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Has this happened to you?
You have been approved for 6 new credit cards this month, but are worried that you won’t be able to complete the thousands of dollars in minimum spending required to get that large sign-on bonus!
Most of us who collect miles and points are thrifty and spending thousands of dollars in a few months seems daunting.
In this post, I’ll discuss 40+ ways to complete minimum spending requirements on a credit card so that we can all get those large sign-on bonuses.
We start with common everyday expenses which you can charge to your credit card and then move onto expenses which you can charge to your credit card for a small fee.
For example, I would gladly pay a 3% fee on a transaction if it was the only way I had of meeting the minimum payment necessary for sign-up bonuses.
We conclude with other *ahem* delicate ways to bump credit card spending such as payment processors and other methods. As always, let your personal values and ethics guide your decision to use or not use a particular method
Use Your Credit Card With No Fee
Insurance. Pay your car, homeowners, medical, or renter’s insurance using a credit card. If you are on a monthly plan, considering paying in advance for a few extra months, provided you can pay off your credit card bill when it comes due.
Cellphone/Cable/Internet. You can usually pay for your cellphone, cable, an internet bill using a credit card. You may also be able to pre-pay your cellphone, cable, or internet bill via a credit card by paying more than the monthly amount due. Once again, don’t do this if you can’t pay off your credit card bill when it comes due!
Dining. Pay for all your dining expenses using a credit card. Don’t pay cash unless you really have to.
Groceries. Pay for all your groceries using a credit card. If you regularly buy groceries, consider buying grocery store gift cards and use them to buy groceries in future months.
Netflix. Pay for your Netflix subscription using a credit card.
Gas. Don’t pay cash or use a debit card. Use your new credit card instead.
Gym Memberships. Pay for your gym membership with a credit card.
Car Repairs. Why write a check or use a debit card to pay for oil changes and repairs when you can use your new credit card?
Toll Transponders. If you have an automated toll transponder in your car (I-Pass, K-Tag, FastTrak etc.) you may be able to use your credit card to load additional dollars to your toll account. (Hat Tip to Gary Steiger)
Business Travel. If you travel on business, you may be able to charge expenses to your personal credit card and then claim reimbursement from your employer. My employer offers a business credit card, but I haven’t applied for it since it does not offer reward points. I use my personal credit cards instead!
American Express Gift Cards. You can buy American Express gift cards from Big Crumbs and get a 1.6% rebate. American Express ships the gift card to you in 2 days ($8 fee), and you can usually avoid paying fees to buy the gift card.
It usually takes 2 months to actually get the cash rebate from Big Crumbs, but this is a good way to complete minimum spending requirements quickly. You can then use the American Express gift cards instead of your credit card to pay for expenses in future months.
Be aware that Citibank may charge a cash advance fee for purchase of American Express gift cards directly from American Express. I bought gift cards using my Chase credit cards in June, but was not charged a cash advance fee. However, you should order a small quantity at first to see if you are charged a cash advance fee on your credit card.
Buying gift cards from drug stores or grocery stores should not trigger cash advance fees, but you should always determine that for yourself.
Staples. You can buy gift $300 PIN-enabled Visa gift cards online at Staples.com and load them to your AMEX Bluebird or Serve account. Then use the account to pay bills you can’t normally pay with a credit card.
Store Gift Cards. Stock up on your gift cards to your favorite stores. Only do this if you expect to use the cards and won’t pay interest on your credit card for pre-buying the gift cards.
Holiday Gifts. Consider buying your holiday gifts in advance! Stock up on either store gift cards or American Express gift cards if you can’t decide what gifts to get.
14. Birthday Gifts. Consider buying birthday gifts for friends and family in advance. Can’t decide what to get them? Get them American Express Gift Cards or store gift cards!
Graduation Gifts. American Express Gift cards make good graduations gifts, since to misquote Jane Austen, it is a truth universally acknowledged that a graduate in possession of a new diploma must be in want of
cash cash-like gift cards.
