Making Manufactured Spending Worthwhile (2017)

I’ve never gotten into MS. Every time I look into it, I’m bombarded by several problems:

  1. Fear that it looks like money laundering and I might get criminally investigated. I’d get off, but not without hassle.

  2. Fear of adverse action. I make a nice chunk of money from non-MS/regular spend rewards and wouldn’t want to risk a lifetime ban.

  3. Problem figuring out exactly how to do it. The community of MSers has always been “DO THE RESEARCH”, and it becomes a circle jerk of looking up old threads on MS where half of the replies are “DO THE RESEARCH” and the other half are unexplained acronyms and codewords. Also, because MS pathways are closed regularly, the “RESEARCH” isn’t even valid most of the time. If I wanted to spend 5 hours a day for a month reading through the last years worth of /r/Churning or other forums, then I could possibly figure it out, but I don’t want to do that.

  4. Dealing with store cashiers who don’t do the thing they are supposed to do and claim store policy against it, even though if you flipped a coin and got another cashier, it would be okay because it’s not hard coded by the point-of-sale system.

  5. The prepaid credit cards you’re buying all look generally the same except for slight differences in packaging but huge consequences in MS ability. One kind has a different image and that you can use at an ATM but another does not and you can’t.

I am interested in dipping my toes in MS primarily to qualify for the Chase Freedom Q4 bonus spend - which only works at Walmart and Department Stores (that I won’t shop at). It should be relatively easy for me to MS $1500 at Wal Mart over the course of 3 months without arousing Chase’s suspicions.

My understanding is the general strategy of MS is buying prepaid credit cards or virtual reloads for prepaid debit cards. And then either taking money out at an ATM or buying a Money Order with them and cashing out that way. The cost of the money order and fees for the prepaid cards are counterbalanced by the rewards points you earn on the credit card spend.

I do not know the specifics and do not wish to spend weeks reading old forum posts. Can anyone share the actual specifics of MS that currently work? PM me if you don’t wish to share it publicly.


I use a card that gets me 5% cash back at gas, grocery, and drug stores, up to $50,000 of that spend per year.

I go to CVS, buy 4 $500 visa gift cards, and then go home and make a payment via a payment processor with those cards back to the credit card. This is very lazy, and I am leaving a lot of money on the table by doing so. But it’s really that simple.

$500 value, $4.95 purchase fee, $504.95 per card, liquidation fee with the payment processor is $8.60 per $500, so I net a $491.40 payment from the $500 card. So I’ve made $25.25 cash back gross, less $4.95 card fee, less $8.60 liquidation fee, means I net profit $11.70 per card. I have six of these credit cards, and can do the maximum spending in about a month, due to CVS’ $2000 per day of face value limit on gift cards.

I think that should explain one method, that is widely known.


Chase freedom @ WM should be very easy. They sell $500 gift cards with a 4.94 fee I believe? I wouldn’t recommend sending the payments directly back to chase. You only end up making like $35 on the $1500 spend unless you value UR @ > 1cpp, but it takes all of 10 minutes.

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How are we “sending payments” from the gift card? What service(s) are recommended?

Do any of the prepaid gift cards allow ATM withdrawals anymore? If so, which ones?

2 Likes, formerly chargesmart. but again, that is a high priced liquidation method, relative to the USPS money order route. I use TIO because it’s so much easier, and I don’t want to deal with USPS people.

In doing so, I might add, I am leaving about $600-700 on the table, per card. Not the best choice, but I value my time and sanity, so… yeah

the bottom line is you’re trying to find a way for someone else to cover the interchange fees. if you gross 3-5% but have to pay 2-3% in interchange fees, you’re not making much unless your scale is huge but then you run the risk of being stuck with no way to close the loop. like the guys above said, the easy ways to close the loop are expensive.

i dabbled in MS for a few months but found that unless you’re in an area where not many people are doing it, you’re going to have a hard time. in the metro area where i live there are enough scammy people around that even if you are fully compliant with terms/conditions you are lumped in with the scammers and subject to scrutiny that is time consuming and that basically kills the deal for me. also, driving around to all the places i needed to go to acquire cards, call in to add my address or zip code, then unload them was too time consuming when i factored in the time spent in traffic.

if you have the time to find your own MS system in your area the deals are out there and i’m sure once you discover one it can be lucrative, but the time/reward just isn’t there for me. for someone who is retired, unemployed, doesn’t have kids or a hi maint wife it would be a great way to fill in the $$ gap.

when they say ‘do the research’ what they really mean is go out and pound the pavement looking for loopholes.


