-gift cards take a couple of days), sell them to TPM, then wait for the check which can take 2 weeks. That being said, if you can occasionally float the cash, it’s actually a great way to generate points and miles at $0 out of pocket.

      • Awesome info! Thank you. I’ve applied to TPM. We shall see if they like me, lol.
        Also, would you mind sharing how much spend you put on each card per month? Or what your goal is per card?
        I’m trying to determine if I should be doing like 50% credit limit, using 100% of credit line, or somewhere in between to fly under radar as much as possible while maximizing how much MS I do.

        • Last month I maxed out pretty much every single card – some of them multiple times. I don’t recommend you do this consistently. The only reason I did is because I needed a ton of points for my trip later this month. That being said, it depends on the bank. With Chase, I think 50% is a good way to go in addition to mixing in some regular spend. Barclays has been easy so far – I max out each card multiple times per month and haven’t had a problem yet. Amex is another issuer I’d be careful with.

  8. I completely agree with Jen. Why even bring it up but to brag. It has been almost a month since your last post and this is what you decide to write about? This hobby is dying!

    • My most popular posts (and what readers keep asking for more of) are those about ms. As I said, I didn’t put that disclosure in there to “brag” but to address the inevitable question – did this involve that method? The answer is yes, but not a substantial amount. A lot of folks will be glad to know gift card reselling via TPM is also a viable option.

  9. Since the Staples Gap gift card promo is over by now, can you explain it in more detail – did you buy physical cards or via email delivery? (do resellers like TPM even accept email gift cards for reselling?). Was there a limit? Do resellers prefer certain got cards over others (like Gap vs iTunes or BestBuy)? Is there a set price the resellers would pay or is it negotiable?

    • They’re e-giftcards that you buy on Then you simply provide the card # and PIN (which are delivered via email) to TPM. TPM actually prefers e-giftcards, so it works out nicely. I highly recommend you sign up for TPM – they send you emails whenever gift card deals come around, with info on where to buy them, how much TPM will buy them for, and what your profit margin will be. TPM has a limit on how many cards they can buy each month (I believe for Gap it was around $100k or so). In my case, I had no problem selling my cards before they maxed out on capacity. I did at one point miss the cut-off, but simply waited a week until December came around and the capacity limit reset. I think you have some good questions that are worth addressing in a separate post.

  10. Am I reading this correctly.. so it cost you about $800 total.. Cash back minus fees?

  11. Ariana, love your posts, they are so informative!
    And love that you answer your readers’ questions individually; lots of useful info in those answers too!
    Thank you!!!

  12. Beach Miles

    Always enjoying reading your MS posts.

  13. Beach Miles

    Please tell me the MS secret. I will tell no one. In addition, I am old , and take you secret to the grave with me.

  14. I only do about 30k a month. Kroger stopped selling MO & now local WM want sell them to me. I have to go to another. I just started free bill pay at WM. I still have 1 bird in play also. But yes, I am one reading that would like to receive a private message on some of your process. Please!!!

    • MisterMister

      Kevin be careful about sending too many pmts to your CC via Checkfree at WMT. It could get you shut down at Amex and Chase FYI

      • Thanks I have only sent three payments. Two to AM and one to chase. Took advantage of OD visa and had a lot of $300 cards to move. Thanks for the advice thou. Is capital 1 and discover ok?

    • Keep trying – I’ve had issues at certain WM stores that would refuse to let me buy mo’s with Visa gift cards. Walmart has a high employee turnover rate, so coming back 6+ months later usually did the trick for me. Have you tried Kmart, Publix, or the post office?

  15. I did about the same as last month. 110k in purchases.from netted me close to 2k in points, miles and cashback.

  16. Curious why you MS with the AS card when you you can put that spend on your SPG card, then transfer to AS with a 20% bonus.

  17. Ariana, I did some free MS as well. I am not sure if we are using the same but if yes lets keep it secret. Quick question, are GC from all issued by Metabank, regarding of the model you select? are pandas issued by metabank as well as flowers?.

  18. Ariana – have you had success buying money orders from post office? I tried this week and it kept rejecting my gift cards (these are pin enabled ones bought from issued by metabank). There are no walmarts in NYC I’m afraid…
    any help would be appreciated thanks

    • Today I went to Post Office with VISA GIFT Metabank and I was rejected as well.

      • I don’t think Metabank work at Post office. but OV work out. I used OV to buy MO in PO before. go to WM to buy MO

    • I haven’t in a long time. But from what I hear, a lot of folks are having this problem. Unfortunately I don’t have much info on liquidation methods in NYC, but going forward you might want to look into merchant gift card reselling.

  19. what’s TPM??
    I did about $40K last December. but I faced some issues, I sent out the 4 MO to American express. but they only posted 3 MO at same day. I was nervous about what happen to another MO. I called Customer service and online chat with them. I didn’t get the answer. I was plan to filed refund to MG. so I can get my money back. after a couple days, I got an e-mail to show last one to post.
    it’s kind of wired to me. I learned a lot on how to take care if something happened to MO. I was think about billpay in WM. I haven’t get a chance to do that. Can you share your experience on that??…. like how much can we pay for credit card bill each time.
    Thanks for sharing.

  20. Thanks for the great posts Ariana. Are you ever worried about the credit card issuers reading your blog to potentially shut your cards down or clawback sign up bonuses? Especially AMEX that forbids Gift cards resales, etc.?

    Previously, bloggers didn’t mention much about MS but now it seems like a lot of people are talking about it so it’s not really any secret anymore. But I’ve read a few bloggers that got all their cards cancelled by Chase. I was curious if you’re ever worried about posting about some of your blog material?

    Thanks again for the great posts.

  21. Just curious – I know this thread is older – but how did you learn of the Staples promo’s on Gap and Sam’s? All the deals lately (even around Christmas), especially on Sam’s, were mostly limit “X” per customer and wasn’t able to stock up at all. Would’ve loved to do more MS, but, without tons of Sam’s accounts, it wasn’t possible. Curious as to how Staples promotes these deals (and Sam’s, etc.) or did you have to use multiple accounts to purchase the quantities?


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