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How I hit my Delta Gold Card welcome bonus with changing spending habits

Aug. 28, 2020
7 min read
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Like many of you, the coronavirus pandemic threw a wrench into my 2020 plans and spending habits. While this year would have originally included heavy spending on travel, dining out, entertainment and moving expenses, I had to switch up my earning strategy. I've been fortunate in that this year of staying at home — while certainly not "fun" for this travel-hungry extrovert — has been mostly an opportunity for me to save money. My savings account has thanked me, but my rewards accounts have been less thrilled.

Earlier this year, I applied for the Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card after the card was revamped with a limited-time offer (no longer available) of 60,000 miles after spending $2,000 in the first three months, plus an additional 10,000 miles after my first account anniversary — view this page for the current offer. Under normal circumstances, it would be incredibly easy to hit this bonus in three months through Delta spending and dining. But with no travel plans on the horizon and an overall lower budget in two out of three of the card's bonus categories, it was definitely more complicated to hit this bonus without sacrificing major rewards from other travel credit cards.

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Here was my approach.

Taking advantage of the three-month extension

Luckily, American Express was one of the earliest card issuers to offer temporary perks to cardholders during COVID-19. Back in April, Amex announced that new cardholders who applied any time between Dec. 1, 2019, and May 31, 2020 would have an additional three months to hit welcome bonus spending requirements. This was an automatic game changer, because it gave me a total of six months to spend that $2,000 rather than just three.

It is worth noting that some people have had issues with getting the extension honored if they applied near the end of May but weren't approved until after May 31. However, the terms of the original extension are crystal clear:

"You’ll receive the extension if you applied for Card by May 31, 2020 and were approved at a subsequent date."

If you've been denied a welcome bonus for this reason, you should be able to get that overturned to get your bonus.

(Photo by Wyatt Smith/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Wyatt Smith/The Points Guy)

Using temporary bonus offers

I have the American Express® Gold Card, which offers 4x points at U.S. supermarkets (up to $25,000 per calendar year; then 1x) and for dining at restaurants. Since the Delta Gold Amex only offers 2x miles on U.S. supermarkets and restaurants, I was initially a little hesitant to move a lot of that spend over to the card due to the notably lower return it offered.

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However, Amex once again came to the rescue by adding 4x on U.S. supermarkets from May to July 2020. That made the loss of rewards from switching spending over to the card much smaller. I've been cooking more than eating out recently (even counting delivery), so my dining spending hasn't been as high as usual. As a result, I wasn't too worried about the loss of points by moving my minimal dining spend over as well.

While I've already hit my bonus at this point, it is worth noting that the Delta Gold Amex now offers 4x at restaurants and 5x on eligible Delta purchases through Dec. 31, 2020, when you enroll in the Amex Offer currently available. The card has an introductory annual fee of $0 for the first year, then $99 (see rates and fees). As I start to look at potential winter 2020 domestic trips, I'll certainly be taking advantage of these increased bonus categories — even if they aren't technically helping me hit a welcome bonus.

Related reading: Best cards for groceries during the pandemic

Making the most of Amex Offers and shopping portals

Groceries is the category where I've spent the most in 2020, but a close second is online shopping. Thanks the new reality of life in a pandemic, I needed to place a number of significant orders:

  • New items for my apartment: Since I was going to be spending significantly more time in my one-bedroom, it needed some organizational and decor upgrades.
  • At-home workout equipment: After all, going to boxing would not have been a safe option, even if my gym had been open.
  • Work-from-home clothes: This means comfortable while remaining Zoom-appropriate.

Generally, my non-bonus spending gets split between my Chase Sapphire Preferred Card and my Amex Gold. Even though I'll only earn 1x points on those purchases, they'll be worth 2 cents apiece (according to TPG valuations), so it's the most bang for my buck compared to other cards in my wallet.

While earning 1x on my Delta Gold isn't quite the same return, I justified the switch by making sure to utilize Amex Offers and shopping portals so that I was still earning rewards on the purchase.

(Photo courtesy of MStudioImages/Getty Images)
I've been spending more on online shopping, and Amex Offers and shopping portals helped me maximize rewards on non-bonus spendng. (Photo courtesy ofMStudioImages/Getty Images)

I have Rakuten set up to earn Membership Rewards points instead of cash back, and I use the Chrome extension to notify me anytime there's a bonus offered when I'm shopping at a given website. I also use CashBackMonitor to make sure I'm getting the best value based on the redemptions I'm aiming for down the road.

Amex has had some really great offers on everyday spending this year, so I've also been able to take advantage of some of those to help make sure I was earning solid rewards even on non-bonus spending with my Gold Delta.

Bottom line

It took some effort, but with the three-month extension, I was able to meet the spending requirement on my new Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card. Because Amex only gives you one chance to earn a bonus in the lifetime of a card (and this was a limited-time offer, at that), I would have moved my spending over to hit the bonus regardless. And if my everyday spending alone wouldn't hit it, I likely would have used my card to pay my rent one month, even though it comes with a 3% processing fee — just because the bonus is worth more.

But this strategy helped me hit the welcome bonus requirement without taking a major hit in the rewards I could have earned by using my other cards.

For rates and fees of the Delta Gold Amex, please click here.

Featured image by (Photo courtesy of Delta)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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