Manufactured Spending

The Days of Free and Easy Manufactured Spending Are Over – Here’s How I’m Covering My Fees

The days of free manufactured spending are indeed over and the cost of accruing points and miles can be substantial. At the moment, some of the credit cards I’m using to earn miles don’t earn category bonuses, which can really add up if you’re not doing things to off-set the fees. I largely depend on cash back credit cards and portals to off-set fees and generate a profit. There are, of course, more options for off-setting gift card fees:


1. Cash Back Portals. One way to reduce or eliminate manufactured spending costs is to use a cash back portal when ordering gift cards online. A quick search on Cash Back Monitor or CashbackHolic for gift cards should turn up the highest cash back offer currently available. Buying gift cards through a portal that pays out 1% cash back or more off-sets most associated expenses. At the moment, I’m pretty much using Yazing exclusively for and Gift Card Mall purchases. A lot of readers complain about Yazing’s lack of a tracking dashboard, but I’ll continue using them because they offer a much faster payout than iConsumer – which can take upwards of four months!

2. In-Store Promotions. Sometimes stores that sell gift cards offer discounts that off-set the card fees and may even leave you with a bit of extra cash. Drug stores do this frequently as do office supply stores. I remember a year ago when some malls eliminated card fees altogether for a day. When these promotions come around, you can easily off-set most manufactured spending expenses and come away with a nice stash of miles.

Don’t get me started on time spent doing this. I consider this a hobby, so any time I do spend driving some place to buy or liquidate gift cards is categorized in much the same way sports fans spend their time following their favorite teams or how people who like arts and crafts spend their time knitting sweater of painting moonscapes. It doesn’t take away “billable hours” – we all need time off to relax and have fun. My time spent doing this is no different. 

3. Points for Cash. Some bank rewards programs allow cardholders to redeem points for statement credits (i.e. cash). This isn’t always a good use of points, but I people who do this periodically to off-set card fees. Especially when the points were earned free of charge thanks to a generous in-store promotion or cash back portal. I sometimes use my Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard to purchase travel for family members, who pay me back in cash. This allows me to redeem Arrival miles towards travel expenses, which ends up being as good as cash back.  

4. Cash Back Credit Cards. Cash back credit cards can be pretty lucrative on their own and incorporating them into your gift card churning routine can help cover liquidation costs. For example, the Discover It Miles card earns the equivalent of 3% cash back the first year. By putting a bit of extra spend on a cash back card, you can off-set gift card fees. It’s a bit of extra work and not an ideal solution for some folks. If you’re reducing out-of-pocket costs through other means, then working in a cash back card can leave you with a little extra travel cash. In my case, the amount I’m putting on the Discover card produces way more than what I spend in fees. In fact, by the time my card anniversary rolls around, it will double to a very substantial amount of cash.

What are some of the methods you’re employing to off-set gift card fees?

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  1. Ariana,
    It seems Walmart is removing the Kiosks that were printing out the money orders and replacing them with smaller ATM only machines.
    What are the other options to make MO beside PO and some grocery stores?

  2. I am having trouble filing a missing claim report with Yazing.
    Where is the customer support claim dept.?



  3. I’ll let you know how it works out, but I basically let the money work for me on it’s way back to the CC. What I mean is that for most MS I just do CC->VGC->Serve->Bank->CC, but every once in a while I replace the normal bank with a new bank that is offering a signup bonus (which is taxable but still nets me more than enough to cover the fees and turn a profit).

    Gotta be careful as this complicates things (and can get you in trouble with banks), but I basically let the money generate some more money on its way back to my CC.

  4. What about old Amex blue? I use that to generate money orders via vgc and get 5% cash back. I unload the money orders on my mortgage for rental properties

  5. What are the underlying banks for the Visa Gift Cards at I am very nervous about buying any GC that is not a metabank card.

  6. I’ve been opening accounts at banks that offer me nice bonuses. Some banks let you open the account online so you don’t even have to drive anywhere. It not only helps offset some of the gift card fees, but it’s proved fortuitous in that I can spread all those money order deposits around and not get flagged.

  7. Curious, how are people tracking buys through cashback portals? How do you know whether they are missing a transaction or not and have you had to provide proof you clicked through their portal to make a purchase?

    • Some portals have a dashboard where cash back is tracked, but it’s always a good idea to take screenshots of the transaction and keep a folder on your desktop with purchase info.

  8. How do you currently unload your gift card runs? Thank you and sorry if this is a newbie question.

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