Hitting Your Credit Card Minimum Spend

Written by on March 10, 2017 in Credit Cards, Miles and Points

A quick way to earn a chunk of points is through credit cards offering sign-up and minimum spend bonuses. Credit cards minimum spend requirements include not only how much a cardholder must spend but how soon.

Hitting your minimum spend should be fairly easy. In fact, you’re probably already doing it. 

The dollar figures may seem staggering and the time periods (90 days is pretty industry standard) might sound impossible. But think about everything that requires your money: rent/mortgage, food, utilities, and other basics.

That, though, is just the tip of the iceberg.

There are hundreds of posts (Rene de Lambert does a great update every year) about ways to meet minimum spend. Below are some methods we personally have used to meet our minimum spend requirements on credit cards we’ve held or currently hold.

Stick with the below tips and you should be just fine. Some (or many) of the below examples may seem like no-brainers. Keep in mind everyone’s expenses are different; plus, a reminder sometimes gets the ole points hamster wheel a-spinnin’.

Our Strategy

When we receive a new credit card that requires a minimum spend, we almost always exclusively spend on that card. We want to meet that spend ASAP. That may mean sacrificing bonuses we may receive on other cards. For example, my Delta Reserve Business card from American Express awards only one point per dollar spent (two points on Delta airfare purchased directly from the airline). But once I reach $30,000 in spend, I receive an awesome 15,000 MQM/elite mile bonus and 15,000 redeemable SkyMile bonus.

Once we reach minimum spend, we may keep using the card — if its spending bonuses are something special — or return to one of our go-to cards for everyday spend (the Chase Sapphire Preferred and American Express Premiere Rewards Gold cards are two great examples) or maybe sign up for a new card.

A Few Quick Reminders

Your Minimum Spend Period Starts When You’re Approved

You become a cardholder the instant you’re approved for a card — not when it arrives on your doorstep or when you activate it.

Brian “The Points Guy” Kelly explains, “Credit card issuers typically start bonus periods from ‘account opening,’ which is the day your account is actually approved. That means the timeline is not based on your statement closing date or when your card is activated, and doesn’t necessarily coincide with the application date (if you’re not approved right away, for example).”

Say, for example, you apply for the Chase Sapphire Preferred card, which currently requires $4000 total spend over the course of the first three months you have the card. Perhaps you’re approved on Monday; the card arrives Thursday and you activate it immediately. The minimum spend clock really started a-tickin’ on Monday, so you’ve sort of “lost” three days.

Stop Using Cash, Checks, and Debit Cards

Cash is good for two things: paying at stores that don’t accept credit cards and placing bets in Vegas. That’s it. Cash earns you zero points and no qualifying spend.

On a related note, debit cards are good for one thing: getting cash at an ATM. Debit cards should never be used for anything else — it’s far too risky. Likewise, checks are also good for one thing only: vendors who don’t accept credit cards. (Again, DO NOT USE YOUR DEBIT CARD)

Another disadvantage to paying with cash, debit cards, and checks: you don’t receive the extended warranty protection that many credit cards provide.

Don’t Overspend, Buy What You Can’t Afford or Purchase Items You Otherwise Wouldn’t

Analyze your monthly expenses before you apply for a credit card. Using our above $4000 over three months example: if your budget can’t afford $4k over that 90-day period, don’t get the card. Seriously. The interest fees you’ll accumulate while trying to pay off your card may cost you more than the retail prices for airfares and hotels.

Similarly, it’s easy to get caught up in spending, spending, spending to meet a minimum spend requirement. That doesn’t mean you should buy items you normally wouldn’t (“I can’t really afford a brand new TV; but I want it, it’s on sale and I need to reach minimum spend, so I’ll get it!” No.).

Now that we have all that out of the way, let’s discuss some common ways to knock out those minimum spend requirements.

Everyday-ish Expenses

Below are expenses most of us incur on at least a semi-regular basis.

Grocery stores

Several credit cards offer bonus points, too, for grocery store spend.

Gas stations

Using a credit card at gas stations is an excellent way to help you reach minimum spend requirements. Gas stations qualify for bonus points on a few cards, too.

