Manufactured Spending

Walmart and Target Crack Down on Manufactured Spending?

Walmart Money Order

Where to find American Express for Target Card

Since the demise of Vanilla Reloads, I’ve written about several manufactured spending alternatives. When a reader reported that Walmart was no longer accepting gift cards for money orders, I wrote up Plan C in my manufactured spending strategy. It looks like I’ll need to draw up even more plans, because this weekend I experienced a rude awakening. If this keeps up, I’m going to run out of letters to name my plans after.

Plan B was to use American Express Gift Cards purchased through shopping portals to buy Visa gift cards at grocery stores, then unload those via money orders at Walmart. A reader told me recently that she had been to several Bay Area Walmart locations and got rejected when she tried to buy a money order with a Visa gift card. I hadn’t had this issue, so I figured it was just a problem at specific locations. I headed to my local Walmart and first tried to load my gift cards onto Bluebird at the kiosk. The ever-present “out of order” sign was gone, so I assumed it was safe to use. Nope, the machine was still out of order.

So I headed to the money center to buy money orders. A cashier I’m friendly with rang me up. I asked her to split the payment method, which she said was fine. Then she suddenly asked me to show her the cards I was paying with. I did so and she said I could’t pay with gift cards – “new store policy.” I pulled out my trusty Alaska Airlines debit card, paid for the money order in full, and headed out.

Now I have about $2,500 of Amex Gift Cards to unload, so I head to Target. My back-up plan was to use American Express Gift Cards purchased through shopping portals to load my American Express for Target card. I go to the register, where a seemingly clueless cashier hesitates when I tell him I want to reload my card. I offer to walk him through the process, and he smiles and sighs in relief. When it comes time to pay, I swipe my $3,000 Amex gift card. I start reading him the last 4 digits of the card and he asks to see it. Suddenly, the same guy that didn’t know how to load an American Express prepaid card 10 seconds ago is reciting the latest store policy: “You can’t pay with a gift card.” I told him I was aware that you can’t pay with a Target gift card (every cashier makes it a point to say that before ringing me up), but he calls his colleague over. She confirms that the new store policy is that you have to pay with a credit card and Amex gift cards aren’t accepted. I paid with my Arrival card and left.

This is pretty awful because if I can’t unload Amex gift cards indirectly via Walmart money orders or directly via my Amex for Target card, my manufactured spending costs are going to skyrocket. No more $200-300 profits per $5,000 gift card.

In order to cope with this tragedy, I’m finally going to give in and try out the following methods I’ve been avoiding in an effort to keep things manageable:

1. Amazon Payments. American Express gift cards are just too lucrative to forego, so I’m going to start using Amazon Payments to unload the American Express gift card balance. I won’t earn as many miles as before, since Amazon Payments is limited to $1,000 per month.

2. Bluebird. I can load my $3,000 or so in Visa gift cards onto Bluebird without issues. I’m avoiding the register because of rumors that they’re also enforcing the “no gift card” rule. This method will involve a lot of hits and misses, as Bluebird kiosks are notorious for being out of order half the time.

3. Evolve Money. In addition to Bluebird, I unloaded one $500 Visa gift card by paying bills using Evolve Money. The service is free to use and through April 21, you can get $5 off a bill payment when you use promo code SAVE5Apri. On Friday I sent two months worth of Sallie Mae payments and received confirmation from them on Saturday that the payments had posted. That’s lightning fast. I think Evolve estimated the payment would go through on 4/20.

I also used it to pay off the small balance on a Macy’s card. The PG&E bill just came in and I’m going to bite the bullet and pay my cell phone and cable bill through Evolve, foregoing 5x through my Ink card.

This is just a convenient way to unload some gift cards until the Bluebird kiosk is back in business, but if the payout for GiftCardMall (where I buy Visa gift cards) increases from 0.5%, this can be a lucrative opportunity to generate points, cash, and pay my bills in an efficient way. If it saves me from having to go through an annoying phone system or logging in and out of different accounts to pay bills, I’m good with that.

