How Do I Maximize Credit Card Rewards for Large Purchases?

Sep 20, 2015

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here.

TPG Reader Jaren sent me a message on Facebook to ask about how to maximize a large upcoming purchase:

“I’m planning for a $25,000 home remodel. What’s the best credit card strategy to take advantage of this kind of spending? I have SPG Platinum and United 1K status, though I’m interested in the AAdvantage program and am considering a status match.

They say you have to spend money to make money, and that holds true when it comes to travel rewards. Large expenses like auto repairs, appliances and even tax payments present golden opportunities to earn points and miles, and it helps to have a good strategy in place to maximize them.

Jaren is planning to remodel his home, so unlike in the case of an emergency repair, he has time to figure out his best course of action. Generally, you can use big purchases to help you meet spending requirements for credit card sign-up bonuses, or to earn spending bonuses, like elite status, companion tickets and more. Sign-up bonuses tend to offer a better return, and since Jaren already has top-tier status with Starwood and United, I think there’s less incentive to aim for status elsewhere.

There are plenty of sign-up bonuses to choose from, and if you can spread your payments over multiple cards, then $25,000 worth of spending should be enough to earn several of them. I would start by looking at your upcoming travel plans to see if you can address any gaps in your current travel rewards portfolio. For example, if you’re headed to Paris and want to try out the Park Hyatt Paris-Vendôme, you could stock up on Hyatt free nights and points with the Hyatt Credit Card and an Ultimate Rewards card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card.

Paris Eiffel Tower Night Featured shutterstock 150496139
Your travel plans can help you decide which rewards to focus on. Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

If you don’t have a specific goal in mind, there are two good options. One is to go for the biggest bonuses out there, like the one that just launched on the British Airways Visa Signature Card for a total of 100,000 Avios: 50,000 after spending $2,000 within the first three months of account opening, plus 25,000 more when you spend $10,000 on purchases made within the first year, and another 25,000 Avios when you spend $20,000 total on purchases within your first year of account opening.

Another big bonus is 75,000 American Airlines miles from the Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard after spending $7,500 in the first 3 months. That card helps on two fronts, since you’ll bank a ton of miles and get to try out the Admirals Club. You can also find increased targeted bonuses for The Platinum Card® from American Express and others via the CardMatch tool. The high spending requirements won’t be a problem.

The other option is to focus on transferable points, which will come in handy down the line. Cards like the Sapphire Preferred or  Citi Premier® Card effectively let you earn rewards in more than one program, since you can redeem with a variety of airline and hotel partners.

My one last bit of advice is to make sure you don’t overextend yourself. If you’re hiring a contractor, double check that you can use a credit card as payment. It would be a shame to open new accounts only to find out that your home improvements won’t help you meet the spending requirements. Also, make sure you have the cash on hand to pay your bill in its entirety, as any interest you accrue can eat into the value of your rewards.

If you have any other questions, please tweet me @thepointsguy, message me on Facebook or send me an email at

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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.