Posts Tagged With: manufactured spending

Simon Mall will stop selling In-store gift cards at several locations


Simon Mall sells gift cards are a great way to manufacture spend. We are able to purchase several thousand dollars of these gift cards at one time and liquidate them using prepaid cards such as Serve and Bluebird to earn miles and points.

I was at the Simon mall location in Glen Allen, VA this morning and my friendly rep handed me the below brochure –

Simon Mall

According to the note this particular Simon mall location will stop selling Gift cards starting March 1st 2016. It is still a few months away but may change the way a lot of us do manufactured spending.

I am not certain if this will be implemented nationwide at every Simon Mall location I guess we will have to wait and see. When I asked the rep reason behind it she was very vague and mentioned that  a new company is probably taking over the gift card division. I guess we will have a better picture here in the next few days.


Categories: Manufactured Spending, Simon Mall Gift Cards, Uncategorized | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Fly Business Class One-way to Europe under $350 using this strategy


Staples recently started selling $300 visa gift cards online and this is great news for folks who have the Chase Ink Business Credit Card as it earns 5X on office supplies for the first $50,000 spent in combined purchases at office supply stores and on cellular phone, landline, internet and cable TV services each account anniversary year. For a limited time Chase Ink Plus card is  offering 60,000 sign-up bonus after spending $5000 in three months which is almost $800 in Travel rewards (annual fee $95 not waived) if you use the Ultimate Rewards shopping portal. However, you can further maximize the bonus by transferring UR points to other partners such as United, Southwest and many more.

So now I will show you how you can use a simple manufactured spending strategy to reach Europe for under $350.

The Scoop

For every $300 visa gift card you purchase from staples you will pay a fees of $8.95 earning 1545 Ultimate Rewards points. These Visa gift cards are pin-enabled and can be loaded onto any prepaid cards such as Bluebird, Serve or Target Redcard. You may use the prepaid cards to pay other bills such as mortgage, utility bills etc or turn around and pay back the Chase Ink card you used to purchase the gift card from Staples at first place.

Screenshot 2015-10-11 at 3.46.27 PM

Now, remember United Airlines is transfer partner of Ultimate Rewards for transfer ratio of 1:1. Let’s price out an award ticket from North America To Paris for sometime next year. For reference I am using Dulles Airport, Washington DC (IAD) but you can try other airports.

Screenshot 2015-10-11 at 3.46.09 PM

One-way flights from IAD to Paris are available for 57,500 United Miles or Ultimate Reward points. If you are signing up for the Chase Ink Business Card then the sign-up bonus of 60,000 points  is enough to score one business class ticket to Paris from IAD on United Airlines, but who likes to travel alone!!! Lets see how we can use the Staples $300 Visa to our earn this business class ticket for cheap.

As each $300 visa gift card with $8.95 purchase fees will earn you 1545 UR points, you will need 38 gift cards to earn 58710 UR points while paying $340 in purchase fees. Now you can easily transfer the points to United and book the award tickets by just paying another $25 for award fees.

Would you like to see what is the retail price if you were to buy these tickets using straight cash? Hold your breath ladies and gentlemen!!!

Screenshot 2015-10-11 at 4.07.01 PM

Staggering $7000 + one way business class ticket to Europe can be bought for under $350

WOW!! $7991 for a one way ticket to Paris from IAD.

paris happy girl eiffel

You will be jumping after reaching Paris in Business class for $350


Using the Chase Ink Business credit card and a little bit of manufactured spending by purchasing the $300 Visa gift card from Staples you can score business class tickets to Europe for under $350. You can get creative using UR points and  transfer them to Singapore Airlines to fly the suite for pennies!!

Categories: Gift Cards, Manufactured Spending, Staples, Ultimate Rewards Points, United | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

How not to pay Full price visiting Amusement parks?

