Manufactured Spending

My Week in Manufactured Spending: Adapting When Things Go Wrong

This was a tough week for me in terms of manufactured spending. I ran into a few problems with two of my most reliable Walmart locations. The first location is one where I’ve been able to load up on $10,000 worth of money orders and another $10,000 in bill pay per visit. This is the only store that lets me split payments for bill pay. So it’s a great place to go when I need to unload tons of gift cards. 

Walmart Money Order

On my most recent visit, the cashier I normally deal with informed me that the manager had instated a new rule. Going forward, all money order purchases must be done in one transaction. This is bad news for me because the maximum number of cards you can use per transaction is four. That limits money order purchases to $2,000 per transaction. In the past, they were ok with me doing five $2,000 transactions but now they’ve eliminated that option. I’m still grateful I can at least do $2,000 plus a ton of bill pay, so it’s not a complete lost cause.

After this, I went to a second nearby location which has also been an ms-friendly spot. This time, the register began acting up. I had the hardest time trying to pay for $2,000 in money orders per transaction. The computer kept rejecting my payments but then deducting $500 from my total amount due. I finally gave up after $6,000, since it was becoming really obnoxious at that point and I didn’t want to end up with a bunch of money orders that I may not have been able to deposit. Thankfully nothing like that happened. It turns out the funds were in fact deducted from each card and depositing the money orders was a breeze. 

When I went back a couple of days later, I ran into the same problem. The cashier worried that even though the payment were rejected, the amount was still deducted from the total due. She cancelled the transaction and suggested we try again, $1,000 at a time. I decided to stop after the second purchase because it was too tedious and I had too much stuff to do that day. 

All of this does put a wrench into my plans to liquidate my current stash of $50,000 worth of Visa gift cards, but I am planning on visiting my sister next week and her town is pretty ms-friendly. I’ll do some damage there and by the time I get back home, I’ll have a pile of newly arrived cards from to deal with. For those who have emailed and left comments to express your disappointment over issuing Metabank cards, don’t be. Metabank cards are ideal for money order purchases at Walmart and elsewhere. And that, as Martha Stewart would say, is a good thing.

What have you all been up to this past week in terms of gift card churning?

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  1. I never used WM bill pay and don’t even know how it works. Is it better than just deposit your money orders to your checking account and then pay your bills from there? I understand that’s what you are doing with your money orders; why use bill pay then? To mix things up? Or there is some catch?

    • +1, also which institutions do you use for the Bill pay option? I’ve read that some banks will cancel your accounts if you do this too heavy.

    • Sometimes. Bill pay allows me to unload more gift cards. If I can pay off some credit cards via bill pay, it works out cheaper than money orders and if I buy money orders on top of that, I’m unloading more gift cards at a time.

      • Isn’t bill pay to CC a local phenomenon? Some places can’t find certain banks.

        • Kind of. So far I’ve been able to pay my Discover bill, but they can’t find Fidelity or Barclays in the system. Also, my local WM is hardcoded not to accept more than one payment type for bill pay, but this other location allows up to four card swipes.

  2. When buying a money order do you have to do 2 for $1000 each or do they typically let you do one for $2000 within the 4 swipes ? Also, do you pay the money order fee with cash or just adjust the MO amount ?
    Thanks for the help and if timing works I would love to buy you a drink in Aruba 🙂

  3. AlwaysFlying

    Stopped at Walmart to finalize CC spent. I do MS only for CC spent as I consider what you are doing extremely wrong but that is only my private opinion. The plan was 3 MOs, each $1k. After the first MO, the cashier wanted to see why I’m using split payments and asked if I’m paying in gift cards. I said these are debit cards, she looked at them and refused to sell because in her words that is the “manager’s policy”. She said: You guys come here and always want MOs for $999.3 and pay with two GCs. I politely wondered a bit, smiled and left. This was the first concurrence and the next Walmart went OK. The greedy (or maximizing if we want to say bad smell instead of stench) type of behavior will be the valid reason why this will eventually die.

  4. I used to split my gift cards into one money order, but a few months back I started getting a “tender not allowed” error. The error only went away when I started doing each gift card separately for each money order. It cuts into the overhead a bit, but it’s better than nothing at all.

