Reader Question: When Does a Card’s Minimum Spending Start?

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Million Mile Secrets reader Jim commented:

When I sign up and have a minimum spending requirement to do within 3 months, does that mean within the first 3 statements?  Or 3 months from the first purchase? Or 3 months from the date the card was activated?  Or something else?

I always get nervous and make sure I meet the minimum within 2 months for fear I will miss a deadline.

Credit card sign-up bonuses are among the easiest ways to earn miles and points.  You usually get lots of miles and points after spending a certain amount (the “minimum spending”) within a certain time period.

For example, let’s say that Jim signs up for the Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard® with a 40,000 point bonus (worth ~$420 in travel).

But he has to spend $3,000 (the “minimum spending” ) within 90 days to get the bonus.  Jim could use the 40+ powerful ways to complete his credit card minimum spending requirements.

But when does the countdown to complete the minimum spending start?

It is NOT the Activation Date

One common mistake is to think that the minimum spending starts when you activate the card.

That’s not true and readers sometimes miss out on their sign-up bonuses because  they delay activating their card thinking that it also extends the time in which they have to complete the minimum spending.

It Starts from the Approval Date

The countdown to complete Jim’s minimum spending starts from when he is APPROVED for the credit card.  If he is approved instantly online, the countdown to complete the minimum spending has already started!

If Jim was approved via a letter in the mail, the countdown to complete the minimum spending starts from the date on the approval letter.

Things to Confirm

That’s why Jim should confirm the following when he calls to activate his card:

1.   Approval Date

Jim should confirm the date he was approved for the card when he calls to activate his credit card.

This way he knows the exact date when he was approved and can calculate how much time he has to complete his minimum spending.

Minimum Spending Start

Jim Needs To Know the Exact Approval Date to Calculate by When he Should Complete the Minimum Spending

Sometimes you may think you have 3 months (~ 90 to 92 days) to complete a card’s minimum spending.  But in reality, you may have fewer days to complete the spending by the time you get the card.

2.   Confirm Signup Bonus

Jim should also confirm his signup bonus just in case he isn’t signed up for the bonus he thought he applied for.

Often times, the sign-up bonus isn’t mentioned in the documents sent with your card.

Expedited Delivery

It can take up to 10 business days for a credit card to arrive in the mail.  But the clock has already started ticking when you were approved.

Some banks (but not all banks) will overnight delivery of your card for free, so it doesn’t hurt to ask if you’re eager to start spending on your card.

You won’t get the sign-up bonus if you don’t complete all of the minimum spending in time, so carefully track the minimum spending for your credit cards.

You can check how much you’ve spent by logging onto the bank’s website and adding up the total of all the statements and current spending (excluding annual fees and interest) for your card.

Bottom Line

The clock to complete the minimum spending starts when you’ve been approved for a credit card & NOT when you activate the card.  So don’t apply for a miles and points credit card unless you can complete the minimum spending requirement in time!

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20 responses to “Reader Question: When Does a Card’s Minimum Spending Start?

  1. If I meet the minimum spend right away, can I call and get them to give me the sign-up points right away? And who do I call? Thanks

  2. Such a simple question, but your answer surprised me! I completely thought it was the activation date and might have cut it too close on my INK spend. Do you know if banks are lenient on this point at all if you’re within a few days? Wow, thank you for this critical information.

  3. Wow! I never knew this…all this time I also thought it started from the activation date.

  4. I recently received a Chase card with a signing bonus (after $1000 spend in 90 days) and a $95 annual fee which was charged on my first billing statement. Does that $95 count as part of my minimum spend? Or do I need to spend $1095 to meet the minimum?

  5. Good question and good answer. I always thought it was activation date, also. But I always erred on the side of caution, anyway.

  6. Thanks – confirmed what I always suspected!

  7. @ASW – The Annual fee doesn’t count as part of the minimum spend. You will need to spend $1000 plus the activation fee.

    @Al – It is unlikely you’ll be able to receive the bonus points early.

