New to Manufactured Spending? Start here (2019)

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Old Feb 4, 19, 5:01 am   -   Wikipost
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NEW TO MS? It's suggested that new arrivals should do some serious reading for a month of all the posts and wiki to get an understanding of MS before asking common questions.

Note: the 2017 - 2018 version of this thread is here, 2016 version of this thread is here, the 2015 version of the thread is here

Welcome to Manufactured Spending. Marathon Man did not write this message, but he has edited it and anyone can. 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.

Hints

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. High "View Count" and "Replies" are good indicators of active "master threads" on a specific topic.

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

3) A glossary wiki for MS located in the thread Glossary, Manufactured Spending Forum

Important Rules

1) MSing is very YMMV. It varies by store, manager, and right down to the cashier working at the moment. Some might argue that MS is like card counting in a casino. It is not illegal but casinos don’t like it. Orhers have said it’s like having a fake ID in college to use just to get into bars where all the fun is. Just because it worked here yesterday doesn’t mean it will get you in today. MS is like being a wood worker constantly using a table saw. Always watch what you are doing—always! Or you will lose something. 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).

6) MSing can be used for a variety of purposes, ranging from smallish amounts to meet minimum spend requirements to get a credit card signup bonus, to accumulating huge numbers of points for travel/cashback/etc. Remember too that you will often have expenses such as purchase fees, liquidation fees, and gas.

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

New MSers can also read all these threads:
http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/manuf...-spending-719/
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Old Feb 13, 19, 8:56 pm
  #46  
 
Join Date: Oct 2013
Posts: 427
Talking

Originally Posted by iowa guy View Post
Hello

1) Are the basic steps for the manufactured spend using Vanilla Gift Cards spelled out anywhere? I can only seen to glean a few tidbits about the process in the threads I've read.

2) If I only need to manufacture spend $1000 a month, is that the most recommended route for me?

Sorry that I'm so lost regarding this...I can't even figure out most of the acronyms used in this thread.
Make you read the entire wiki at the top of this thread and click the link at the bottom and keep on reading. It takes time to understand everything and what might work in your area.
Travelz is offline  
Old Feb 14, 19, 1:48 am
  #47  
 
Join Date: Dec 2017
Posts: 380
Originally Posted by iowa guy View Post
1) Are the basic steps for the manufactured spend using Vanilla Gift Cards spelled out anywhere? I can only seen to glean a few tidbits about the process in the threads I've read.

2) If I only need to manufacture spend $1000 a month, is that the most recommended route for me?
Vanilla are the same as other vgc (visa gift cards), except they don't work at Walmart.
For a $1000/month, the basic route is buy vgc, making sure you're getting cashback on your credit card. Use the vgc to buy some money order orders or load to Amex Serve. Make sure to use the vgc as a debit card -- you'll need the PIN, so check the packaging for what the default PIN is.
Good luck!
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Old Feb 15, 19, 3:14 pm
  #48  
 
Join Date: Jul 2015
Location: Chicago
Posts: 266
I'm not new to MS (used USPS until the shutdown and now use Walmart), but I'm wondering how to MS with AMEX seeing as they've stopped counting a lot of gift cards towards MS. My previous landlord let me pay rent via credit card, but unfortunately my new one is old school and takes check or Zelle only.
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Old Feb 15, 19, 3:40 pm
  #49  
 
Join Date: Jun 2013
Posts: 93
Originally Posted by poisson View Post
I'm wondering how to MS with AMEX seeing as they've stopped counting a lot of gift cards towards MS.
For Amex, avoid any MS while doing minimum spends. Then if you stay away from SM, L3 reporters like OSS, and businesses with GC in the name, things seem to be working (until they aren't).
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Old Feb 15, 19, 4:29 pm
  #50  
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Originally Posted by poisson View Post
I'm not new to MS (used USPS until the shutdown and now use Walmart), but I'm wondering how to MS with AMEX seeing as they've stopped counting a lot of gift cards towards MS. My previous landlord let me pay rent via credit card, but unfortunately my new one is old school and takes check or Zelle only.
Kiva loans are fine to meet minimum spend (if you can float the money and accept some risk).
Using Kiva to manufacture spend
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Old Feb 16, 19, 11:54 am
  #51  
 
Join Date: Dec 2017
Posts: 380
Originally Posted by poisson View Post
but unfortunately my new one is old school and takes check or Zelle only.
Describing Zelle as old school made me chuckle
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Old Feb 17, 19, 12:12 pm
  #52  
 
Join Date: Jul 2015
Location: Chicago
Posts: 266
Originally Posted by Klemhuzzah View Post
Describing Zelle as old school made me chuckle
I suppose I should have said "mom & pop". Most of the larger landlords like property management companies have a portal where you can do credit card payments or ACH debits.
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Old Feb 18, 19, 11:53 am
  #53  
 
Join Date: Nov 2011
Location: Iowa
Posts: 506
Originally Posted by Klemhuzzah View Post
For a $1000/month, the basic route is buy vgc, making sure you're getting cashback on your credit card.
Good luck!
What do you mean by getting cashback on my credit card? I have purchased many retail store gift cards but have not received any cashback on my credit cards...unless I don't understand the true meaning of cashback.
iowa guy is offline  
Old Feb 18, 19, 1:25 pm
  #54  
 
