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A typical objection to applying for travel rewards credit cards is intimidation of the requirement of meeting a minimum spend obligation. Sure, impulsively spending $4,000 or more in 90 days sounds like a financial burden or even irresponsible. However, most people don't understand what qualifies as an eligible credit card expense. Hitting minimum spend requirements can be achieved, without exceeding the family budget, just by paying everyday bills.
Depending on the bank and associated bonus, cardmembers typically have 90 days after account opening to complete minimum spend requirements. To boot, American Express lets members access a temporary card number instantaneously after online application approval. This saves precious time by allowing immediate spending rather than waiting a week for a new card to arrive in the mail. However, there’s no need to feel rushed when the following routine purchases are easily paid with a credit card to help meet a minimum spend.
Ways to Meet Credit Card Minimum Spend (Fee Free)
Everyday Expenses – groceries, wholesale clubs, fuel, dining, take-out/delivery
Household Bills – cell phone, cable TV, internet, utilities (gas, electricity, water), car insurance, renter’s insurance, umbrella insurance, car repairs, gym membership, dry-cleaning, toll transponders, subway/metro tickets
Subscriptions – Netflix, Hulu, HBO Now, XM Radio, Spotify/Pandora/Apple Music/Google Play Music, App Store purchases, Audible, Amazon Prime, HelloFresh, Blue Apron, BarkBox
Charitable Contributions – tithes to religious organizations and donations to charities (also tax deductible)
Medical Expenses – reimbursements for HSA/FSA eligible expenses, prescriptions, veterinarian
Home Improvement – contractors, landscaper, Lowe’s, Home Depot, garden center/nursery, lumber yard
Family Expenses – maid/cleaning services, babysitter, tutoring, pet sitter, daycare, birthday or holiday gifts
Reimbursements – Ask your employer if it’s possible to charge work travel expenses to a personal credit card and file an expense report. During a night on the town, make it easier on your server and offer to pay for dinner with your credit card and let friends send you money via a service such as Venmo.
Car Purchases – Most dealerships accept credit cards for down payments when purchasing a car. Depending on the dealership you can typically pay anywhere from $3,000 to $5,000 on any credit card—including Amex. That completes a minimum spend requirement in one swipe!
Gift Cards as Budgeting Tools – Another way to meet minimum spend is buying gift cards for your favorite retailers. Most big-box stores sell huge racks of various gift cards like Starbucks, Amazon, iTunes, etc. Just those three alone are examples of gift cards that can be pre-loaded into your accounts and don’t require the physical, plastic card for future purchases.
Additional Ways to Meet Spend Requirements (With a Fee)
Of course, if securing the bonus as quickly as possible is important, then consider paying a convenience fee to pay bills that are traditionally paid with cash/check. These fees range depending on the payment processor but are typically around 2.5% – 3.5%. If you have substantial cash expenses, then determine if paying the fee is worth the bonus points. Most often it isn’t the best option since it’s possible to quickly hit the minimum spend by paying everyday expenses previously mentioned. However, it’s always good to have options—especially if you need to meet multiple minimum spends simultaneously, or you’re pressed for time. Some examples include:
Mortgage, rent, car payments – Use Plastiq to pay these sizeable bills and more via credit card. Simply provide recipient information, address or direct deposit details, and payment amount. Then Plastiq remits payment on your behalf via check, wire transfer, or ACH transfer for a 2.5% fee. Best of all those charges code as purchases and not cash advance.
Taxes – Pay the IRS using a credit card through one of the approved payment processors for a fee of less than 2%. Depending on the location, it’s also possible to pay state and local taxes with a credit card directly or through a third-party provider for a fee.
College Tuition or student loans – Check with your institution regarding its credit card payment policies. Many will accept tuition payments via credit card along with a processing fee. A few of you may be lucky enough to pay without any fee — if you can consider paying tuition lucky.
Pay friends and family – Use payment platforms like Venmo and PayPal to pay your loved ones like normal. Except instead of using a linked debit card or checking account, pay with a credit card. Venmo charges 3% and PayPal is $2.9% + $0.30 when funding payments with a credit card. Don't abuse these services; they're quick to shut down suspicious accounts.
Minimum spend requirements can be a big turn off, especially when you look at the availability of outsized bonuses. Take a step back and assess your situation before you deem yourself incapable of meeting them — it might not be as hard as you think.
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