Earning frequent flyer miles and travel rewards through credit card sign-up bonuses is far and away the best way to get large chunks of points quickly.
In fact, it’s the way that I’ve earned over 90% of my 3 million frequent flyer miles in the last four years.
However, when deciding which credit cards are right for you, there is one thing you must be keenly aware of:
The minimum spend requirement.
When most of the top-end credit cards offer a sign-up bonus, they also require you to spend a certain amount of money in a short period of time to get that bonus.
For instance, the Chase Sapphire Reserve requires you to spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months to get the sign-up bonus.
Always, always, always make sure you can meet the minimum spend requirement before opening the credit card.
If you don’t, you won’t be getting the points (and no amount of begging will change that).
If you’re not a big spender, don’t worry, neither am I. Here are lots of ways to help you meet the minimum spend requirements and make sure you get your sign-up bonuses.
Simple Ways to Meet Minimum Spend Requirements
1. Use a credit card for all your regular spending — This is a no brainer. Instead of using cash, make sure to use a credit card for all your regular purchases, such as groceries, gas, etc. And don’t forget that some cards even give bonus points for certain categories!
2. Pay your insurance bills in bulk — Oftentimes, car insurance and health insurance companies will give a discount if you pay in 6 month or yearly chunks vs. month by month. Pay a large chunk ahead of time, save money and meet minimum spends!
3. Prepay monthly expenses — Do you have known monthly bills like a cellphone, cable, utilities, or even a gym membership? Instead of paying each month, ask to prepay a larger chunk in advance. Most companies will be happy to let you do this.
4. Make big purchases (that you already had planned) — Never, ever make frivolous purchases just to meet a minimum spend. No, you don’t need a new TV, couch, or puppy just because you have a minimum spend to meet.
However, if you know you have big purchases, open up cards around that time so the big purchases can help you meet the requirement.
5. Donate to charity — Most charitable organizations take credit cards. This is a win-win for everyone; you’re helping others out and you’re helping yourself meet a minimum spend.
6. “Donate” to Kiva.org — Kiva.org is an incredible micro-financing organization that works with people in developing countries to give them loans.
They have a 99% track record of paying back the loans, so it’s not exactly donating. You’re giving money now (credit cards are accepted) and getting paid back that money at a future date.
Best of all, in between, the person is using the money to better their life, and you get to choose exactly who the money goes to!
7. Tithe ahead of time — If you regularly give money to a religious organization every week or month, consider giving a large chunk ahead of time.
8. Pay your car downpayment — Certain car dealers may allow you to pay your downpayment using a credit card. If you were planning to buy a car anyway, this can be an effective way to meet the minimum spend with just one purchase.
However, only do this if you have the cash to immediately pay off the balance. Otherwise, the interest on such a large purchase will eat into any rewards you would earn.
Use Gift Cards To Meet Minimum Spend Requirements
9. Buy merchant branded gift cards (restaurants, gas stations, stores, online shops, etc.) — You can buy gift cards to all types of places, from Applebees to Home Depot to GAP to Exxon.
These “branded” gift cards don’t usually have any extra fees associated with them (so a $50 gift card costs $50), so buy them and stash them for later. Just make sure you remember to use them.
Also, be sure to check that purchases of gift cards count towards the minimum spend. Amex, for instance, doesn’t count gift cards as “purchases.” The same goes for prepaid cards.
So if you’re trying to get the bonus on a card such as the Amex Platinum, you’ll need to try a different strategy.
10. Buy Visa gift cards — Unlike merchant gift cards, Visa gift cards will have an activation fee (somewhere between $3-$7) but you can use them anywhere that accepts debit cards.
If you’re having trouble meeting a minimum spend, buy some of these during the minimum spend period and then use them at your leisure.
11. Amazon Gift Cards — Amazon gift cards are an awesome way to meet minimum spends. Amazon sells almost everything (and is usually the cheapest), their gift cards don’t have any fees attached to them, and they never expire.
Buy Amazon gift cards now and use them on whatever you want in the future. Or, give them as gifts!
12. Buy PayPal gift cards — Some places allow you to buy PayPal gift cards with credit cards. If you find a place that still allows it, take advantage.
Load up your PayPal account with gift cards and use that to pay for items you buy online or even to pay other people. Using this to meet a minimum spend is great, but don’t abuse it! We wouldn’t want your PayPal account to get shut down!
13. Purchase airline miles — Normally, we wouldn’t recommend purchasing airline miles. After all, the whole point of this article is to earn miles without doing any extra spending.
