New to Manufactured Spending? Start Here.

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Old Dec 20, 14, 10:40 am   -   Wikipost
Please read: This is a community-maintained wiki post containing the most important information from this thread. You may edit the Wiki once you have been on FT for 90 days and have made 90 posts.
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Welcome to Manufactured Spending. If you are new here, please spend some time reading before posting. Most likely your questions have already been answered multiple times. Consider deals that you share. These threads are searchable by Google. A volatile deal may be worth holding close to the vest.


1) On FT, topics are heavily consolidated. Sometimes the title of the thread and first few posts may not properly reflect the broad range of discussion inside the thread. Be sure to visit any thread relating to the product or service you want to learn more about because you might be surprised by how in depth the discussion really is. Example: This thread... I know, the first few posts are confusing.

2) Use Google to search FT. It works a lot better than the built-in search.

Important Rules

1) MSing is very YMMV. It varies by store, manager, and right down to the cashier working at the moment. That being said, always be nice and courteous in the face of rejection. The biggest secret for success is to lay low so you can try again.

2) DO NOT spend more than you can afford. START WITH SMALL AMOUNTS TO TEST THE WATER! As an example.. don't start with a $5000 purchase of VGCs if you can't afford to float that much! Instead, buy one and try it, and scale up once you are comfortable with a new method. It's easy to lose track, or get robbed, when you are handling so much money. Getting a refund is NOT always possible.

3) DO NOT ask employees, cashiers, customer service representatives, etc... about how to MS, or about things you read on this forum. The information you read here are very specific, unknown, legal uses of products or services. Most employees, cashiers, and even managers do not know about them. At best you'll get bad information. At worst you'll create a lot of unnecessary misunderstanding.

4) It bears repeating that there are no guarantees. you could easily buy $10,000 in gift cards or some other instrument, only to discover that your method for liquidating them vanishes the very next day. MS is not "normal" financial activity ("normal" being defined by the banks), and thus is often perceived as "suspicious" even if it is "legal."

5) never underestimate the risk of criminal activity. gift cards can easily be stolen, loaded onto a compromised account, loaded in a debit card skimmer, or even fraudulent (e.g., an already used card put back on the rack).

If you have a question that does not seem to fit anywhere, or you have not found an appropriate place for it, post it here.

a helpful note from seat17D about some of the inherent risks of MS:
I will speak to only the impacts and actions that have been taken (or threatened) to me personally over the years

1. Account closure - always got my money back. Moderate frequency. Little to no long-term impact UNLESS my wife was the first one to find out when her card was declined in public setting

2. Blacklisted by an FI - lower frequency. Short- to medium term impact. Eventually the FI's greed heals all wounds.

3. Blacklisted by a governmental agency -- lower frequency. Variable long-term impact as governmental agencies never actually forget, they just don't take action (see below)

4. Banned from a retail establishment -- threatened, but never actually banned. Mostly just pointed discussion from a misguided manager. Low-medium frequency.

5. Banned from an online establishment -- lower frequency, generally lower impact. Generally permanent, at least for me so far.

6. Cashback forfeited or clawed back -- generally happened to me as part of a credit card shut down. so far only forfeits and not clawbacks, but they are possible

And then there are the things law enforcement can and has done
1. Executed a warrant to subpoena my banking and other financial records without my knowledge
2. Contacted my FIs to inquire as the nature of my financial relationship
3. Frozen the portion of my assets that were currently involved in the activity they were investigating
4. Visited my home -- when I was not there -- to "interview" my spouse, etc. regarding their knowledge and involvement ... and to attempt to obtain additional documentation not already obtained by the subpoenas
5. Threatened to seize my assets. Not just the ones frozen. Not just those I currently possessed. But all assets they deemed as ever having been part of the criminal activity. (Think every GC, MO, etc. you have purchased over the past 3-5 years)
6. Threatened one or more felony charges. (Consider having to explain THAT to your wife or boss.)

And that all was for something that was completely legal, once the 'splaining was done.

Of course once LEO opens a criminal investigation, it never actually closes unless they take you to court and fail. So even though I was cleared of the charges, the original case file is out there ready to be dusted off.

In the end, my biggest concern is the extent to which something will permanently impact my marriage or ability to enter into financial contracts (felony charges would be one example). Fortunately once the initial shock of LEO's investigation wore away, both my marriage and financial relationships were intact. Very thankful both she and a few key FI's stood by me.

