Top 10 Ways To Meet Credit Card Bonus Minimum Spending Requirements

by on March 18, 2014 · 29 comments

in Credit Cards, Top 10

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A lot of readers have applied for the 100,000-mile bonus on the Citi Executive AAdvantage card since it appeared a couple months ago and are now thinking of ways to meet the minimum spending requirement of $10,000 in 3 months. In my own recent round of applications, I was approved for four cards – the Citi Executive AAdvantage Mastercard (100,000 miles – $10,000 in 3 months), the Chase Ink Plus (50,000 points – $5,000 in 3 months), the Barclaycard Arrival (40,000 miles – $3,000 in 3 months) and the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature (40,000 miles – $10,000 in 6 months). All that means in order to earn the 230,000 bonus miles and points that are potentially within my reach I’ve got to make $18,000 in eligible purchases in the next 3 months and another $10,000 within 6 months for a total minimum spend requirement of $28,000. Here are some of the strategies I am going to use to meet it.

1. Bluebird: Amex Bluebird is a checking/debit alternative, and has quickly become one of the best ways to rack up points and miles on expenses for which you cannot otherwise use credit cards. Once you sign up for Bluebird and activate your account, you can fund it by purchasing Vanilla Reloads at a retailer like CVS that will let you buy them using points-earning credit cards in denominations up to $500 for $3.95 per card. Once you have loaded the value of the Vanilla Reload into your Bluebird account, you can cut checks from there either through the electronic bill pay service or by writing a physical check (just as you would with a normal checking account) for expenses like mortgage, car leases, insurance premiums and more. The one drawback here is that you are limited to loading $5,000 in Vanilla Reloads onto your Bluebird per calendar month (rather than rolling month); this means that you can only meet $15,000 of your minimum spend this way, and you can only have a balance of $10,000 at a time from sources other than check-by-mail or direct deposit. Still, thanks to the versatility of Bluebird and the $5,000 monthly limit, it’s a great way to make eligible purchases with your points-earning credit card and then put that money to use paying bills.

2. Electronic Payment Services: Instead of using checks to pay people, there are a couple payment systems out there that will use your credit card to pay other individuals instead without posting as cash advances. I personally use Amazon Payments for legitimate personal and business spending needs. I simply charge the money I want to spend to my points-earning credit card, and the recipient can direct deposit the value directly to a linked bank account. However, you  must be careful not to abuse this feature by doing things like shifting thousands of dollars back and forth between people each month or Amazon will shut down your account. There is no charge for this service, but there is a monthly limit of $1,000 sent and received per account. This is a great way to put a little extra spending on your cards – for instance by paying for a group dinner or vacation rental and then having your friends or family pay you back.

Amazon Payments can help you make credit card payments to individuals.

Amazon Payments can help you make credit card payments to individuals.

3. Gift cards: This is one of the quickest and easiest ways to rack up eligible purchases quickly because you’re pretty much just buying money to use later. Gift cards, like those offered by Amex and Visa, can be purchased at all kinds of merchants like drug stores, supermarkets, gas stations and more. You can usually find them in either set denominations or as variable-load cards where you can choose how much to put on them. There is usually a limit of $500 and a fee of between $3.95-$7.95 to purchase these. What’s great is that many of these products are now offering PIN capability. So they will function as debit cards and can be used for all kinds of transactions where credit cards are not accepted, such as paying taxes or utilities, opening up even more possibilities to put your spending power to use. Note: Some credit card companies, like Citi, will charge gift card purchases as cash advances. You should always do a test order before getting carried away.

4. Taxes: Figuring out your 2013 taxes and how to pay them? Well, if you’ve been doing it by check or cash, you’ve been wasting points. For property and state taxes, you can use Official Payments as a third party service, while for federal taxes, check the IRS list of tax payment service providers, many of whom accept payment by credit card. Just beware the convenience fees many of them charge since these may negate the value of points you earn—though if it’s for earning a massive minimum-spend bonus, it can still be worth it. For my updated post on paying 2013 taxes with credit cards, check out this post.

There are plenty of tax payment services that will let you use a points-earning credit card.

There are plenty of tax payment services that will let you use a points-earning credit card.

5. Mortage, Rent and Car Payments: Many banks and financial institutions require consumers to pay their mortgage, rent and car loans by check or directly through a bank account – no credit cards allowed. However, there are services such as Charge Smart or WilliamPaid that allow you to make such payments by credit card – though you generally pay a 3% fee. For the most part this might not be worth it since a 3% fee can outweigh the value of any bonus points you might earn from it, but if you are looking to hit minimum spend for a huge sign-up bonus, it could definitely be worth chipping in a little extra. Just be sure the bank or finance company that holds your loan will accept payments through such services.