If you’re already planning to fly somewhere, however, then it could make sense to buy the miles you need to meet the minimum spend.
Get Others to Help To Meet Minimum Spend Requirements
14. Add an authorized user — Adding an authorized user means that someone else will get a credit card with their name on it but that is tied to your account. They can spend freely with this card.
If you need help making a minimum spend, consider adding a friend or family member you trust as an authorized user. Allow them to make purchases that count toward your minimum spend, and have them pay you back with cash or a check
Just be careful: Anything they spend will be your responsibility to pay off, so make sure you trust them to pay you back! Also, be aware that some credit cards charge a fee to add authorized users, so make sure the bonus is worth it.
15. Pick up the tab when you’re out with a friend (cheapskate version) — Out to eat or for drinks with friends? Pay the entire tab on your credit card and get them to reimburse you for their part with cash or via Venmo.
16. Pick up the tab when you’re out with friends (moneybags version) — Treat your lucky friends or family members by picking up the entire tab on your credit card..and not asking for any money back!
17. Get reimbursed for business expenses — If your office needs to make a large purchase, offer to pick up the bill using your card and then have the company reimburse you.
Just check that your company allows this and that they’ll reimburse you promptly enough for you to avoid paying interest.
Ways to Meet Minimum Spends That Will Cost You a Little Bit Extra
The following methods will cost you money (usually around 2-3%) but might make sense in order to hit your minimum spend.
Just be sure to do the math to make sure the bonus you’ll receive is worth what you’ll pay in fees.
18. Pay your mortgage — Plastiq allows you to pay your mortgage with certain credit cards (unfortunately AMEX and Visa do not work), but it costs a fee of over 2%. You can any card to pay other things like rent, employees, friends, etc.
19. Pay your rent — You can pay your rent with a credit card through a variety of services like RadPad, RentMoola, and Place. Most charge around 3%. Your landlord or property management company may also offer the option to pay rent directly via credit card, though this will come with a fee as well.
20. Pay your federal income taxes — You can pay your US taxes with a credit card. Here’s the IRS’s list of all the services that they allow. The lowest fee is currently 1.67%.
21. Pay your state income taxes — If you live in a state with an income tax, see if you can pay it via credit card. Colorado, for instance, allows you to pay your state income taxes in exchange for a 2.25% + $0.75 fee.
22. Pay your property taxes — Similar to your income taxes, some municipalities may allow you to pay your property taxes with a credit card in exchange for a fee.
23. Transfer Money via PayPal — PayPal allows you to transfer money or pay someone with a credit card. However, they take a 3% cut, which is pretty hefty. They are also known to shut down accounts if you consistently transfer money back and forth.
24. Pay friends with Venmo or Cash App — With mobile payments becoming the norm, services are popping up left and right that let you transfer money to friends.
Both Cash App and Venmo (the two most popular mobile payment services) will let you pay with a credit card. You’ll pay a 3% fee for the privilege of doing so, however, so make sure the credit card bonus is worth it.
25. Pay tuition — Whether you have children in college or even in a private school, you may be able to pay their tuition with a credit card.
Not all schools allow this, but it’s worth asking. Most schools will charge you a fee for this, so be sure to do the math and see if the fee is worth the credit card bonus you’ll earn.
Pro Tip: Beware of Cash Advances
Cash advances don’t count towards your minimum spend. They also incur hefty fees (sometimes as high at 25%!!!)
Contact your credit card customer service and set your cash advance limit to $0. This prevents you from accidentally doing a cash advance. If you try to do one, the card will just decline.
Better safe than sorry!
There are many different methods you can use to meet minimum spend requirements, most of which require just a small amount of effort and won’t cost you anything extra.
So before opening a credit card, always make sure that you can meet the minimum spend requirement. This way, you can get that sweet sign-up bonus and travel for free!
But don’t forget to think about all your options, not just your “natural” spending habits.
What are some of your favorite ways of meeting minimum spend requirements? Let me know in the comments below, and I’ll add them to the list above!
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Including Walmart, there is NO place in Dallas, TX area that will sell money orders using prepaid ($500) gift cards with PINs. It used to be my bonus spending was all that way. There is only so much I can prepay on utilities and other monthly bills.
Great post. Been using some of your tips. Using Plastiq to pay mortgage is another last option I use. There is a huge bonus to use for your minimum spend requirements from Plastiq lately. You can get $500 FFD (as June 8, 2017) by using my link below. Appreciate it if someone else would use my link below as I have used referral link from this post. $500 FFD to use to meet your min. spend
Referral code: 648842
Would it count to just send money to a relative or friend using paypal?
