Use these cards to maximize large purchases
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Editor’s note: This is a recurring post, regularly updated with new information and the best card offers
One of the first lessons I learned when I got into the points and miles hobby is to put everything possible on a travel rewards credit card. However, it’s also important to choose the best card to make sure that you get the biggest bang for your buck. This is especially true when it comes to making a large purchase. So, today I want to discuss nine things to consider the next time you plan on swiping your credit card for a significant amount of money.
For starters, let’s agree that the definition of a “large” purchase can vary significantly from person to person. You may not be able to charge a new car purchase to a credit card, but spending $1,000 or more on a medical bill, new laptop computer or an essential household item may be much more common. So, what card should you use?
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Best cards for large purchases
- Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card – Best for earning flexible rewards
- Chase Freedom Unlimited – Best for intro APR
- Citi® Double Cash Card – Best for earning cash back
- The Business Platinum Card® from American Express – Best for large business purchases
- American Express® Gold Card – Best for purchase protection
Comparison overview of the best cards for large purchases
|Card||Bonus value**||Rewards rate||Annual fee|
|Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card||Up to $1,400||Earn 2x across every day purchases||$95|
|Chase Freedom Unlimited||$200||Earn 1.5% (or 1.5x points) on purchases||$0|
|Citi® Double Cash Card||N/A||Earn 2% across all purchases (1% when you buy, 1% when you pay your bill)||$0|
|The Business Platinum Card® from American Express||$1,700||Earn 5x on flights and prepaid hotels booked at amextravel.com
Earn 1.5x on large purchases over $5,000
Earn 1x on all other spending
|$595 (see rates & fees)|
|American Express® Gold Card||$1,200||Earn 4x on U.S. supermarkets (up to $25,000 per calendar year; then 1x) and dining
Earn 3x on flights booked directly with airlines
Earn 1x on all other spending
|$250 (see rates & fees)|
**Bonus value is calculated by TPG based on our monthly valuations and is not provided by the issuer.
Card details for the best cards for large purchases
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card – Best for earning flexible rewards
Annual fee: $95
Welcome bonus: Earn 60,000 miles after spending $3,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening.
Why it’s great for large purchases: You’ll earn 2x miles across all purchases. Many large purchases, such as wedding expenses or home renovation costs, may not fit under a specific bonus category, so a flat-rate card that earns across all categories can be a great option. Plus, this is a great card long-term that you can use on everyday spending once you’ve taken care of your large purchases. You can redeem miles at a fixed value as a statement credit for eligible travel purchases, or you can utilize Capital One’s transfer partners to maximize redemption value.
Essential reading: Capital One Venture review
Chase Freedom Unlimited – Best for 0% intro APR
Annual fee: $0
Welcome bonus: $200 after you spend $500 in the first three months (when you apply through Chase)
Why it’s great for large purchases: Similar to the Cap One Venture, you’re getting a flat 1.5% back (or 1.5x if you also have a Chase Ultimate Rewards card such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card) on purchases. But what sets the Chase Freedom Unlimited apart from other flat-rate cards is that it offers a great 0% APR introductory period — you’ll have 15 months of 0% APR (14.99% – 23.74% variable APR applies after) on new purchases. While we always recommend paying off your credit cards in full each month, a 0% APR period (used responsibly) can help you finance a larger purchase over time.
Essential reading: Chase Freedom Unlimited review
Citi® Double Cash Card – Best for earning cash back
Annual fee: $0
Welcome bonus: N/A
Why it’s great for large purchases: If you’d rather earn cash back than travel rewards, it doesn’t get much better than the Citi Double Cash. You’ll earn 2% back on every purchase — 1% when you buy and 1% when you pay your bill each month. It’s a flat-rate card like the two aforementioned options in this list, meaning you don’t have to worry about what bonus category your specific purchase falls into. You’ll get up to 2% back no matter the merchant. If you also have a card that’s part of the ThankYou program, you can convert your cash back rewards into Citi ThankYou points.
Essential reading: Citi Double Cash review
The Business Platinum Card® from American Express – Best for large business purchases
Annual fee: $595 (see rates & fees)
Welcome bonus: Earn 85,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $15,000 on eligible purchases with the Business Platinum Card plus earn 5x points on eligible purchases in 5 select business categories, up to 80,000 bonus points per category, all within the first three months of Card Membership.
Why it’s great for large purchases: The Amex Business Platinum is great for larger purchases for multiple reasons. First, a large purchase could help you hit the high spending requirement for the 85k welcome bonus. That bonus is worth $1,700 according to TPG valuations, but $15,000 can be a hard threshold to hit in just three months (though Amex is offering a bonus extension for eligible cardholders who apply before May 31, 2020).