Charitable Contributions. Many Americans make donations to charities. Consider making your donation now using your new credit card, instead of later in the year.
Religious Contributions. Perhaps you could make your regular religious contributions (church, temple, etc.) via credit card instead of writing a check or using cash. (Hat Tip to Megan)
FSA Account. If you have a Flexible Spending Account (FSA), you likely get a debit card with which to make your medical expense payments (co-pays, prescriptions etc.) In most cases, you can pay for your FSA-approved expenses with a regular credit card and submit a request for reimbursement. Yes, it is a bit more cumbersome, but it helps complete minimum spend requirements.
Vision Insurance. If you have vision insurance, you may be able to buy contact lenses on-line or from a vision provider with your credit card and submit a request for reimbursement later.
Home Remodeling & Other Services
A contractor or other household service provider whom you trust and does outstanding work is much more important than a few extra miles (blasphemy, I know!). So don’t be too aggressive with these suggestions, or they may not stick around very long!
Contractor Payment. Ask your contractor if you get a discount for payment by cash (if you can’t pay by credit card). If there is a cash discount, ask if you can get the cash discount if you pay in American Express Gift cards. If yes, use Big Crumbs to purchase American Express gift cards at 1.6% discount (#10).
Contractor Supplies. Ask your contractor if you can purchase the supplies needed for your project directly from the shop (Home Depot, Lowe’s, the lumber yard etc.). If your contractor agrees, purchase the supplies using your credit card.
Baby Sitter, Maids, Pet Sitters, Handymen, Yard Work Providers. Ask your baby sitter, maids, pet sitters, handymen and yard work providers if he or she will accept gift cards instead of cash.
Friends and Family
Reimbursement for Purchases. Consider paying your close friend’s and family’s expenses using your credit card and getting them to write you a check for reimbursement.
For example, purchase your dad’s new home theater system on your credit card, and then ask dad to write you a check for the amount. Do the same with friends whom you trust.
Additional Cards For Your Partner Or Children. Get additional add-on cards for your partner and children and have them put all their expenses on the card. Be careful, since this can get expensive quickly!
Wedding Expenses. Congratulations on your upcoming wedding, but don’t forget to ask the vendors if you can pay the deposit or other wedding expenses with your credit card!
Splitting Payments. Most shops will let you use multiple credit cards for 1 transaction. For example, if you are buying a $1,000 TV, you can ask the cashier to charge, say, $300 on your Visa card (to complete the exact minimum spending required if you had only $300 left to spend on that card) and $700 on your American Express card. That way you can complete your minimum spending on more than one card. (Hat Tip to Roger Haynie)
Insurance Payments. If you receive a payment from an insurance company, you may be able to charge your expenses (car or home repair) on your credit card and use the money from the insurance company to pay your credit card bill. (Hat Tip to Roger Haynie)
Pay a Convenience Fee To Use Your Credit Card
In general, paying a convenience fee (2% or higher) to be able to use a credit card to make a payment is not worth the miles earned on a regular basis.
However, it may be useful to meet the minimum spending requirement on a credit card or to achieve a certain level of spending on a card, for example the $10,000 needed each cardmember year to earn a weekend night with the Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve card.
For example, paying a 3% fee on a $4,000 minimum spend requirement to get 75,000 bonus miles will cost you $120.
Paying $120 as a fee is totally worth it to me if I would otherwise miss out on those 75,000 bonus miles!
You should always check the fees involved and do the math to see if this makes sense for you to do.
Plastiq. Use Plastiq to pay loans, rent, mortgage, utilities, or other bills with your credit card. They charge a flat 2.5% fee, but sometimes have promotions with lower rates.
Mortgage Payments. Charge Smart allows you to pay your mortgage via credit card (Visa, MasterCard & Discover, but currently NOT American Express) for a fee of ~2.4% or higher.
Car Payments. Charge Smart also lets you pay your car payments via a credit card (Visa, MasterCard & Discover, but currently NOT American Express) for a fee.
