I Have Changed My Views on Manufactured Spend


My kid with Vanilla goodies. Can you tell the name of the hotel where this pic is taken?

Warning: Manufactured Spend is an advanced technique used either to obtain miles and points or for monetary gains. To all my readers who don’t know what I’m talking about here, please do not dive in. You need to read a lot on the topic to avoid dire consequences. Yes, really!

UPDATE: Vanilla Reloads are no longer available at the CVS store mentioned in this post. Congrats to every smart MS gamer who’s figured out my secret CVS location and killed the deal for me. No, not bitter at all… 🙁

Over the last year and a half, since my first book got out, I have received numerous emails from my book and blog-readers alike with different variations of the same questions:

  • why don’t I cover Manufactured Spend;
  • why don’t I cover airline and hotel promotions;
  • why don’t I cover mileage runs.

I always respond to every email I receive, but emails containing critique are high-priority and receive my undivided attention. Since I often have to respond to the same questions, my answer normally boils down to this.

I cover topics that are interesting to me.

Allow me to elaborate on this.

Regarding Manufactured Spend

The problem: I live in NYC, and doing manufactured spend is really hard here. Vanilla Reloads are far and between (please forgive me for not speaking in code, but I find it silly, albeit entertaining), and Walmarts don’t exist within NYC limits. Of course, there are other MS avenues, but they are cumbersome; they often get shut down; they require a great deal of a work and time invested; and simply speaking I don’t want this hobby to run my life. And besides, I’m always busy meeting credit card spend requirements.

Regarding miles and points promotions.

The problem: airline and hotel promos are great, but they require paid flights and stays. Now, I rarely do paid flights and stays. When I pay for flights, it’s only when I find the fares so cheaply that using miles becomes expensive in comparison. When I pay for hotels, it’s either on Priceline, or when I have to stay at a particular hotel for reasons lying beyond my control, like family functions. Boy, I wish they gave me points and miles for award travel…

Regarding Mileage Runs.

The problem: the primary reason for mileage runs is to obtain and maintain status. I don’t care about status and neither should you unless you’re a business flyer. For leisure travelers, this is a sucker game. You will spend more time and way more money chasing the status than if you just concentrate on getting free travel in the first place. Want to fly in business? Book an award!

There are other reasons to do mileage runs, of course. Some folks see it as buying miles cheaply when an extraordinary fare becomes available. I don’t do these either, as I prefer to get my miles for free via credit card sign up bonuses. While I’ve done a few mileage runs, it was mostly because I simply wanted to go there on a bargain airfare.

So What’s Changed?

I’ve changed my mind in light of hard evidence. Not on mileage runs. And not on miles and points promotions. But I have decided to try my hand in Manufactured Spend for a few months, and see how well or badly I fare. In the end, staying too lazy and rejecting an exciting opportunity is not a virtue, it’s stubbornness. While I am stubborn, I don’t want to feel stupid about myself.

Here is what gave me the well-needed nudge in the right direction. One of my readers who happens to live in my neck of the wood gave me a lowdown on a CVS store located within 15 minutes from my house. And it even gets better. I drive past this store every weekend when I take my kid to her grandparents. Not once had it occurred to me to go in and simply ask, hey guys, how about them Vanilla reloads…

So, I went ahead and purchased the VR cards with a “civilian” (LOL) Citi Dividend credit card that gives me a 5% bonus for drugstores in the first quarter. That’s right: for the first time in many years of App-o-Ramas, I have forgone a bonus-earning card in favor of a 5% category bonus.

Worth it? $5,000 times 5% is $250. After $39.50 in fees ($3.95 per load, my profit will be roughly $210. Since that CVS was along my route anyway, I estimate the total time I spent buying VRs was well under 30 minutes. That includes calling Citi (so they don’t block my unusually high $5,000 transaction), parking my car, making the purchase, and walking in and out of the store. I have loaded four cards so far on their website (2 and 2), and it took me under 2-3 minutes each time. Even if we round the total time to buy and load 10 cards to 45-50 minutes, that’s still like making $210 in under an hour. You know what? I’m not a high-power attorney, and that time/earn ratio works for me just fine. Here are a few steps I’m going to do next.

  • Sign my wife up for Bluebird, too.
  • Open up two more accounts with Amazon for wife and me (we have two right now)
  • Do the next app-o-Rama of a different kind for both of us concentrating on the best cashback credit cards that would ideally allow 5% bonus at CVS;
  • Try to find PowerPay/ReloadIt cards that can be purchased with credit cards. I don’t really hold my breath, though, it appears, these cards are even harder to get than VRs.
  • Read, read, read, including the reading on how to protect myself from an account closure! There are other ways of doing MS than Bluebird and Vanilla.

To answer the requests I know I will receive—sorry, can’t disclose the location of the Brooklyn CVS store stocked with VRs. As much as I love sharing information, this is not my secret, and I promised my reader not to tell anyone about it. Imagine every Vanilla-starved Brooklynite descend on this little store. How long do you think it will take them to stop being stocked—permanently?

As I’m exploring other avenues of manufacturing cash, not just points and miles, I intend to do my best to avoid cumbersome projects that go against my life principles—not to allow this hobby to run my life and not to work for peanuts. I will post some of my findings here, and if I find some things too hot to post on the blog, I will bring those topics up in my newsletter. So please subscribe, stay tuned and please share your thoughts, too. I mean, emails are great and I love them, but there is a reason why we have a comments section right here.

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Which Citi card did you use & is it still available?

Nice thing with the Citi Dividend cards is you can earn the annual $300 cash back all in one quarter. I am done for the year with mine. Haven’t seen a VR in NYC for over a month, though, at stores on my regular route.


I guess we’re lucky in CA in that I have four CVS stores within 10 minutes of me all loaded with Vanilla… Good luck!

Lishomwa Henry

I hate jerks as yourself. “Its not my secret so I can’t tell” If so keep the secret to yourself and stop bragging about it, moron.


Whoa. Doesn’t take much to get your motor running. Take a chill, bro.


Did you have luck opening a second Amazon account? I’ve debated doing that for a long time but never actually pulled the trigger on it.

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