Reader Request: How do you complete large minimum spending for credit card sign-up bonuses?

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Million Mile Secrets reader Ji commented on my recent App-o-Rama where I earned 300,000 Miles and Points +2 free nights at any Hyatt hotel with 6 credit cards.

my goodness…how in the world do you make a min spend of nearly $14k in three months?

Many credit cards require you to complete a certain amount of minimum spending before you get the sign-on bonus.  Some folks will have no problem since they will have lots of reimbursable business expenses which they can charge to their personal credit cards, while others will find it hard to meet high minimum spending requirements.

It is important to NOT spend more money than you otherwise would just to get the sign-up bonus.  Interest rates on credit cards are very high and you usually will never come out ahead by paying interest on credit cards.

You should also apply for credit cards for  which you can comfortably complete the minimum spending.  And consider adding in a few cards which do not require a minimum spend to your applications.

As always, do what is most comfortable for YOU and works best for YOU.   You shouldn’t apply for 6 credit cards just because I do (or your other favorite blogger does!)

Emily and I are not big spenders and we love saving money.  So how did we spend the $14,000 within 3 months?

1.   Amazon Payments.  You can send up to $1,000 per month to another person without any fee by using Amazon payments.  This adds up to $3,000 to $4,000 over a 3 month period.

For example, if you receive a card on May 15th, which requires you to spend $5,000 within 3 months, you can use Amazon payments on May 15, June 15, July 15, and August 15 to complete $4,000 worth of spending.

2.   William Paid for rent or ChargeSmart for Mortgage.   We use WilliamPaid to pay our rent & gladly pay the 3% fee on our ~$1,000 rent ($30) to help meet the spending required to get a 40,000 or 50,000 point bonus.  WilliamPaid sends a check to your landlord on your behalf and works even if your landlord is NOT registered with William Paid.  This helps us meet another $3,000 spending over 3 months.

If you have a mortgage, you can use ChargeSmart to pay your mortgage for a fee.  I wouldn’t recommend using ChargeSmart or William Paid regularly to earn miles and points, though it could be worth it in limited instances.  But do the math for your specific situation!

3.   Regular living expenses (gas, groceries, insurance, etc.)   I wish it wasn’t so, but we spend at least $1,000 on gas, groceries, toll, netflix, gifts, insurance, meals, etc. per month.  This adds up to another $3,000 over 3 months for us.

You can even buy grocery store or gift cards to other shops and restaurants if you know you’ll use them later on and can pay off your credit card bill.  We recently bought a $500 super market gift card which we’ll use over the next month.

You can put virtually any expense on a credit card, and even if you have to pay a 3% fee to do so, it could be totally worth it to get the sign-up bonus on a credit card.

However, it may not be worth it to pay a fee to earn miles outside of the sign-up bonus (i.e everyday spending), unless you’ve done the math for your specific situation!

Check out the 40+ ways to complete your minimum spending to see just what you can charge to a credit card.

4.   Student Loans.   Emily and I have lots of them, and sometimes we make a payment using ChargeSmart and pay the ~3% fee if we need to come up with extra spending to get the sign-up bonus on a credit card.

5.   Pay Divvy and Venmo.   Pay Divvy and Venmo (1st $500 is fee-free) let you send money to others for a fee (~3%).  I wouldn’t use this regularly to earn miles and points for everyday spending, but gladly pay the fee to transfer money if I was in danger of missing out on a credit card sign-up bonus.

I’d initially transfer a small amount, just to make sure that the transaction isn’t coded as a cash advance (with high fees) instead of as a purchase.

In my experience, American Express doesn’t like seeing too much Pay Divvy, Venmo, and Amazon Payments activity on your account and could initiate a financial account review because of these payments.  I also wouldn’t transfer money back-and-forth between 2 people.

6.   Kiva Loans.   Frequent Miler has a great post on how you can lend money via Kiva and complete your minimum spending requirement.  And you usually get your money back in a few months, so this is a great way to meet a minimum spending requirement and help others, if you can pay off your credit card bill when it comes due.    Of course, there’s a risk of not getting your money back if the lender defaults on the loan, but that is very, very low with Kiva.

7.   Taxes.  You can pay property tax and personal or business income taxes using a credit card.  PayUSAtax charges 1.89% convenience fee, but that could be worth it to get the sign-up bonus on your credit cards.

Bottom Line:  You don’t actually have to spend a lot of money to complete the minimum spending on credit cards.   Deals will come and go, so don’t apply for more credit cards than you can comfortably meet the minimum spending for!