Car Registration. You may be able to pay for your car registration with a credit card for a small convenience fee.
Utility Payments. You can pay for utilities such as water and electricity by using a credit card either through your utility provider or via a 3rd party provider such as Charge Smart for a fee.
College Tuition. Many colleges will let you pay for all or part of the tuition and housing costs with a credit card for a fee. Check your college’s website or Official Payments for more information on paying with a credit card.
Student Loans. Charge Smart lets you pay your student loan payments via a credit card for a fee (Visa, MasterCard & Discover, but currently NOT American Express). You may also be able to use a credit card, for a fee, directly through your loan provider.
Property taxes. You may be able to pay your property taxes with a credit card for a fee either directly through your county or through a 3rd party service provider such as Official Payments.
US Taxes. You may be able to pay your Federal Income taxes with a credit card for a fee. The IRS maintains a list of tax payment service providers on their website.
State & Local Taxes. You may be able to pay your state and local taxes either directly through your county or through a 3rd party service provider such as Official Payments for a fee.
International Money Transfers
Money Transfers. Xoom lets you send money internationally for a fee. (Hat Tip to zeesh86)
Other ways to complete Minimum spending
These methods may not be for everyone, so please let your personal values and ethics guide your decision to use or not use a particular method.
Payment services allow you to transfer money from one person to another.
Be aware that the fees and policies are continually changing, so I recommend that you check the fees before using any of these options. Please read each providers’ Terms & Conditions so that you know what is allowed and what is not!
Instead of transferring money back and forth between accounts (which is easier to detect), you may want to consider transferring money from person A to person B using a payment service, and having person B return the money to person A by check.
PayPal. PayPal is a large payment processor which charges a fee for purchases or personal transfers. There are lots of reports of PayPal closing accounts for frequently transferring money between accounts, so do your own research before using this method.
Venmo. This is a way to transfer small amounts of money from person to person using a mobile phone. The Venmo website describes the service as a way “to pay each other back for lunch, dinner, drinks, rent, groceries, tickets, and trips.”
For example, you could pay your partner or friend for the groceries they bought for you.
Currently there is no fee, but there is a monthly limit of $ 1,200 which can be transferred via credit card.
Be aware that Venmo has been closing accounts that frequently transfer money back and forth. Transfers in a 1-way direction may not arouse as much suspicion as regular back-and-forth transfers between 2 people.
Venmo will soon charge a 3% fee for sending money in May 2012.
Pay Divvy. Pay Divvy lets you send money from person to person using a credit card for a 3.5% fee.
Fund a New Bank Account. Some banks allow you to initially fund a new account with certain credit cards. Keep in mind some cards will not work because the transaction posts as a cash advance, so set your card’s cash advance limit to zero before you try this.
Returns To Stores. I am uncomfortable with this method and have not personally used it, so please do your own research if you decide to use this method.
A few stores – particularly those noted for excellent customer service such as Costco or Nordstrom – allow you to receive a refund for a purchase on a different credit card than the one used to make the purchase.
There have been reports of folks charging, say, a $60,000 ring from Costco on a mile earning credit card and then returning the ring in a few days, and asking for the refund to be processed on a different non-mile earning credit card. The net result is that you have “earned” 60,000 miles or points on your credit card.
Money Orders. Some grocery stores will let you buy money orders with your credit card. You then deposit the money order in your bank.
I have not found any grocery store which has let me buy money orders with a credit card, but your luck (especially with smaller non-chain grocery stores and in small towns) may be better!
Bottom Line: Don’t let large minimum spend requirements prevent you from getting large credit card sign-up bonuses.
The above tips and a little planning will let you meet most of the spend necessary to get the large credit card sign-up bonuses and have Big Travel with Small Money!
What are your favorite ways to meet the minimum spending requirements on your credit cards? Tell us in the comments!
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Disclosure: I don’t get any commission or payment from any of the service providers mentioned above or from anyone else for this post or for the links in this post.