The past weekend we visited Busch Gardens, Williamsburg with my wife’s family visiting us from Canada. I was looking into various options to purchase cheap tickets to the amusement park as after adding cost of tickets, parking and food you would do serious damage on your credit card. The Busch Garden website sells 1-day ticket for $75. I was definitely not going to pay that for five tickets. I googled and via Retailmenot found codes using which I could have knocked off $15 from the cost of each ticket. But my Indian genes were still not happy and I was craving for even deeper discounts.

Screenshot 2015-08-18 at 11.00.59 PM

Paying Full price for anything is just not my thing

I  put my evil mind to work and BINGO!! My favorite credit card – Barclay Arrival World Elite Mastercard came to the rescue along with a couple of small tricks. Please note Barclays bank recently issued a change in T&C and starting November 1st lot of charges including activities will not be considered as  Travel Credit while using Arrival World Elite Mastercard so charging Busch Gardens tickets directly on my credit card purchase via Busch Gardens website will not go through as  a Travel expense. Here is a link to an old article from Flyertalk that summarizes what goes through as travel credit and what does not using the Arrival World Elite Credit card.

save money

I knew Expedia will definitely be considered a Travel Credit via Barclay system and after checking Expedia’s website I was able to find a 1-day pass to Busch Gardens for $60 for Adults and $50 for kids under 10, although the cost being higher than using Retailmenot codes that were getting me $15 off the tickets purchased directly from Busch Gardens. I ended up paying $280 to Expedia for 3 Adult and 2 kids tickets but the tricks and strategy I am about to show you these tickets  ended up costing me UNDER $100 total.

I first visited TopCashback and saw they were offering 5% back on activities which is not too shabby. Expedia rewarded me 1120 Reward points roughly with a value of $10.

Screenshot 2015-08-18 at 11.26.56 PM

Expedia reward points

Finally I will  knock off the $280 paid to Expedia by manufacture spending Barclay miles using gift cards and other strategies. For those who are seasoned in this hobby and manufactured spending know that we can slash cost of any travel expense by 60% or higher using this trick (ping me if you are new and want to learn more or read one of my article here). Here is the final math –

  • Total Paid to Expedia for five Busch Garden tickets- $280
  • Cost after manufactured spending – $112 (60% off $280)
  • 5% Cash back from Topcashback i.e $14
  • $10 in Expedia Rewards
  • Net Cost – 112-14-10 = $88

I think its totally sick that I will pay just $88 for five tickets to Busch Garden Amusement park for a full day of fun.

Can you do the same for other parks?

Absolutely, always check Expedia, Orbitz and other similar travel websites for Activities and look for theme park tickets or attractions. You can also purchase tickets for several theme parks in Orlando, Los Angeles and San Diego using as this website is classified as Travel category using Barclay Arrival World Elite Mastercard. Have more questions on saving money visiting theme parks then ping me. I can even show you how to take a Family to Disneyland by paying pennies.

busch gardens 1

Feeling young one more time!!

busch gardens 2

I was so happy after all the money I saved! Having fun with nieces

busch gardens 4

Red was the color of the day

Categories: Barclay Arrival, Other Savings, Theme Parks | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

Visa Gift card from


Some of us love taking long romantic drive to  Simon mall and purchase gift cards, however, if you are like me who hates doing it then there is  an option to get the gift cards delivered to your house by spending a little bit more via and now with free shipping for a limited time for orders upto $1500.

Description=Young man with mobile phone driving car Model Released CREDT : Fredrik Skold / Alamy

Typical Driver heading to Simon Mall

The Scoop sells Vanilla Gift Cards (issued via Bancorp) which you can buy sitting on your laptop sipping coffee. These gift cards will load at Walmart or using your Bluebird or Serve and at Target using the Redbird. There is some work involved using VGC’s as they must be activated online/phone prior to use. Now if you use the promo code SHIPHAPPY you will get free shipping on orders of $1500 or less in Gift Cards. The nice thing about these gift cards is that they would have your name printed on the GC so you do not have to play hide and seek with the cashiers at Walmart/Traget.

hide and seek may rescue you from Hide and Seek at walmart by having your name on the GC fees

The fee structure for buying gift cards online from

If you choose to pay for shipping at $7.45 it comes in Priority mail and you can order up to $2500 in VGCs (has to be including fees). You also earn G rewards for shopping at and I am exploring more how it works after placing my first order.

