Manufactured Spending

Why I’m Not MS’ing Much These Days

I’ve been getting emails lately from readers who are curious about why I stopped my manufactured spending posts. Have I given up on gift card churning completely or am I just not writing about it? It’s really down to the fact that I’m exhausted. Churning over $300,000 worth of gift cards in the last couple months of the year pretty much wore me out. That, along with my Barclay credit cards getting shut down made me want to take a break for a while.

Purse full of Visa gift cards

When my Barclay credit cards got shut down, it not only made me reconsider my manufactured spending habits, it also limited how much gift card churning I could pull off. Between the eight credit cards I lost, I’m now short almost $80,000 in credit lines. That greatly reduces the number of gift cards I can churn since 1.) I don’t want to cycle credit lines too often and 2.) paying off an account via methods other than Walmart Bill Pay takes a couple of days. I’ve been depositing money orders purchased with Visa gift cards into a Wells Fargo account and it takes way longer to post than Bank of America deposits did. So the Barclay shut-down had a big impact on how much I could churn.

In a couple of months, I’ll probably pick up where I left off. I’ll reapply for both the Barclay Arrival Plus and Barclay Aviator Red MasterCard in July, when the 6-month waiting period is up. If that works out, then I’ll have more spending power. I’ll definitely keep Walmart Bill Pay out of the equation since that is likely what got me shut down in the first place. I guess I could just increase spending on my remaining credit cards, but that would require more of a time commitment. I’d have to make many more trips to Walmart in order to get those credit cards paid off quickly so I can reuse those credit lines.

I’m also worried about other banks shutting me down. There’s still Chase, American Express, Citi, Fidelity, U.S. Bank and Bank of America. While I’m not too concerned about Fidelity or Citi, it would be really devastating to lose Chase and American Express. I’ve been really careful with those two banks. I don’t want a desperate attempt at keeping up my churning numbers to jeopardize my most valuable credit card accounts.

Manufactured spending doesn’t take me as much time since I’ve found an ms-friendly Walmart store, but keeping track of the whole operation is pretty dull work and I find myself wanting to focus on other things these days. Blogging/manufactured spending isn’t the most satisfying work, so I’ve been working on other projects that make me feel better about how I spend my time.

That’s my long answer for why I haven’t been writing about (or doing) much in the way of manufactured spending. The little amount I do manage isn’t really worth writing about (or interesting to read). When things pick up again, so will my posts.

Interestingly, my local mall reps have been telling me there’s been a huge drop in “gamers” coming by to purchase Visa gift cards. I’d love to know what you guys are up to: How much manufactured spending are you pulling off these days?

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  1. Since WF deposits take longer to post than BOA, why aren’t you depositing at BOA? Have they given you trouble about depositing MOs?

    • I was for a while, but I got the WF account for this purpose. I’ve had my Bofa account for almost a decade and if an account gets shut down due to MS, I’d rather it be WF. Also, moving all of my direct deposits and auto payments to a new account seemed like too much of a hassle.

  2. You seem confident you’ll be able to get new Barclay cards after 6 months. I hope you’re right, but in my experience I’ve not been able to get a new Barclay card and it’s been more than a year since they shut me down. I get instantly declined without a hard pull when I apply. I’ll look forward to hearing your experience when the time comes.

  3. How does Walmart Billpay work with churning? Local Walmart very unfriendly with gift cards and money orders.

    • For a lot of people Walmart billpay seems to be the kiss of death so just don’t do it. I started doing it and stopped altogether once I found out many people were being shut down by their banks and pointing to Walmart billpay as the most likely cause. There’s many mentions of that on Flyertalk.

    • You pay off your credit card with WM bill pay. You gotta be careful since a lot of banks aren’t ms friendly.

      • How do you tell the bill pay to pay a Barclaycard because the last time I was at a Money Center the guy couldn’t figure out BarclayBank he didn’t seem to be able to find that as a payee.

  4. Beach Miles

    Regarding, “local Walmart unfriendly”. Is that no smiles unfriendly, or no money orders unfriendly?
    A few months of relationship building helps with the smiles, and makes the WM visit less of a dreaded task. Completing some WM surveys, from the receipt, was suggested by Ariana earlier, and may have helped my WM relationships.

  5. Publicly blogging about MS is foolish, and ultimately greedy. I really wish you would stop. And using WM bill pay? Unbelievably foolish. You’re trading your limited gain for readership and acknowledgement against others in the hobby who keep quite. STOP!

    • Steven- Old news move on, the internet is FULL of blogs on MS. Are you patrolling all of them?

    • Curious…. You going to tell your friends at flyertalk to “STOP” too? Or how about all those scores of other ms blogs?

      In any case, I’ve been modestly using WMT billpay to pay some (but not all) of my credit card bills for well over a year, even before bluebird shut down. Do maybe 1k per card per billing cycle. (and pay the rest via other means) Never once had a problem. (perhaps because I didn’t go as “all out” at Ariana here.) Happens WMT’s in my central VA realm quite friendly and increasingly competent/fast in handling the transactions too. (both billpay and mo’s) But I do procede with caution, always having backup plans.

    • No, trolling blogs to make sure they don’t write about something YOU are benefiting from is greedy. You and your wants don’t matter more than anyone else’s. So stop.