Plastiq is running a promo (soon to be over) offering 400 fee-free dollars if you make a payment by April 18th – using Plastiq is a great for paying bills, rent, mortgage, etc. with credit cards to meeting minimum spend. If anyone wants to try Plastiq and get 400 fee free dollars during the promotional period – please use my link
My referral code is 648787
RadPad no longer offers their rent pay services :(
Public transport with cards that can be registered in case of loss or theft are another good thing to load up on. I know they work in New York, London and DC and likely other big cities. Just check for max amounts, for example Chicago’s Ventra allows up to $300 but you presumably get 2 or 3 cards, and max out each of them.
@D. – Sweet, never thought of that. Great advice.
Coinbase allows you to buy Bitcoin with a CC. Limits increase the more you buy. Fee is under 2%, not sure of the exact amount. Bitcoin convertible back to USD and quite usable online
@Dee – Hmmmm…interesting. I’ve never done that, and I’ve never messed with bitcoin really, but that could definitely be useable for some people. Thanks for sharing!
Tried to buy visa gift card at Giant today. They no longer allow you to buy them with a credit card
@Rin – Yeah, different stores have different rules. So you have to find stores that will allow you and go that route. Thanks for the heads up.
@Trav – Amazing post! I was wondering: can I pay my credit card bill with another credit card? For example, can I make purchases with my Chase Freedom card and then pay that bill with my Chase Sapphire Preferred card in order to simultaneously meet the minimum spend for BOTH cards? I feel like this is either a *GENIUS* idea or completely useless. I just got approved for both cards, so please let me (us) know before I activate them. Thanks!
@Dan McDaniel- No, unfortunately you can’t pay a credit card bill with a credit card. It has to be a debit card, bank, etc. but not a credit card.
Would it work to purchase a Paypal gift card ($50 for example) with a credit card, then enter the credit ($50) into my own Paypal account, which then I can transfer into my bank account to use as cash? I’m not a huge spender but a few of my larger spendings are generally via cash.
@Jamie- Yes, but you have to find a place that will let you buy a Paypal gift card with a credit card. Most places that I know of won’t let you do that. But if you did, yes that would count. Also, be sure that there isn’t a huge fee on the Paypal gift card (like a $3.95 activation fee for a $50 card or something crazy). If there is, that’s a pretty huge percentage and you might want to try something else.
Does the period for the spending requirement start counting on the day you open the card or on the day you activate the card? I’m specifically concerned about the Barclay Arrival + and the Delta Skymiles. Thanks!
@Luis- It starts when you get approved for the card. So if you get approved automatically the day you apply, it starts then. It doesn’t matter if you wait to activate it, the clock starts ticking when you get approved.
Hey all! I’m trying to find more direct ways of meeting the minimum spends, and was wondering if using Venmo (it’s an app), would also work. If I enter my credit card details and then send money to say, my brother (who would then give me cash back), will it be treated as a purchase or a cash advance?
@Has- I’m not sure with Venmo. I’d recommend trying it with a small amount and seeing what happens. It might be a purchase, and if it is, you’re good to go, but…just make sure you check how much of a fee they take. If it’s a lot, it might only be worth it for minimum spends, but not for doing it all the time.
For anyone that still needs to meet minimum spend, Square is actually running a promotion right now where you can get 1k processed fee free if you sign up for a new account
Here’s the link: https://squareup.com/signup?s=em&signup_token=07755CAA
I unfortunately already had an account, but was able to sign up with a family members info (with their permission of course) with no issues
How did you process? Send an invoice? I’ve just signed up and thinking that’s the way to do it! Am I on the right track?
I got both the SWA business premier and SWA plus cards to make the 100,000 point minimum. Can I transfer $2000 via paypal to a friend, then have them write me a check afterward for $2000 to repay me? I understand I’ll be on the hook for the $60 fee (3% for the transfer). . .
@Michael- That would work, yes. I wouldn’t do it all the time though, as Paypal could eventually shut you down.
For any Costco frequent shoppers: you can buy Costco Cash (gift cards) online with a credit card and have it mailed to you. I usually spend ~$100 every week between Costco groceries and Costco Gas so I now buy the cash cards with my credit card in advance and use that to pay for my usual Costco expenses. This is another way to meet a minimum spend as well as getting points for everyday spending. I use my Chase Sapphire Preferred for everyday spending.
Also, Costco Online accepts credit cards other than American Express! So now I still get to do my usual spending for groceries and gas at the wholesale price, maybe even pay for my membership with the cash when time to renew, and at the end of the year I will get even more cash back from Costco because I am still spending a good chunk there! WIN WIN WIN FOR ME!!! Try it!