Have you had the same experience at Walmart and Target? Please comment below.

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  1. What do you think is going to happen? You spoon feed people this information and then each loophole quickly gets shut down

    • PointChaser

      At some point somebody spoon-fed this stuff to you as well, and I bet it was one of the bigger blogs that reach a larger audience and gain from it. This is a hobby and we shouldn’t take it too seriously. Use it to do some meaningful travel and enjoy it while it lasts.

      • I love how Tod complains about you spoon feeding people this information yet comes to your blog to be spoon fed himself (eye roll).

      • I kind of disagree with the whole “hobby” and “dont take it seriously” thing. Why knowingly destroy something just because a belief that someone thinks its not a big deal. I think those of us that post or blog have to be better stewards of MS.

        • PointChaser

          As bloggers it’s also our job to write and educate our readers about these topics. In a sense it conflicts with the whole secrecy thing. Will a few deals die as a result? Yes, if the audience is large enough. But the hobby is expanding, so it’s bound to happen. For the record, I do have limits. I don’t link back to company websites when I’m writing about MS and there are deals that I’ve read about on FT, in code, that I won’t post. Clearly, people are going through some effort to preserve these deals and it’s not my place to expose them.

    • This isn’t a secret club with a special handshake. It is a community of individuals with a common interest, traveling and hoteling as cheaply as possible. You “elites” out there that continue to harass the bloggers for providing information, or spoon-feeding the rest of us as you put it, are the real problem. YOU elites are the ones who hunt for mistake fares and try to take advantage of the airlines when some data entry drone puts a decimal in the wrong place. YOU elites are the ones who scarf up all the good deals as soon as they drop, while all the rest of us spoon-fed normal people with real jobs, and families, and lives, are either sleeping or commuting to work, so SHUT UP! These bloggers are providing a very valuable service to US. You can bad-mouth the bloggers all you want on Flyer Talk. I don’t find anything worthwhile there. That’s YOUR secret club.

  2. Cheapblackdad

    Two things I realized last year and it seems folks around these parts are reluctant to admit:

    1. MS isn’t even dying a slow death. This is pretty quick. I think that MS practitioners are going to have to adjust their travel lifestyle and expectations accordingly. The gravy train is ending.

    2. Not only is MS dying a quick death, it’s poisoning the well. There are increasing reports of reconsideration calls resulting in not just in denials but in shut downs to other cards due to obvious MSing. Further, the banks and issuers all read these blogs, and are likely coming up with new restrictions on earning points.

    Pigs get fed.

    • PointChaser

      The banks have been aware of these practices for years – not just through the blogs, but Flyertalk and the media. What Rick (FTG) tells me is that these practices are “priced into the equation.” In some cases, banks target people like us with mega bonuses like the 100k AA card, 75k Gold Amex, etc. They know the average joe isn’t going to hear about these offers or even know what 100k miles is worth. When they’re trying to meet their quarterly targets, they run these promos and know that the acquisitions may be temporary. But it helps them meet their short-term goals.

  3. Which Walmart do you go to?

  4. Was hit VERY HARD when CVS & Vanilla Reload died. Live in Boston near CVS Headquarters so had NO time to stock up. Was in GRIEF….

    Yesterday I tried VISA Vanilla gift cards at Walmart. Although the Money Center Ladies were skeptical—it worked to my GREAT Relief!! So now it costs $4.95 per $500.

    PLEASE explain in DETAIL how to use EVOLVE or BlueBird and AVOID paying the $4.95

    I did NOT realize you can MAKE money while loading Bluebird to pay my $5000 + Monthly Expenses for: Rent + Health Insurance + Utilities + Etc that do NOT accept credit cards.

    PLEASE walk us thru that! MANY thanks from Boston!

    • PointChaser

      Thanks for sharing, Kim. My post on Evolve goes live tomorrow morning. It will explain all of this in detail.

  5. Odd side note, but I stopped by a CVS in San Bruno, CA, today and the VISA/MC variable load GCs were all gone. A little worried that these will become scarce like VRs?