    • Whatever Steve. You don’t like it don’t read it

  6. i was doing around $50k a month before portal dropped to 1%, now, with a coming Euro trip, I’m out of the picture for a few weeks. If the usual portal rate doesn’t return, I’ll try to do some reselling here and there. All my chase cards got shut down last summer, but was able to open an ink and sapphire reserve this January, so your 6 month strategy may work

  7. Ariana, I’m curious to know if you & others typically bother to set custom a custom pin to the VGCs and take the sticker off the ones that have front-facing stickers, like US Bank ones. I try to minimize visual exposure of the VGCs (I typically have many of them in my wallet during these runs) but I am not sure how much the custom pin helps, other than one less think for me to juggle about in my mind.

    • Are you referring to VGCs that have the PIN within the package (as opposed to simply being the last four digits)? If not, I don’t understand what value resetting the PIN would offer.

      • I don’t have to flip the card side up to look at last four, for each card. The cashiers don’t get to see me do that either, so they might not necessarily realize how many different cards I’m swiping. If I have to look at each card before inputting a pin it exposes the details of the process a bit more, makes it more obvious they are one-time use cards, which might make some cashiers limit me or talk to someone about it next time they see me do this again. That’s my thinking behind it anyhow, but I don’t know how much this factor has actually helped me stay under the radar.

        • Thanks for the explanation.

          I don’t think it’s necessary. I just hold the cards in the vicinity of the pin-pad so I can read it without averting my eyes too much. Hold the cards in one hand, enter PIN with the other. Doing it in batches of two, I pocked each set after the swipes are confirmed.

    • I just use the last four digits of the card with Metabank cards. It’s much easier than setting individual PIN’s.

  8. Hello Ariana:

    I have learned a lot from your blog.

    I also live in bay area. I’m curious if you find any place that sell Paypal my cash card?

    I have checked almost every CVS, Walgreen’s , 711 in Fremont and they only sell paypal prepaid debit card.

    • Update:

      Today I have visited several CVS stores in Hayward and get no luck. One warmhearted cashier tells me that they haven’t received paypal my cash cards for about 5-6 months. I suppose it is the same situation in a lot of bay area stores.

    • I don’t, unfortunately. Fremont is tough. Can you go to a Simon Mall and buy Visa gc’s instead? CVS stores are a mixed bag -some of them are ok with accepting credit cards for PayPal payments and others aren’t. It sucks!

      • I have already gotten some vgcs from Safeway. The only problem is I have no way to unload them. I have tried every Walmart from Milpitas to Hayward. I only get some lucky in the one near Newpark mall. But now every cashier in that store knows me and do not allow me to using VGC for MO anymore.

    • Update 2:

      I joined cherry blossom festival in SF last Saturday. I tired one CVS and one Walgreens near japan town. Walgreens has Paypal my cash card but cash only. CVS is out of stock. This is the first time I see and touch a paypal my cash card physically.

  9. How much money do you make from ms’ing? And approx. how mich do you spend a month?

  10. hey ariana. interesting post. im surprised ive never run into you in the bay with all that spend. im all over SF and SJ. in any case, sorry to hear you got your A+ accounts shut down. but i actually dont understand some of things you had mentioned.

    1) you mentioned A+ is one of your most valuable CCs. what? how is that possible? from wat perspective? not exactly sure wat you mean by this. im sure you have more CCs that are much more valuable to MS on. A+ is just CB. hence I didnt understand ur perspective. maybe you maxed all your other CC already so you need a spillover CC like the A+?

    2) 80k CL is a blow to you? i dont know your overall CL bandwidth but I am sure its in the 500k with all your CCs combined. I mean i know pple who do 500k to 1MM in one month so maybe 80k does matter to you but the only thing I could imagine is that you dont want to MS on other CC since the currency is not important to you or dont want to risk shut down. not sure here.

    3) trying to understand what forced you to WMBP. you said uve been depositing money orders purchased with Visa gift cards into a Wells Fargo account or BofA so wat was wrong with that? im sure you have CUs also. then you also do GC resell so not sure why u went WMBP. it almost sounded like your volume was so damn high already you needed it.

    4) Trying to understand why spending on the remaining credit cards would require more of a time commitment. Dont you already take tons of trips to Walmart MO? and you are BFF with them too. so cant you just deposit into WF? sounds like you dont mind as much if WF shuts down so you can keep hitting that. no?

    5) mall reps saying a huge drop in “gamers”? yea because they are meta. no USPS.

    good posts. will see you around.

    • It was valuable because of how large my credit limit was and how I was able to ms thousands of dollars for several years without getting axed. Plus, I liked the flexibility of Arrival Miles – it often made more sense to redeem them than airline miles or hotel points.

  11. Jerry Mandel

    The article has nothing to do with the headline. It does not cover MS—only with paying bills. Why mess with ATMs? Pay bills by check, by electronic bill pay from your B of A checking account or by telephone.

    • It’s directly related to MS – when you MS, you have to pay the balance off. Some people MS so much they pay off their cards multiple times in the same billing cycle. This speeds up that process.

  12. Hi Ariana. Recall you helped several of us late last year go deeper into merchant gift card reselling…. Recall you also had mixed feelings about that, yet with all the increased chatter about shut-downs and RAT teams, you may well have been on to something. Any current thoughts here on gc reselling as a strategy to meet credit card spend requirements? Or is that too vulnerable to shut-down?

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