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Many travel credit cards feature excellent bonuses once you make a particular amount of purchases, oftentimes $4,000 or $5,000, within a certain time period. A question I get frequently is: how do I hit the minimum requirement if I don’t normally spend that much on credit cards? Obviously you don’t want to make unnecessary or extravagant purchases just to meet the minimum spending threshold. So, today I want to go through my list of 11 tips to ensure that you hit that threshold and earn the bonus.
Before getting into my list, there are two critical reminders I have to point out. First, note that paying the card’s annual fee usually does not count toward the required minimum spend amount. Second, make sure to read the fine print regarding eligibility for the sign-up bonus. Some cards restrict sign-up bonuses to those who have never had the card before or to those who haven’t opened or closed a card within the card family within a particular amount of time. Other cards exclude certain types of purchases from counting toward the required minimum spend. The last thing you want to do is apply for a card, get accepted, believe you’ve made the minimum spend and then miss out on the bonus — so be sure to read the fine print.
So how can you accelerate your progress toward meeting a large minimum spending requirement? Here are some suggestions:
1. Pay Your Rent or Mortgage
The first method to consider utilizing is to pay your rent or mortgage using your new card. Finding a landlord, apartment complex or bank that will accept this payment without charging a fee is relatively rare, but it may be worth paying a fee to a service like Plastiq if this will give you the extra spend you need to earn the sign-up bonus.
2. Pre-Paying Insurance, Utilities or Other Regular Expenses
Another way to boost your spending to hit a minimum spending threshold is to investigate prepaying certain expenses. Many utility and insurance companies will bill you monthly, and you can often choose the size of the payment you make to cover that month’s bill. You could add an extra $100 to your utility bill payment for the first three months of card membership, or you could prepay three or even six months of insurance to ensure you’re reaching the amount needed to earn the sign-up bonus. Just be sure that you’re accounting for these expenses and can afford to pay your monthly balance off in full — the first commandment for travel rewards credit cards.
Another option would be to pay an annual or biannual bill early (again, as long as you can afford to pay the entire statement balance in full). If you’re struggling to hit a spending requirement, it could make sense to look ahead and see what bills are coming due soon that could help get your across that threshold.
3. Offer to Pick Up the Tab When Dining Out With Friends
An easy way to generate “free” spending is when you’re dining out with a large group. Even though I’ve sung the praises of travel credit cards and the fantastic awards they unlock, many of my friends and family members still use cash or even debit cards when we’re at a restaurant. I’ve also run into situations where the waiter or waitress is unwilling to split a check.
Enter you with your new card and your desire to hit its minimum spend. Offer to put the entire meal on your card and have them either give you cash on the spot or send it via an online service like PayPal or Venmo. Because you receive the funds to cover their portion of the bill, your only true out-of-pocket expense is your meal. Of course, you may not want the hassle of chasing your less-than-reliable friends who don’t pony up immediately, but if you’re all right with that wrinkle, this can be a nice boost toward the minimum spend requirement.
4. Donate to Charity
Although a lot of people tend to give cash or write checks to their favorite charities, it’s usually possible to make these donations using a points-earning credit card. Some credit cards even give category spending bonuses on charitable donations, like the U.S. Bank Flexperks Travel Rewards Visa, which earns 2 points per dollar on most donations. If you’re looking to finish off a minimum spend, making a donation to your favorite charity is a great way to do so.
If you want to help others while hopefully getting your money back, you could use your new credit card to make no-interest microloans through Kiva. Of course, there’s always a risk that your loan will default and you’ll lose your money. But, this is relatively rare, especially if you use KivaLens to filter your options.
5. Pay Your Taxes
Figuring out your 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. For federal taxes, check the IRS list of tax payment service providers as many of these providers accept payment by credit card. Just be sure to consider the convenience fees since these may negate the value of points you earn — though if it’s for earning a massive minimum-spend bonus, it can certainly be worth it. For a guide on paying taxes with credit cards, check out this post.
6. Pay for Tuition
Tuition for day care, private school and university can be expensive, but paying this tuition with your new credit card can be an excellent way to quickly hit your minimum spend. When it comes to paying tuition with a credit card, you’ll usually face one of three situations:
- Tuition cannot be paid with a credit card (like Wake Forest).
- Tuition can be paid with a credit card with no fee (like the University of Nevada-Las Vegas).
- Tuition can be paid with a credit card with a fee (like the University of Florida).
You’re obviously out of luck with the first category (unless you can use Plastiq), while the second category is a no-brainer. For the third, it’s once again up to you to crunch the numbers and determine if paying a fee makes sense. If you have no other feasible way to hit the minimum spend threshold, paying a small fee on these tuition payments may be worth it. However, if you can use any of the other fee-free tips mentioned above, that will keep money in your pocket.
7. Use Plastiq to Pay Bills
Does your landlord, university, day care, gym or utility company not accept credit cards? You may still be able to pay for these expenses using the Plastiq bill payment service. You’ll pay fees around 2.5% for the ability to do so, but using the service can still make sense if being able to pay for these expenses using your new credit card will let you hit your minimum spending threshold.
8. Purchase Points or Miles
Here at The Points Guy, we usually don’t recommend purchasing points or miles unless you have a redemption for which you plan to use said points or miles. But, purchasing points or miles can be a good way to hit a minimum spending threshold — especially if you’ll be able to use these points soon.
9. Put a Down Payment on a New Car
If you’re in the market for a new car, this can be another great way to ensure you meet the minimum spend. You may not be as lucky as Senior Points & Miles Contributor Richard Kerr, who was able to charge an entire car to the Platinum Card® from American Express, but you could still get a sizable chunk of your minimum spend out of the way with a down payment. Many dealerships will let you put $2,000 to $5,000 on a card, but it’s best to confirm a final deal with the salesperson before discussing the possibility of swiping your card. This way, the dealership can’t tack on extra fees for the privilege. Of course, this is only a good idea if you were already planning on purchasing a car.
10. Get Reimbursed for Business Expenses
Though I recommend getting a small 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, if one of your new credit cards is a business card like the Chase Ink Business Preferred Credit Card or Capital One Spark Miles for Business, 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.
11. Purchasing Cash Equivalents
Purchasing gift cards, reloading account balances and using your credit card to send friends or family money through Venmo or PayPal are all tempting options for reaching a minimum spend. But, some credit card issuers exclude these types of purchases from counting toward minimum spend thresholds and/or earning points. For example, the terms and conditions for The Platinum Card® from American Express welcome bonus state:
The following eligible purchases do NOT count toward the Threshold Amount: fees or interest charges; purchases of travelers checks; purchases or reloading of prepaid cards; purchases of gift cards; person-to-person payments; or purchases of other cash equivalents.
So, although you might get away with purchasing some small gift cards from the grocery store or pharmacy and some issuers will allow these types of purchases to count toward a minimum spend, I wouldn’t count on these types of purchases. After all, it would be a shame to barely miss reaching a minimum spending threshold and there are many other reasonable options discussed earlier in this post.
Hopefully you can use one or more of these tips to earn the full bonus on any cards you’ve signed up for recently even if you don’t normally spend enough on your credit cards to meet the minimum spend. Or perhaps now you feel confident enough in your ability to meet the minimum spending requirements on a travel credit card with a great bonus that you’ve been considering. But, if all this seems like too much work, you could always consider a card that provides the bonus after just one purchase.
Featured image via Shutterstock.
Additional reporting by Nick Ewen.
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