Manufactured Spending

My Week in Manufactured Spending: 37,659 Points and $102.70 Cash Profit

It’s been a while since I’ve written a monthly summary of my manufactured spending activities. In the past, I’ve waited until the end of the month before reviewing all my notes and summarizing how many points I earned and what I spent. It wasn’t the best approach because I basically waited until the very last minute to research all my gift card churning activities and then summary them in a post. So I’ve decided that going forward, I’ll share my manufactured spending reports via a weekly post. That way, I’m better able to track it all and it will keep me motivated to avoid those hall of shame editions. 

Without further ado, here’s a summary of how many points and miles I earned last week, along with my out of pocket costs.

American Airlines AAdvantage

My sister’s AAdvantage account was down to 72,000 points, so I decided to top it off with a large GiftCardMall order. Her limit is only $7,000 so I had to restrict the order to $6,588.30. The total cost for 6,588 miles was $23.30. That may sound like a lot, but think of it this way:  It takes about 18 orders like this to generate enough miles for a roundtrip business class ticket to Asia. The total cost? $419.40. So for about the cost of a discounted economy class ticket to Asia, you can instead fly in a flatbed business class seat on Cathay Pacific or Japan Airlines.

Miles earned: 6,588 miles

Fees: $88.30

eBates cash back: $65

Total cost: $23.30

Amex Membership Rewards

American Express Membership Rewards are the exception to my 100,000-point goal. At this point, I don’t really care if Amex shuts me down, but I just don’t have a use for Membership Rewards points. And it’s been a long time since I’ve needed them. But that being said, I did put $6,000 worth of spending on the Amex Everyday Preferred card to top off my account for an even balance.

Points earned: 6,082 Membership Rewards points

Fees: $82.45

eBates cash back: $60

Total cost: $22.45

Chase Ultimate Rewards

During another visit to Simon Mall, I split a large gift card purchase across several cards. Of that amount, $9,822.63 was split between the Chase Ink Plus ($1,201) and Chase Sapphire Preferred ($8,621.63).

Points earned: 9,822 Ultimate Rewards points

Fees: ~ $77

Discover it Miles 1.5% Cash Back

I needed a study break early in the week, so I ran some errands and stopped by my local Simon Mall for some gift cards. Simon Mall recently increased gift card purchasing limits to $20,000. I was told at my store that I had to be added to a list to qualify, which was fairly quick. The rep also informed me that she would create pre-filled forms for me, with most non-sensitive fields completed. It would cut down on the time I would have to spend filling out paperwork, which I appreciate.

I split the transaction across multiple credit cards, including two Discover It Miles Cards: $5,662.57 and $8,704.40. The card pays out 1.5% cash back, which isn’t a huge amount but I had already maxed out my Fidelity Rewards card at this point. I earned about $215 cash back on a $14,366.97 purchase. If you’re interested in getting a Discover It Miles Card, consider using my referral link. I’ll earn a $50 credit if you get approved.

Cash back earned: $215

Fees: $114.55

Total profit: $100.45

Fidelity 2% Cash Back Card

My dad and I both have the Fidelity Rewards credit card, which earns 2% cash back on everything. Over the last week, I placed seven $1,517.85 Visa gift card orders from GiftCardMall. This came to a total of $10,624.95. Factoring fees and shopping portal cash back, my total profit was $192.55. 

Cash back earned: $212.50

Fees: $124.95

eBates cash back: $105

Total profit: $192.55

Korean SkyPass Miles

My personal U.S. Bank Skypass card only has a $2,000 limit so I was only able to place a single $1,517.85 GiftCardMall order for myself. My dad, on the other hand, has a significantly higher limit, allowing a $9,118.05 purchase. 

Miles earned: 10,636

Fees: $136.70 

eBates cash back: $105

Total cost: $31.70

Marriott Bonvoy

Why am I fraternizing with the enemy? Because I’ve made a commitment to have at least 100,000 points in every single rewards account. That includes Marriott. I know they’re Public Enemy #1 after managing to destroy not one but two rewards programs, but I can’t write them off completely. I’ve had several moments over the last year when some Bonvoy points (that name is here to stay, unfortunately) would have been useful. So I’m breaking my rule about not earning points speculatively by earning Marriott points speculatively. 

I no longer have a Marriott Bonvoy card, but my dad does and he was targeted for the 3x spending bonus. This week I used the card for a mere $1,517.85 order from GiftCardMall, but I do plan on increasing spending on that card. 

