How to Earn Miles & Points With Credit Cards If You’re Not a Big Spender

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Million Mile Secrets reader, Rebecca, emailed:

My mom realizes now why it’s better to use a credit card instead of debit card for everyday purchases.  Because she can earn miles & points to use for airfare and hotel stays.  But I’m not sure which credit card would be best for her.  Her monthly spend is ~$200 to ~$300, with an occasional larger purchase.  Do you have any suggestions?

It’s fantastic to see Rebecca introducing her mom to the world of miles & points.

Not only will using a credit card be safer than making purchases with a debit card, but Rebecca’s mom can earn rewards to achieve her travel goals!

To earn many lucrative sign-up bonuses, you must meet a few thousand dollars in minimum spending requirements.  But you can still get Big Travel with certain cards, even if you don’t do a lot of spending.

Low Spending Travel Card Bonuses
Making Everyday Purchases With a Credit Card Can Earn You Miles & Points and Help You Achieve Your Travel Goals

I’ll share 4 strategies for folks looking to get Big Travel who aren’t big spenders!

4 Ways to Get Big Travel Without Big Spending!

Link:   Can Folks Who Don’t Do a Lot of Spending Still Earn Big Travel?

Before I share some tricks for folks who aren’t big spenders, consider you might be able to reach minimum spending requirements on travel cards without realizing it.

I’ve written 40+ ways to meet minimum spending requirements.  For example, I recommend making gas purchases with a credit card instead of paying cash.

And there are services, like Plastiq and Charge Smart that allow you to charge rent, mortgage payments, and utility bills to a credit card.  There’s usually a convenience fee to use these services.  But I’d gladly pay a small fee to earn a valuable sign-up bonus, which can save you hundreds or thousands of dollars on travel!

Low Spending Travel Card Bonuses
Before Dismissing Credit Cards With Larger Spending Requirements, Consider Paying a Small Fee With Services Like Plastiq to Pay Bills That Don’t Usually Accept Cards

Here are some other tips for folks who don’t spend a lot, but want to earn miles & points.

1.   Apply for a Card Just Before You Make a Large Purchase

Earning a valuable sign-up bonus is the easiest and quickest way to boost your miles & points balance.

Reader Rebecca says her mom makes an occasional large purchase.  If she times it right, she can apply for a travel card with slightly higher minimum spending requirements knowing she can hit it by making the purchase.

For example, if you’re planning to put a down payment on a car, you can apply and use your rewards credit card to meet the spending requirements and unlock the sign-up bonus.

Before you make a large purchase, consider one of these cards, which have terrific sign-up bonuses!

CardAnnual FeeDowngrading To
Chase Fairmont (soon to be Chase Sapphire Preferred)$95Chase Freedom Unlimited (NO annual fee)
Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard$89Barclaycard Arrival (NO annual fee)
Barclaycard American Airlines Aviator Red$95Barclaycard American Airlines Aviator MasterCard (NO annual fee)
Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card$59Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card (NO annual fee)

2.   Earn a Sign-Up Bonus With Just $1,000 in Minimum Spending

You can earn valuable sign-up bonuses on certain travel cards without spending thousands of dollars.

Here are some of my top card picks that require $1,000 in minimum spending to earn a sign-up bonus.

CardSign-Up Bonus & Minimum Spending RequirementsHow to Use the Sign-Up Bonus
Bank of America Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® Card30,000 Alaska Airlines miles & $100 statement credit after making $1,000 in purchases within the first 90 days of opening account.You can book award flights with Alaska Airlines’ partner airlines

IHG® Rewards Club Select Credit Card80,000 IHG points after spending $1,000 within the first 90 days of opening your accountStretch your points with IHG PointBreaks hotels
Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card20,000 Venture miles after spending $1,000 within the first 3 months of opening your account
The sign-up bonus on this no annual fee card is worth $200 in travel
Low Spending Travel Card Bonuses
The Chase IHG Card Is a Great Pick Because You Get a Free Night on Every Card Anniversary, Which You Can Use at ANY IHG Hotel!

3.   Choose a Straightforward Cash Back Card

Link:   Top 10 No-Annual-Fee Credit Cards for 2017

Instead of getting a miles & points travel card, you can get a cash back card.  Many of these cards have no annual fee, which means you can keep them forever.  This can potentially improve your credit score.

For example, with the Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card, you can earn a $150 sign-up bonus when you spend $500 on purchases within the first 3 months of opening your account.  And you’ll earn unlimited 1.5% back on every purchase.

It also is one of only a few cards with no annual fee AND no foreign transaction fees.  So it’s fantastic if your’e traveling overseas!

Low Spending Travel Card Bonuses
Save Money Overseas by Using the No Annual Fee Capital One Quicksilver Card, Which Doesn’t Charge Foreign Transaction Fees

Note:   Capital One pulls your credit score from all 3 main credit bureaus, giving you hard inquiries on your report!  This isn’t ideal, because hard inquiries cause your credit score to temporarily dip.

Or consider the Citi® Double Cash Card, which earns up to 2% cash back.  You’ll earn 1% cash back on purchases and another 1% when you pay them off.  There’s no limit to the amount you can earn, but this card has NO sign-up bonus.

Keep in mind, in order to redeem your cash back, you must have earned at least $25.  You can request cash back in the form of a mailed check, statement credit, or gift cards.

4.   Add an Authorized User to Meet Larger Minimum Spending Requirements

If you’re trying to help a family member earn miles & points, like Rebecca, you might consider becoming an authorized user on their account.

Because any purchases an authorized user makes also count towards the minimum spending requirements.  So you can help unlock lucrative sign-up bonuses with cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred.

Low Spending Travel Card Bonuses
If You’re Miles & Points Savvy, You Can Become an Authorized User on a Family Member’s Account to Help Them Meet Minimum Spending Requirements and Unlock Big Sign-Up Bonuses!

With the Sapphire Preferred, you even get 5,000 bonus Chase Ultimate Rewards points for adding an authorized user who makes one purchase within the first 3 months of opening your account.

Bottom Line

You do NOT have to be a big spender to earn valuable sign-up bonuses with travel credit cards.

You can earn fantastic sign-up bonuses with just $1,000 in minimum spending requirements on cards like:

  • Bank of America Alaska Airlines Visa Business Card®
  • Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card
  • Chase IHG 

And if you’re planning to make a large purchase and can hit a larger minimum spending requirement, consider applying for a card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred.  Because the sign-up bonus on this card is worth at least $625 in travel!

Million Mile Secrets features a team of points and miles experts who have traveled to over 80 countries and have used 60+ credit cards responsibly to accumulate loyalty points and travel the world on the cheap! The Million Mile Secrets team has been featured on The Points Guy, TIME, Yahoo Finance and many other leading points & miles media outlets.

Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

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