    • How many Walmart stores have you tried? The Walmart employees at the Money Center might be enforcing a no Visa gift card policy. However, the relief to all of this news is that you can still load Bluebird and buy money orders at the Money Center kiosk machine. Out of the dozens of Walmart stores in the Bay Area, chances are there’s at least 1 Walmart that has a working Money Center kiosk machine.

      In case Walmart completely cracks down on using Visa gift cards for money orders and loading Bluebird, one alternative to look into would be money orders at the post office. If you print out the page on the USPS website that says debit cards are accepted for money orders, then they might be more likely to accept Visa gift cards. I sure hope that they are willing to do split payments.

      • Also, I’m surprised about the lack of Visa gift cards at that CVS in San Bruno. Last time I checked a CVS in Tuscaloosa, the rack was full of Visa gift cards.

      • PointChaser

        I’ve never been able to buy MO’s from the kiosk. Even when the machine isn’t out of order, I always get a message saying the machine isn’t processing money orders at the moment. Surely, there are stores that haven’t implemented this story, but I don’t know that I’m up for finding one. The post office (and I’m told Kmart too) are good options, except my local USPS will only take cash. Let me know how it works for you!

        • All of my Walmarts and Walmart Neighborhood stores stopped me from using visa giftcards this weekend. My former easy going clerks blurt out “Are those gift cards!” And then ask me to hand the cards to them so they can check. My normally friendly cashiers were all edgy and not friendly so I believe it was made clear to them (all stores same day in my area) that they are not to take gift cards. One of the clerks said they were told to watch specifically for the Vanilla card products. I think the demise of VR for credit card at CVS spiked up the Visa giftcards for MO traffic at WM money center. Perhaps to the point someone said enough of this.

          • Thanks for reporting your experience. I was going to try a few more locations with just a single card rather than two, but I think I’ll just stick to loading gc’s onto Bluebird. I agree- the huge traffic spike is probably what caught the attention of otherwise clueless Walmart employees.

  6. Being a relatively new (within the last 4 months) MS’er, I was going full throttle on 5 BB’s and VR until the shutdown. Since then your blog has been a valuable source of info and I have been buying the OV card from CVS – going to WM and having cashier load $1k into BB and then $2k into MO per visit. Every cashier has been very polite and easy to work with doing this. Granted, I haven’t been using any other card except OV (since most others have ‘gift card’ splashed all across them).

    I am also doing AP and plan to use Evolve as well since my mortgage company is one of the approved payees! I got a MO at my local grocery store as well with no issues but it was twice as much as WM so I’ll use it as a backup. Finally, my local post office said debit cards were no problem to use for buying MO so I’ll try it and report it as well. Thanks for all the great info!

  7. Disaster for me. Best WM near me now has gone “no gift cards” policy as of Saturday. Apparently a lot of idiots are now loading BB with gcs at the MC since VRs went away (instead of the kiosk). Add in the fools using $100/$200 from office supply and it’s been a total cluster.

    And yes, blogs like this (and other infamous circles and arrows type scumbags) are ruining this game – because they don’t give a damn about anything other than all that affiliate $.

    People need to be circumspect about revealing all the gory details. If people are truly interested in learning, an offline conversation is sufficient. Publicly laying out every method so that even the lazy (read incompetent) start playing this game is why the noose continues to tighten at an ever-faster pace.

    Just wait for the wailing when WM officially stops accepting gcs – it’s not if, but when.

    • PointChaser

      No big affiliate bucks being made here, nor does this blog have a huge following.. If you’re unhappy with the content of the blogs, you can always just not read them.

  8. In the few months I have had lots of inconsistency about loading Amex for Target. Many cashiers have never done it, often they try to do it as a new purchase of the card instead of a reload, which fails.

    • PointChaser

      Same here. I usually have to walk them through the process. In this case, that didn’t work out as well as I’d hoped.

  9. I was able to use a Vanilla gift card to load bluebird this morning at Walmart. I also used two cards to buy money orders. Even if they cut off money orders, as long as bluebird loading still works, it’s better than nothing.