6. Dining: Pretty much any restaurant you go to these days accepts major credit cards, so if there’s one area you should be using your cards to make purchases, it’s dining. Not only that, but many credit cards offer dining category spending bonuses like the Sapphire Preferred‘s 2x per $1 and the Hyatt card‘s 2x per $1. Plus many of the major airlines including American and United have dining networks that allow you to earn double points, and up to five points per dollar spent at participating restaurants, so be sure your cards are registered. See here all about double dipping with dining programs, and check out this post on Maximizing Dining Spend.

Double dip on dining expenses.

Double dip on dining expenses.

7. Utilities: Though some major utility companies still require you to link your account to a bank account for payment, more and more are letting customers pay their monthly bills using credit cards, so be sure to check with your utility providers to see if they already do so, or plan to. Cable and phone companies almost always let you pay with a credit card, so be sure you have linked a points-earning card to your accounts with them; if you have a card that offers bonuses on telecommunications and/or internet providers, like the Ink Bold and Ink Plus, you could be earning multiple points per $1 on your monthly expenses.

8. Other Expenses: I always say that paying cash for things is like burning up money. You’re just wasting your points-earning potential by not putting every possible purchase on a credit card. Now in order to do this, you must be responsible and in good financial shape, and you must be prepared to pay off your balances in full every month because the APR on balances will far outweigh the value of any points you might earn. Still, if you’re financially sound and have no trouble meeting your expenses, there’s no reason every purchase you make can’t be on a points-earning card and help you rack up those miles even faster. Plus, many credit cards offer spending threshold bonuses where if you meet a certain level of spend, you earn bonus points or benefits. For instance, with the American Express Premier Rewards Gold card (on which you also earn 3 points per dollar on flights booked directly with airlines, 2 points per dollar on US supermarkets, and one point per dollar on other transactions) you earn 15,000 bonus points when you spend $30,000 on purchases in a calendar year, boosting your points-earning by up to 50%, so by really concentrating your spending and paying attention to threshold bonuses, you can rack up even more points.

Put all possible purchases on a points-earning card.

Put all possible purchases on a points-earning card.

9. Charity: Though a lot of people tend to make charitable donations at the end of the year, if you’re looking at your tax statement now and thinking you could have done more, think about getting a head start on your charity giving this year by charging them to a points-earning credit card rather than just writing a check. Some credit cards even give category spending bonuses on charitable donations, like the US Bank Flexperks Travel Rewards Visa, which earns 3X points per $1 on such donations. Plus, you might as well get a tax deduction on top of your bonus points and the ability to meet minimum spend.

10. Get Reimbursed For Business Expenses: Though I recommend getting a business credit card to help keep your personal and business expenses separate, if you’re in a pinch and have a limited time window to meet minimum spending on a new credit card, it could be worth using a personal credit card for business expenses and getting reimbursed – or hey, if one of your new credit cards is a business card like the Ink Plus or Business Gold Rewards, then you should start putting your work purchases on it immediately anyway. Check in with your employer to see if that is possible, and be very careful not to bite off more than you can chew since it can take a while to get reimbursed by a corporate accounting department and you’re the one who’s going to get stuck with the bill until that check comes through!

With such great credit card bonuses out there right now, it’s a great time to apply for some new points-earning credit cards. Just make sure you can meet the minimum spending requirements to earn those bonuses and be smart about how you do it.

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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  • Justin

    Another timely post for me Bri. I just hit the annual spend on the Hilton Reserve and the Fairmont card using VR and Amazon Payments. Now I have to decide what card to use next to go after annual spend req’s.

  • Sam

    TPG- I noticed the link to the Alaska Air 40K bonus miles is only for Elite members. Have you heard whether or not non-elites are receiving the bonuses? Thanks

  • Priyank Nevatia

    Hey Points Guy … I have been meaning to write to you to discuss a easy way to spend the minimum requirement on credit cards. When I came across this article, I knew it was time that I got myself to write to you.

    Well here is what I have been doing, So I have a trading account with multiple brokers across USA. They all allow using your credit card to fund your account. It is clearly mentioned in the terms and conditions that any account being funded by credit card shall show up as being a purchase on the credit card and not a balance transfer.

    So in the last two years this is what I have done. I withdraw lets say 10k from my trading account into my bank account. I use my credit card to fund my trading account by 10k. And I use the 10k I withdrew before swiping my card to pay the bill for the credit card. It is completely legit and works.

    Some brokers do not allow you to transfer funds to a bank account when you have used your credit card to fund the account. But in those cases they have a period for which you cannot do so. For example, MBTrading will not allow you to fund your trading account with a credit card and then transfer the money into your bank account for 90 days. It will transfer the funds back to the credit card. But there are ways to get around that too. If you happen to loose your card or cancel it, the brokers have no choice but to transfer the money into your bank account.