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55 responses to “Reader Request: How do you complete large minimum spending for credit card sign-up bonuses?

  1. aw, the ole amazon post. that was a good one 🙂

    confidential to all the negative commenters on that post: please note that amazon payments has not been shut down, contrary to your predictions.

  2. Thanks for referencing my Kiva post. I’ve had great luck with Kiva loans (no defaults), but it is important to understand that you won’t get your money back in the same billing cycle as when you made the loans, so only go for this option if you have enough money in the bank to cover it.

  3. On April 3rd, I signed up my wife for $5,500 in minimum spend for three cards, plus two first purchase cards. Then I ended up pulling the trigger a week later on $7,000 in minimum spend for two cards and two other first purchase cards. I was worried about meeting the minimum spend, but I actually completed it by May 15 for all cards. Yes, add in processing and mailing time for the new cards, and that’s over $13,000 in one month.

    For me, a lot of it is business expenses, but also make sure you’re transferring all spend away from your “favorite” cards. Now that I met mine early, it does feel a little weird to think about the 1x points on airfare I got using my Ink Bold for spend requirements vs. the 2x I could have had with Sapphire Preferred or 3x with AmEx Premier Rewards Gold. But of course I received the bonuses, which is the important part.

  4. Thanks for the student loan reminder. We haven’t had to use that one yet but it’s great to keep stored in the back of my mind just in case…and not one I think of otherwise.

    @FrequentMiler, Good reminder, as many repayment schedules are significantly longer than a billing cycle or two.

  5. I love the gift cards from grocery stores for meeting minimum spend – there seems to be a card there for every place under the sun, and as long as they’re stores and restaurants you know you’ll buy from eventually, there’s no real cost to you to simply move up the expenditures to earn the bonuses.

    And right now Kroger, where I shop most, has a 4x bonus on its fuel rewards for gift card purchases, so if I buy $125 in gift cards to stores and restaurants I will use anyway, I get a) the gift cards themselves for future use; b) 125 miles on the credit card I use; c)$125 in spend toward the signup bonus d) 500 fuel points good for 50c/gallon off on my next gas fillup. (Note that the fuel offer is not good on AMEX, Visa and MasterCard gift cards, just on store and restaurant cards.)

    And the charges will draw no adverse scrutiny because it looks to the credit card company like I’m buying groceries. If a card you’re trying to meet spend on has a bonus category for groceries, all the better. As always, be sure you have the funds available to meet the monthly credit card bill.

    Of course, this is a second choice for meeting spend. The first category is anything you can be reimbursed for. But this should come before things that cost you fees, such as the rent, student loans, income taxes, etc.

  6. Also, we plan our cards around major expenditures that are not regular. We are doing some work on the house and can’t keep the credit cards coming fast enough between two people. In fact, I’m waiting for some cards to go buy trees for our yard (about $1500 worth).

    There was a time you could buy US treasuries with a credit card, I wish they’d bring that back….

  7. Daraius

    Regarding the Amazon Payments method, are there specific cards or issuers that allow you to use this option without getting hit with a cash advance fee? I have used Amazon Payments with my Chase Sapphire Preferred successfully but have heard that other issuers, such as Amex and Citi hit you with a cash advance fee when using it. Is there any truth to this?

    In my last app-o-rama (a week ago) I received both the Citi AA Amex and Citi AA Visa and will need to use Amazon Payments to hit my minimum spend for one of these cards.

    Bes regards and thank you for continuing to put out wonderful information that we can all use.

  8. If you use amazon payments on May 15 or even May 31st you can use it next on June 1st. As long as its the first day of a new month you can you use it.

  9. A few ways I’ve used in the past 3 months to fulfill spending requirements on Citi AA Visa/Amex for my wife and me, Chase Sapphire Preferred and Hilton Amex for me (also got two first purchase Mileage Plus cards and a US Airways card):

    – Friends wedding expenses. This is per Daraius’ post on the topic. I had two friends getting married and was able to pay for various wedding and hotel expenses. This came out to more than $5000 worth of expenses for which they simply cut me a check afterwards.
    – Car repairs and other large expenses for friends. Followed the same method as above.
    – Tuition for professional school. My school is one of a few that will allow you to pay your tuition with a credit card and NOT refund your credit card when your loan money comes in. They direct deposit my loans and then I am able to pay off the cards. If you are in school, definitely see if you can do this. It was a considerable amount for me.
    – As Daraius always mentions, make a habit of using your cards for EVERY daily expenditure, from gum to gas.

