Manufactured Spending

My Week in Manufactured Spending: Gift Card Churning Simplified

These days I have a pretty simple manufactured spending routine, which consists of a two step process:

1. Ordering Visa gift cards from

2. Liquidating these gift cards on twice weekly trips to Walmart.

Manufactured spending by mail
Manufactured spending by mail

Since I’ve found two ms-friendly locations, I can liquidate $22,000 worth of Visa gift cards on a single trip. One of these locations no longer allows me to do multiple transactions when buying money orders, so I’m down to buying just $2,000 at this particular store. That location does, however, allow split payments on bill pay, so I can still do a lot of damage this way. 

Unfortunately, the only credit cards I’ve been able to pay with Walmart bill pay has been Discover. A few readers have given me tips on how to circumvent this problem, which I plan on trying out eventually. At the moment I’m putting my five Discover It Miles cards to good use, so I haven’t had a shortage of credit card bills to pay. Not all of the Discover It Miles cards were obtained at the same time (mine was about 3 months ahead of everyone else’s), but if everything goes as planned, next year when everyone is cashing in their tax returns, I’ll receive an extra $15,000 from Discover. Or maybe all five accounts will get shut down and I’ll lose everything, in which case, oh well. 

This week it was business as usual. I’m finding the one Walmart store that still lets me do multiple money order transactions is getting friendlier and friendlier. On my visit last Tuesday, I got a free bottle of Downey. The week before, the manager was surprised when I wanted to buy $7,000 worth of money orders. He seemed thrown off by my request and responded with, “But you usually get $10,000. Are you sure? We can do 10 if you want”. They were really accommodating. He called over a new employee to watch the transaction, pointing out that even though I was “the only customer” buying this many money orders, it was still a good learning opportunity for her. 

When I returned a few days later, I was told another woman from Sacramento has been coming in and “doing the same $500 payment thing”. This has me worried because I think if too many people start coming into that location and buying money orders with $500 gift cards, they’ll start to restrict purchases.

For now I’m safe and saving up for that trip to Europe I’m planning on recreating later this year. My parents and younger sister may be traveling to India in December (assuming the Visa approval process isn’t a nightmare like everyone says). So I’m working on topping off a few accounts here and there so they can travel in business class.

Meanwhile, I’ll be cutting my workweek down to one day (Sunday) while I focus on grad school test prep. I know I’ve talked about doing this in the past, but after the time I spent in Thessaloniki and Calais, it hit me how much of a difference I could be making if I focused my energy on doing something more worthwhile with my time.

I kept thinking if I was a medical professional, I could be invaluable to the many sick people who lacked access to healthcare. If I was a lawyer, I could help get qualified refugees to the UK safely and legally. Hell, if I had carpentry skills, I could help rebuild shelters that were destroyed during the evacuation. In places of real desperation, you realize the value of skilled workers and professionals. That, and all of those young guys who expressed their desperate desires to continue their university studies in a foreign country where they did not even speak the language, made me realize I don’t want to waste any more time or squander the opportunities available to me.

I’ve scheduled posts through the end of the week and will be auto-posting on social media. Other than that I’ll be on a tech hiatus. No laptop and only 30 minutes of phone time per day, which is enough to check social media and respond to emails. Somehow, big news always comes around when I’m taking a hiatus, but hopefully that will not be the case. My manufactured spending routine, on the other hand, will continue as usual. 

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  1. Do you have the gift cards delivered to a regular mailbox? What happens if they are stolen?

  2. Woody Collins

    Is anyone experiencing problems with One Vanilla prepaid MC debit? I bought two from Sam’s Club but neither will allow a debit transaction. I tried them at Walmart, Sam’s, Winn Dixie, Publix, and a gas station. Credit works fine.

  3. Best of luck to you, Ariana! I am still settling into a routine. I’ve been taking the purchases slowly after reading about several people getting cut off on the 4th or 5th order. I randomly decided to do 2 orders/month for 3 months and then ramp. Fourth order went through successfully! In the meantime I’ve been supplementing with some and Simon VGC purchases, which I will phase out in a few months. is definitely the cheapest and easiest source.

