Beginner’s Guide to Manufactured Spending Series Index
Part 4 | Guide to American Express Gift Cards
Part 5 | Guide to Using BlueBird and Serve
Part 6 | Guide to Using Evolve Money
Using Visa Gift Cards and Money Orders
Among the easiest and most popular method of manufactured spend at the moment is to earn miles and points by purchasing PIN-enabled Visa Gift Cards and liquidating them through money orders.
This is currently one of the most tried and true ways to manufactured spend and is a great place for anyone new to manufactured spend because it keeps things straightforward and simple.
I’ve outlined the steps to take when buying gift cards and money orders and within this post I have covered various scenarios and options. In either case your experience will likely vary as will the stores you will find that work.
Step One. Purchase PIN-Enabled Prepaid Card
You can find PIN-enabled Visa Gift Cards online at Giftcards.com and also at Rite Aid, Walgreens, and various stores around the country. These cards will say ‘debit’ on them and can be loaded up to $500 for a purchase fee of $4.95. One of the easiest versions to use and find is the One Vanilla prepaid debit card. I have never had any issues using it. There are places to purchase Visa gift cards with lower fees ($3.95 and $2.95) which I won’t write about here, but with a little searching you should be able to find them.
With these cards the PINs do not have to be set and the card does not have to be registered in order to use the card to pay for a money order or to use for other purchases.
Other cards that will work are Visa gift cards, which are sold at grocery and drugstore chains such as Rite Aid and Walgreens, and possibly your local grocery chain. These cards also have a $4.95 fee and can be loaded up to $500. The drawback with these is that some stores may turn them away when you are getting a money order, so you may have to try around.
You can also purchase these online at Staples.com through a cash back portal to earn extra rewards. When you do, make sure that the portal you choose is still crediting cash back for gift card purchases. Staples.com sells $200 Visa gift cards that have a $6.95 fee. The fee is slightly higher than the One Vanilla cards, but you can use a 5X earning Ink card at office supply stores and potentially stack cash back to make the earning rate worth it.
From my experience you will have to activate these cards after you have received them in the mail and the activations codes will be mailed separately. If you need to activate them before you receive them, you can call in and do it over the phone. PINs do not have to be set to use these either and you can just enter the last 4 digits of the card number as a PIN.
Quick Recap: There are many versions of Visa gift cards. Go with Vanilla One cards if you are purchasing money orders from a store other than Walmart, they are the most reliable, tried and true method.
Step Two. Purchase Money Orders Using the Prepaid Debit Card Cards
After having the prepaid PIN-enable gift cards in hand you can head to your store of choice to purchase a money order. Walmart’s Money Center is a common place to purchase these, but they no longer accept One Vanilla gift cards. Another option is to head over to your local grocery store, discount food store, post office, etc. I have been using Fred Meyers up in the Pacific NW, so there is likely a regional chain that will allow you to purchase a money order using prepaid debit cards. The key is to find a place that allows you to purchase the money order with a debit card.
The cost of the money order is around ~$0.70 per money order and you should be able to use multiple debit cards to purchase them. For example this is what the process looks like when liquidating $1,000 worth of gift cards:
- Say you would like to purchase a money order for $999.30 using two debit cards. You will pay for the $0.70 fee with your prepaid debit cards.
- Swipe the first card and enter the last four digits of the debit card (or possibly any combination of numbers) for a PIN.
- After the transaction is approved, swipe the second $500 card. The process should go through and you will receive a printed out money order for $999.30.
By adding the cost of the money order into the total amount you have loaded on your cards you eliminate the extra step of paying separately, but you also have that option. Note that most places only allow you to pay for the money order using a debit card or cash, so credit cards will not be an option.
Some stores have a $500 – $1,000 limit on money orders, but if you can find one that has a higher limit you can ask to purchase the money order with the number of debit cards you want to liquidate. I often purchase $1,000 money orders at Fred Meyers for a $0.79 fee. Once you are comfortable with this process you can liquidate more debit cards at once, but it is generally safer to spread your money order purchases out over time. If you purchase over $3,000 in money orders at once you may be asked to provide a drivers license and social security number.
Step Three. Complete the Money Order and Deposit into Your Bank Account
Once you have the money order in hand you can easily fill in your information and deposit it into your bank account. Like a cashier’s check the funds are guaranteed and you should not have a problem depositing the money order.
When you are filling out the money order write your name on the ‘Pay to’ line and sign both on the ‘Purchaser’ line and sign the back of the money order. You can use your name as both the ‘pay to’ and purchaser, but if you feel more comfortable you can pay the money order to a trusting friend that will return the funds to you.
Now all you have to do is deposit the money order into your bank account.
Step Four. Pay the Balance on Your Credit Card
Now you have almost completed the process and all you have to do is pay off the balance in full on your credit card as normal. The money order should clear to your bank account within a day, so you will be able to pay off your credit card balance using those exact funds the following day if needed.
As always, pay off your balance in full or the rewards you earn will be far outweighed by the interest you are charged on your credit card account.
Quick Review and Tips
The process is simply: purchase Visa gift cards using rewards earning credit card, use said Visa gift cards to purchase money order, deposit money order into your bank account and pay off the balance on your credit card.
Now you are set to easily set out to manufactured spend using prepaid PIN-enable gift cards and money orders. You can choose the reward earning credit card of your choice. When you make the first large ($500+) purchase on a card your account may be frozen due to fraud prevention. If the transaction is declined this is likely to be the scenario and you can easily call the number on the back of your card and have the freeze lifted by verifying the transactions.
One of the best tips to successfully and sustainably manufactured spend using gift cards and money orders is to purchase them in moderation. This means only purchasing a few gift cards and/or one money order at a time or spacing out your transactions over time. It can also help to be friendly and build a relationship with the store you are working with, if the clerk knows you, it can make the process much smoother.