@Marilyn- Wow, this is awesome advice. Learn something new everyday. Thanks for sharing!
1. Only buy merchant gift cards at discount. Never at full price. Like buying money at a discount.Set alerts in giftcardgranny.com Sign up. 2. Is there ANY place that lets you buy money orders with credit cards? 3. Buy $500 gift cards at Simon malls/outlets and in grocery stores. With no PIN, Citcards accepts them by phone for payments. Otherwise, with PINs,which convert them into debit cards,buy money orders at Walmart and deposit them in your bank account. I pay the MO fees separately in cash.
@Jerry Mandel- Giftcardgranny is a great resource, thanks for sharing. I don’t know anywhere that lets you buy money orders with credit cards around me, but some people have had luck at smaller grocery stores.
Trav I submitted the free credit card consultation about 3 times already in the last 3 months? Are you still doing this for free or is it a paid service?
@Cory- I definitely am still doing it, and have actually gotten back to everyone who has submitted one, so for whatever reason, it must not be going through. Weird. Could you just email me directly at trav@extrapackofpeanuts (dot) com and put CC Consult in the heading? I’ll be on the lookout for it.
I have a medicare advantage plan.One of the points blogs stated that it is possible to pay Medicare a year in advance via credit card.Does anyone know if this is this true for a medicare advantage plan as well. If so, who? how? Do date this is deducted monthly from my SS payment.
SJH- This would be great for a lot of people. Anyone have info?
Hey Trav – How about Bluebird?
This is a Grey Area that I wouldnt recommend except as a last resort… But what if you were to Buy a $1,000 item, and then return it 28 days later, after your bonus has posted?
@Chris- Yeah, that is a bit of a “grey” area. I know people who have done it, and it usually works, but I don’t recommend it at all. Too much risk involved, as well as I don’t feel right about it.
Follow up – that link doesn’t take you to the limits page. If you go there, there isn’t a credit card options listed for adding money to the prepaid card.
@Ginger- Don’t worry, you can do it as of right now.
It doesn’t look like you can charge money to a prepaid REDcard with a credit card: https://amex.serve.com/prepaidredcard/faqs/?anchor=cash-1.
Is what you say above in #1 correct?
@GingerF- Yes, you can still do it, as of right now (March 1, 2015). The wording is not correct on the site.
Actually 21. You have two 13s.
Maybe it counts as “regular spending” (#2), but use the credit card for reimbursable business expenses whenever you can. I’d rather go grab a printer from Staples down the street than order through the company account. Then I can use my credit card and Staples number. It can also be good for the company as there are a lot of instant savings that they have in the store or regular web site (especially printers), but not offered in the business web site.
@Carl P- Yep, anytime you can get business expenses reimbursed but you get the points, you’re gold!
There is another flavor of number 14 (pick up the tab – cheapskate version). If I’m at other stores and my mom or others with me are paying with cash I charge theirs separately it and take the cash.
#9 – I always stock up on Outback cards when they give a $20 card for buying $100 in gift cards. I gift some and use others (can’t beat 20% discount).
@Carl P- That’s great. Any time you can pay for someone else and get the points and meet the minimum spends, it’s great. I don’t eat at Outback ever, really, but yeah, a 20% is discount is awesome. I’d stock up!
William Paid appears to have gone out of business.
If I use CitiAA card to load Target Redcard, will it be coded as a cash advance? I regularly load it now, but never with Citi credit card. Meeting min spend on CitiBusiness AA card. Thanks!
Mike – I used a Citi card to load $25 on my prepaid redcard on Tuesday as a trial, and it was coded as a regular grocery store purchase. My Citi AA card is on its way, so I wanted to verify that this method would work for me.
@lauren- Awesome, thanks for sharing the data point!
I’ve been looking for the same information, and it seems to be hard to find. I did find out on FlyerTalk.com that As of 12/31/2014: Loading with Citi credit cards post as purchases.
I haven’t tried it yet, but plan to go today and see what happens. Trying to meet the minimum spend for the Personal Citi AA card.
FYI. Williampaid doesn’t accept rent payments anymore.
Williampaid is shutting down.
William Paid is dead.
The IRS Taxes is missing a link I guess.
Payments by credit card are free through the website I believe (last time I made a payment I think that’s how it went).
Just saying, it is worthwhile to check your links before posting, like Williampaid says on their website, that it is no accepting payments anymore…
@Andy- Thanks for letting me know. That is brand new, didn’t see that when I first wrote the article two weeks ago. I’ll change it now.