    • Thanks Lindsey! It really sucks that so many people are having that problem. I don’t know what it is but none of the orders I’ve been placing at over the last few months have bene cancelled (except for a couple, which I paid for with maxed out credit cards, where were subsequently declined). The only merchant giving me trouble is GiftCardMall. Can’t even get a single order to go through.

  4. Have you ever had any problem with Discover about a bill pay through wallmart? they have blocked my account for 7 days because they said they couldn’t verify my payments. Also, every time I try to buy a large amount at Simon mall It gets rejected due to fraud alerts it has been a nightmare. Anybody else experiencing this difficulties?

    • None so far. How long did you use WM bill pay before that happened? I’ve only ever used the Discover It Miles card at SM to pay for less than $2,500 worth of gc’s and it was ok. It may be because your bank isn’t used to these large transactions yet.

      • I am not sure. Discover always some how block the card even at the gas station after i purchased $3000 GC at SM. Now I am waiting 7 business day for them to verify the VM bill pay. I sent them the receipt and they still said that wasn’t enough.

  5. And my orders from got denied too. They said that my account was still new etc……

  6. You big Wah Wah. Stay off my turf you big bad Sacramento woman!! Are you kidding me??

  7. How did you get 5 discover cards?

  8. Ariana, how come you do instead of Simon Mall GC?? Which kind is the one you get from A picture of description would be helpful.

  9. Just wondering how you’re moving $22k worth of GCs through per week without them canceling your orders. Have they gotten more lenient now? Or do you have multiple accounts with them?

    • I have no idea – especially now that I’m hearing about all these folks who can’t get their orders approved. I’ve been placing two orders per day successfully for several months now. I do use multiple accounts (mine and several family members’) and use each person’s credit card to pay for their respective orders, but everything gets shipped out to the same address.

  10. Today, as usual I tried to purchase $ 900 money order at post office with Staples three VGC $300 each. But for the first time it was declined, try two different location same result. Call Giftcard Mall and verified gift card is activated and good to go, I went on line to confirm that as well. They told me may be I can try register each card and change the PIN #.
    Anyone has a clue?

  11. Hey Ariana, I love your site. It has been a fount (or font?) of knowledge. I am curious about the Bonus points. Are these on specific a cards only? <y purchase just say 0 points. Trying to figure the most cost efficient system, I can order online or just go to a grocery store to get the 6x points. That does mean going to Post Office (Which is a higher MO cost). Thoughts?

  12. Ariana, Got my 1st giftcard and sticking my foot in the water. Ready to activate the card and go to WM for a money order. This is a metabank card with CVV code on the back. I thought I was supposed to get some sort of pin.

    Do I just activate the card and head to the money center at Walmart.

    Thanks for your help.

  13. Easy Peasy, Almost. Went to Krogers and the young lady just wanted to know how much for the money order. She never looked or touched the card. I swipe and use the last 4 digits for pin, and she hands me a blank MO for $200. Go to my Chase app on the phone and nope, Chase will not take it. Open the Schwab app and bingo, it is in my account. Chase is getting harder and harder to work with. I have all my bill pay, paychecks, etc. with them. Any suggestions on a really easy bank to work with online.

    • Check out Webster Bank. I have not tried an online deposit but I have set up multiple ACH links through them with other banks. Very easy. Best online platform I have used, but I tend to prefer smaller banks where technology is often lacking.

  14. If I understand your post you can only use Walmart bill pay for Discover? That seems like an easier option that buying money orders if it can be used for any credit card. Guess that’s not the case.

    • You can, but for some reason my WM reps aren’t able to pull up any other banks. A few readers suggested I tell the cashiers to look up “Visa cc’s” and try to pull up banks like Barclay and Chase.

  15. I went into the Walmart in Duarte California and the refused to let me buy a money order with my $500 Visa gift card that says debit on it. I kept insisting it was a debit card and the counter person kept saying it was a gift card. Oh Well, I’ll just use them to pay for may car insurance.

  16. I really like your thoughts on focusing ourselves on something valuable. Spending time to improve ourselves, in skills or in relationships, always gives the best value of one’s time in the long run. However, there are always distractions and those within-reach, immediate rewards always lures me to deviate from my goal.

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