Although, readers have reported issues loading Simon Mall Gift cards at Walmart (Dallas Area) so be careful as these stores continuously update systems and loading certain gift cards could be hit or miss. Rule of thumb is never purchase more gift cards until you are certain loading works  otherwise you are stuck with them.


You can now purchase giftcards online from by paying $4.95 purchase fees for a gift card upto $500. The gift cards are VGC and can be loaded at Walmart or Target. Also, you can get gift cards upto $1500 shipped to your house for free using the promocode SHIPHAPPY. 

Categories: Gift Cards, Manufactured Spending | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Earn 30,000 United Mileageplus award miles with Direct TV, Redcard Update

1. I just received an email that United is offering 30,000 Miles with a new Direct TV account and a 2-year contract.

United 30000 Offer

United 30,000 Miles Offer

This best offer I’ve seen has been for 25,000 miles so the 30,000 mile offer is definitely a better deal. 30,000 miles will easily get you a round-trip domestic ticket. If you already have direct TV and your current contract is coming to an end, you can apply for a new account under your spouse or partners name and earn 30,000 miles. More details on this offer are here. The offer is valid until 7/22/15.

2. Redcard Update – I wrote on the demise of free credit card loading at Target Yesterday. Today (5/6), I was at a local area store in Richmond, VA  and credit card loads are a no go. However, folks via flyertalk and other forums have reported success using Simon Mall Gift Debit gift cards. This may not be as lucrative as free loading but can still help you with minimum spending and if you do what I do i.e buying the simon gift cards using Barclays Arrival World Mastercard or the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card where you earn 2x miles n every dollar spend and redeem earned miles for travel credit. This may also help you with the minimum spending on any new credit card to earn large sign-up bonus.

You can buy gift cards upto $500 by paying $3.95 purchase fees for each card. You can find location of the nearest Simon mall here and the cards are usually sold at customer service desk inside the mall. Simon gift cards are pin enabled  and the default pin is  last four digits of the debit card. The Simon mall in Richmond allows you to buy up to $10,000 worth of gift cards per day but it is very ymmv at each location.

Another experiment I need to do is try loading on the redcard the last $500 Amex Gift Card that I purchased from Topcash back for a profit of $100I will keep you posted with any more data points. Please do share your experience and any tips.

Categories: Direct TV, Manufactured Spending, Prepaid Cards, Redcard, Simon Mall Gift Cards, United | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

Possible new way to Manufacture spend using prepaid debit card

I read a discussion on Flyertalk about several prepaid debit products that you can buy online (free, with free shipping) and that you can then load online with a credit card.

They’re branded cards issued by Metabank for Boys & Girls Clubs of Deleware,Goodwill Deleware, and others. (These groups don’t manage the cards, they just get royalty income for use of their name.)

You can load up to $2500 per day onto the card and store up to $10,000 at a time.

Some key fees:

  • $3.95 monthly service fee, waived when you load $800 or more to the card each month
  • $2.95 for loading the card by credit card
  • $2.50 ATM cash withdrawal fee (in addition to fees charged by an out of network ATM)
  • $0.50 Bill pay fee

The card terms seem to suggest you can load a maximum of $250 at a time with a credit card, making it uneconomic and significant effort for each $2.95 fee.However reports are that in fact $2500 loads are permitted. So $2500 charged to your card for $2.95, once per week per card.


I’ve ordered one card for and will try it out. Post your stories if you’ve had success with similar cards before.

Categories: Manufactured Spending, Prepaid Cards | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Complete Guide to Bluebird, Serve, Softserve and Target Redcard

The complete guide to Bluebird, REDcard, Serve, and SoftServe

Bluebird, REDcard, Serve, and Serve with Softcard…  These are prepaid reloadable American Express cards intended to be viable fee-free checking account alternatives.  Even better, they are all good choices for those who primarily want to earn miles and points.  The problem is… each person can have only one.  So, which is best?

