Charlotte preview: Miscellany

Since I'm currently trying my best to move out of my current apartment, this will probably be my last full blog post before our get-together in Charlotte this weekend. Unless I change my mind. Do follow me on Twitter for live updates from the event, and because Twitter's fun.

This week, I explained how I used Vanilla-reloadables, Visa Buxx, and PayPal My Cash cards to manufacture the bulk of the $43,000 that ended up counting towards the manufactured spending competition I participated in this March. In addition, I did manufacture some spend in new or different ways than usual, and want to share some of that information here.

Staples Gift Cards

I hate the whole gift card racket, and resisted joining in it for a long time. A lot of people say they like spend they can manufacture sitting at their computer, but not me: I prefer to go out and buy something physical that I can keep track of and be responsible for depositing, liquidating, etc. The whole idea of relying on the US Postal Service or UPS for a smooth cycle of spend is antithetical to me.

But, it is very lucrative.

So in March I continued my experiments with Staples $100 gift cards, purchased using my US Bank Club Carlson Business card, which gives 1% cash back on Staples purchases over $200. Ultimately I ended up liquidating those gift cards by paying actual bills using Evolve Money, rather than turning them back into cash.

American Express Gift Cards

I also made my first American Express gift card purchases. I really dislike the whole rigamarole of clicking through portals, checking and double-checking address information, and then having to wait with bated breath to find out whether my order was even approved. If it is, terrific, I get to wait around at home so I can sign for the cards when they finally arrive.

But, it is very lucrative.

So I began experimenting with those, and ended up earning some points and cash back that way as well, although the long turnaround time made it next-to-useless for the purposes of the competition itself.

Alaska Airlines debit card

We found out earlier this year that the Bank of America Alaska Airlines debit card would be retired on May 31 (3 weeks left!). While I did have the card, and was already using it casually, the news that the card would be going away really inspired me to get as much value from the card as possible while it was still around.

I had previously split my Walmart activities between money orders and bill payments more or less randomly, depending on my mood and whether I had an upcoming payment due date. But in March, I resolved to push every single dollar of Walmart bill payments through my rewards-earning debit card, and ended up earning over 17,000 Alaska miles during the month, worth $265 at Frequent Miler's fair trading price of 1.56 cents each.

Unfortunately, as I explained during the competition, virtually none of those miles ended up counting towards my final score, since for any given dollar of "bankroll" remaining at the end of the day, I'd be better off counting credit card spend instead of debit card rewards.


The March manufactured spending competition was a very rewarding experience for me: it helped me raise my game, inspired me to try out some techniques I had only read about before, and introduced me to a lot of great bloggers off the beaten path.

Now I'm really looking forward to meeting some of those bloggers and many of our readers in Charlotte, where I hope to learn a whole lot more!