Manufactured Spending: What Options Are Still Available?

A lot has changed on the manufactured spending front in the past year. Target stopped accepting gift cards and credit cards for Redbird loads, shopping portals stopped offering cash back on American Express gift card denominations over $200 and Serve stopped accepting Visa, MasterCard, and Discover credit cards for online loads. However, there were some good news: Rite Aid became a source for Amex Serve loads and many other churning options are still available.

Office Depot Visa Gift Card Rack

Prepaid Cards. Redbird is out of the picture, but American Express has us covered with Bluebird and a line of Serve prepaid cards. Amex Serve can be loaded with a PIN-enabled gift card at Walmart, Rite Aid, Dollar General, and Family Dollar stores. However, where you can load your card will depend on the type of PIN-enabled Visa or MasterCard gift card you’re using…

Visa and MasterCard Gift Cards. Visa and MasterCard gift cards can still be purchased with a mile-earning credit card. Fees range from $3.95 – $5.95 for cards in $500 denominations and there are several suppliers, depending on the type of card you want to buy. The safest type of Visa gift card are Metabank cards, which can be purchased mainly at grocery stores and office supply stores. They typically carry a $5.95 fee and the PIN is the same as the last four digits of the gift card. These gift cards are ideal because they can be used to purchase money orders anywhere debit cards are accepted, including Walmart. 

Simon Mall locations sell $500 Visa gift cards fairly cheaply at $3.95 each. I haven’t bought one of these in well over a year because of all the paperwork they made me fill out, but I know people who’ve established relationships with Simon Mall reps and regularly purchase large quantities without problems. 

The most lucrative option is buying $500 Visa gift cards at OfficeMax or Office Depot with a credit card like the Chase Ink Plus, which earns 5 points per $1 at office supply stores. So far, this has been a hit-or-miss situation, with some people reporting success and others encountering hard-coded registers or uncooperative cashiers. The great thing about these Metabank Visa gift cards at OfficeMax is that even though the card packaging advertises a fee of $5.95, they ring up at $3.95. This could change, but either way, this is the cheapest way to earn miles through gift card purchases.

Another popular option are $200-$300 Visa gift cards purchased at office supply stores, mainly Staples. They’re available in denominations of $200 (+$6.95 fee) or $300 ($8.95 fee). While the fees may sound high, they’re actually not since you’re earning 5x the points. 

If you’re just looking for relatively cheap Visa gift card that can be loaded to your Amex Serve Prepaid card at a Family Dollar or Rite Aid store, then the $4.95 Vanilla Visas sold at drug stores will do. These cards cannot be used for Walmart money orders, so only buy them if you plan on loading them onto an Amex Serve card at Rite Aid or Family Dollar stores.

Money Orders. Money orders are a great way to unload PIN-enabled Visa gift cards and the cost is reasonable at just $0.25 – $0.77 per $1,000 purchased. I recently cancelled my Target Prepaid RED card (Redbird) and have to wait 30 days before I can get an Amex Serve card. When I do, it will double my manufactured spending power because now when I make a trip to Walmart, I can load my Serve card AND stock up on Walmart money orders.

Walmart isn’t the only place to buy money orders though. Using a PIN-enabled Metabank Visa gift card, you can use them to buy money orders anywhere debit cards are accepted. A few locations aside from Walmart include the U.S. Post Office,  Kroger, and Kwik Shop. If you’re a newbie reading this, DO NOT tell the cashier you’re paying with a gift card because they will not go for that. At all.

Reload Cards. We’re pretty much out of reload card options now that Vanilla Reloads and Greendot MoneyPaks are out of the picture, but there is still one option available. I still occasionally pick up a PayPal My Cash Reload card, which can be purchased at CVS in $500 denominations and carry a fee of just $3.95. They’re easy because you can simply load them to your Paypal account online and if you have a Paypal Business Debit card, you simply use it to unload the funds via money order purchases or prepaid card loads. Be VERY careful with this – Paypal is notorious for shutting people down and holding onto the funds for months. I’ve been doing this for about 5 months now and I think what’s helped me stay under the radar is that I don’t always max out the $4,000 monthly load limit, I put the occasional purchase on the card, and I never transfer my Paypal funds back to my bank account. 

Gift Card Churning. Sometimes a good gift card offer comes long, which allows you to earn miles for $0 out of pocket or a small profit. For example, back when the Starwood Preferred Guest Business Credit Card offered 5% cash back at Hyatt, I banked some free and easy miles by using the card to purchase Hyatt gift cards during a 10% discount promo and then reselling them to Cardpool. At 15% cash back, I broke even since Cardpool was offering 85% of the gift card value in cash. It was easy and I got a nice stash of free SPG points out of it.

Reselling Stuff for Miles. I have yet to jump on this bandwagon, mainly because it seems like a lot of work. Basically, what people do is they buy discounted merchandise (electronics are big) using cash back portals and mile-earning credit cards, then resell them. They’ll either break even or end up with a small loss that justifies the miles they’ve earned. Despite pointing out reselling opportunities every once in a blue moon, I’ve resisted this because it seems like a lot of work for very few miles. There’s the possibility that buyers will return your merchandise and you might get stuck reselling the same item more than once.

That being said, I did recently find a $50 designer laptop bag at a Saks 5th Avenue outlet store that sells for $250 on Amazon – I’m seriously considering buying and selling a bunch of these, mostly for a cash profit, but also for some extra Alaska miles. We’ll see. If reselling sounds fun to you, Big Habitat is a great source for information on this topic.

