I’ll be the first to say that manufactured spending is not a regular part of my points-generating strategy. Not only do I find it extremely time-consuming, I also despise stepping foot in any Walmart.
I admire people who have mastered the art of manufactured spending and have dedicated the time, patience, and organization it truly requires. With my life being pulled in so many different directions, it’s just not for me.
With that being said, I do live within a mile of a Staples that almost never has more than two cars in the parking lot at any given time, so I’m easily tempted, and it’s hard to pass up on “free” and “easy points sometimes.
Like many, I took part in using my Chase Ink Business Cash card (Learn More) to buy some $200 MasterCard gift cards during the fee-free promotion that was going on at Staples at the end of April. Earning 5 points per dollar, and 19 cards later, I spent $3,800 on gift cards to generate 19,000 “free” Ultimate Rewards points. Not bad, right?
Though MS is not a regular part of my daily life, I’m not a novice to the various ways one can quickly liquidate the cards – I just didn’t want to really dedicate the time to doing so in a timely manner. I decided to bypass all of the hassle, and just use the cards one by one on regular expenses. Mistake?
I was managing the cards well and was thrilled that as of last night, I only had 6 left to worry about. When I saw that Walmart.com was offering $100 Uber e-gift cards for just $80 each, I thought it was a perfect opportunity to spend one of those bad boys since I use Uber on a fairly regular basis.
I quickly ripped the card from its packaging and went to the dedicated website to “register” my card so that I could use it to make an online purchase.
To my horror, I saw I only had an available balance of $19.92 on a brand new gift card!
Looking at the transaction history, I saw about 10 transactions that were definitely not mine. Whoever it was though definitely had me craving some In N Out.
I immediately called the number on the back of my card and explained that I had the card in my possession, fresh out of the packaging, and saw that it was hacked only because I went to register it online.
The agent transferred me to a supervisor that went and disputed the charges, but I still have to send additional information such as my name, address, phone number, signature, and a written statement stating that none of those charges are mine via fax.
After that, I have to send another fax asking to replace my card. To add salt to the wound, I later found out that it would be subject to a $5.95 card replacement fee.
By the way, I missed out on the $80 Uber gift card deal too.
Loss of time and patience aside, there are a lot of risks to consider before jumping on the MS bandwagon.
Gift card fraud is more common that you think and it truly is a pain in the butt to deal with if it even happens to you.
In my case, since they were all in-person transactions, I think the fraudsters took the prepaid card from the rack and skimmed (copied the magnetic swipe data) from one card to another card and then waited for my skimmed card to be activated.
Once it was activated, they had an exact copy of the activated card and used it at their leisure.
Has this ever happened to you before? Feel free to share your thoughts and stories in the comments.