Editor’s note: This is a recurring post, regularly updated with new information.
Many travel credit cards feature excellent bonuses for new cardholders. However, you generally need to spend a particular amount on your new card within a specific period to earn the bonus. And, the amount of spending required to earn some bonuses may be more than you would generally spend.
As such, a question I get frequently is, “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. So, today I’ll discuss 11 ways to satisfy the minimum spending requirements on a new card.
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(Photo by Orli Friedman/The Points Guy)
Before I introduce ways to meet a minimum spending threshold on a new card and earn a bonus, it’s important to address three critical points. 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 or welcome offer. 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. And other cards exclude certain types of purchases from counting toward the required minimum spend.
Finally, 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. And some issuers may provide a virtual number upon approval so you can start using the credit line immediately. But, generally, you’ll have to wait a week or more to receive your card.
Related: The best elevated credit card offers to sign up for this month
Pay your rent or mortgage
Paying your rent or mortgage could help you earn the sign-up bonus, and it could even be worth paying a fee to do so. (Photo by Rawpixel/Unsplash)
The first method to consider utilizing is to pay your rent or mortgage using 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.
However, you could use a service like Plastiq. Plastiq currently charges a 2.85% fee for the privilege of 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
Pre-paying insurance, utilities or other regular expenses
You can prepay some expenses to help reach your minimum spending requirements. (Photo by Cavan Images/Getty Images)
Another way to boost your spending is to prepay certain expenses. Many utility, phone and insurance companies will bill you monthly but allow you to overpay. So, you might be able to 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.
Another option would be to pay an annual or biannual bill early. If you’re struggling to hit a spending requirement, it could make sense to look ahead and see what bills are coming due soon. Likewise, it could make sense to prepay other recurring expenses in your life. However, before doing so, make sure 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
Offer to pick up the tab when dining out with friends
Dinner with friends can help you reach your minimum spending requirement. (Photo by Dan Gold/Unsplash)
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, 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.
So, one option is to offer to put the entire meal on your card. You can then have your friends or family 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.
An excellent tool for easily splitting the bill is an app called Tab. It allows you to split and itemize a bill. And it even divides up the taxes and tip based on what each person ordered. Once you have the app installed, you can take a picture of the itemized receipt and break up the bill as needed.
Related: The best credit cards for dining out, taking out and ordering in
Donate to charity
If I need help meeting a minimum spending bonus, I usually donate to one of my favorite charities. (Photo by Jose Luis Pelaez Inc/Getty Images)
Although many people tend to give cash or write checks to their favorite charities, it’s usually possible to make a donation 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 spend, 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
Tax payments are an easy way to meet minimum spending requirements on a new card. (Photo by Natee Meepian/EyeEm/Getty Images)
Tax season is upon us. Luckily, you may be able to pay your taxes with a credit card. For property and state taxes, you can use ACI Payments, Inc. as a third-party service. And you can check the IRS list of tax payment service providers to consider your options when paying federal taxes. However, be sure to consider the fees associated with each method. These fees may negate the value of any points you earn. But, in some cases, it can be worth it.
This year I’ll 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 is 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: Guide to paying taxes with your credit card
Pay for tuition
Tuition at any level can be a considerable expense. (Photo by Nathan Dumlao/Unsplash)
Tuition for daycare, private school and university can be expensive. But, paying those bills with your new credit card can be an excellent way to hit your minimum spending requirement quickly. When it comes to paying tuition with a credit card, you’ll usually face one of three scenarios:
Tuition cannot be paid with a credit card at all
Tuition can be paid with a credit card with no fee
Tuition can be paid with a credit card with a fee
You’re out of luck with the first category unless you can use Plastiq. And with the second category, it’s an easy choice to pay tuition with a credit card since you’ll earn rewards. Meanwhile, with the third category, 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, incurring a fee to pay for tuition with a credit card will likely be worthwhile.
If you’ve already graduated but still have student loans, you also could use a service like Plastiq to make your student loan payments with a credit card. Once again, make sure that the bonus you’re earning is worth the extra fee.
Related: Best credit cards for college students
Use plastiq to pay bills
Even if your landlord, university, daycare, gym or utility company doesn’t accept credit cards, you may still be able to pay for these expenses using a service like Plastiq. Of course, remember to check that the fees you’ll pay are worth the reward.
Related: Your vendor doesn’t accept credit cards — what now?
Purchase points or miles
Buying points and miles can allow you to unlock fantastic redemptions. (Photo by JGI/Jamie Grill/Getty Images)
Here at The Points Guy, we usually don’t recommend purchasing points or miles unless you have a planned redemption in mind. But 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.
If you plan on going this route, it’s best to wait for a bonus points promotion. It’s also best to purchase points after you’ve already found the award space you need for a trip. That way, you have a good idea of the value you’re getting and are less exposed to the risk of an award chart devaluation.
Related: When does it make sense to buy points and miles?
Put a down payment on a new car
You may be able to use a credit card to pay for part of a new car. (Photo by alexfan32/Shutterstock)
If you’re in the market 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 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 that possibility. Of course, this is only a good idea if you were already planning on purchasing a car.
Related: Can you buy a car with a credit card? Here’s what you need to know to drive a hard bargain
Get reimbursed for business expenses
If you work at a bakery, your employer may be willing to reimburse some urgent grocery expenses. (Photo by gpointstudio/Shutterstock)
It’s best to get a small business credit card to keep your personal and business expenses separate. But, if you’re in a pinch and have a limited-time 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
Your family may have some expenses they’re willing to let you pay for with your new card. (Photo by Mark Edward Atkinson/Getty Images)
If you’re out of ideas when it comes to meeting the minimum spending requirements on your new card, you could enlist the help of trusted family or friends. For example, when TPG contributor Ethan Steinberg was in college, he would pay monthly bills for his parents using his cards. And, they’d Venmo money to him immediately after he paid their bills.
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
You can use one or more of the tips discussed above to earn the full bonus on a new card, even if you don’t usually spend enough. However, 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 Nick Ewen and Ethan Steinberg.
Featured photo by WAYHOME studio/Shutterstock.