I have a CVS 1/4 mile from my home, so it’s not too bad for me. And, we usually need something like eggs, or a greeting card, or some stupid shit.

However, I did have to stop buying for about two weeks. A hero manager denied selling me cards one night after probably two or three weeks of buying daily. After an hour of bullshit back and forth, I left and called the store manager the next day. He at first sided with his associate manager, rightfully so. Long story short, I asked him to talk to corporate. He did, and a week later gave me the clear to continue buying forever at $2k/day. He also trickled this down, and no one has given me a hard time since.

I’m now someone who walks up with the four cards and most of the cashiers know I want $500/card and ring it all up as I hand them my ID silently and they scan it. They don’t tell me anything but “all four activated, have a nice night” anymore. I like it that way.


I concur with jaytrader. I was able to churn about $25k at Walgreens about 2 years ago with some hassle before they stopped taking credit payments at any of my local stores. Lots of good old strategies don’t work anymore (Bluebird/Redbird/Paypal GC, etc). Some still do work or work with limitations but really a lot of these are local to your specific stores. If you can find a method that actually works then you can do what jaytrader does.

I haven’t MS’d much in the last 5 months, but one strategy that recently worked for me was to transfer $ from my HELOC and use Plastiq to incur a 2.5% to 3% fee to pay it back with various credit cards. Use the $ transferred from the HELOC to pay back the cards. I churned about $30k very easily this way earlier in the year with relatively high fees, but the signup bonuses on multiple credit cards made it very worthwhile and was super easy to execute.

Here’s a recent FW thread with some recent MS discussion: FatWallet - Thank you!


Good thread, TripleB. Useful to question the blogger conventional wisdom on the joys and ease of MS.

Might suggest you change the title to something like, “How to make MS Worthwhile today”, as that’s more your focus than the much broader topic of “Current state of MS”.

I hear you on the hassle quotient. I MS, but selectively, as I’m not interested unless the technique is low risk and generates three figures per hour of time invested. I used to do WM MOs and billpays regularly when the tactic was less mainstream, and a local WM was more permissive. Alas, those days have been gone for some time.

I think a key is to find friendly locations that super convenient–WMs, Simon Malls, grocery stores that sell prepaids with credit, etc. and do some tactful “social engineering.” Talking with their CS manager; see what their policies are, and ask in nonconfrontational ways how you can do what you want to do in a way least troublesome for them…then do that. I would visit WM at around 10am when work allowed, knowing that the CSR desk would almost always have light traffic then. I’d always try to be polite and appreciative, and would let anyone with a quick CSR issue jump ahead of me so I didn’t slow things down.

Store staff do notice these gestures, and appreciate them. If you become known as this sort of “good customer”, staff and managers will tend to be on your side, making the process much easier.

Good luck with your MS efforts!


FYI - tio got bought by Paypal a little while ago.

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MS is like stock trading is like reselling is like <fill in the blank>. You gotta get your hands dirty to really understand it.

There’s theoretical and actual. You could read for weeks and say “Ah-Ha, now I know what to do.” Only to find out that you get to your local store and their policy is different (better or worse).

Triple: I’d recommend easing into it. Buy one card and liquidate it. Keep good notes on what works. Buy another one, liquidate it a different way. Your backstop can be spending down the card for actual expenses.

Scale up as your warchest grows and your confidence grows as well. The ML angle depends on how you approach the questions that you’ll get. I tell everyone in my supply chain “I’m earning frequent flyer miles.” That’s pretty much the end of the discussion. Or if it isn’t it becomes the start of a better discussion, like selling discounted airline tickets to the guy at WM, or making friends with the bank tellers.