Additionally, the Amex Business Platinum has a 1.5x bonus category for purchases over $5,000 (up to 1 million additional points per calendar year), so you’ll essentially get a 3% return in the form of valuable Membership Rewards points. Finally, the card also offers extended warranty and purchase protection, which can provide peace of mind when you’re purchasing large-ticket items.
Essential reading: Amex Business Platinum review
American Express® Gold Card – Best for purchase protection
Annual fee: $250 (see rates & fees)
Welcome bonus: 60,000 points after you spend $4,000 in purchases in the first six months of account opening
Why it’s great for large purchases: While the Amex Gold doesn’t offer bonus rewards for large purchases, it does offer up to $10,000 in purchase protection per covered incident, including accidental damage and loss. American Express makes it easy to determine the level of protection available on your card. Just go to the American Express website, click on the type of protection you’re interested in and then click on your card.
Note that most of these policies limit the coverage provided for natural disasters, and you can’t use the benefit on purchases of permanent household fixtures (like carpet or tile). But if your upcoming large purchase is for an eligible physical item that could potentially be lost or damaged, the Amex Gold can potentially be a lifesaver. And even without a bonus category, you’re still getting 1x (a 2% return) on non-bonus spending.
Essential reading: Amex Gold review
Tips to maximize large purchases
Of course, there are also other opportunities to use your credit cards to maximize large purchases.
Using large purchases to hit earn a welcome bonus
Even if you have a card that doesn’t offer bonus rewards in the category you’re planning on making the large purchase in, it can still make sense to use a specific card if you’re trying to hit a high spending requirement.
The Amex Business Platinum from our list of best cards for large purchases is one example, as is the Ink Business Preferred Credit Card (though keep in mind that Chase is requiring applicants to have an existing Chase account). You can earn 100,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points after spending a steep $15,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening. Using the card for a large purchase could help you hit that threshold and earn that stellar bonus, which would make using it worth it even if you aren’t racking in bonus points on the purchase itself.
Using large purchases to hit spending thresholds for extra benefits
Select credit cards offer valuable spending threshold bonuses that reward you for spending large amounts on your card during the year. Some examples include:
- Points earned on cobranded Southwest credit cards, all of which count toward the Companion Pass and can help you earn elite status
- The Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card offers four opportunities to earn 15,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) each time you spend $30,000 in purchases within a calendar year (up to 60,000 MQMs per year). Plus, you can earn a Medallion Qualification Dollar (MQD) waiver when you spend $25,000 on purchases in a calendar year
- The Travel Together Ticket earned after spending $30,000 in a calendar year on the British Airways Visa Signature Card
- A free weekend night certificate after spending $15,000 in a calendar year, plus Hilton Diamond status after spending $40,000 in a calendar year on the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card
Charging a large purchase to a credit card that offers a threshold bonus could get you most or all of the way to the spending requirement for the bonus.
Check Amex Offers, Chase Offers and shopping portals for merchant deals
One often overlooked aspect of maximizing earning is Amex Offers and Chase Offers. These offers provide statement credits or extra points when you add an offer to your card and then make a qualifying purchase. You can view the current available offers when you log in to your online account page.
You’ll usually find more Amex Offers per card than Chase Offers, but it’s worth checking the offers on all your cards before making a large purchase. Offers are usually available from travel, shopping, dining and entertainment merchants and range from bonus points to statement credits.
And of course, you should always check online for potential shopping portal offers if you’re making a large purchase with an online retailer. Shopping portals allow you to double-dip rewards alongside credit card bonuses. For example, let’s say you are making a $5,000 appliance purchase at Home Depot. If you have a targeted 10% rebate from Amex Offer on your Amex Business Platinum and use a shopping portal, you could earn the rebate, 1.5x on the purchase itself and 3x JetBlue points by using the JetBlue shopping portal (Note: The JetBlue shopping portal payout is currently 3x points but may change).
If you have a large purchase coming up, you should definitely think about which credit card makes the most sense. Some of the considerations above relate to earning and redemption potential, while others act as insurance policies if things go awry. As always, feel free to remove considerations that aren’t important to you or relevant to your purchase, and add additional weight to the ones that mean the most to you.
The right card for each purchase will depend on the item being purchased and your particular circumstances. For some purchases — especially electronics — the potential value obtained from extended warranty, purchase protection and price protection benefits may justify using a card that earns fewer points on the purchase. Or, it might make sense to use a particular card if you’re working toward a spending threshold or a minimum spending requirement on that card.
Featured photo by Maskot/Getty Images.
Additional reporting by Katie Genter and Nick Ewen.
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