You’ve probably discovered how lucrative credit card points are to earning free travel and other rewards. However, when applying for these cards, there’s often a requirement to spend a certain amount in order to get the opening bonus. This is called the minimum spend requirement, and there is no shortage of tactics to overcome this hurdle. In this video/post, we share how to meet minimum spend requirements in some creative ways.
Ways to meet minimum spend requirements
1. Monthly utility bills:
This includes your electricity, gas, cable and internet bills. If you’re not using your credit card to pay for these charges, you may want to shift some of your spend onto credit cards. Also, if you have a bill that is reoccurring and generally the same amount, you can often prepay on the account to create a credit balance. That way, you’re just front-loading future monthly payments now in order to meet the short-term minimum spend requirement.
2. Auto insurance:
Paying the balance of your auto insurance bill can be a great way to generate a large purchase. For example, my auto insurance bill is for a six-month term. I’ll often pay the entire balance upon renewal on a card that has a minimum spend requirement. Some insurance companies will even give you incentives if you pay up-front rather than paying monthly. Since we’re based in LA, our auto insurance is fairly high, so it’s nice putting the large charge to good use.
3. Rent or mortgage:
Since most landlords and banks will not accept credit cards as payments, you can use services like Plastiq or Tio (formerly known as ChargeSmart). Keep in mind that these services will charge a processing fee, typically around 2-3%. It’s not the best way to meet the minimum spend. However, I’ve used this method in the past and justified paying the fee knowing that I would be earning a bonus valued at over $1000.
4. Student loans or tuition:
You can often pay your income, business, or property taxes with a credit card. Though keep in mind that there is usually around a 2% fee to pay with a card. Like Plastiq and Tio, make sure you calculate the cost to use your card and the benefit that you expect to receive from the bonus.
6. Down payment on a car:
If you’re in the market for a car, you can often pay your down payment with a credit card. This is an excellent way to meet your minimum spend in just one purchase. Just verify with the dealership that the card is processed as a purchase and not a cash advance. Cash advances will not qualify toward your minimum spend and will generate a lot of additional fees. Be sure to ask before handing over your card.
7. Reimbursable business expenses:
If you work for a company that allows you to use your personal card then seek reimbursement, then I suggest volunteering to pay for the next happy hour or event. If you can float the charge until you get reimbursed, this can be a great way to meet your spend requirement.
Donating to charity is a great way to meet your minimum spend and potentially earn a tax deduction.
One of the most creative methods that I have used to meet minimum spend is by making a microfinance loan via Kiva. Kiva allows you to directly loan money to an entrepreneur in a developing country. You can sort by country and business type, and research the stories before committing to the loan. Once you pick your borrower, you donate via PayPal fee-free and can expect to be paid back in full without interest. Keep in mind that there is a risk of the loan default, so I wouldn’t suggest this method if your cash flow is tight. However, I’ve made a loan in the past and was repaid within a year. It was a great way to make a difference in the world (while also earning points as well).
A word on “manufactured spending” …
Lastly, there are other creative ways that people use to generate spend on their cards. These purchases are often referred to as “manufactured spending.” The concept is that you purchase items that you can then use to pay yourself back. There have been a ton of ways to do this in the past. This includes (but not limited to):
- Purchasing coins from the US Mint then depositing them back into your bank account.
- Buying pre-paid Visa and Mastercards then depositing them back into a checking account that allowed these funding sources. Some have even done so with money orders.
These tactics tend to work for a short time until the issuers figure it out or the rules change. I DO NOT recommend engaging in manufactured spending. You not only put your relationship with a lender at risk but also your personal finances! Some of these methods, like buying money orders, can get you flagged for money laundering by the government. While they may have worked in the past, they no longer worth the risk.
The thing close to “manufactured spending” that I do these days is to buy gift cards every once in a while from the store and use a card that earns bonus points. I definitely do not abuse the practice though. The last thing I want is to lose my points because an issuer canceled my card account. In fact, I am very grateful for my credit cards as they have allowed me to travel for free for many years.
As always, I recommend that you only spend within your means and make sure that your finances are in order before getting too deep into this hobby. If you need help on getting organized, please check out our “Before Starting the Points Hobby” video/post for more details.
Do you have any tips or tricks for meeting the minimum spend requirements on your new credit cards? If so, please share them in the comment section below.