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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