Tag Archives: manufactured spending

Anti-Shopping Spree

I don’t get traditional shopping.  Just as I feel betrayed when donating money to an organization with a poor operational overhead ratio, spending my hard earned cash on highly marked-up trinkets and goods that will either rapidly depreciate or end up contributing to the organizational nightmare occupying my basement just feels foolish. The best way to avoid the curse of buyer’s remorse, is to go “un-shopping”, whereby one takes advantage of Capitalist America’s commercial incentives and credit card reward offers to leave each store with more money than before.

An intro to Manufactured Spending

I’ve been experimenting with “Manufactured Spending” and “Travel Hacking” for the past several months, and the topic itself deserves an entire post – if, that is, the effort is even worth the time.  There are so many other bloggers out there covering this topic that I doubt a novice has much to contribute in terms of adding to the overall science and technique of this…hobby.

That said, there is value to be had in anecdotes, so here is an example of a recent shopping trip on mine, and a breakdown of how the different elements of manufactured spending worked together to produce a nice little bonus for the day’s hard work.

To take full advantage of most of these offers, a cornucopia of different credit cards are required, though even with only several, one can still come out with a decent haul.

Staples $200 MasterCard gift card
– $6.95 (fee for gift card)
+ $20 (10% off $200 cashback with Bank of America credit card offer)
+ $15 (staples rebate for buying a gift card of at least $100)
+ $2.07 (Miles of credit card at 1% on all purchases)
$13.05 cash (arguably, the staples gift card could go here as well)
$17.07 Non-cash equivalent (Virgin Atlantic miles, staples GC)

Note that the value of the gift card is not counted, as we can liquidate it without any additional fees – more on this in a minute.

Marriott $600 gift card
– $0.00 (fee for gift card)
+ $50 ($50 off $200 cashback with Amex offer, card 1/3)
+ $50 ($50 off $200 cashback with Amex offer, card 2/3)
+ $50 ($50 off $200 cashback with Amex offer, card 3/3)
+ $2.00 (miles on credit card 1/3 at 1% on all purchases)
+ $2.00 (cash back on credit card 2/3 at 1% on all purchases)
– $72.00 (cost of liquidating cards on cardpool.com)
$80.00 cash
$2.00 Non-cash equivalent (delta miles)

Gift cards can be a tricky business, and I have tended to shy away from them.  An easy $80 was difficult to resist though, and I soon succumbed.  Be sure to check the going exchange rate for cards before buying them, as liquidation can be difficult – or expensive – if you get caught unprepared and have to sell at a loss.

JC Penny $100 Subway gift card
– $0.00 (fee for gift card)
+ $10 ($10 off $50 cashback with Amex offer, card 1/3)
+ $10 ($10 off $50 cashback with Amex offer, card 2/3)
+ $0.50 (Miles of credit card 1/3 at 1% on all purchases)
+ $0.50 (cash back on credit card 2/3 at 1% on all purchases)
$0.50 cash
$20.50 Non-cash equivalent (discounted subway cards)

Hopefully I won’t be regretting this in a year or two (or be completely sick of subs).

Target REDCard $5000 load (2 cards)
 + $0 (liquidation of $200 MasterCard GC)
+ $105.60 (2.2% points on $4800 Barclaycard Arrival+, redeemable for travel)
$0.00 cash
$105.60 Non-cash equivalent (reimbursement for any travel)

There tend to be new ways to liquidate prepaid gift cards that rise and fall with their own popularity and the exploits discovered by manufactured spenders.  In the wake of Amazon Payments, Bluebird and many others who have died or become heavily restricted, Target’s REDCard is currently the best way to get rid of prepaid cards, meet spending goals to get credit card bonuses, or simply to earn points on one’s credit card. Once loaded, the REDCard funds can themselves be liquidated to a bank account directly, or indirectly by check, ATM, or bill payment.


So, for a short trip around town, I came out ahead by $238.72.  The breakdown?  $93.55 in cash, a further $35.00 in gift cards for stores I frequent and would otherwise have paid out of pocket (essentially cash-equivalent) and $110.17 towards future travel expenses ($4.57 of which are airline miles and not immediately useful).

You can see why this can get addicting.