Join Date: Dec 2017
Posts: 380
Some CC will pay you to use them. For example, the Citi Double Cashback card gives you 2% https://citicards.citi.com/usc/LPACA...04C3FB4CE14032

There are other cards that will give more but are usually limited to certain categories
Chase INK - 5% at office supply stores such as Staples & Ofiice Max/Office Depot 9but it's a business card)
Discover - 5% on rotating categories. Right now it's 5% at grocery stores. Max $75 cashback for $1500 spend.
Chase Freedom - 5% on rotating categories. Right now it's 5% at drug stores like Walgreens or CVS. Max $75 cashback for $1500 spend.
Google for "best cashback credit cards" and pick the one the works the best for you. You'll probably want to start with Chase because they have a rule that they will deny your cc application if you've opened too many other cards recently (google 5/24 rule)
Know that cashback is different from the signup bonus.
Watch out for cards the say "x", "times", or "points", as these are not always the same as "%". They can be worth it, but it makes cards harder to compare.
Good luck!
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Old Feb 19, 19, 11:14 am
  #55  
 
Join Date: Nov 2011
Location: Iowa
Posts: 506
Thank you for the clarification of "cash back".

The card that I need to have manufactured spend is the Chase United Explorer Business card. The cashback for purchases is 1 mile per $1 spent.

I have been looking a Visa and Vanilla gift cards. Is it correct that the largest gift card amount is $200?

Also, what is a reasonable expectation for the percentage of the manufactured spend that will be fees for the gift cards and fees for money order purchasing? For example, if I manufacture spend $1000 what would you expect the fees/cost should be? It seems to be about 4%. Is that correct?

Thanks
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Old Feb 19, 19, 11:22 am
  #56  
 
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Miles aren’t cashback. Cashback is just that, cash back. It means you get 2% (for example) back. You pay 100$ using your card, then 2$ will be taken off your credit card bill and you’ll end up paying only 98$.
If you can manufacture spend for less than 2% in fees/losses (in this example), you’ll turn a profit.
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Old Feb 20, 19, 12:18 am
  #57  
 
Join Date: Dec 2017
Posts: 380
Originally Posted by iowa guy View Post
I have been looking a Visa and Vanilla gift cards. Is it correct that the largest gift card amount is $200?

Also, what is a reasonable expectation for the percentage of the manufactured spend that will be fees for the gift cards and fees for money order purchasing? For example, if I manufacture spend $1000 what would you expect the fees/cost should be? It seems to be about 4%. Is that correct?
Vanilla comes in $500. Available at CVS, Walgreens, and other places. Grocery stores also sell $500 vgc, but I don't think they're Vanilla.
Fees usually run around $7 for a $500 card, plus $1 for a money order, so $8 per $500 card which is 1.6%. $200 cards cost about the same, but $8 per $200 is 4%. Obviously, you're better with larger denomination cards, plus it requires fewer trips. Once you get started, you'll find ways to lower the fees even more, but it's good to start small and make sure it works in your area.
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Old Feb 20, 19, 11:27 am
  #58  
SLV
 
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Originally Posted by poisson View Post
I'm not new to MS (used USPS until the shutdown and now use Walmart), but I'm wondering how to MS with AMEX seeing as they've stopped counting a lot of gift cards towards MS. My previous landlord let me pay rent via credit card, but unfortunately my new one is old school and takes check or Zelle only.
I've been using Plastiq to pay my landlord. They mail a paper check but it takes ~8 business days. It's sent via USPS so there's no tracking which makes you have to check when it's received.
Using an Amex for resident rent is allowed per Plastiq https://help.plastiq.com/hc/en-us/ar...all-categories
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Old Feb 20, 19, 2:44 pm
  #59  
 
Join Date: Dec 2017
Posts: 380
Originally Posted by iowa guy View Post
The card that I need to have manufactured spend is the Chase United Explorer Business card. The cashback for purchases is 1 mile per $1 spent.
I don't know how miles work on that card, so I'm going to assume it's equivalent to 1% cashback. Which means for a $500 vgc, you'll get $5 back. Getting $5 and spending $8 in fees …… Even if you change to a 2% card and get $10 back, that's only a $2 profit -- not worth the time, effort, and risk. Now if you're doing it for a signup bonus, then it's worth it, but otherwise not.

I would suggest
1) Switch to a card that gives you 5% back. You could combine the CC cashback with stores that give you fuel points, or use online portals that throw in their own cashback.
2) Find a way to lower fees - wait for the vgc to go on sale, or buy them where they don't charge $6.95 fee.
3) Alright, I had a 3rd one when I started this list, but can't remember it now.

Good luck!
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Old Feb 22, 19, 11:02 am
  #60  
 
Join Date: Dec 2018
Posts: 21
Does CVS report L3 to AMEX?, trying to hit MSR on it, read on some places that CVS does not report it to AMEX or Chase.
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