  10. Darius,

    How bad is Amex on AP?

    I’ve got the Citi AA AMEX card that I need to get the minimum spending through .. I was going to use the AP but now I am concerned regarding the financial review. Of course, it’s gonna be a one way transaction



  11. Another awesome post. This one gets bookmarked!

  12. I just completed the Amex spend 10k in 4 months and by no means do I make enough money to do that and feel comfortable with my spending. I was planning on using charge smart when I signed up for card to hit some of it but then found out that charges mart does not accept Amex. So then I realized through sellingon eBay that I could send a PayPal payment to my sister or someone else I can trust for any amount and as long as you pay the fee Amex will bill it like a purchase. So voila I sent my sister a payment of 6500 and met the other spending on my own an through a friend who normally pays cash and I just charged some things for him an collected the cash. I plan to use PayPal to meet more bonuses in the future. The 3% fee drops down to about 2% if u take into account that you will get the sign up bonus plus the points from the purchase. But again it should only be used for sign up bonuses that are big enough to offset the fee and give you a good miles profit. Aka don’t spend 200 bucks in fees to get 100 bucks worth of free airfare. The Amex points are worth at least 1000 bucks to me if I use them on delta. I will pay 200 bucks all day for something worth 1000. Good luck and use PayPal if u r short.

  13. PR that’s awesome, when I went to college they let me charge what’s leftover of my tuition after my student loans were considered. But that was years ago when there weren’t many rewards cards around =( . As Emily was mentioned earlier in Darius’ earlier post, all those points lost! I probably could had stayed at a Hilton for a solid month with the tuition I charged. =)

  14. This is SO timely for me, I’ve been asking the IS IT WORTH IT question myself in regards to paying fees to Charge Smart to cover some spend.

    USAir hit me with a bonus 15k points if I spent $1,250 per month June, July & Aug
    Citi Hilton, I need to spend another $500 on this card to cover spend by July 5.
    And I want to churn out either the BA (or Hyatt), Alaska and SPG at the moment – that’s $2500 just for the SPG over 6 months and then spend for either the BA, or none for Hyatt…

    Charge Smart is going to cost me $30 for my mortgage and $10 for my auto… small money to get the spend in and the points, but I’m unsure how it washes out in the end – I guess that depends all on my redemption!

    • @emily – You remember! Amazon Payments made it to Lifehacker which has millions of viewers and still works.

      @FrequentMiler – Good point and I’ve bolded parts of the post to emphasize that you won’t get your money back in the same billing cycle.

      – I’d rather get the sign-up bonus than the category spending bonus, but it sure would be nice to get both!

      @New Girl in the Air – I’ve set up my student loans to debit my bank account, so I don’t “think” about it much, unless I review my statement. But it is a nice option to have!

      @DaveS – Agreed. Much better to buy gift cards which you’ll use later instead of paying a fee for other transactions!

      @Con-Man – It would be nice if buying US Treasuries on a credit card returns!

      @Andrew – To be the best of my knowledge, there is no cash advance fee for using Citi personal cards with Amazon payments. However, you may get hit with a cash advance fee if you use a Citi business card to buy American Express gift cards directly from American Express.

      @MissMiles – It is $1,000 per calendar month so you can use it on the 31st and then again on the 1st.

      @PR – Being able to charge tuition on the cards must be fairly substantial. I had to pay a fee when I was in school, so I didn’t do it.

      @david – The Citi AMEX is NOT issued by American Express bank, so you should be fine.

      @Mark – Glad you liked it!

      @Joey – Thanks for the tip! $10K within 4 months is a lot of spending, but good to know that PayPal can help!

      @Grant – It would be nice to be able to get some points for the tuition we pay, since it would be quite substantial!

      @Mike H – I’d say it IS worth it for the sign-up bonus, or to buy miles at a lower rate than what the airline charges or to hit a bonus. The SPG is $5k within 6 months, so it could be worth it.

  15. Or.. a person should explore & find a personal mint option 😉

  16. THEsocalledfan

    I would point out that I have used Pay Divvy to pay my mortgage with AmEx. It is the only way I can find to pay mortgage with Amex and works great, but yes the fee. Only advise this if you need to meet spend.

  17. You can also pay for cable and cell phone bills in advance. I charged $1K to my Comcast account a few months ago to meet minimum spend. Electric bills usually charge a percentage for paying via credit card, which IMO isn’t worth it.

