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- Earning credit card sign-up bonuses is the fastest way to get credit card points or frequent flyer miles to put toward free travel.
- Typically, cards have a minimum spending requirement you need to meet in order to get the bonus. For example, the Chase Sapphire Reserve offers 50,000 points after you spend $4,000 in three months.
- You should only open a card when you have a plan for meeting that minimum spend requirement.
- However, if you find yourself a little short, here are seven tricks to help you get the bonus – without spending more money than you would otherwise.
- Read more personal finance coverage.
Opening a credit card and earning the sign-up bonus is one of the easiest and quickest ways to amass a ton of points or frequent flyer miles – and it can even improve your credit score in the long term. Usually, credit card sign-up offers require you to spend a specific amount within a certain timeframe. For example, the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card offers a bonus of 60,000 points when you spend $4,000 in the first three months (that’s on top of the points you earn from the purchases, of course).
Once you open a new rewards card, you only have one shot to get the welcome bonus. If you don’t hit the requirement, you’ll miss out on the bonus, and in some cases, you won’t be eligible to try and earn the bonus again at some point later if you ever close and reopen the card. So you should only apply for a card if you can spend that amount of money in the specified timeframe.
You can also take advantage of times that you’re planning to spend more than normal to open a credit card and put your big purchases toward the minimum spending requirement. For instance, consider opening a new card before you book a vacation, before you pay taxes, before you do your holiday shopping, or before you pay a down payment for a new car.
The first rule of credit card rewards and “travel hacking” is to never spend more than you can afford in the pursuit of earning points and miles. But if you come up just a bit short of a hitting the minimum spending requirement for a sign-up bonus, these tips can help you get the rest of the way there.
Keep in mind that we’re focusing on the rewards and perks that make these credit cards great options, not things like interest rates and late fees, which will far outweigh the value of any points or miles. It’s important to practice financial discipline when using credit cards by paying your balances in full each month, making payments on time, and only spending what you can afford to pay back.
Read more: The best credit card offers available now
1. Use your credit card for everything
This might seem like an obvious one, but all the same, it’s often possible to use a credit card for purchases that you usually pay for with cash, check, or bank transfer. Concentrating all of your daily, weekly, and monthly spending on your new credit card – even small purchases like a cup of coffee – can help you hit the minimum spend by adding up, or pushing you over the edge if you’re getting close.
In some cases, there might be a surcharge if you use a credit card, rather than a bank transfer. For example, PayPal, Venmo, or a utility company might charge an extra 2-3% if you use a credit card. Usually, it isn’t worth paying extra in order to get points on the purchase, since 2-3% can negate, and sometimes even outweigh, the value you get from rewards.
However, when you’re working toward a minimum spend requirement for a sign-up bonus, if spending a couple of bucks on a credit card fee helps make the difference between snagging 60,000 points – potentially worth $600 or more – the couple of bucks you spend on that credit card fee are probably worth it.
2. Prepay (or overpay) your utilities
Many utility companies let you pay just about any amount, even if you’re paying more than your current bill. While you may not be able to get any overpayments refunded, those funds contribute to your next statement.
If you can comfortably float the money, you can pay for a few months’ worth of utilities early in order to meet your minimum spend requirement if you’re getting close to the deadline.
3. Pay for dinner or bar tabs with friends, and have them reimburse you
When you’re out to dinner with a group, instead of splitting the bill, see if your friends would mind letting you put the whole bill on your new card, and paying you for their share. Apps like Venmo make this easy, while you could also use PayPal or Zelle. You can also go old school and just use cash.
4. Buy gift cards for stores you frequent
Similar to overpaying your utility bills, if you can float a small loan to yourself, consider buying a gift card or two for stores you know you’re going to shop at later. Then, after you’ve hit the minimum spending requirement, use those gift cards for purchases. For example, if you have a Starbucks habit, you can load $100 onto a Starbucks gift card to cover your drinks later on. Or, if you know that you have a home improvement project coming up or are planning to buy a new appliance, buy a Lowes gift card.
Keep in mind that some issuers may not count “cash equivalents” like gift cards toward the spending requirement. Make sure to check your new card’s terms and conditions.
5. Give to charity
If you normally make charitable donations at a certain time of year – maybe during the holidays or at the end of the year – think about doing it earlier so that you can meet the minimum spend requirement.
6. Pay your rent or mortgage
There are a few services that let you pay your rent or mortgage by credit card. The way they work is by charging your card, then printing and mailing a check to the recipient (your landlord, management company, or the bank that holds your mortgage). Two of the most popular services are Plastiq and RadPad.
While these services charge fees, usually between 2 and 3%, paying that can be worthwhile if it helps you meet the minimum spending requirement. For example, if your rent is $2,000 a month, and you use your card for one month, the fee at 2% would only be $40. That’s a small price to pay for a big sign-up bonus if it makes the difference between meeting the spend requirement or missing out.
Check here to see the best sign-up bonuses currently available – any of these cards can help you on your way to free travel.
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Please note: While the offers mentioned above are accurate at the time of publication, they’re subject to change at any time and may have changed, or may no longer be available.
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