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Manufactured Spending As a Full Time Job?

Manufactured spending can be very  lucrative if you do it right. Aside from the many ways to off-set manufactured spending fees, there are also ways to make a profit from gift card churning. At one point, I was earning 3.5% cash back in addition to points and miles. Before that particular deal died, I could have fairly easily earned a living from manufactured spending. A year ago, I knew people who were generating $10,000+ per month from the Wells Fargo cash back card. When I share stories like this with newbies, I always hear, “Then why don’t you manufacture spend as a full time job?” Well for three years it kind of was my full time job, but I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone else.

Money orders manufactured spending

Manufactured spending is a fun hobby. It’s a good way to keep earning miles long after a credit card sign-up bonus has posted. Being able to generate a profit doing it is icing on the cake. I’ve shared that it takes me around 10 hours to earn 80,000 miles. At 3.5% cash back, that works out to $280 per hour, which is more than I’ll probably ever earn at any day job. Yes, that deal is dead but if the opportunity presented itself again, I would take a pass. Don’t get me wrong – I’d still generate enough miles to cover any trips I wanted to take, but I would not quit my job or bother trying to make a living off of churning gift cards.

For starters, it’s risky. Yes, I’ve flown below the radarfor the most part. But that doesn’t mean my bank will continue to be ok with it down the line. Is it worth getting all of my valuable credit card accounts shut down? No. I’d rather keep my 9-5 and keep manufactured spending as a lucrative hobby. It’s more fun this way. You know the saying, “Make work play and you’ll be playing all your life?” Well that doesn’t apply to manufactured spending. It’s not fun when you’re doing it full time. In fact, it can easily turn into the worst job you’ve ever had.

Aside from the fact that manufactured spending as a full time job can be risky and tedious, it’s also completely devoid of any value (other than the miles and cash). The three years I spent blogging and ms’ing part time were probably the most dull of my entire life. I felt like the time I could have spent learning and growing career-wise was wasted on trivial activities. Earning tons of miles is a high unlike any other, but devoting 20 hours a week to doing it, blogging and discussing it endlessly? That became mundane and kind of depressing at one point.

I once dedicated too much of my time to work – and I hated it. Then I devoted too little time to it – and I hated it. To me, a job is no longer about earning a living. It’s about learning, applying your skillset towards something meaningful, and contributing something positive. I’m proud to work someplace where that is the case; where social media and writing are used to influence positive change, and not just inspire people to buy more gift cards or fly first class.  

When you make manufactured spending your full time job, it can certainly pay off financially. But does it bring you happiness? Does your “work” have a positive impact on someone other than yourself? Are you spending your time in a meaningful way, learning, contributing, and growing? No. Because if you get shut down tomorrow, it’s over. You’ve got nothing to show for all that time you spent standing in line at Walmart or flying from one airport to another to try the latest fancy first class seat. All of that is fun and rewarding as a hobby – not a full time job.

Have you considered ms’ing as a full time job? Why or why not?

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Ariana Arghandewal

14 Comments

  1. I’m relatively new to the card/miles game, but I was able to supplement my income just shy of 2k a month for 6 months (after fees) in 2016 before my Fidelity Cash rewards card was ultimately shut down — it was all worth it.

    What common and uncommon cards would you recommend today to someone interested MS-ing full-time for cash only? Thank you for all your insights and guidance through all your posts here and on social media. Especially for your Meetups!

  2. MS’ing is a very solitary act. Other than the 1 or 2 I see at Walmart, there is no other interaction. Strangely, more stress at times than I wanted, and right now, even with portals, it is not free.

    I have always felt any job should have 3 things:a) you learn, b)you contribute, c)you enjoy the working environment. If any one of those 3 is missing, then get another job.

    I have the time, but would never consider this a fulltime job.

  3. The golden age of MS is behind us. Nowadays things die off way to fast. The mint went years and so did Bluebird, amazon payments and a host of others were also long running gigs. Nowadays if a great MS deal lasts a few months thats doing great. I remember when the 5backs were unboxed at Simons in the fall and it was the greatest deal of 2016. By Jan 2017 it was dead. There are still MS deals going on but nowadays everyone wants to keep it on the DL.You would have to have a huge appetite for risk and be able to live with so much uncertainty about sustainability to MS fulltime.

    • I don’t think so. I’m doing more MS than ever. Sure, the VR days were nice but MS was pretty limited. Things may die but I think it forces us to look for more creative options. And be a little more secretive about them.

  4. Nice article. I used to do a lot more MS but I don’t miss it. There are a couple of Walmarts near where I work where I get money orders. The first used to be really friendly, and then a few months ago I got scolded at twice for trying to convert multiple gift cards. So I went to the second one. They were very friendly and let me do what I want. Then yesterday the woman refused to let me use a gift card for a money order. I told her I just did it a few days earlier but she wouldn’t budge. So I went back to the first Walmart and they were friendly again and let me convert the gift cards.

    I just don’t miss all that frustration and aggravation.

    • In my case, I have a very ms-friendly WM store that I doubt will turn on me soon. They know I’m doing this for legitimate reasons, so they’re fine with it. But it still comes with a lot of frustration and risk.

  5. Hi ariana. I just wanted to know how your ear symptoms are since you posted that noise cancelling headphones article. In asking because 3 weeks ago I used noise cancelling headphones for a prolonged period of time at a reasonable volume with no breaks and since then I’ve experienced the symptoms you named in your article. Vertigo like dizziness, ear ache, and some ringing. The symptoms have gotten considerably better since then but i wanted to know how long it took to get better for you.

    Id appreciate the response. Thanks.

    • I ended up returning the headphones since it just kept getting worse (for both me and my sister). I ended up getting a pair of Beats Solo 3’s as part of a new MacBook purchase and those are terrific. They isolate (but don’t cancel out) noise, so I don’t deal with any of the above symptoms anymore.

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