Points earned: 4,553 Marriott points

Fees: $17.85

eBates cash back: $15

Total cost: $2.85

Final Manufactured Spending Tally

In total, I earned 17,224 airline miles, 15,902 bank rewards points, and 4,533 hotel points. My cash back profit from the Fidelity Rewards and Discover It Miles cards was $293. After deducting the cost of gift card fees not covered by eBates ($157.30), my total profit came to $135.70. I also spent about $33 on money order fees, bringing the grand total to $102.70. If I keep this up every week, I’ll earn over 150,000 points and $540 profit. Multiply that across 12 and I’ll have about 1.8 million points and $6,480 cash back.

Of course, not every week is going to be the same. I don’t have a specific point goal in mind, but I do want to top off all of my rewards accounts and eliminate out of pocket fees as much as possible. This is just to give you guys an idea of what’s possible. Whitney inspired me to take another look at GoBank. It’s been years since I’ve used my account (and it might not even be active anymore), so I haven’t even thought about GoBank as a manufactured spending option. But I might incorporate into my weekly money order runs to Walmart.

While I utilized eBates for my Gift Card Mall purchases, I’m considering going back to Yazing for the rest of the month. The payout rate is the same as eBates, though they do impose a 10% fee on cash back earned. The advantage is that they pay out within 30 days as opposed to 60. I’m still considering whether it’s worth paying $13.50 per week to get my cash back a month early. What do you all think?

What do you guys think of this new weekly manufactured spending report?

Note: For newbies who aren’t familiar with gift card churning, the cards are liquidated via money orders, deposited, and utilized to pay off the credit cards they were purchased on.

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81 Comments

  1. Brandon Goode

    What are you doing with the gift cards though? That’s where I fall short.

  2. Brandon Goode

    Awesome, and no worries, thanks! I’ma research a little on getting the money orders! Thank you.

    • Is liquidating the GC via MO the only recourse here? I ask because the Walmarts in my area have a strict no GC policy when paying for money orders. I know you have written extensively on this but it’s a no go in the neighborhoods around me.

      • correct me if i’m wrong but I think that’s a “policy” for all Walmarts. the key is that most employees don’t ask to see the card you’re paying for so as long as you say Debit you should be ok.

  3. you deposit the money orders in a bank account?

  4. Sounds like a great month. But remember to factor in liquidation costs when finalizing your monthly tally.

  5. I just lost my local MO location. Is there any place other than walmart?

  6. Simon has increased limits to 25K with 2nd form of ID. Went into effect beginning of February.

    • Yes, though mine doesn’t require a second form of ID. Instead, they’ve created a list of “approved buyers” and pre-printed the financial form. It makes it so much easier to get in and out.

  7. Dan Rogers

    very helpful !

  8. Joe, I thought it was 20K?

  9. GCM still takes two months to pay out on Yazing ime

  10. Hello! I’ve been somewhat of a lurker on your page and I really enjoy your posts. I started this hobby less than a year ago and consider myself far from an expert. So far, most of my earnings have been from sign up bonuses and spend. (My husband puts a lot of business spend on cards every month.) I recently found a grocery store in my area that sells $500 gift cards. I’m a little reluctant to try to turn these into money orders. Maybe even scared of pushback? Do you have any tips? What cards should I put this on? Are any of them going to shut down our account because of this? We have cards with Chase, Amex, Barclay, and Discover. Thank you so much!

    • If you’re hesitant, start off small and do what you’re comfortable with. But always try to MS with a goal in mind. If your husband is putting a significant amount of spend on your cards, you may not even need to churn gift cards. My advice is to get a separate bank account for money order deposits – that way if you get shut down, it doesn’t affect your everyday banking activities. So steer clear of Chase, Bofa and Citi accounts. RE the best credit cards, this post has my top picks. Hope that helps!

  11. pho tastee

    the Mileup card from Citi for AA miles gets 2 miles at supermarket, with calculation, it is cheaper than simon mall per $500 card

  12. Do your calculations factor in the value of your time and expenses like gas for driving to get MOs?

  13. Loved this article!!

    There is one thing that I would like to point out; which is, I personally feel that Ebates takes longer than 60 days to payout. To me, Ebates (which btw is my go to) pays out 1.5 months after the end of a quarter.

    That said, I mentally prepare that I will not see a check written in my name from Ebates for a grand total of 4.5 months.

    • Yeah I got a notice last week that my cash back would be paid out the third week of May. So I figured it was roughly 60 days. It’s definitely good to consider what happens if the payout doesn’t come through in time.

