I dislike Walmart but simultaneously recognize that it keeps me in the manufactured spending game. I just saw something on Twitter that almost made me choke on my calorie bomb Twix Frappuccino. Twitter follower @SimonK was having an interaction with @PatMikeL about Walmart money orders.
As I’ve said before, money orders are an important tool in manufactured spending because they allow you to earn miles cheaply if you have a mile-earning debit card, and they make it easy to off-load Visa and Mastercard gift cards cheaply.
Now, there have been issues for some time with loading Bluebird with gift cards, but now it seems the Money Center cashiers are getting in on the fun by rejecting purchases made with prepaid/gift cards. There are also reports on FlyerTalk of this happening: The cashier catches sight of your gift card and says you can’t use it.
I just unloaded some gift cards at Walmart earlier today without problems. That’s because I’m pretty sure I’m the only person in town involved in manufactured spending, and I manage to stay off the radar by keeping transactions under $3,000 and hopping around three different stores.
Despite the fact that you can split money order payments between four cards, I always stick to two. It’s understandable for most Walmart customers to not have $1,000 in a single account, so I’ve found the cashiers never have a problem with this. So I recommend you do this, in addition to swiping the card yourself (unless the cashier demands you hand over the card, which has never happened to me).
Despite how slow operations at Walmart are (judging by their retail stores alone), I do think eventually Walmart will put a stop to manufactured spending activities by implementing a cash-only policy for money order purchases. When this happens, my Plan B after the Vanilla Reload shut down will be eliminated and we’ll have to move on to Plan C:
1. American Express for Target. Back when I couldn’t find a Vanilla Reload source to save my life, the American Express for Target card was a good alternative. The fees are higher, but with American Express gift cards purchased through shopping portals, the fees are eliminated and you end up with a nice stash of points and a cash profit. Sure, it will be less with Amex for Target, but at least you have a way to unload your gift card balances. Beggars can’t be choosers, right?
2. Buy Money Orders elsewhere. I’ve looked everywhere: Grocery stores, drug stores, the US Post Office. Every one of these places requires cash for a money orders. Don’t let my experience stop you though. You might have better luck at your local branch. Keep looking and you may stumble across a new gold mine.
3. Evolve. I have yet to use this service (and don’t have much use for it), but Evolve Money is a service that lets you pay certain bills using a PIN-enabled gift card. The list of participating merchants you can pay isn’t too extensive, but if you can find at least 1-2 bill to pay each month, that should help you offload at least one $500 Visa gift card or two. If your bills just aren’t high enough, see if you can pay a trusted friend/family member’s bills this way.
4. Amazon Payments. I’ve done what some folks would consider some pretty reckless things when it comes to manufactured spending, but it’s important to note that I never concentrate on a single activity or card. This is one I’m steering clear of. For years now, people have been sending money to each other using mile-earning credit cards via Amazon Payments. It’s been smooth sailing so far, but as more people are doing it and blogging about it, I think Amazon will catch on and shut people down. Maybe my fears are unfounded and I’m just paranoid, but I don’t want to risk account closure over a measly 12,000 miles per year. I always follow my gut because when things go wrong (or I simply kick myself for having missed out on a 12,000 mile payday each year), I only have myself to blame.
5. American Express Serve. If we lose out on the ability to unload Visa gift cards via Bluebird and money orders, it may be time to cut Bluebird out of the equation altogether and simply go for the Amex Serve card. You can load up to $1,000 per month ($200 per day) with your mile-earning credit card each month. Not as good as loading $5,000 and coming away with a $150 profit via Shopping Portals – > Amex gift cards -> Vanilla Reloads/Visa Giftcards, but an option nonetheless.
I haven’t thought beyond Plan C, but I’m sure more opportunities will arise to keep this game going. How will you cope if Walmart does reject gift cards as payment for money orders?
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