Earning a big welcome bonus from your first travel rewards card is exciting – there’s no easier way to get a bunch of miles to fuel your travel.
But in order to earn it, you’ve got to spend a certain amount of money within the first few months, typically between $500 and $5,000, depending on the card. You have to do it right.
There are plenty of ways to meet your minimum spend requirement on a travel rewards card without going on a three-month shopping spree. These are some of our favorite ways to meet those spend requirements without spending any more than you normally do.
Because after all, spending more money than you would normally can lead to high-interest payments, wiping out any benefits the points and miles might provide. Responsibility is key.
Want to go even further? Check out Thrifty Traveler University, our all-in-one travel hacking course!
What You Need to Know
The welcome bonus offers you see are the largest sum of points you can earn quickly by signing up for a new credit card. For example, the Chase Sapphire Preferred offers a whopping 60,000-point sign-up bonus.
But you have to spend $4,000 within the first three months to earn them. And you definitely don’t want to come up short.
So it’s important to have a plan for meeting that minimum spend requirement by the set time frame, and doing so responsibly – i.e., without spending money you don’t have. If you can’t pay off every dollar you put on your new card, don’t open a credit card.
Here are a few of the steps we use to meet that minimum spend goal.
- Know the sign-up bonus details: How much do you need to spend, and by what date? Each card’s requirements will be different. Set a reminder in your calendar for the weeks leading up to the deadline, so you can be sure you won’t miss your goal.
- Know how much you normally spend in a month: To know if you can comfortably reach this goal without overspending, you need to know how much you spend in a month. If you have a monthly budget spreadsheet, use Mint.com, or have any other means of tracking your monthly finances, see how much total monthly spend you can feasibly put on this new card.
- Track your progress: Keep close tabs on your progress toward earning your sign-up bonus goal to make sure you’re on track and will meet the minimum spend requirement. We recommend using an Excel spreadsheet, or one of our favorite card-tracking programs, TravelFreely.
Now that you know the basics to set yourself up for success, let’s chat about some ways you can meet minimum spend without buying anything more than usual.
Put All Purchases Towards Your Goal
The first method is pretty simple: Put all your spend on that one card. From the gas station to the grocery store and fare beyond, even seemingly small monthly costs can eat up a majority of a minimum spend requirement.
Did you know you can pay most of your monthly bills with a credit card? Whether it’s your cable, cell phone or certain utility bills, you can switch them over to your new credit card and add other monthly costs like daycare or monthly gym memberships to that new card and watch that goal come into focus!
You can even pay your rent with Plastiq! I’ve used Plastiq to pay for rent for a few months, and that alone helped meet almost all the minimum spend requirement on my newest card.
When dining out, buying tickets, or attending activities, ask your friends if you can pay the full bill for your party and have everyone use Venmo or Zelle to pay you back. Picking up the tab at a happy hour or paying for the whole dinner out with family will add up fast on your new card, and it’s easier on the wait staff than eight separate bills.
Time it Right with Taxes or Big Purchases
If you know you have some larger purchases coming up – and you’ve got the money saved up to pay it – it can be a great time to open your new travel rewards card. Time it right, and use your new card to pay for college tuition, home renovation, new furniture, or a new phone or laptop that you had been planning to purchase.
Some companies may charge a small fee to pay for something with a credit card, so it’s important to do the math. But if you’re getting a big stash of bonus points or miles, it may be worth the small fee to meet your minimum spend goal. Keep in mind that paying those fees aren’t necessarily worth it for just regular points after you meet a minimum spend and earn the sign-up bonus.
If you owe the government money each year, you can also pay your taxes with a credit card! There is a small fee, so again, this may not be the best option for earning normal points. But it can be a great way to hit your minimum spend on that new card. All of the below options are IRS-approved payment processors for paying your taxes with a card.
However, Pay1040.com charges the lowest fee at 1.87%, so there really isn’t a reason to use the others.
If you’ve put all of your monthly spending on that new credit card and timed it right to make the most of larger purchases but still have a bit more minimum spend to make, it’s time to get creative! Two of our favorite unique options for hitting minimum spend responsibly are through reselling and microfinance loans.
If you love a good thrift and flip or are already a reseller, put your skills to work helping you meet that minimum spend goal! Purchase whatever you’re reselling with a card and flip it on Facebook Marketplace, Poshmark, eBay, or other selling platforms. Just remember that when reselling, earning that money back isn’t instant; make sure you’ve got the financial security to wait for those items to sell and earn it back.
Want to hit the rest of your minimum spend requirement all while supporting a charitable organization? Microfinance a loan through Kiva! Loan money to business owners in 83 other countries using your credit card. Over a million people have supported loans on Kiva, and the Kiva borrowers have a 97% loan repayment rate. This is a long term play: the minimum length of time for a loan term is six months. But if you can wait six months for that repayment, this is a great and charitable way to meet the rest of your minimum spend goal.
Meeting minimum spend requirements to earn your sign-up bonus doesn’t need to be as daunting as it seems. With these simple methods, you can meet your goal without spending any more than you typically do in a few months.