  10. My Walmart’s new policy is that the $1K load per day has to be done in one transaction in a single day. I can no longer load two $500 gc’s in a day. I can live with that, though it means double the trips.

  11. Tchoupitoulas. Only tried loading one card, so I don’t know if the “two card” policy described above is in effect or not.

  12. Anyone have any updates to more than one card being used at Wal-Mart nationally?

    Seems like the best option is the use of the Simon Mall Gift Cards and loading bluebird cards/money orders at a wal mart but I am hearing limitations abound.

  13. Not had any problem using GCs to purchase MOs at Walmart and loading Amex Target cards.
    Just purchased MOs at Walmart on 4/23 & 4/24 in Jacksonville, FL. Maybe this is regional only, not all over or maybe you just ran into wrong clerk. Purchased MO’s at Money Center and loaded Amex Target at customer service.

  14. el_ingeniero

    I bought almost $4K of MO at WMT Sunday night. Young lady at the money center was a bit nervous, but everything went fine.

    • PointChaser

      I’ve been hearing of more cases where people have been turned down at Walmart. Hopefully it’s a fluke.

  15. I was unable to use a card for MO purchase yesterday. Went to the customer service desk and loaded BB with the same card. Went back to Money Center to try MO again, but the same result occurred–“debit transaction denied”. Suspect cashier error, but we will see. If it doesn’t work again, I will just load to BB.

    • PointChaser

      Had the same thing happen to me this weekend. Check out today’s (Monday) post on how to get around that.

      • Went to another WM on Saturday and had no problems at the desk purchasing a MO. Not sure what the issue was, but I will definitely remember the .99 and 1.00 tricks! Thanks!

        I’ve never been able to use the kiosk at my local WM. The kiosk at the second one I went to was out of order.

        • PointChaser

          Good to hear! I’ve been reading about people having this issue on Twitter and when I experienced it, I figured best to write a post in case anyone else encounters it.

          • WM is no longer accepting Vanilla VGC’s for money orders or Bluebird loading. I tried going to a local grocery store to purchase a money order but they also said no Vanillas. I guess the next stop will be check cashing places to get rid of the last few cards I have. Anyone have other thoughts?

          • Use the Bluebird kiosks. We should all steer clear of the money center going forward.

          • I’ve tried using the kiosk a few times to load BB, but when I’ve swiped the VGC, entered a pin and pressed the green button, the keypad screen blanks out the pin and asks me to enter it again. Same thing happens after doing so again. I guess I need to find a WM with a kiosk that works, but there’s only one near me and the rest are futher away….

          • The kiosks are notoriously wonky and most are either out of order or not working. I’d keep trying other locations.

  16. Can someone tell me why stores act like this? I have no problem showing my ID. Gift cards should be allowed as long as it doesnt say someone elses name. Plus, these stores sell gift cards themselves. they make a small profit for each money order, and you can buy other goods with GC’s. So whats the problem with money orders?

  17. I tried to load Visa gift cards to my Prepaid RedCard at Target today and was refused. Actually, a cashier successfully loaded all five, but another cashier, citing Target policy, made her void the transactions. The Loss Prevention Supervisor told me the same thing, and when I called AMEX Red Card Support, they also told me that Target was no longer accepting gift cards as payment to load Prepaid RedCards.

    • I can’t believe they voided the transaction! I would definitely try a different Target store. Hopefully you’ll come across a less overzealous cashier.

    • Holding the line on national security is what Target and WM cashiers seem to do best :/ I just loaded with no problems yesterday at 2 separate Targets with a VGC. If you get questioned in the future, insist that you have DEBIT cards and point to the word on the card itself. Never say GIFT cards, it’s like saying the word ‘bomb’ at TSA. Hope this helps…

      • I will try another Target store. Unfortunately, this is the one closest to my home. I always say I am using debit cards, not gift cards, but the other cashier noticed they were gift cards. I was able to load them successfully to my AMEX Bluebird account at Walmart.

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