I know you mentioned in another thread your income situation. MS is a slush fund, dump the money into your ROTH and it is tax free in, tax free out. Set a target of $5500 in profits a year and you’re on your way to a solid retirement.

Some people ONLY use it for hitting the min. spend requirement for new cards, also valid. I’m more in line with jaytrader (would love if you could scrub the direct reference to the payment processor, but if not ok). I also dump via high cost liquidation from time to time because I don’t like to have large numbers of cards on hand due to fear that someone might want to rob me.


Tell me about the US Post Office Money Order system. Which of the prepaid cards, if any, are accepted by the USPS? Also, the fee for a USPS MO is fixed regardless of the amount, and I believe the total allowed MO is $1000. However, the biggest prepaid cards are $500, so is it possible to use two prepaid cards on a single MO purchase at the post office?

Do any of the prepaid cards allow ATM withdrawals anymore? If so , which, and how does the fee structure work?

Split the payment, 500 on the first card and balance on the second. There are issues sometimes so you want to have a REAL bank ATM card with at least $1k on it to save the transaction in case there’s a hiccup between card 1 and 2.


By hiccup, you mean only one of the two Prepaid Cards works, but the other isn’t working? Because if neither cards work, then I would think I’d ask the clerk to void the transaction rather than buy a MO I didn’t need using my ATM card.

Yes. If the first card goes through and the second doesn’t then the money is gone off the first and the MO can’t be printed. PO employees at my location call this “a huge headache.”

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For those using a payment processor at 3%, how about using Square? I have multiple LLCs, each with a business checking account and I have used Square on them in the past. None of the LLCs actually do any business with the public, but I was able to use Square to get AMEX Small Business Friday bonuses. I had a half dozen AMEX cards that I’d run through my Square account (linked to my LLC) for the $20 charge and I’d pay ~3% fee and AMEX gave me a $10 statement credit per charge or something.

So if we’re talking about low-level MS, where the goal is just to meet minimum spend requirements for signups, perhaps the ease of Squaring the money to your own LLC (if you already have one), could be feasible?

Stubtify hit the nail on the head. MS isn’t so much a grand research project as an accidental find, while carrying out the grand research project.

Since you’re familiar with the reselling world I’ll frame it in terms of that: Your eBay unicorn probably isn’t the result of in-depth research and working closely with a large-volume import/export dealer to secure competitive pricing. More likely, you were drunk one night, screwing around on eBay, and for fun searched for a local/regional soda, candy bar, or similar and were surprised at what people were paying for it. Maybe you searched eBay for MS Office and noticed lots of listings selling copies of Libre/Open Office and people actually paying money for it. Or maybe you were at the clearance section of a store and saw a pile of prepaid cell phones on clearance for $5 each. The light bulb went off and that sweet, sweet eBay money was flowing your way!

In the MS world you basically have three different kinds of people:

1: Clueless newbies who are overwhelmed and have no idea where to get started.

2: Beginners who have come across a system that currently works and have successfully implemented it. Usually (being beginners) they don’t value discretion as much and happily repost details of it elsewhere, share it with anybody who will listen, and often encourage others to replicate it, bringing new people into the fold.

3: More experienced MSers who have directly witnessed one or more MS pathway die, realize that the fragile nature of these things, and are mildly irritated that they can no longer use their uncapped 5% card to run $10k of Vanilla VGCs (limit used to be $5k/day and you could buy right before and after the daily cutoff before they changed that system) from CVS over to Walmart every other day for a fairly easy ~$390 profit. Such MSers view newbies with contempt and distrust. Some probably even wish death or physical harm on them.

I got off on a bit of a tangent there, but to answer your original question: Seek out places where the 2nd category I listed regularly congregate and absorbing what you can there will probably lead to the most rapid ascent in terms of learning the nuts and the bolts involved. With that and a fair amount of testing you may find that local MS unicorn that’s been sitting right under your nose this whole time!


I’m well aware. Thanks though.