This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

TPG contributor Jason Steele comes back today to talk about Manufactured Spending, which is the art of creating points and miles without having to actually incur more spend- like buying gift cards and then using them to load Bluebird and then in turn pay your mortgage/rent/etc. 

Things change everyday for those who try their hand at the hobby called manufactured spending. Here are a few of the latest developments: offers $200 Visa cards online

In the last two weeks, the biggest news was that Staples began selling $200 gift cards online, whereas previously they only had the $100 denominations.

Why was this important? Each card has a $6.95 fee, so selling a card with twice the value means half the fees. Although these cards were previously available in stores, the advantage of purchasing them online was that they might qualify for portal savings of up to 6%. During the final days of April and the first days of May, it appeared that many portals were honoring the points or cash back offered for purchases from

Then, in early May, multiple Flyertalk contributors who claimed to operate their own portals said that they had received notices from Staples that portals would not be offering rewards for gift card purchases. To corroborate those reports, one of the more popular reward portals, Swagbucks immediately added special terms that excluded gift cards.


I used a card that offers 5x bonus rewards for office supply purchases to by some gift cards using the Swagbucks and Upromise portals between May 4th and May 7th and the rewards are currently listed at both sites as “Pending”.  If I end up receiving those portal rewards, I will have made a cash profit on the transaction and earned credit card reward points.

But even if I don’t, I will have effectively purchased the reward points for about two-thirds of a cent each, which is reasonable, but not an activity that I would spend a lot of time doing. I had no problem using these cards to transfer money with Amazon Payments, and I also plan on using some to pay bills with the Evolve Money service.

The circle of life.. or at least manufactured spending
The circle of life.. or at least manufactured spending

Bluebird update

American Express Bluebird is great product for those who eschew credit cards and bank accounts, as well as for those who are into this hobby. Of course, its utility for the later took a major blow in April when CVS stopped allowing credit card purchases of Vanilla Reloads, a product used to load funds onto the Bluebird card.

In searching for alternative stores that still allowed sales of Vanilla Reloads with a credit card, our readers were quick to eliminate many of the chains listed as carrying these products. Nevertheless, two had success at a few smaller region stores. Noah commented that Food City stores in Eastern Tennessee accepted his credit card to purchase Vanilla Reloads, and Mark confirmed that Village Pantry stores in Ohio did too.

If you live outside of those areas, don’t put away your Bluebird cards just yet. You can use a debit (like the Suntrust Delta) or gift cards to load these Bluebird cards at cash registers and customer service counters at Wal Mart stores. The limit is $1,000 per day, and $5,000 per month, per card. So if you purchase $500 gift cards with a $4.95 fee, you are looking at about a 1% loss when you load them onto your Bluebird card and use the funds to pay any person or business, or transfer them to your bank account.

Those with some time and patience could conceivably participate in the $200 Staples offer, and use their gift cards to load Bluebird, and come out slightly ahead. A better strategy might be to buy $500 gift cards where their credit card earns bonus rewards.

Another option would be to use one of the many cards that earn bonus rewards supermarkets. These cards can offer rewards that are well worth paying 1% in fees, and perhaps even a trip to your local Wal Mart.

Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard®

The Barclaycard Arrival Plus is one of the best travel credit cards on the market right now because you can use the miles to cover many expenses that traditional miles won’t cover. Plus, for a limited time the sign-up bonus is 50,000 bonus miles if you make $3,000 or more in purchases in the first 90 days after account opening – which equates to $525 when you use them for travel expenses.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn 50,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 90 days — that's enough to redeem for a $500 travel statement credit
  • Earn 2X miles on all purchases
  • Redeem for travel or cash back statement credits, gift cards and merchandise. Redemption values vary
  • Get 5% miles back to use toward your next redemption, every time you redeem
  • Miles don't expire as long as your account is open, active and in good standing
  • No foreign transaction fees on anything you buy while in another country
  • 0% introductory APR for 12 months on Balance Transfers made within 45 days of account opening. After that, a variable APR will apply, 16.49%, 20.49% or 23.49%, based on your creditworthiness.
  • Please note, there is a fee for balance transfers.
Intro APR on Purchases
Regular APR
16.49%, 20.49% or 23.49% Variable
Annual Fee
$89 - Waived first year
Balance Transfer Fee
Recommended Credit
Excellent Credit

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.