  14. You don’t have a freedom unlimited card?
    With yazing rates down I have started using UA and AA portals since I can get at least 1.5c value from those points

  15. travelasflyguy

    I see that you have switched to Ebates…. I personally have switched to BF and their est. payout from GCM is 30-35 days. I haven’t been paid yet, but I don’t really believe them as Yazing used to take about 75+ days depending on if your order was processed before the 10th-ish of each month. I can’t imagine that BF is getting their commission payouts earlier than all the other portals.

    • My giftcards.com orders from Yazing always paid out within 30 days. I guess GCM is different? I’m definitely open to trying different portals and will give BeFrugal a shot.

    • ditto to this. I switched to BF when GoCashBack went from 1% to 0.75%. My first purchase was 1/29 and BF says ETA is 3/30. so looks like it’s 60 days. still quicker than eBates IMO since eBates only pays quarterly.

  16. Thanks for the update! Good info!

  17. “maxed out my Fidelity” Do you cycle CL? What do you find safe, 1X, 2X or more?

  18. Frugalmiles

    I love the new format. Easy to understand just love it. Keep up the good work.

  19. Parts Unknown

    Good to see you posting more, please keep it up!

  20. How dollar amount of gift cards are you able to liquidate at a time at WM?

  21. Ariana- Recently I found that Be Frugal was paying the best on visa gift cards at GCM. most of the other cashback sites have started paying <1% but be frugal is still holding strong at 1% have you found that other sites are still paying 1%? or more?!

  22. Are you accounting for MO liquidation costs here? Maybe I missed that, but seems it needs to be calculated in your Total Cost or at least your summarized totals.

  23. that is fantastic I am too nervous to tell mine because the WM is five minutes from my house and in case they do care I don’t want to mess up a good thing

  24. how long ago was that? Because I started doing this in 2014 and I’ve never been able to with BofA.

    • I last used Bofa for mo’s about two years ago. I didn’t want to risk losing my bofa cards in case of a shut down. But as far as successfully mobile depositing them, it was a probably circle 2013 or ’14. Again, it didn’t last very long.

  25. Pimping International

    That’s it? You must not live near a Sam’s Club

  26. I almost always use GCM since their cards come activated. My orders are typically $5000. I have in the past done the delivery the cheapest way via USPS, however, I have had the USPS give my package to a neighbor and also to hold and return my package without telling me. I now pay a slightly bit more and have UPS deliver these. Also, sometimes I walk out of WM with $8K in my pocket. I generally will walk around WM a bit, maybe buy something, just to keep someone from following me. You may like the person that does your MO at WM, but you do not really know them, or their friends. I will rarely, do any MO after dark too.

    • That makes it SO much easier! Giftcards.com was really obnoxious because the cards wouldn’t activate if I did it on my computer – only if I used mobile browser. I would have started with GCM sooner, but they had me on some kind of blocked list for a long time. Good strategy RE safety. I should add that to my MS safety post.

  27. Can you give more information regarding GO bank loads ? Can you just load it a walmart ?

  28. From what i am getting it’s not free to load money on it like amex blue bird. Anyone has an idea ?

  29. For Gobank, buy your initial card at Walmart and then your loads are free after you get your debit card in the mail.

  30. Gobank – I meant to say free to load at Walmart.

  31. Very nice report! I am always impress with what you can do on top of your full time job. Have you tried the TCB and/or have any good experience with it? I believe that it also gives 1%.

    • TCB has been reliable, but they lowered their GCM payouts to 0.75%. I’m liking EBates so far. Some people have also suggested BeFrugal. I’ve used them in the past and had one negative experience that put me off, but I might give them another shot if I have to.

  32. I don’t do money orders at Walmart (yet) so I don’t know the process and I have no idea what their max is. sorry. I will say though that neither of them allow you to pay with a gift card so you have to do it nonchalantly and scaling up would probably raise an eyebrow.

  33. totally free. but the account charges an $8.95 monthly maintenance fee which can be avoided with $500 in direct deposit. I have two accounts and somehow I’ve gotten lucky and I only have to direct deposit in one of them without getting charged

  34. 0.75% on visa gift cards from GCM

  35. I know this is not relevant to MS, But MR is quite valuable! For MR if you made it to ANA, would cost only half of the miles for a round trip business class to Asia like 75k to 95k. You may only need to avoid YQ, though I do not even bother 200-400YQ as I use MR at extremely high value like 5 to 10 cents/points. The ability to make multiple trips especially when you are travel within Asia like within China or around, into only one set of ticket with only 20k MR made it extremely valuable as well.

    • Totally. I’m not saying they aren’t and I’ll still accrue them (in smaller numbers). I just personally haven’t found a use for them lately. Most of my travels have required Ultimate Rewards points, so I’m focusing on that. And I really don’t like paying transfer fees!

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