My manufactured spending has gotten rather complex over the past several months.  I am currently using a variety of methods to generate – what to me is – a very high level of monthly spending.  Think Bluebirds and Gift Cards, trips to CVS and to Walmart.

While I never thought accounting for all this activity would be easy or straightforward, I am reminded today that perfect accounting is required in order to avoid significant costs and hurdles in playing this game.  My two most recent examples –

Last week I purchased 2 $200 Visa Gift Cards at Staples…. Upon ringing me up, the cashier told me the balance due was $206.95.  Wow, a great deal – $200 off….. clearly, the clerk only scanned one of the two cards.  Upon informing him of this, he double checked and agreed he only charged me for one of the cards.  So he picked up a card and scanned it, and the correct total of $413.90.

Two days later (I had a busy week at work, and with the holidays things have been quite hectic), I finally made it to Walmart to load the Visa cards to my Bluebird.  The first load went without issue at the customer service desk, $200 moved from Gift Card to Bluebird.  Second round initiated and this is when the problems began – “Debit transaction declined”.  Uh oh, that’s not good I thought.  Maybe I merely entered the wrong PIN I hoped as I felt the anxiety rise within.  Second attempt ended as the first attempt did – “Debit transaction declined”.  I started to panic slightly – was this avenue shut down?  And how could it be since I had just loaded a different card 30 second earlier?  Or was I the victim of a bad card?  I didn’t know, and the customer service desk at Walmart was no place to find the answer.  I apologized to the clerk (the clerks at this particular Walmart have been very accommodating to me through my toils in the manufactured spending arena) and was on my way.

This is where accounting and recordkeeping is CRUCIAL.  Luckily I had saved the receipt from the Staples transaction.  Upon reviewing the receipt, I discovered the clerk – when she scanned the ‘second’ card had erroneously scanned the FIRST card a second time.  Bingo – the second card had never been activated, although I was in fact charged for 2 cards.  This now required me to go back to Staples and be prepared to fight to get the charge reversed or card activated.  I anticipated the worst since Staples does not allow returns of gift cards.

Luckily, the Staples clerk remembered me (he had commented  how nice it was that I was honest enough to point out I had only been charged for one card initially).  With the assistance of his manager, and after reviewing the documentation I had (which included the screenprints from gowallet to show the second card was never activated and the first had been activated, then attempted to activate again), the manager agreed to refund my money for the second card.  GREAT, that was much easier than I thought.  Oh, and since I was here, why not pick up another couple of cards – another $413.90 down, this time without exception.

Morale of the above story – keep all documentation of all transactions – at LEAST until the transactions have been cycled and converted back to cash.  I’m conservative, so I have begun keeping all records of everything in one filing box.


I only wish my Colossal Fail was as easy as the above.

This one is straightforward.  Somehow, on one of my cards that I put a significant amount of Manufactured spend on, I didn’t pay the balance in full on my December statement.  Wham, $97 in finance charges on the unpaid balance.  Ouch, that hurts!  That significantly increased my cost to generate miles.  Can I “earn” this money back via manufactured spending on a cash back card?  Sure.  Will it be quick and easy?  Certainly not.  It will take me approximately $8k in manufactured spend on my 2% cash back card to earn back these fees.  This is a mistake I sincerely hope I do not make again.


This game is exciting, but not without it’s pitfalls and traps if you are not extremely careful!