When you MS, you are running with scissors.
Take what you read with a grain of salt. No law enforcement agency cares if you are loading 5k to a bluebird per month unless you are loading your money from illegal activities like crack sales. Even at that point they only care about your crack sales, not your bluebird load.

Nobody is going to ask you "why are you loading your bluebird" or "where did you get the money you want to load on your bluebird" when you go to walmart.
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Old Jul 31, 13, 12:14 pm
Original Poster
Join Date: Jul 2012
Location: Beverly Hills
Posts: 711
New to Manufactured Spending? Start Here.

Never bought VRs before, looking to maybe get into Manufactured Spend on my Barclays US card (not playing games with Citi/Amex/Chase loyalty). Can a mod shoot this into which ever thread discusses what VRs are, how to use them for manufactured spend, etc. Not trying to be lazy, it just seems like there are a million threads with specific questions or with specific providers, but I haven't been able to find a "here's how to use VRs for manufactured spend" thread.
tigerhunt2011 is offline  
Old Jul 31, 13, 12:36 pm
Join Date: Jan 2013
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Originally Posted by oohaahouch View Post
on a side note, if you just put VR in google, the 13 results (except the 1st one) are pretty detailed
I think this one is a big help, and example, as to what happens if you can't do basic research:
PainCorp is offline  
Old Jul 31, 13, 12:56 pm
Original Poster
Join Date: Jul 2012
Location: Beverly Hills
Posts: 711
Thanks for pointing me in the right direction, albeit with flaming. I don't necessarily *care* about "Loading VRs Online" because I don't know why that is a big deal. Again, I was looking for an introduction, not particular questions about the process. But thanks for the help nonetheless.
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Old Jul 31, 13, 2:11 pm
FlyerTalk Evangelist, Moderator: American Express, Citi, Diners Club, Signatures
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Vanilla Reloads are one method of adding value to an American Express Bluebird account. The wikipost at the top of this thread summarizes why a Bluebird account is useful, read some posts in that thread and its predecessor to flesh out your understanding.

There are other instruments which can be used to add value to a Bluebird account. See these threads:

Last edited by mia; Aug 1, 13 at 4:05 pm
mia is online now  
Old Jul 31, 13, 6:33 pm
Join Date: Jul 2013
Posts: 1
Confused- Too many Vanillas- should I buy?

I'm newbie here but have tried to read some of the threads on Vanilla but just can't get all the names right. Confusing to me and don't want to buy the wrong cards.
I recently moved to New York and although there are lots of CVS stores in NYC area, almost none seem to have the Vanilla Prepaid card needed to load for Bluebird. Unlike my old home town, NYC do not have any walmarts anywhere near and I no longer have a car as parking spots are extremely expensive. I do not the option of going to nearby Walmart to load debit cards to BB and only convenient if have the correct Vanilla card to do so online.
CVS stores seem to have lots of "One Vanilla cards" and "My Vanilla cards"-which said this is not a GC but reloadable.
I ask the CVS staff if there are any differences in Vanilla cards and all said they are the same? Cant trust their words on this as I think they are not the same ones I need.
So what are the differences between the Vanilla card I need to buy inorder to load BB online and One Vanilla and My Vanilla. I think they are all debit cards right as all 3 have PIN numbers. Also all 3 have the Vanilla symbol (vanilla ice cream cone symbol).
tomcanad is offline  
Old Jul 31, 13, 6:44 pm
Join Date: Jul 2013
Posts: 19
You want the Vanilla Reload packs. They look like this:

Ask the cashier to put $500 on it (or whatever other amount you'd want). Go to to upload it to your Bluebird account using your Bluebird card number and the 10-digit PIN on the back of the Vanilla Reload pack.
WhileMyGftCrdGentlySwipes is offline  
Old Jul 31, 13, 6:45 pm
Join Date: Aug 2010
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No, the One Vanilla and My vanilla will not work. You want Vanilla Reload Network. Google it and you'll find lots of pictures on the blogs about which one to get and which ones not to.
dukerau is offline  
Old Jul 31, 13, 8:18 pm
Join Date: Jul 2004
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Read this:

Then read this forum some more & more.
TTnC4me is offline  
Old Aug 1, 13, 2:31 pm
Join Date: Jun 2012
Posts: 4,709
VR (like the one in post two) will work. Vanilla gift cards can be loaded at WM. Read blogs, they're like FT in concentrated form.