These are the most public forms of manufactured spending. There are a lot of people out there who are doing things that don’t get talked about outside of their inner circle – I’ve been sworn to secrecy on a couple of these and I will keep my word. But really, the best way to keep up with the latest in manufactured spending (and get in on some of these secret methods) is to build your own network. Go to events, talk to fellow manufactured spenders (Twitter is a good start), and you’ll be surprised at how much is out there that you wouldn’t otherwise find on blogs.

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Ariana Arghandewal


  1. I still have OneVanilla GC issues by Bancorp Bank, with PIN supposedly, can it be used in Walmart to purchase a money order? Thanks.

  2. oh, don’t tease us soooo with these ‘secret’ MS ways! At least give us some hints or links or pointers where to find more info ( or who to follow on Twitter). I am reading page by page of Flyertalk MS forums and yet to discover something new that is worthwhile 🙁

  3. So much bad info. $500 VGCs at OM isn’t hit or miss, the POS is hardcoded now. You don’t have to wait a month to switch from Redbird to Serve

    • True, which is why I explained that it is in fact hit/miss. It’s been about two weeks since I cancelled my five Redbirds and I still haven’t been able to get approved for a Serve card. I’ve tried twice now. I did get my Redbird less than 30 days after cancelling Bluebird, but that doesn’t seem to be the case with Serve.

      • I pretty much and working all above ms except paypal now got shut down, Don’t think any OM able to do card swipe for gc , as far i know all hard coded..so it can not be a hit or miss. In additional some valero gas station and recent us postal office starting selling the gc, would be wise to find the credit card gives you extra bonus for those particular type transaction.

  4. Hi, I am curious how to get Paypal Business Debit card. Is there any fee to have Paypal Business account or other type of account required for the card. Thanks for your clarification.

  5. I switched from Redbird to Serve and did not have to wait a month.
    I agree reselling sounds like a lot of work but going to events and networking sounds like even more work just to earn miles. I network enough for my job.

    • I don’t consider networking “work.” That’s the fun part of the hobby – you get to meet other people, learn more about this stuff. It’s nothing like a trip to Walmart, which is a lot of work. 😉

  6. I had this 1 Visa GC $500 I picked up last week and after reading this posting I thought I should make a run over to the near by WarMart(It’s on Crenshaw). 1st young female clerk busted me for trying to use my GC so I was about 50 feet from my car when I decided to give it another try. This clerk was middle aged female had a bubbly personality and I could have probably run 5 cards with her. I think she wanted to date me or make me a pie.

  7. Regarding reselling, don’t set your sights so low. It is possible to do much better than breaking even or a small loss. I am a casual reseller (2-4) items per month and I make enough money off of those to cover all my MS expenses and still have some cash left over. There is also not a lot of time commitment involved when you are doing it casually.

    • It’s more the whole having to keep up with orders, answer questions, going to the post office, and dealing with possible returns that I don’t like dealing with. But with this recent thing I stumbled upon as well as positive feedback like yours, I’m definitely considering reselling (in small amounts).

      • Reselling works IF you find the right item (won’t share my time or source but it’s super simple) and have time to post simple eBay auctions and of course do the simple shipping run (or schedule free pick ups) I’m not breaking even I am showing nearly a 32% profit on my current item run after all the fees for eBay and PayPal. Buyers pay shipping so that even nets a small profit as I get USPS discount if I pay for shipping on eBay/PayPal. Made about $1K in December on this so $12K a year pretty nice side hustle for points and profit!

  8. Always enjoy your information, thanks a lot for sharing it.
    I have a concept, as far as i know it hasn’t been tried but let me run it by you. If you had a broker that was trusted and you could buy gold using your credit card, lets say a card that gives you 2 for 1 and you purchase 10,000 worth of gold which would give you 20,000 miles or points and to avoid the risk of a negative fluctuation in gold prices you were to flip the gold the same day you purchased it you could do this indefinitely, The cost out of pocket would be the brokers fee, the re-sell could be in your favor if the prices went up during this brief period but a downward change wouldn’t be much either. Do you see any thing negative about this idea?

    • I don’t know much about buying/selling gold, but I’d think about how risky this would be (does the price fluctuate often?). Also, what is the broker fee? You’d be paying it twice and I personally wouldn’t want to pay it if it comes to over 1.5%, since I can ms for much less than that using gift cards (though the option you outlined would be much easier).

      • I think it would worth it if I you had a goal like needing 120,000 miles for a first class ticket. If you did 10,000 of gold 6 times using a card that gives you 2 for 1 the fee’s would run 350 – 500 not bad for a first class ticket.

  9. Ariana – Thanks for this blog. I am recently venturing into MS more more 2% cash back rather than airline/hotel points. Regarding the Money Order option, I have a total of 3 checking accounts with 3 banks. Having said that, till what amount/# of MO deposits would not be considered as “too much” for a month? Thanks in advance!

  10. I have been using my blue bird account for three years now, today i gt this message “We are writing to let you know that we have observed unusual usage patterns on your Bluebird Account. Because of this, effective immediately, you will no longer be able to add money to your Account.1 We have made this change in accordance with Section 22.d of our Member Agreement, which you can view here.”
    My usage pattern has been the same but for some reason I got flagged, anyone with any experience with this, if i can not load GC I am pretty much dead in the water with being able to keep up.

  11. , get amex gc money good in 4 hours, or visa/mc 24hrs hold dollars. You dont g e t any brownie points/ there even loafing swipe cards. Good Luck
    Crazy banking, just t get a good credit card and banks start lending better practices.

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