  18. I have few “Authorized” users on my card. It helps with the spend very easily.
    Just a reminder.. only add your trusted people on the AU list. 🙂

  19. I prepaid my heating oil for the year last September ($2,500) in order to meet a minimum spend. The oil company is actually paying me 2% on my credit balance with them!
    ….. I got my CC bonus AND am making a bit of a profit on top of it all. Gonna try this one again next season.

  20. Hi
    Where in Amazon I can see that there is no fee to send and receive up to $1,000 per month?
    And how much does Amazon charge for more than $1,000?
    Thanks in advance for help.

  21. Thank you so much for Tip #4 about earning miles with student loan payments using ChargeSmart. I e-mailed Sallie Mae to ask if they accepted credit cards, and they called back to say they did not.

    ChargeSmart looks interesting. Huge potential to earn miles, since student loans are an ongoing cost. Do you think it would be too expensive to use ChargeSmart on a recurring basis? Does it have the feature to pay the same amount automatically every month?

    Otherwise, I might just use it occasionally to “bridge the gap” and take advantage of a sign-up bonus or promo offer.

    Thank you for sharing these great tips.

  22. I buy expensive things at large discounts and resell them on ebay/craigslist to meet my minimum spends. I wrote a whole book on it! Shiny new iMacs are one of my favorite items to buy, upgrade, and sell.

    • @Tariq – Do you know of another mint?

      @THEsocalledfan @Kev @Jolokia @Casey Friday
      – Good to know and thanks for sharing!

      @T-Rex – That could get expensive very quickly!

      @Tatyana – When you sign-up, you’ll be able to see that there is no fee. I don’t believe that you can send more than $1,000 with a personal account a month (you’ll need a business account).

      @Marcus – It is hard to come out ahead with a 3% fee, unless you have a specific use for the miles and points which has a value greater than 3 cents per mile or point. But it is a great option for meeting the minimum spending for the sign-up bonus.

  23. Regarding Amazon payment business account, do you have to have a business to use the business account (like business credit card, it can be used for personal without any business)? Does anybody have any experience for how to use it(maybe for potential business)? Thanks.

  24. I’m surprised you didn’t mention Income Taxes. That’s an easy way to add a ton of spending every year, and it’s only 1.89% fee. Plus you’re getting extra points/miles you wouldn’t otherwise get if you paid taxes by check, so really the effective cost is more like 0.89%+ assuming most points are worth at least 1 cent.

  25. No I do not. But I have been hearing that people have their own individual deals that they do not want to share with anyone. No idea how much truth is in that..

  26. Darius,

    How about using AP for the AMEX Hilton card ? It’s only a $750 spend but I got other cards that I need to take care of as well that has more lucrative reward bonus when I spend

    Thanks again


  27. Taxes!!! I just paid two hefty tax bills with credit cards to meet spend requirements — 4k to the IRS and my yearly 6k property tax bill. All the agencies charge a fee, but it is only 2 to 2.4% so less than what you get anywhere else. The best part (if there can be a best part about paying 10k in taxes) is those fees are deductible on the next tax bill.

  28. @Rachael where do you deduct the fees for next year? I wish I knew that =)

    • @Jack – There’s a fee to use the business account which is mostly for folks who sell goods.

      @atxtravel @Rachael
      – Agreed. I’ll add it to the list.

      @Tariq – I’m sure there are deals which aren’t broadcast very much.

      @david – That’s for you to decide, but I wouldn’t do 1 charge of exactly $750. 🙂

  29. How can you see the $1,000 limit on Amazon Payments? I just looked through all the FAQ’s etc., and saw how you can transfer money as well as withdraw to bank account, and saw no limit on either function. Presumably it is the combination of these 2 steps that allows you to “transfer” money from your Credit Card to your “friend’s” bank account (any issues using a joint account with my wife for this purpose?)

  30. I have a question for you all (and possibly an opportunity) as well. The school I used to attend allows you to pay tuition with a credit card without a fee. I just graduated, but am still able to enroll in distance education courses (at least $4500 in minimum spend + points). If you withdraw from these courses, they refund you with a check from the Bursar’s office (full refund before the end of the first week of classes), not as a credit back to your credit card. Assuming you have enough cash to cover the bill, do you think this is a good way to meet minimum spending requirements?

    • @bdben – Try to send more than $1,000 and it will tell you that you are limited to $1,000 a month.

      – Very interesting! I wouldn’t enroll in a class and cancel just for the points, but if you have to drop a class because of a work conflict etc. it could be worth it.