    And the best part is, these brokers dont charge you anything for funding your account with a credit card. I have transferred over $50000 to meet the minimum spend requirements on various credit cards.

    Note: Most brokers do not accept Amex cards. Very few do

    P.S If you would verify this and share it with your audience, I would feel like I have done my part in contributing to the great community of Mile collectors.

  • dee seiffer

    I tested out Amazon payments with a small payment using my Chase Sapphire card and got charged for a cash advance. Has that happened to anyone else?

  • ThorneStockton

    When you sent the money, did you check that it was for goods and services? I believe that’s how you avoid the cash advance.

  • Graydon

    I’m confused (not really). In #7 above you say something about earning points for telecommunications and cable on an Ink card for the multiple points per dollar and yet in #10 you recommend having a business card to keep your personal and business spend separate. Those two points conflict each other.

    But I do it all the time. As a sole proprietor I have a slew of business cards and a business checking account (and an actual business that I earns me a living). I regularly put business spend on personal cards and personal spend on business cards. The card issuers really don’t care as long as the bill is paid. When it comes time to pay the bill I add up all the personal spend on a business card and pay that portion of the bill from my personal checking account. The remaining balance I pay from my business account. It takes a little effort but if ever audited it’s a clear path of keeping the funds separate. When you get a new card it does not take much longer to add two checking accounts for online payments (one personal and one business).

  • r0m8470

    TPG – on Amazon Payments – is the limit on calendar month or is it on a 30 day period?

  • Locke42

    Telecommunications spending isn’t necessarily for business. I spend about $100/month on my personal cellphone and internet; that’s 500 points/month or 6,000 points a year, which is small but significant.

  • dee seiffer

    Thanks. I don’t recall. I’ll try again.

  • bob cobb

    Could you share if you know any other brokers besides MBTrading that do this? Seems risky like a lot of cards might qualify this is a cash transfer instead of a purchase, but I’m intrigued.

  • Priyank Nevatia

    Any internet broker will do it. I have used MBTrading FXCM Alpari in the last two years. Its safe. The only thing is you can use afford to let money sit in your trading account for 60 days – 90 days before you can withdraw it.

  • scottco

    I just tried a $5.00 test amazon payment from my Chase Sapphire, and it shows in the temporary transactions that it is a normal transaction (not a cash advance). I selected “goods and services” an Amazon payments (which is the default selection.)

  • Guest

    Calendar month

  • Yati

    Amazon Payments is by calendar month

  • Fanfoot

    Time to update this post a little.

    The Bluebird stuff should at least include a mention of Serve, given that Serve might now be a better option for a lot of people given the ability to load it directly from credit card.

    In the mortgage category rather than suggestion WilliamPaid given that their exorbitant fees make it not worth while in general you might want to mention Evolve, which you can use to pay many mortgages with debit gift cards. You need to work at it a little if your mortgage is over $1,000 but its a lot cheaper, and can be used for car payments as well.

  • Steve

    Do you actually trade in those accounts or do you simply fund them and withdraw after 90 days? Thanks.

  • Graydon

    Understood and me too – but Brian is pointing out using the Ink business card to pay them to get multiple points per $ and then two sections down points out how he recommends keeping business and personal spend separate. It’s one or the other.

  • Richard
  • doctorofcredit

    Calendar month

  • rob

    How much do you recommend charging each month on any credit card from vanilla reloads?

  • Sandy

    Wouldn’t loading Serve directly be viewed as a cash advance?

  • Jim

    Alright, help me out here, friends! Being an Amazon customer, it was simple and easy to set up a Payments account. I did the Bluebird thing until Walgreens stopped the ability to buy VR with Credit cards.

    I have verified everything, and ready to go on Amazon. However, I can’t simply “add funds” from my UAL Chase card. It asks for a bank account, unless I am “sending” money. If I try to send money, it asks for an email address or alias. It would be nice to be able to use this.

    I thought I saw a reload card option there somewhere, but can’t find it.

    Thanks in advance!

  • jdm2u2u

    After a friend was charged a cash transaction fee on his Chase Sapphire Preferred for Amazon Payments (using “goods and services”), I checked my recent terms on my Sapphire, and it says “cash-like transactions treated as cash advances include…. and making a payment using a third party service”

  • RedbullF1fan

    Chase is cool. Charges the Serve load as a purchase. Test a few bucks.

  • Jane

    Are there any creative ways that I can pay a monthly nursing home bill (5K)? They do not accept credit cards. I would love to be able to put that amount on a credit card every month and earn rewards.

  • Dan Hermsen

    I have a question. Does the 90 days towards receiving credit card bonus points start when you apply or when you activate the card? Could I apply for the card during the bonus period and wait to activate it to make sure I could meet minimum spend?

  • thepointsguy

    When approvwd

  • CCNewb28

    Priyank, do you actual have to trade on these accounts in order to do this?

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