Originally Posted by TTnC4me View Post
Read this:

Then read this forum some more & more.
Let me link you to a 541 page thread explaining how useless sending someone a 541 page thread is.
TOMFORD is offline  
Old Aug 2, 13, 1:20 pm
Join Date: Apr 2013
Posts: 77
Vanilla GC question (newbie)

Hi all,

I'm fairly new to Manufactured Spending techniques, currently I've been purchasing Chase Gift Cards on my CSP, converting to MO's at WM, and paying off student loans with the MO's. I'm looking to get the AMEX Starwood and Club Carlson CC cards shortly (as well as a Bluebird AMEX account) and will need to find alternative methods to meet minimum spending requirements bc Chase GC's can only be purchased with Chase CC/DC's.

I had a couple questions with Vanilla Reloads. First off, I understand they're typically $3.95-$4.95 for a $500 card. When you either spend/deposit the initial $500, is there another $3.95-$4.95 charge for reloading on the same card? The major selling point for me with the Chase GC is that they're currently free of charge and I want to keep CPM down. Also, I've read some posts stating Office Depot will not be accepting CC's for gift cards (not that it necessarily affects me, I don't get 5x points for office supplies currently). Do you guys anticipate this trend to grow across other stores/will I struggle utilizing GC's to meet minimum spend? Finally, not having used Bluebird before, is it relatively hassle free to deposit GC's? I know there's plenty of tutorials across the blogs but I just wanted to get general consensus for an average person trying to reduce travel expenses through points/miles.
Any suggestions/comments are appreciated! Thanks.
tnm5041 is offline  
Old Aug 2, 13, 1:46 pm
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Fee to purchase VR is 3.95. No fee to load to BB. Some places are hit or miss on accepting CC, but CV$ generally is a go (I've bought many there and never rejected).

Loading BB with gift cards is super easy, especially at kiosk. As you said, there are plenty of tutorials.
dukerau is offline  
Old Aug 2, 13, 2:44 pm
FlyerTalk Evangelist, Moderator: American Express, Citi, Diners Club, Signatures
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Originally Posted by tnm5041 View Post
... Vanilla Reloads. First off, I understand they're typically $3.95-$4.95 for a $500 card. When you either spend/deposit the initial $500, is there another $3.95-$4.95 charge for reloading on the same card?
A Vanilla Reload is not a giftcard. It cannot be used to purchase goods or services. It can only be used to add value to a reloadable card, such as American Express Bluebird. Cards which can be loaded are listed on the packaging. The Vanilla Reload itself is a single use instrument - it cannot be loaded more than once.

Last edited by mia; Aug 2, 13 at 2:54 pm
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Old Aug 16, 13, 6:39 pm
Join Date: Jul 2013
Posts: 9
Bluebird Process Clarification


So I'm a college student, recently getting into the points game. I recently was approved for and received a Chase Saphire Preferred card with a $5,000 limit (college student).

Reading through this forum, I wanted to make sure that I fully understand the requirements for using manufactured flier points.

1. Register a bluebird account online.
2. Go to Walmart/CVS, buy a vanilla refill card, put $1,000 on two cards (max per day?)
3. Load money onto bluebird account
4. Go to ATM, pull out money from bluebird account
5. Rinse, repeat


Also, considering my limit, what is the best amount to put on the card of manufactured purchases per month? Outside of that purchase will only be ~$500-1000
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Old Aug 16, 13, 7:11 pm
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TTnC4me is offline  
Old Aug 16, 13, 7:25 pm
Join Date: Jan 2011
Posts: 749
First off, Welcome to FT.

Secondly; This is a game that can have some serious negative consequences. TTnC4me has linked you to an excellent thread on bluebird.

This is going to sound like a lot of work, but you really need to read the whole thread TTnC4me linked, along with the following two:

The second one can show you what can go wrong if you don't really "Get" what you're doing. I realize reading those threads could take hours--but you wouldn't take an exam in school without preparing for it; similarly you shouldn't start down the roads you're asking about without reading these threads (at a minimum).
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