Manufactured Spending

My Week in Manufactured Spending

Last week I had over $20,000 worth of American Express gift cards to unload. Some were left over from March and the rest were recently purchased. Thanks to an abundance of Target Prepaid REDcard and Amex for Target cards, there were plenty of options for unloading these gift cards. The only challenge? Doing it without raising a red flag. On occasion, I’ve come across a nervous Target cashier who gets suspicious and either won’t let me load my prepaid card with an Amex gift card or gets a manager involved. I try to avoid this scenario by loading just 2-3 prepaid cards in $1,000 increments at a time. Once I’m done loading 2-3 cards at the customer service center, I’ll sometimes head to the check-out line for another round.

This week, I had a bit of help. My sister picked me up and we drove to her house, which is an hour away. The great thing about her town is that there are three Target store within a 15 mile radius – not only that, but there are at least three other Target stores on the way there. Our first stop was in a quaint little college town, where every register is manned by 19 year-olds who couldn’t care less about why I’m loading so many prepaid cards. I managed to unload $6,000 at two registers, then it was on to the next store. 

The next location was a bit busy and since my nieces were in the car (and getting fussy), I loaded up three Redbirds for $3,000 total and got out of there. When we pulled up to the third Target parking lot, my 3 year-old niece looked outside and said in an exasperated tone, “More Target?” One day when she’s older I’ll tell her stories about how easy it was “back in the day” to earn miles at Target and she won’t think of it as such an annoyance anymore. With a total of $15,000 worth of American Express gift cards out of the way, this was quite a successful outing. 

A few days later I was back at my local Target store to unload the remaining $5,000 in gift cards. This time, I ran into a cashier who looked uncomfortable when he noticed I was paying with an Amex gift card. I told him that I’d done it before, that the only types of gift cards you couldn’t use for prepaid card loading were Target gift cards – just as the register specifies. He wasn’t buying it and wanted confirmation from a manager. 

Lucky for him, the manager was nearby and quickly came over to consult on the matter. He stared at the screen, unsure of what to do. I repeated that I’d been allowed to use Amex gift cards before, since they are supposed to be treated like cash. Besides, the register allows it, which should mean it doesn’t violate any rules. He still seemed unsure but told the cashier to go ahead and process the transaction and that he would research the matter for future reference. I didn’t want to push it so I just unloaded $1,000 worth of gift cards and left.

I’m pretty sure this is the last time I’ll be unloading an Amex gift card at this particular store. Thankfully, there is another store 5 miles away, so I’ve got another option. It was at this secondary location where I dumped my last set of gift cards and called it a day. There are lots of people who load the maximum $2,500 per card during just one trip, but I’d rather play it safe with multiple trips.

In addition to these gift cards, I had a few leftover from my Google Wallet days. These cards had small balances on them (all under $2) and the barista at my local Starbucks patiently loaded them all onto my Starbucks card. It was a huge relief getting rid of nearly a dozen gift cards with tiny balances this way. 

In all, I managed to rid myself of over $20,000 worth of Amex gift cards. Between my five Redbirds and three Amex for Target cards, I can (fairly easily) purchase and unload up to $40,000 worth of American Express gift cards every month. Even though I’ve complained in the past about how I’m done with manufactured spending, I’m getting excited about this hobby again and looking for more ways to generate miles and points. I may even get into buying/selling merchandise or gift cards as a means of getting it done. 

How much manufactured spending have you managed to pull off this past week?

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  1. I thought you couldn’t load Redbird with Amex GC, do you enter a pin when using Amex?

  2. If worse comes to worse, Davis (your “quaint little college town”) is always a safe bet. Too bad it is a bit of a drive for you.

    I just got a Redbird, and had $900 in Visa and MC Staples gift cards. I was a bit concerned that the teenaged clerk in customer service would question the gift cards (I live in a state that currently doesn’t offer the Redbird), but she zipped it all through without a moment’s hesitation. Loving the Redbird!