  5. When you do 10k in Money Orders at Walmart do they make you fill out forms?

  6. SexyKitten7

    Not to be a debbie downer but are you sure those MOs cleared/reconciled after deposit? I’d watch them carefully. Might be an issue of debiting but not loading like we occasionally see with GC purchases.

    Re: Doing 1k instead of 2k. That reminds me of my experience split tendering Serve at WM cust serve. It simply doesn’t work. If i do 800 split 4 ways, first trx goes thru, next fails, freezes computer, and requires mgr void. I’ve tried twice. Now I just do 4 sep trx. More suspicious but what choice do I have? Lol

    I’m thankful every day I don’t need to go to MO-ville.

  7. I have been wondering about the Bill Pay at WM. I found the flyertalk page:

    This would be a lot better than MO. I will have to try it.

    • Thanks Liz — that flyertalk wiki reminds me that recently I’ve not had any success using Walmart Billpay to pay towards either Chase British Airways (Visa) or Bank of America Amtrak (MasterCArd) bills…. Got it to work for Chase Ink bills… but I’m still new to the Walmart billpay — and each time I try it, the WMT personnel seem to barely comprehend how it works. (I have to tell them to look under Visa or MasterCard…. then enter the card/bill #…. )

      Ariana, have you or others done a “how to” of how to use Walmart billpay? Also, I’ve been hearing conflicting info on whether walmart is using “checkfreepay” or another 3rd party service. (Issue came up at a Kroger, which uses multiple services, with different fees…. wildly confusing) Thus, I’d be grateful for a primer/review of the options. (or being directed to the same)

      ps, I have had success buying mo’s then paying off portions of the BA/Amtrak bills — at a local BA branch. (figure it reduces # of deposits into my checking account)

  8. You’ve been pretty lucky thus far. My local WM has always only allowed a max of $2K in MOs. I’m amazed they would let you do 5 separate transactions. You’ve definitely been very lucky. I only MS about $5K/month and that suits my needs fine. I’ve never tried billpay, simply because I’ve never researched it. I think I may look into that if it means unloading more CCs in a single visit. My WM is 30 miles away, so I go twice a month and then unload the rest at my local Post Office. But if I can do everything in a single visit, that would be AWESOME.

  9. Are you depositing these money orders to bunch of banks or making credit card payments directly at the bank. I’ve heard reports of account shutdown in both cases by Bofa, Chase and Citi. I have opened up few separate bank accounts just for money orders but it still carries the other risk that I may get shut down for heavy ms (between 15-25k a month). How do you minimize these risks.

    • I’m depositing them into one account, but I also use WM bill pay to pay off cards. I’m not really worried about the account shutting down because its a separate account I’ve set up for the sole purpose of ms. So if it does shut down, I don’t have to worry about it interfering with my regular banking activities.

      • Ariana,
        If I am getting this right, that explains avoiding shutdowns for mo deposits. However there is still the risk of getting shutdown because of high ms on chase or citi cards by those banks. Are you saying that you are also ms-ing on one of the non big banks card.

        • Absolutely. Nowadays, my ms activities are mostly focused on Barclays and Discover cards (with the occasional SPG Amex and Ink Plus thrown in). But I’m definitely more careful with Amex and Chase, and mix in a lot of regular spend to avoid shutdowns. If it does happen, at least I got a lot of miles out of it over the past four years.

  10. Very bad luck with the WMs in San Jose area recently. CSRs ask to see the debit card I swipe and then they cancel the MO transaction when they see the card I hold is from Simon Mall. Looks like I need cards with my name on them.

  11. Jane Petersen

    Just found your blog and totally new to MS. I have been on FT and other sites but there is way too much info and its very confusing for a newbie. Can anyone point me in the right direction or what is the most straightforward way to MS. Cheers !

  12. HUGE PROBLEM: I purchased some visa cards at office depot using my chase business ink usually paying 5% back when it shows up as utilities. Just pulled up my account and showing work related, worth only 1 point. Anyone else have this problem? Should I call Chase?

  13. I was able to do 1 $200 MO at a walmart when I went to do a second they said no. I drove 10 miles to try another walmart it said accepted but the machine did not print out a MO. I left and went home to check balance and I had 0 left on the card had to drive all the way back and they gave me $200 in cash but computer will not let them do MO with a debit card unless it has name on it.

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