Credit cards offer consumers a host of benefits and purchase protections, but for most, the best part is the sign-up bonus. For instance, the Chase Sapphire Reserve’s 100,000 point sign-up bonus from 2016 was worth $1,000 in cash back, or thousands of dollars if redeemed for flights or hotel stays. With big sign-up bonuses, however, come big minimum spend requirements. The most straightforward way to meet it is through regular purchases. With cards like the Chase Sapphire Reserve requiring a minimum spend requirement of $4,000 in the first 3 months, or some business credit cards even reaching $10,000, this could be a challenge. However, there are ways to contribute to this without spending above your means.
1. Utilities and Bills
A surprising number of young people I know still pay their monthly utilities and bills with checks or direct transfers from bank accounts. However, fully automating these processes by just linking your credit card not only takes one more thing off your monthly checklist, but it’ll add up fast in helping you meet your credit card minimum spend requirement. Internet and cable bills should be the first ones you change because their online billing systems are likely up-to-date, and also because many rewards cards include these as extra earning bonus categories. For instance, the Chase Ink Preferred card gives you 3% cashback on Internet and cable bills, while the Chase Ink Cash gives you 5%. Health and auto insurance are also things you can pay for with your credit card, so do the same for these.
There services such as RadPad or RentMoola that will allow you to use your credit card to pay the rent. Keep in mind that rent is probably one category that is slightly harder to pay for with credit cards, since you need to find both a service and a landlord who accepts payments in that form. Furthermore, services like RadPad collect a small percentage fee, so you need to balance out the total amount of rewards you’d earn with the sign-up bonus, and compare it to total cost. No point in getting a bonus if the fees outweigh the benefits.
2. Pay for other people and get reimbursed
Have you ever gone out to dinner with friends and had to split a bill seven ways? With the availability of P2P payment apps like Venmo or Square Cash, this is no longer an issue. However, why would you want to be the one having to do this? Because in paying the bill with your credit card and getting reimbursed by your friends later, you are earning cash back for their meals.
Let’s say 10 people go to dinner and the total is 200 after tax and tip ($20 per person). If you paid for the whole bill with a Chase Freedom or Discover It card during a restaurant quarter, you would get 5% cash back (though 1% during non-restaurant quarters), or $10 back. If each meal was $20, then you essentially only spent $10 on dinner. Furthermore, you’d be $200 closer to hitting the intro bonus requirement on the card. The Chase Freedom has a $150 cash bonus after spending $500 on the card. If you did this $200 outing with a large group of people three times, the $600 total puts you over the $500 minimum spend required to earn your $150 bonus. That $150 plus $600 x 5% bonus equals $180 total you’re receiving, for spending only $60 total on those 3 meals.
3. Buy Gift Cards
Buying gift cards is another way to meet minimum spend. Let’s say you know you’re going to be making a purchase at Best Buy for a new computer later in the year, but not within the 3-month window for minimum spend; consider buying a gift card now to meet the minimum spend, then use that gift card for the computer later. Same goes for if you have a flight coming later in the year, since you can buy airline gift cards as well that can be used to purchase airfare.
My favorite gift credit to purchase is Amazon reloads, since I use Amazon all the time. The best part of reloading Amazon gift credit onto your account is that you can reload any amount, and specify down to the cent.
Just remember to only purchase a gift card amount you’ll actually use, and also an amount that you can float until you do so.
4. Venmo/Square Cash
If you’re near your target for minimum spend, but short a few hundred dollars, you can always use P2P payment services like Venmo or Square Cash to send money to a trusted family member or friend, who can then send you money back. For this, maybe use one service to send, and another to receive, because just sending the same amount back and forth could flag your account. Another consideration is that using a credit card to send money on these services charges a 3% fee per transaction. Weigh this fee with the benefit you would get out of the card. If, for instance, paying $30 in fees is enough to get you over the threshold for a reward that is $500, maybe it’s worth it.
One card that I sometimes use with Venmo is the Chase Ink Preferred, since the Ink Preferred categorizes Venmo under Internet/Phone category, which gives you a 3% cash back that cancels out the 3% transaction fee.
5. Bank account funding
Some banks let you make your opening deposit for a checking or savings account with a credit card. To do this, you need to find a bank that allows credit card funding, then make sure your credit card will charge the funding as a purchase and not a cash advance. A purchase will count toward your minimum spend, and you can then withdraw that same money right out of your bank account and pay off the balance. If it is a cash advance, you will have to pay a high interest rate since it’s considered a loan; avoid cash advances like the plague. Banks like Santander and Citizens Bank have always been very good about letting you fund with a Visa or Mastercard. Doctor of Credit has an excellent page that lists every bank that allows credit card funding, and with which cards. These lists are composed of user inputted data, and are very accurate. There is of course, always a degree of YMMV, but if there are recent data points and success stories, and the bank you’re looking into says credit card funding is available, then you should be fine. Please keep in mind that you should only do this if you already had the intention to open a new account. Do not abuse this, as this is not why bank account funding was created as an option. It can reflect negatively on your CHEX score, and if you spend irresponsibly, like with any loans, this may haunt you later.
6. Add an Authorized User
An authorized user gets their own copy of your card, with limited account access. This is a great way to meet your minimum spend requirement faster. If you have a spouse, you can add them so that you can double your time. Keep in mind that since you need to take full responsibility for any charges made by your Authorized User, only add someone you trust.
7. Pre-pay bills
This is a good option if you’re paying for something you’ll end up having to pay anyway. As with other mentioned methods, make sure you can float the amount between the time you spend and the time the original date was due. And also only do this with a service you know you’ll still be using in a few months time.
8. Pay taxes
Tax season is coming up, and while this season is no fun for anyone, it is a good chance to meet minimum spend on your cards. Your tax forms and the IRS website share links to approved payment services that will let you pay your taxes with a credit card. Keep in mind that this too, has fees. The lowest fee service charges 1.87%, which again isn’t bad if your benefits will outweigh the cost.