  3. I was ready this past weekend to make the leap into REDBird and due to an unexpected vet visit I couldn’t get there on Saturday. I thought I’d swing by on Sunday, Easter, but Target had other plans.

  4. @Ariana

    “Between my five Redbirds and three Amex for Target cards, I can (fairly easily) purchase and unload up to $40,000 worth of American Express gift cards every month”

    Quick question: what do you do after loading thousands of dollars on those multiple cards, how do you get that money back? I can’t imagine you have 40k worth of utility bills to pay each month 🙂

    Are you withdrawing the money to a linked bank account? I noticed that for the second Redbird I got, for a family member, I was asked by Amex to only link that account to a bank account in that family member’s name. So another option I have would be to do “bill payment” and send myself a check from that family member’s account.

    Thank you for any feedback you can provide.


    • Unfortunately I don’t live in Versailles, so no $40k utility bills for me. 😉 I’m using the funds to pay off credit cards and the occasional household bill/Target purchase.

      • Thank you Ariana. Do you have any concerns over being flagged by Amex/Target or by the cc banks you’re sending the payments to? This seems somewhat risky to me.

        • I do my best by mixing in spend and the occasional ATM withdrawal, but it may well not be enough. On the upside, I did the same thing with Bluebird and Amex for Target for many years without getting shut down. Hopefully Redbird is handled the same.

  5. I too have started my RedBird spending.

    I just received my cards at the end of March so I managed two visits to Target to get at least 2 cards loaded with $2500 each per visit. The wife only made one trip so she only got $2500 total for March spend. My mom did not visit Target at all – she’s in another state and worried about how all this works!

    As for this month (April), I’m already done with my $5K RedBird spend this month on two cards and $2.5K on my wifes.

    We mixed up our spend on some recently received Marriott Biz cards (to meet their $1K min. spend for 70k points each + 1 night free certificate) and then the rest on our Barclay US Airways/AAdvantage Aviator cards (to take advantage of the 50% bonus miles currently being offered – ).

    Have you found a way to track your spending on your RedBird cards yet?
    My spreadsheet is working pretty good for me now. I don’t know how you do it with your multiple giftcards, etc…

  6. I’ve been doing my Target loading right at Customer Service…they’re SO much faster than the cashiers. Even when I get a new person at Customer Service who has not seen RedBird loading, they are generally more comfortable with their own actions…that a little coaching/educating them on loading is simple and fast. I even have them remembering the last 4 numbers on the card I’m using by the time I get to the third swipe that they don’t even have to ask!!


    • I’ve only loaded at the CS desk and when I get someone who doesn’t know how to load one, I always say “Oh, it’s like loading a Starbucks gift card.” and they seem to be eager to try.

  7. What are the rules for purchasing Amex gift cards? How are you able to purchase $40,000 worth of gift cards a month? I think I read a previous post that you can only purchase $10,000 worth of consumer gift cards every 14 days.

    Thank you for this great site! I’m just starting out and learned a ton from your website!

  8. If there is nothing illegal about this, what sort of “red flags” would you be worried about?

  9. I tipped my toe in the water last night here in Los Angeles with my 1st REDBird, it went amazingly smooth!

    Trying to figure out the best way to maximize the REDBirds, I got another one to start up after I’ve killed off my Serve card this month.

    I’d like to understand the difference between using a Chase INK card at an office supply store to buy VGC or AGC vs. shopping portal like TopCashBack?

  10. I recently had an experience of “register allows it, which should mean it doesn’t violate any rules”– somewhat different, at OfficeMax. I used MileagePlusX App to buy some Safeway gift cards at an earn rate of 5X Miles plus 5X UR points with Ink Plus…. when I showed the app’s gift card number to the clerk, she was hesitant in punching in the numbers. The transaction processed, but when I tried again at another store, the employee refused to enter the numbers on his own and called over the manager… I was able to push that transaction through as well, but the manager there was insistent that it was against store policy to use gift cards to buy other gift cards and said he wouldn’t allow it again. Not sure how much more of this method I can handle— though it is very lucrative. Used Safeway gift cards to purchase ARCO/Target/Hyatt gift cards.

