Manufactured Spending

My Last Money Order Run? What’s Next

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?

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  1. Ariana, The reselling of goods reminds me of the 1st days of ebay. I found the shipping of goods was just a pain and took alot of my time. I just buy Simon cards and do $2K a day at WM and then go to the ATM at WF. I do these with my daily errand runs. I never could bet the Mastercard trick to work. I am the only one doing this at my WM and they are very nice about it. My wife will actually flush a few cards. As long as I keep this as part of my daily errands it is not an inconvenience or special trip for doing cards. The WF deposits via ATM have been very good. Simon Mall seems to work well, albeit costing me more. I have found that when I have to drive out of town to flush cards, then this hobby has become an inconvenience. I once felt every charge on the Arrival card had to be covered, but now I cover what I can cover and that’s OK. Maybe just dialing back and doing cards on way home from work or to work.

    Wishing you the best. Thanks for all the great tweets from Turkey.

    • A lot of people swear by FBA as a solution for the hassle of constantly shipping items. Don’t know if I’ll be able to increase my profit margins to that point, but it sounds like a nice way to do it. I’m in the same boat as you – not wearing myself out and just doing what I can to a point where it’s still fun.

  2. I never thought I’d see this day!

    Way back in January I told a friend that I’d never touch reselling with a 10 foot pole. And double that for GC reselling. He was telling me about this cool site I had vaguely heard of called TPM!

    So what are your thoughts on risk? Much like MS, it only takes 1 screw up to erase a year’s profit!

  3. Back to buying one month CD’s from the bank!

  4. In my area, the Walmart machines have been coded not to accept gift cards as payment for money orders. This happened back in April. Very. disappointing, but also something of a relief in terms of time and energy. I hated the experience of buying money orders; it was always a headache.

    • Well that sucks. Not the case for me, but they have made it super tedious. I feel your pain – before I got established at my go-to WM, I felt constant anxiety walking into a store to buy money orders.

  5. At my local WM, the system recently has been coded to accept one payment for MO purchases. For me, it means 1 $500 MO per day, using a VGC. So for now, I only buy it when I have to go to WM anyways and the line is very short.

  6. I conduct my business at the midwest and I never got the develop the rapport with any walmart csr to get more than 2k per visit, since I work full time in corporate america, I only do the walmart visits on the weekends, getting between 10K to 15K of money orders, my goal has never been to travel for free but to have nice vacations at a fraction of the total cost, so far I can still get the 2k per visit at different walmarts nearby and with the 1% cash back I get to mfg 100K miles or points for around 450 to 550 dollars, which allow me to stay at five star hotels and fly business on flights over 4 hours 😉 I openly admit that this is second job but in my particular case the reward is still outweighing the hassle.

  7. Curious… a friend mentioned a way to MS using PP.
    Since people are re-selling on EB- has anyone set up a seller/business account on PP to create MS. I believe one can sent out a manual invoice(s) of the exact amount on the VGC to pay back to PP account- to self, family and friends to create MS. Has anyone done this? Any success?

  8. Mike@MS4profit

    WMs in my area are still viable, however I only stop there if I’m driving right past one and not in any hurry. There are other easier means to making money (or pts – or both!) doing MS. I’ve been in this game a loooooong time and my favorite saying is…”If everyone is thinking alike then nobody is really thinking at all.”

  9. Hey Ariana, do you have any tips for potential resellers? I found a store in my town that sells high end makeup for cheeeap and I’m trying to see how I can get started in reselling.

    • I’m a newbie to reselling so I’m not the best person to ask. I have had success reselling makeup though. If you can buy higher priced items at least 50% off it can be worthwhile. The time you spend doing this should result in a decent amount of MS + profit.

  10. What are the other avenues for gift card reselling?

  11. SO now what are the ways to liquidate visa debit cards from Metabank? PLEASE HELP AS I HAVE A FEW OF THEM IN MY WALLET

  12. Since this avenue of liquidation is now done, I’m curious what store it was? I presume in Sacto?

  13. Justice Jen

    My local WM in the SF Bay Area where we built up a great rapore with many of the cashiers has now changed its policy (1) to require the cashiers to input all fields of a buyer’s driver’s license (not a problem, but makes it a longer process) and (2) to not allow cashiers to accept GCs to pay for a money order. Even though the cashiers know us and have never gotten into trouble with fraud or fraudulent activity from us, they can’t defy management and continue to help us with our MO purchases. Ugh. So we have to go to another WM and probably do one sub-$500 MO at a time. Total hassle. So much anxiety at the other WM where they are very hawk-eye about VGCs.

    This virtual shut down happened yesterday, so for us, the game is pretty much over. We still have about $5K in VGCs left that we will need to spend down. Ouch, but doable. It was fun while it lasted. We were able to book business class tickets to Africa as a result of our MS activities for the last few months. I agree that it’s just so much effort and anxiety that it’s not going to be worth it anymore (especially if doing just 1 $500 MO at a time).

    Thanks for everything! Will keep reading your blog regardless.

  14. Which GC can be used for buying money orders at Walmart or the Postal Office? I have got a Vanilla Visa and a couple normal Visa GCs and neither of them went through as debit cards in either location. What am I missing?

  15. @Tom – Vanilla brands won’t work at WM/Post Office – and haven’t for a while. But finding any place that still accepts any GC is a lot of work – most places want a card with your name on them. Ariana found a WM where they didn’t give a damn and milked it – a unicorn store. Now, when she’s faced with the same pita nonsense most of us encounter, she’s all but hung up her MS shingle.

    The Golden Age of MS is long behind us – now you fight for scraps.

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