Those of you who follow me on social media are probably aware that about three weeks ago I went on my “last” Walmart money order run. Several readers reached out afterwards, asking if I’m really done with manufactured spending. For now, yes. Ever since Walmart implemented the new electronic process in lieu of the paper FinCEN form, buying money orders has become way more tedious. I’ve been lucky because for the last 2-3 years, I’ve developed a good relationship with my go-to Walmart store and they’ve been ok with me purchasing $10,000 worth of money orders per visit – with gift cards. It was great while it lasted, but now it’s not worth the effort anymore.
The Walmart store I’ve been going to is about 35 minutes out of town. I would normally buy MasterCard gift cards online or at my local mall, then head off to Walmart on weekends to liquidate these cards. Sometimes, I’d bring a family member or three to speed things up. Now that I have a full-time job again, it’s not feasible for me to make daily trips to Walmart – local or not. Having others tag along used to minimize the number of trips I’d have to make. Unfortunately, now that the process is so drawn out, even bringing others along isn’t worth the hassle. In fact, it just drags out these visits longer and makes the whole thing more of a hassle than it needs to be.
The cashiers at this Walmart location have always been great about accommodating me. I fill out lots of surveys, I keep the line moving in between transactions and I bring them Krispy Kreme donuts on occasion. But the new process has become excruciating even for them. Even if it wasn’t, I know my days are numbered. Why? Because the new electronic process isn’t just the equivalent of filling out the FinCEN form. Essentially, the cashiers are asked to report large money order transactions as “suspicious behavior.” And I have a feeling that once enough of these reports stack up in the system, the register will start banning people from buying money orders. You have to know when it’s time to move on to something else and that time is now.
That’s not to say that I’ll never buy and liquidate Visa gift cards again, but I’m cutting way back. No more weekly trips or $10k impulse buys. From now on I’ll still buy some $300 Visa gift cards to max out the 5x office supply store category bonus on my Ink Plus Card. In other words, I’ll only do about 5% as much gift card churning as I have in the past.
Going forward, I’ll keep my eye on merchant gift card reselling opportunities. While The Plastic Merchant bit the dust a few months ago, there are still other avenues for liquidating merchant gift cards. With the holiday shopping season coming up and Amex Offers dishing out some good deals, I’m sure I’ll be able to churn a decent number of gift cards this way. Reselling (aka having a real business) is also hot right now and I’ve had some success reselling high-end makeup products online. Scaling up has been a challenge. However, I am coming up with some creative ways to increase sales and move products faster.
Overall, the travel hacking game is changing and you have to change with it. With so many people getting into credit card churning and manufactured spending, the banks are trying to minimize their losses. It’s completely understandable that they want to focus on long-term customers that are actually profitable for them. We can all adapt to be those profitable customers. Having a real business with legitimate spending gets us in that direction.
It’s also a better use of our time. We should all be learning and evolving constantly. That doesn’t happen when you’re doing the same thing over and over again without consequence. So I’m hanging up my full-time manufactured spending shoes, for now, diversifying and taking a crack at reselling. It’s already more fun than standing in line at Walmart on a Saturday.
How have the recent Walmart changes impacted your routine? Are you ready to give up on manufactured spending?