Manufactured Spending

Tips for Manufactured Spending in the Bay Area

The Bay Area used to be a manufactured spending hotspot, before the Redbird shutdowns. Thanks to an abundance of Target stores, loading Redbird was a breeze. Nowadays, it’s pretty much a wasteland and I constantly get emails from people asking me for manufactured spending tips. The frustrating part about the Bay Area (the South Bay in particular) is that there is either a lack of Walmart stores (i.e. no good places to buy money orders) or they’re not very manufactured spending-friendly (I’m looking at you, San Jose). 

Bay Area Manufactured Spending Berkeley
Beautiful views, but bad manufactured spending scene

What do you do when you’ve got plenty of places to buy Visa gift cards but no place to liquidate them? Here are a few alternatives if you live in the Bay Area and need help with manufactured spending:

1. Buy PayPal My Cash Cards

This isn’t a viable option, especially for long term manufactured spending, but PayPal My Cash Cards are sold at many drugstores and can be loaded to your PayPal account. You can withdraw the balance via the PayPal Business Debit Card or by transferring the funds to your bank account. Doing this repeatedly can get your PayPal account shut down and your funds frozen for several months. I’ve personally used PayPal My Cash Cards intermittently over the past four years to meet spending requirements or do some manufactured spending when other options have dried up. 

I think that’s helped me avoid an account shutdown is the fact that I’ve used the PayPal Business Debit card for some regular spending (it does earn 1% cash back when you use it as a credit card, which is nice), and I’ve hit the maximum load amount maybe 3-4 times in a year. I’m very careful and only use PayPal My Cash Cards as a last resort option. If you’re looking for a long-term manufactured spending tool, steer clear of PayPal My Cash Cards. However, if you just want to meet some spending requirements quickly, I’d recommend using it but being very careful. And be prepared to go without your funds for several months in case of a shutdown.

2. Buy Money Orders at Someplace Other than Walmart

Yes, there are places other than Walmart that sell money orders, even in the Bay Area. You can buy them at post offices and Kwik Stop gas stations. It’s not going to be as cheap or convenient (if you think the lines at Walmart are long, just walk into a post office). However, these are decent alternatives if you’re looking to liquidate Visa gift cards via money orders but don’t have access to Walmart stores. 

3. Get Out of Town

If you’re having a hard time manufactured spending in the Bay Area and none of the other options are sufficient, you may want to take a trip out of town to churn some gift cards. Do a quick location search on Walmart’s website and see what’s nearby. I wouldn’t drive more than an hour or so, but it might be worth it if you’re churning big numbers. Traveling long distances for manufactured spending may also make sense in some cases. You can get away for a weekend, take a short vacation, and liquidate a ton of gift cards at the same time.

If all else fails, you might want to get into reselling. People who are doing it right not only earn miles, but a lot of cash as well. I gave it a shot and was frustrated because I kept selling items on Ebay and having buyers flake out. Amazon was fine, but moving products took longer than I’m comfortable with. I guess I could have done better by putting more time into it and researching the right products to sell. But it’s not really up my alley, so I stick to gift card churning.

Do you live in the Bay Area? What are some of the frustrating aspects of manufactured spending that you’ve encountered, and how do you get around them?

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  1. I completely forgot about the post office option. What does the post office charge and are there any issues with using a debit card to pay for them?

    • I tried the post office. They don’t accept visa gift cards.

    • San Luis Obispo County is beautiful but I’ve had some experiences that, being new to this, made me basically quit trying. There are no WM money machines or whatever those are called. (None in San Diego area either.) The cashier and CS desk lines are very long/almost all WM employees at underpaid & seem overworked. Then Bluebirds started getting shut down & that made me even less motivated to keep trying to deal with WM !
      I tried 1 post office & the giftcard was declined; the PIN was correct because I later was successful using it to buy a MO at a grocery store.
      PS. Thanks for not overdoing your talk about CSR. I’m at 12/24 (thanks to the hobby) with no relief in sight anytime soon, and I’m starting to get annoyed at all the continued hype on so many of the blogs.

      • You might still be able to get a CSR, since so many people are reporting being able to circumvent this rule (see FrequentMiler’s post for tips on how to do that). MS can be very frustrating, especially if you live in a relatively small city like SLO.

        • I think I’ve read every single post online about this card. I recently set up Chase checking & savings accounts in order to get $500 back. But in-branch, sitting with my very nice banker, no pre-approvals showed up. And honestly I just got 4 cards in July, 3 due to racing to get under the wire before highly touted benefits were reduced (2 Delta AmEx and that Citi Prestige darn it) and 1 because it was not under 5/24 (Chase BA). Trying to decide between waiting quite a few more months while going off as AU on some of my hub’s cards, then trying in branch with the banker’s help; vs starting to apply for more Alaska Airlines B of A cards to build up more miles in that program. I know people are excited about the CSR but it also seems to me there there is some unnecessary gloating going on. So I truly appreciate your low-key, down-to-earth posts!

          • It’s a complete hit or miss with the CSR. My wife and I have Chase as our main bank, both with direct deposits and lots of legitimate activity for years now. Averaging around 20k in there at all times for bills/emergency etc. Our checking is also a joint account. I have a six figure income and im currently 12/24. My wife makes less than me and is also 12/24. We were both pre-approved, i was denied but she was approved even with less reported income? I also had my mother go in and apply, she was also denied even though Chase is her main bank and she was pre-approved.

    • I remember paying $0.89 for $500. The post office website lists the fee as $1.20 for up to $500 and $1.60 for up to $1,000.

  2. I visited the Flsm WM today and the guy turned me down flat when I said $200. Started asking questions…to see my debit card and I’d…all over at that point. He was having none of it. 🙁

  3. Hi Ariana, love your blog and your posts. I’m a local as well, from San Francisco myself. Thanks for all the great advice!

  4. Ariana, you can also liquidate the Paypal cash purchases by paying your rent from your PP debit bard via radpad.

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