Reader Email Sundays: What is the Best Way to Increase Credit Card Spend At Lowest Cost?

by on July 3, 2011 · 19 comments

in Credit Cards, Sunday Reader Questions

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TPG Reader Sean writes:

I am new to the Frequent Flyer mile arena and I’m hoping to take advantage of the great information at sites like yours.

The problem is I don’t rack up a ton of credit card charges.  Thankfully our monthly charges aren’t that much and since it’s just my wife and I we don’t have exorbitant grocery or gas expenses.  I’d like to sign up for the SPG card and take advantage of the extra 15K points for reaching $15,000 in 6 months but there is absolutely no way we’ll get there through our normal monthly expenditure.  How can I rack up more expenses without buying new TVs or other stuff I don’t need?

Thanks for all your insight and help!”

TPG Response:
Unfortunately there is no magical way to accrue free credit card charges without assuming the liability to pay off the bill. If that were the case, everyone could charge millions of dollars of a year and get an unlimited cache of valuable miles and points.

However, savvy people have worked the system and found ways to minimize the cost of earning miles via credit card spend, though none are truly free. Most have risks associated with them and can be time-consuming, so do your research before you go crazy with any of them.

1) Buy US Mint coins. I have personally never done this, though I know many people who have. Mr. Pickles wrote about it here and you can also read this lengthy Flyertalk thread here or this Wall Street Journal article here.
Upside: Credit card spend at a very low cost
Downside: Debatable ethics, hassle of lugging coins to a bank and convincing them to accept your deposit, possible risk of getting banned from a bank if they find your activity abusive.

2) Pay your spouse for “payments” using a payment service like or Serve. There are usually fees involved, but some will waive them for introductory periods. I do not do this, so I can’t speak from experience, but if you read those threads you’ll get an understanding of how some people are using payments as a way to hit spend requirements.

3) Buy gift cards and then sell them for cash. You probably won’t get 100% value for them, but you can get close (just search Ebay for past sales). American Express gift cards are great for gifts though there is no way, that I know, to turn them into cash directly at 100% value.

I’m sure there are other creative ways that people have thought up to increase spend with relatively little cost or time incurred, so feel free to comment on your techniques.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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  • Kris

    This probably goes without saying, but just in case… pay any and all bills with your credit card– cable, utilities, cell phone, any recurring charges like a gym membership or NetFlix type service. You can pay your car/home insurance bill on your card… if you have your payments scheduled for 2 or 3 times a year, since if you can change it to one lump sum. Absolutely every mile/dollar will help. And don’t forget, should you decide to pull the trigger… the spending period period begins the day you are APPROVED for the card, not the day you receive or activate!

  • Vishal

    You can use Amazon payments to send 1000 dollars a month to your friend from your credit card without any fees.

  • Pingback: Shifting Future Consumption and Spending Requirements | Beating the Banks()

  • tassojunior

    Costco cash cards can be refunded in store so long as you only do a very few.

  • Global Explat

    The question poster should sign up for the SPG card but forget the additional bonus after $15,000 spend. You still get a 10,000 pt bonus without that. If you do find you have more spending ability, then sign up for more, different cards with other signup bonuses. Most only require $1500 spend or so. Also, some people discuss buying gift credit cards, not necessarily to sell for cash, but to get the spend right now so you get the bonus. Then you can use the gift card over a longer period of time. But you do need to have cash to pay for them. And do read up on whether the spend counts for your particular card- as I understand it this is not always the case.

  • Mike

    I can’t believe you never bought a single box of coins. Granted in NYC its a little harder to lug them to the bank.

  • SgFm

    Any idea what denomination(s), and total $ to qualify as “a very few”?

  • Anonymous

    I know, right? I sometimes feel like I’m missing out, but I honestly just don’t want to deal with it and I have enough miles/points to more than handle my travel needs. I’d rather stick with monster credit card bonuses instead of hours of hassle. But I can totally see why so many people do it.

  • J Keith van Straaten

    Could you also just buy amazon gift cards and send to your own alternate email address?

  • Jim

    Thanks for this tip. How do you do it?

  • Richard

    Pay EVERYTHING you can with a credit card that doesn’t charge a fee or the fee charges is less than the value of the points (to you)…

    Insurances, electricity, cable, phone(s), internet, taxes, groceries, dining, gas, etc…

    And if you do coins, pay everything that takes cash with coins: property taxes, state & local income taxes, church, charity, etc…

    I ACH my health insurance and the credit card bills. Oh, and federal income tax. And that’s about it.

  • Solomon

    Amazon Payments is free as far as I can tell

  • Andrew Nelson

    How do you use a card you don’t have yet?

  • Vishal

    @Jim: You register your credit card with Amazon payments and send 1000 dollars a month to your friend/relative/whomever. That counts as a purchase and there are no fees currently up to the 1000 dollar limit a month of sending or receiving.

  • Vishal

    @ J Keith: I have not used it myself. So I can’t really add anything.

  • Phil

    Lot of different options here, to name a few:

    Look at all of your spending, ANY time you take out cash via an ATM or write a check, see why. Most people look at “little things” as not worth it, but they add up. Paying lunch via a debit card should be a crime

    Prepay utilities. Depending on your cash flow, if you know you’re going to owe $150 in electric bills per month, pay $1,000 now to get the points. And, obviously, have all of your utilities on your credit card

    Use your card for trusted friend or relatives who are not into points (or who have bad credit). Have them hand you a check when they book a flight, and use your card for the payment. Obviously this is based on trust, but if other peolpe are making big ticket purchases, and are willing to give you the points, take advantage of it

    If your planning a trip, prepay expenses now. Helps also in that when you travel, you’ve already paid off a good chunk of what you’d owe

    Biz expenses. A lot of biz expenses can be padi by you, if the other poeple you work/travel with let you be the person charging. You know you’ll get the cash back with your expense report, so advertise the fact you want to be the person charging.

    This is only the tip of the iceberg, the more you think about it, the more options you’ll find you have.

  • Sean Buchanan

    Hey everybody I’m Sean that asked the original question. I have done some more research on the Amazon Payments method suggested by Vishal & Soloman. I stumbled onto the link below with more information and will be commencing the $1000/month payments ASAP.

    Thank you for all your help!

  • foofiter

    You don’t. He was simply stating that you may have less time to meet the spending requirement than you think. If you are approved today and get the card 5 days later… you have 5 less days to meet it.

  • Andrew Nelson

    I understand now. Thank you for the clarification.

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