  31. How about this suggestion- at start of billing cycle, max out credit card at Best Buy. According to their return policy, any purchase greater than $500 on a credit card will result in a check mailed to you within 10 business days. Go to Best Buy, spend $7,999 on their most expensive television. Go home. Make up story why you need to return it. Return to store. Get check in mail + $8,000 miles for no fees.

    For reference, here is the language from the return policy:

    “Your refund will generally be in the same form as the original purchase. However, when the item was paid with cash or debit in an amount greater than $500 or in a check in an amount greater than $250, the refund will be in the form of a check mailed within 10 business days of the return.”

    • @KCal – I wouldn’t buy something I didn’t want just to get my spending up. I also doubt that you’ll get the refund in a check – I read the policy above as saying that you get a check only if you paid in cash or a debit card for an amount greater than $500 or with a check greater than $250.

  32. Thanks for the advice. I definitely read that wrong… 🙂

  33. Good sir, If I do an Amazon Payment to my wife’s amazon account would she be able to transfer that into her checking account without an issue if that checking account is a JOINT checking account with my name on it? Thanks!

  34. @Mike Heffner:
    I would recommend the following — Do not attempt to link the same CC or checking account number to more than one Amazon Payment account. I know this doesn’t work with PayPal, and may only attract scrutiny.
    As far as the name(s) on the checking account, a payer can not get that info from the bank. It’s protected under bank privacy laws. So if your wife can verify trial deposits, the linkage with Amazon is good and she can do transfers.

  35. Open an account at Northwest FCU. Fund the account(s) with a credit card up to $5,000.00. Anyone can join.

    You guys owe me.

  36. Nevermind. They only processed my opening funding request at $10, instead of $5,000.00. I’m ticked off.

  37. Daraius – I wanted to follow up with you on using a Sapphire Preferred with Amazon Payments. I have a legit reason to use the service (rent payment) but have read about some glitches with Sapphire. Can you confirm that Sapphire does in fact work with the service? Thank you!

  38. Alright. It looks like my method does actually work. It does not work with Citi because they will recharacterize it as a cash advance. Northwest FCU does not accept opening deposits with Discover or American Express.

    I was able to put through $5,000 on my PenFed credit card and it posted as a purchase.

    The Northwest FCU method does work. Just be careful which credit card you use. Do not use Citi. I’m not sure about Chase. That was going to be my next option. Luckily, they let me try multiple credit cards until my PenFed went through.

  39. Pingback: Credit Card Mortgage | Million Mile Secrets

  40. Hi Daraius, quick question regarding amazon payment. Do you send the full $1000 time at a time, or split it up into few time?? I tried with my Chase Sapphire with $20 and have not seen a Cash advance yet. Will try bigger amount soon.

  41. Just to clarify this as I’ve never had a credit card with a minimum spend requirement. It’s $2,500 on my Visa, does it simply go by ANYTHING charged to the card until you hit that threshold? I booked a cruise, which included a separate fee on my list of transactions for the travel agency, then I paid for some flowers, and prepaid my cruise tips through the cruise website…that brought my Visa transactions to JUST OVER $2,501. 🙂 Did that do it?

    Thanks again for any help. I’m a total novice at this.

  42. Pingback: Ways to reach credit card minimum spending requirements… | Radhey's space

  43. If you miss the $2000 spending deadline in 3 months for Citicards, do they ever give you a grace period or extend the deadline, even by 1 day? I lost track of the deadline by 1 day.

    • @Ben – Any charge (except the annual fee on the card) counts towards the minimum spending. So you should be fine, but you can call the number at the back of the card to confirm the minimum spending.

      @boo – Not usually, but it doesn’t hurt to ask.

  44. Hi mates, its great piece of writing regarding teachingand fully
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  45. Amazon Payments seems to be very confusing… I would like to figure out how to use it for my modest spending needs,I already have an amazon account,I buy from them all the time, but after reading as much as I can find, I still can’t figure out how this works…. If I set up an AP acct in my name,(acct. for buying is already in my name) then I need to use a bank account to verify? Since our main ch. acct. is joint (B&M local bank) how does the ‘sending money using a cc’ work? Do I input my DH name,with a different bank acct. as a payee? or vice versa? any links at all that shed more light on this would be appreciated…. my main interest is keeping my bluebird open,and able to fund using a cc….and getting a few points in the process. I’m not a big spender, just have a few bills to pay,and I like the bluebird setup.

  46. Remember you can prepay most of your recurring bills.