Earn travel miles when you refuel your card and pay with a credit card at gas stations!

Earn travel miles when you refuel your card and pay with a credit card at gas stations!

 

Dining out

Dining out earns point bonuses on certain cards. Plus, remember you can earn bonus miles and points when eating at certain restaurants.

Coffee

Reload your Starbucks app with a points-earning credit card.

Starbucks coffee cup being held in a hand.

Online Shopping

Next time you visit Amazon, iTunes, or any other online shopping site, use your card to knock out some spend. Don’t forget to check out shopping portals, too, and get some of that money back!

In-Store Shopping

Just as above, keep the cash and debit card in the wallet. Remember to see if shopping portals (such as Ebates) have any in-store cash back specials .

Recurring Bills

Cell Phone 

You might be mailing in a check, visiting your mobile provider’s local branch, or paying online with a debit card. Stop it. Paying your cell phone bill is an easy way to chip away at minimum spend and earn points.

Pay your cell phone bill and knock out some of those minimum spend requirements!

Pay your cell phone bill and knock out some of those minimum spend requirements!

Rent or Mortgage

God bless your landlord if she/he/they accepts credit cards or PayPal. If they don’t — or if your mortgage lender doesn’t accept credit cards — it could be worth looking into Plastiq, a third party, online bill pay service. Beware that Plastiq charges a small surcharge for each payment.

Internet

Perhaps it’s bundled with your cell phone or TV service. Maybe you access the Internet a la carte. Regardless, you’re probably paying for Internet access. Your credit card can earn you points and take care of minimum spend. That leads us to:

Cable or Satellite TV and Streaming Services

Chances are, you’re paying something to watch TV. Maybe you have cable, satellite or Hulu, Netflix, or some combination of all those. They can quickly add up to some nice headway on your minimum spend requirements.

Insurance

Many insurance companies accept credit cards. (Given how much insurance premiums have gone up for some people, you might hit your minimum spend in a month or two with this bill alone).

Car Key on an Insurance Policy

Reimbursements

Job-Related

You can rack up points and minimum spend without costing yourself any money if your job reimburses you for expenses. Keep in mind that you might earn cash or extra points by using a shopping portal when ordering products online for your company.

Pay for client or company expenses with your credit card and earn the points!

Pay for client or company expenses with your credit card and earn the points!

 

Friends and Family*

Do you have a friend who refuses to get (or can’t get approved for) a credit card? Does one of your family members always pay with cash, check or a debit card? That’s where you step in with your brand new credit card and pay for something they need.

(*Do be careful with this. We were once burned big time by a now-former friend.)

Occasional Expenses

Doctor and Other Health-Related Bills

Doctors, dentists, spas, and many other health-related services accept credit cards. That dental cleaning and annual physical might as well chop away at your minimum spend, right?

Female doctor holding application form while consulting patient

Taxes

There’s an upside to paying Uncle Sam — you can earn points and wipe out a chunk of your spend requirements paying your income taxes online! The only caveat is it’s not free: fees currently range from 1.87% to 2.25%.

A $5000 tax bill could cost as high as an additional (points-earning) $112.50. (Check with your tax professional to see if that fee is tax deductible). Paying taxes online may or may not be worth it to you. But if you need to wipe out some minimum spend in a hurry, consider paying your taxes online.

Uncle Sam (pointing finger)

Charitable Donations

Do you make donations to a favorite charity? See if they’ll accept credit card. (Yes, I know charities pay a credit card fee — if you feel especially bad about it, add another 2-3% to your donation). If you’re really the giving type, look into the US Bank FlexPerks card, which earns 6x points on charitable donations.

(For what it’s worth: GoFundMe drives — no matter how noble — do not count as tax deductions. But that doesn’t necessarily mean you should stop donating.)

How Do You Meet Your Minimum Spend? Anything We Missed?

Do you have any favorite ways to meet minimum spend? Is there something we missed? Tell us in the comment section!

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About the Author

About the Author: Chris Carley is a writer, media consultant, voice over artist, dog owner, husband, and recently became a dad! He loves talking all things points and miles. You'll likely find him in an airport lounge while on a trip that involves the most circuitous route possible leading to his ultimate destination. .

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