The answer to “which card is best?” depends upon your personal situation.  No single card is better than all others for everyone.  However, depending upon your situation, there is almost certainly a best card for you.  In this guide, I’ll give you the information you need to decide which card is best for you.


The four prepaid cards all run on the same technology platform and they therefore have a lot in common.  They are all prepaid reloadable American Express cards.  This means that, unlike credit cards, you need to load money to these cards before you can use them (although, another option is to setup linked backup funding sources).  Once money is loaded, these cards can be used like American Express credit cards to make purchases, or can be used at ATMs for cash withdrawals, or can be used like a bank account to pay bills.


Bluebird was formed from a collaboration between American Express and Walmart. Even though Serve predated Bluebird, Bluebird was the first prepaid card to be a realistic fee-free checking account alternative.  And, at the time of this writing, Bluebird continues to be the only Amex prepaid product that offers a checkbook for writing checks yourself.

REDcard (Target Prepaid REDcard AKA Redbird)

I am in exploratory phase with REDcard but might switch from serve to here soon. Where Bluebird was formed in collaboration with Walmart, REDcard is with Target.  At the time of this writing, it is only available in specific stores within specific states (found here),   REDcard is unique among these prepaid cards, though, in that it can be reloaded at the Target register with a credit card.  This makes REDcard especially attractive to those who want to earn credit card rewards without the hassles involved in other approaches.


Serve has been around quite a while and it has changed a lot over time, mostly for the better.  For example, Amex has recently greatly expanded the number of locations in which Serve could be reloaded at the register.  You can now reload Serve with debit cards at both Walmart and Family Dollar, for example (Note: Some readers has found that Family Dollar no longer accepts debit cards for this, but others continue to have success).  You can also reload at the register at CVS, but only with cash.  One of the features that make Serve stand out above Bluebird and REDcard is that it can be loaded online via credit card, up to $1000 per month.  Unfortunately, some credit cards charge cash advance fees for this.  So you should do a trial with small amount and see if your credit card quotes the charge as “sale” or “cash advance”.

Serve with SoftCard (AKA SoftServe)

SoftCard is a system designed to allow people to make in-person payments via their phone.  The system then directs those charges to a linked credit card or prepaid card (Serve).  Once you have SoftCard setup and installed on your smartphone, you can sign up for Serve through the app.  Serve with Softcard, or SoftServe, is virtually identical to regular Serve, but has higher online load limits.  So, for example, instead of loading just $1000 per month with a credit card online, you can load up to $1500 per month with SoftServe.

Which is best for you?

Please read through the comparison tables below to identify the differences between cards that matter the most to you.  For simplicity, though, here are my quick recommendations.

For maximizing rewards:

  • If you want to maximize credit card spend and savings opportunities regardless of thecomplexity involved, then get SoftServe (Serve with Softcard).
  • If you want to maximize credit card spend and savings opportunities, but you do not have (and do not want to get) cell phone hardware and service required for SoftCard, then getServe.
  • If you want the simplest possible option for earning credit card rewards with the lowest possible fees, get the Target Prepaid REDcard.

For convenience and shopping:

  • If you frequently shop at Walmart, get Bluebird.
  • If you frequently shop at Target, get REDcard.
  • If you find yourself often in or near Walmart or Family Dollar, regardless of whether you actually shop at those locations, get Serve or SoftServe.

Comparison Tables

The following tables show each card side by side.  Notable advantages are marked with green backgrounds.  Notable negatives are marked with red backgrounds.

