Ways to meet credit card bonus spending needs – The Points Guy
Editor’s note: This post has been updated with new information.
Many travel credit cards feature excellent welcome bonuses for new cardholders. However, you generally need to spend a particular amount on your new card within a specific time period to earn the bonus — and the amount of spending required may be more than you would typically spend on credit cards.
As such, we frequently get the question: “How do I hit the minimum requirement if I don’t normally spend that much on credit cards?” After all, you don’t want to make unnecessary or extravagant purchases. But you also don’t want to miss out on earning a valuable sign-up bonus.
So today, let’s discuss 10 ways to meet the minimum spending requirements on a new card.
Before I introduce ways to meet the minimum spending threshold on your new card, let’s go through four critical points.
First, note that paying the card’s annual fee usually does not count toward the required minimum spending amount.
Second, read the fine print regarding eligibility for the sign-up bonus or welcome offer. After all, most cards restrict who can earn a bonus and the types of purchases that count toward the required minimum spending. If you have questions about your progress toward reaching a card’s minimum spending requirements for a bonus, call the number on the back of your card and ask.
Third, understand that the period for meeting the minimum spending requirement begins when you are approved for the card, not when you receive the card in the mail. For certain issuers, you can request expedited delivery of your card, while others may provide a virtual number upon approval. But generally, you’ll have to wait a week or more to receive your card.
Finally, note that most card issuers exclude some purchases from the minimum spending threshold. For example, the offer terms for The Platinum Card® from American Express state that the following won’t count:
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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.
Of course, you’ll want to avoid most of these cash-like transactions anyway, as they may trigger cash-advance fees.
Related: The best increased card offers to sign up for this month
Buy everything with your new card
When working toward earning a bonus on a new card, I typically use it for all purchases — even if they don’t fall into a specific bonus category.
Normally, I’d rather put my dining expenses on one of the best credit cards for dining and my grocery purchases on one of the best credit cards for groceries. Plus, I like to use a card that offers excellent travel protections when booking travel.
However, if I’m struggling to reach the minimum spending requirements for a bonus, I’ll switch all my spending to that card for now.
Related: How to assess and build your credit card portfolio
Pay your rent or mortgage
Another method to consider is paying your rent or mortgage with your new card. You may be able to find a landlord, apartment complex or bank that will allow you to pay your rent or mortgage by credit card without a fee, but this is relatively rare. The Bilt Mastercard® is an exception. (see rates and fees)
However, you could use a service like Plastiq, which currently charges an up to 2.9% fee for using a card to pay bills you usually wouldn’t be able to pay with a card. So, it usually only makes sense to use this service to meet a minimum spending requirement or to earn a card perk that requires a high spending threshold.
Related: 13 expenses that you should not put on your credit card
Prepay your insurance, utilities and other regular expenses
Another way to boost your spending is to prepay certain expenses. Many utility, phone and insurance companies will bill you monthly but will also allow you to overpay. You might be able to add an extra $100 to your utility bill payment for several months, 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.
Another option would be to pay an annual or biannual bill early. If you’re struggling to meet a spending requirement, look ahead and see what bills are due soon. Likewise, it could make sense to prepay other recurring expenses in your life. However, before adding on these extra expenses, ensure you’ll still be able to pay your card’s statement balance in full.
Related: 9 things you didn’t know you could pay for with a credit card
Pick up the tab
Many friends, family and acquaintances still use cash or debit cards when we’re at a restaurant or bar — and I’ve frequently found that restaurant staff won’t split a check across more than a couple of credit cards.
So, one option is to put the entire meal on your card. You can then have everyone give you cash or send funds via an online service like PayPal or Venmo. Because you receive the funds to cover their portion of the bill, your only actual out-of-pocket expense is your meal.
Of course, you may not want the hassle of chasing down any less-than-reliable friends who don’t pay immediately. But if you can manage that wrinkle, group meals can help you meet minimum spending requirements.
Related: Dining out, taking out and ordering in: The best cards for foodies
Donate to charity
Although many people give cash or write checks to their favorite charities, it’s usually possible to donate using a points-earning credit card. Some credit cards even provide category spending bonuses on charitable donations. If you’re looking to finish off a minimum spending requirement, donating to your favorite charity is a great way to do so.
Related: How you can donate your points and miles to charity
Pay your taxes
You may be able to pay your taxes with a credit card. You can use ACI Payments, Inc. as a third-party service for property and state taxes. And you can check the IRS list of tax payment service providers to consider your options when paying federal taxes. However, consider the fees associated with each method since any additional charges may negate the value of any points you earn. But, in some cases, it can be worth it.
I’d likely use PayUSAtax, an IRS-approved payment provider, to pay my federal taxes with a credit card. This provider charges a 1.96% fee for using credit cards, but that fee could be well below the return you’ll get when working on a welcome bonus. Even for ongoing points-earning, you may find it worthwhile to pay taxes with a credit card.
Related: Are tax payments with my credit card considered a cash advance?
Purchase points or miles
Typically, you won’t want to buy points or miles unless you have a planned redemption in mind and have found the award space you need. After all, your points or miles could suddenly drop in value if the program devalues its awards.
Even so, purchasing points or miles with a credit card can be an excellent way to hit a minimum spending threshold, especially if you’ll be able to use these points soon. However, if you plan on going this route, it’s best to wait for a bonus-points promotion.
Related: When does it make sense to buy points and miles?
Put a down payment on a new car
If you’re looking for a new car, consider using a credit card for your car purchase. You may not be able to charge the entire purchase to your card, but you could still get a sizable chunk of your minimum spending out of the way with a down payment.
Many dealerships will let you put $2,000-$5,000 on a card, but confirming a final deal with the salesperson is best before discussing that possibility. Of course, this is only a good idea if you’re already planning to purchase a car.
Related: I bought a new car on my Amex Business Platinum card — and it was no big deal
Get reimbursed for business expenses
It’s best to get a small-business credit card to separate your personal and business expenses. But, if you’re in a pinch and have a short window to meet the minimum spending requirements on a new credit card, it could be worth using a personal credit card for business expenses and getting reimbursed.
Check with your employer to see if it’s possible to use your personal card for business expenses. But be careful not to bite off more than you can chew. After all, it can take a while to get reimbursed. So, you may need to pay the balance on your card before the reimbursement from your company hits your bank account.
Related: 5 ways you might be eligible for a business credit card without realizing it
Ask friends and family for help
If you’re out of ideas about meeting the minimum spending requirements on your new card, you could enlist the help of trusted family or friends. For example, if you’re a college student, you could ask your parents if you can pay their monthly bills using your credit card. They’d then transfer you the money immediately after the bills are paid.
However, I only recommend paying the bills of people you trust. After all, you’ll ultimately be on the hook if they decide not to reimburse you.
Related: How TPG staffers helped family members choose a credit card
See Bilt Mastercard rates and fees here.
See Bilt Mastercard rewards and benefits here.
I recommend putting some or all of your credit card spending on your new card when you’re working toward earning a welcome or sign-up bonus. However, if your regular credit card spending isn’t enough to reach the bonus, you can leverage some of the abovementioned strategies to boost your spending.
But make sure you have enough funds in your bank account to pay off the statement balance in full each month. After all, paying interest or late fees will effectively decrease the value of any bonus you earn.
Additional reporting by Ryan Wilcox, Nick Ewen and Ethan Steinberg.