    • It’s not easy when you’re getting hit with rejection like this. I’d recommend taking a break from those stores for a while, let them forget about you, then come back and try it with another cashier.

  11. Have you had any issues with Befrugal tracking? I placed two orders yesterday. The first showed up and the second hasn’t.
    Should I cancel my order? Thank you.

    • I’ve only used Befrugal a handful of time – I generally ufo through TCB. Befrugal actually has a good reputation for tracking purchases. To be safe, you might want to cancel your order. When you place another order, be sure to take screenshots of the process so if the transaction doesn’t post, you have proof of it.

  12. Ariana, i have a question for you.. i am probably going to buy AMEX Cards using the portal and then try loading them on my Redbird. Haven’t don’t that yet. So I ended up snagging an AMEX Card from a grocery store for an initial load test and headed to Target to reload my Redbird. To my surprise it didn’t work at the cashier register (the lady at the register knew how to load it). Went to Customer Service Desk and got the same error something like you don’t have sufficient funds. Checked the balance on the AMEX Website and the balance shows truly the amount i loaded when i bought the card, and with status as active.. I haven’t called the AMEX phone number listed in the back of the Card, but having quickly looked at the link ( is it possible the card may not be active for an initial amount of hours.. Did you have any such experience. Maybe i got a bit excited as Target was right on the way between my house and the Grocery Store.

    • It could be a few things: 1.) Try loading $1 less than the balance on the Amex card. This has never been a problem for me with Amex gift cards, though it was an issue with Simon Mall gc’s. Maybe Amex gc’s purchased from stores are different from ones purchased online. 2.) Make sure you haven’t maxed out your monthly load limit on Redbird – I made this mistake before, thinking I had a $700 limit left when in fact it was $500. The register turned up an error message but when I lowered the amount, it went through. I hope it works out for you!

      • I had transferred 1300 from my mom”s Redbird Account yesterday to mine. I am not sure if that played a factor, because my AGC was activated from the getgo. I have purchased VGC’s from Safeway in the past and very rarely i have gotten a message on the small activated receipt that Gift Card will be activated in 2 hrs which was not the case with my first AGC. Anyways went after 9.00 PM PST (hoping everything resets after 12.00 EST) and the same cashier was able to load it without any issues on the very same register it didn’t work earlier. Time difference between the failed load and successful load was only by 50 minutes. Ordered AGC online on Barclay’s ofcourse. Looking to pay off the rental car for 9 days in Kauai entirely off BarclayCard. 🙂

  13. I wonder how you unload those Amex gift cards to Target Redcard. When I picked my redcard, the cashier clearly informed me, that Gift cards cannot be used to load this prepaid card.
    Please shed some light on this.

    • When the cashiers swipe Redbird it says on their screen that it can’t be loaded with Target gift cards, so they often reiterate that to customers. It doesn’t say “gift cards” it says “Target gift cards”.

      Having said that, a few stores, most notably in NYC, have made it a store policy to not allow credit cards or gift cards. The vast majority of stores do allow both credit cards and gift cards.

      There’s also a debit and a credit REDcard (same name as the Redbird, which is a “prepaid REDcard”) so some times they might confuse Redbird for one of those.

      Just try a different cashier or store if you hear them telling you that you can’t load it with gift cards.

    • NoonRadar is correct. The cashiers get confused about that message and even after they read it to me, I swipe my card anyway. On occasion they’ll reiterate that I can’t pay with a gift card, but I explain to them that Amex gift cards are supposed to be treated like cash. When that doesn’t work, just pay with a credit card and try again at a later time.

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