  8. “Bottom Line
    The clock to complete the minimum spending starts when you’ve been approved for a credit card”

    —- —- —- —- —- —-
    —- —- —-
    —- —- —- —- —- —-

    You used Barclays as your example in determining when the clock starts.
    Is this in fact industry wide or just applicable to Barclays?

    I’m not doubting your blog posting – just curious as to the basis of how you came up with the determination of when the clock starts and if it is applicable across the entire credit card bonus type industry? You did not provide the reasoning behind your basis…and you are generally very good about answering these types of follow-on questions in the readers mind within your blog post.

    Thanks in advance!


  9. Thanks for this post! I just posted this exact question on a forum a few days ago!

    I have another question about minimum spend that has been bugging me. I do a lot of online shopping and sometimes I return items from my orders (legitimately; not for earning points). When they credit my card back for the return, does it count against the min spend?

  10. I received this response from Chase Ink Bold when asking to honor additional bonus promotion in June
    of spending $5K in 90 days, looks like they factored in the mail time to receive the card and activate it.

    Date: 06-17-2013 21:11:19
    From: Chase Card Services
    Subject: Re: Rewards Inquiry

    …Please note that the original offer on your account of earning 50,000 points after you spend $5,000.00 in 103 days from account opening will post to your account automatically after 103 days of your account open date.

  11. Rosa – I do believe if you return merchandise your minimum spend will be reduced. If they didn’t can you imagine the fraud that some people would perpetrate?

    Also, to the poster who asked if he could get his points early. I believe I have gotten my points at the end of the cycle in which I have reached my minimum spend. I often do it in only 60 days instead of 90 if I have a big purchase. So you could get points “early.”

  12. To several posters: As far as I know all banks are using the approval date as when the minimum spend clock starts. However I did ask one bank when I activated my card about the 90 day spend window. The customer service rep informed me that their bank actually uses 103 days to help compensate for the card generation time and the mailing delivery time. However, don’t expect that from all banks, as this might be specific to this one particular bank.

    What I do is make note of the application date when I take my screenshots of the application.

    Return credits do NOT count as minimum spend. Nor does the sign up fee or interes (although you shouldn’t have interest as you need to be paying your statements in full to be in this game). You need to be very careful if you do any returns within or even a couple of months after the minimum spend period. I like to do my minimum spend in the first 2 months and a bit of extra spend in the 3rd month just in case I need to return anything.

    Also during the entire 1st year I put a bit of extra spend on the card here and there so that it doesn’t look like you have a pattern of just making minimum spend and churning.

  13. Also realize that it can take 3-5 days from when you charge something to before the charge actually posts to your account. So don’t play it too close.

    Again, that is why I try to make minimum spend in the first 2 months and actually see my points post. If they don’t post, I then have 3 weeks to figure out why and get any needed spend done.

    • @Al @ASW – What texasguy77 said!

      @Cindy – It is unlikely that you’ll get an extension, but doesn’t hurt to call and ask.

      @BillyBob – I was at the Frequent Traveler University in Tampa, so I couldn’t get to the comments. This is usually the case with most banks, AMEX, Citi, Chase etc.

  14. From my personal experience,

    AMEX posts SPG points, Skymiles or MR points the day after you clear your spending limit (Not pending transaction).
    Chase, US Bank and others tend to wait until the next statement after you’ve completed the spending limit to post the bonus miles or points.

  15. Just to clarify on this — so long as you spend the minimum spend amount within the required time frame in order to get the bonus, you should be able to collect the points, correct? In other words, while I am paying my monthly statements in full, if I have not paid the third month’s statement by the time the clock is out (by virtue of not yet receiving it), I will still have met the requirements.

  16. I am a newbie! I may have gotten over zealous on my recent App-O-Rama. I may have bitten off more of a spend than I wanted to, and i really dont want to do the whole Bluebird thing. In thinking about my options, what would happen if i decided to ask Chase to not activate my new Ink Bold, to cancel it. Would it be better to do that and reapply in 6 months or so, or put a large charge with a $150 convenience fee on the card; which would meet the requirements?

  17. If you get a statement credit, does that count against the minimum spend? -David