How to get the card

Bluebird REDcard Serve SoftServe
Order online Y N Y Via SoftCard App
Buy temp card in-store Y
Select  Target stores
Many stores such as CVS
Temp card fee $5 $0 to $5 $0 to $3.95 N/A
Monthly fee $0 $0 $1 (free w/ $500 load) $0

At the time of this writing, there are very few participating Target stores where one can get started with REDcard.   And, SoftServe requires specific phone hardware and service before one can get started.  For those reasons, Bluebird and Serve have a distinct advantage for those eager to get started.

How to reload

Bluebird REDcard Serve SoftServe
Direct deposit Y Y Y Y
Deposit check (with smart phone app) Y N Y Y
Online debit (not gift cards) Y
Up to $1K / month
Up to $1K / month
Up to $1K / month
Up to $1.5K / month
Online credit N N Y
Up to $1K / month
Up to $1.5K / month
In-store kiosk Y
In-store debit (including gift cards with PINs) Y
Walmart, Family Dollar
YWalmart, Family Dollar
In-store credit N Y
Via reload cards Y
Vanilla Reload
Vanilla Reload, Money-Pak, ReloadIt
Vanilla Reload, Money-Pak, ReloadIt
In-store + reload card limits $5000 per month $5000 per month $5000 per month $5000 per month

If you’re reading this page, you probably want to find the card that is best for earning credit card rewards.  There are several ways this can happen:

  • Online debit loads: use a rewards earning debit card or a debit card that is reloadable with a credit card.  Increasingly, both options are difficult or impossible to find, so this option is of very limited use to most people.  You cannot use gift cards as debit cards for online loads.
  • Online credit loads: This is a great way to earn rewards easily and automatically, but some credit cards charge cash advance fees.  Serve lets you load $1000 a month using credit card but you may want to perform a small trial ($20) and see how the charge goes through (sale or cash advance)
  • In-store debit: Unless you are lucky enough to have a debit card that earns rewards, the trick here is to use your rewards credit card to buy Visa or MasterCard gift cards with PINs, and use those as debit cards to reload your prepaid card.
  • In-store credit: Currently the REDcard is the only known option for this route.  I believe that all credit cards will treat REDcard reloads at Target as regular purchases and will therefore earn rewards. I will be trying the REDcard here in the next few days
  • Reload cards: Vanilla Reload cards and Greendot MoneyPaks are cards that can be bought at various stores, and then money from those cards can be transferred to prepaid reloadable cards online (or, at the register in some cases).  It is becoming increasingly difficult, but not impossible, to find stores that allow reload cards to be purchased with a credit card.

How to save money with each card

Bluebird REDcard Serve SoftServe
Wal-mart promos Y N N N
Target 5% off N Y N N
Small biz Saturday Y N Y Y
Amex Sync Promos Y N Y Y
SoftCard promos N N N Y

As you can see above, each of these cards offer different opportunities for saving money.  The options that work best for you probably depend heavily on your shopping habits.  Regular Walmart shoppers will like the Walmart promos whereas regular Target shoppers will enjoy 5% off all purchases.  Don’t discount the Amex Sync promos and SoftCard promos, though.  For those who like to eek out the most of every deal, there are often big opportunities for savings with each.

How to use card funds

Bluebird REDcard Serve SoftServe
Foreign exchange fee? N N Y
Fee free ATM Y
Money Pass
AllPoint Network
Money Pass
Money Pass
Other ATMs $2.50 N/A $2.50 $2.50
Free online bill pay Y Y Y Y
Write your own checks Y N N N
Withdraw to linked bank account Y Y Y Y
Send money to others Y Y Y Y

All of the cards in this roundup offer easy access to your money once its loaded.  In fact, with all 4 cards, you can simply transfer the money to your bank account or even use the online bill pay function to send a check to yourself, for free.  A few notable differences though are as follows:

  • Serve and SoftServe charge foreign exchange fees so they’re poor choices for using outside of the United States.
  • REDcard cannot be used at ATMs outside of the AllPoint network.
  • Bluebird offers checkbooks with which you can write your own checks.

Let me know and share with other readers in the discussion session your success story using these prepaid cards.

Categories: bluebird, Credit cards, serve, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | 4 Comments

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