The points & miles world is abuzz with talk about a memo titled “Manufactured Spending Policy” that reportedly went out to Walmart employees. The memo states that Walmart has decided to stop allowing manufactured spending transactions starting December 19th, 2020 (this coming Saturday). It appears that rather than automating the process, Walmart is leaving it up to their employees to identify and stop these transactions.
Here’s the text of the memo:
Effective: December 19, 2020
Manufactured spending or rewards points churning is the practice of using a credit or debit card that earns rewards to buy cash like products (Money Orders, Gift Cards, Bill Payment), and then using those cash like products to pay off the credit card balance or deposit them directly into their bank account. Manufactured spenders seek to do this activity because rewards earned are often greater than the fees incurred for buying the cash-like products.
This activity creates significant customer service and operational impacts for our stores due to the lengthy nature of the transactions. As a result, Walmart has decided not to allow manufactured spending transactions. If you become aware that a customer is engaging in manufactured spending transactions, that activity should be stopped.
If you think you are witnessing manufactured spending you should decline to process the transaction.
If you have questions, please consult with your supervisor for assistance, and/or reach out to your Regional Ethics and Compliance Director
This could be an elaborate hoax, but my bet is that the memo is real. Opportunities for manufacturing spend at Walmart have been dripping away for quite a while. Since this policy is left to employees to enforce, it’s not really the “final nail,” but it’s certainly a huge hit.
As a general go-forward approach, those who have relied on Walmart for manufactured spending have a few options:
- Pay to increase spend. There are often ways to pay bills via credit card but where you have to pay a fee. For example, Plastiq charges 2.85% to pay bills by credit card. This is worth doing only if you are getting a big spend bonus that more than makes up for that fee. However, if you mainly collect rewards through big credit card welcome bonuses, it can be a great approach to doing so.
- Look for local opportunities. Options for buying money orders or paying bills with debit gift cards are mostly local these days. People have found options that work at regional chains or independent stores. The way to find these is to experiment yourself and to try to find others in your geographical area to work with. If you want it to last, share what you find with each other, but not with the internet.
- Experiment with new options. New reloadable cards, money sending services, and bill payment services pop up all the time. And sometimes old services add new functionality. If you’re lucky and persistent, you may find something that does what you need.
Manufactured Spending is not illegal. The Walmart memo indirectly confirms this by explaining that their reason for stopping it is because of the “lengthy nature of the transactions.” If they thought it was illegal, they would have said so. That said, manufactured spending techniques have become harder and harder to find, especially ones that are available nationwide. When profitable techniques become well known, they inevitably get shut down. My advice: find a tight network to share ideas and findings, then keep what you find to yourselves.
See also: Manufactured Spending Complete Guide