Meet Minimum Spend on Credit Cards: Top 20 Tips

Are you in the midst of trying to meet minimum spend of several thousand dollars on a number of credit cards, in order to earn the sign up bonuses? I am, and just have about 1 week left for a few of them. Since not everyone has a ton of reimburseable business expenses they can use to meet minimum spend, I figured I'd share my tips for meeting minimum spend while earning the most miles and points at the least cost. 

First, a few general tips:

  • Don't apply for more cards than you can handle, in terms of meeting minimum spend while not spending on things you wouldn't normally
  • Even with the above, you can likely “front load” some spend by spending now what you would have spent later in the year
  • If you know you'll have high expenses starting in a given month that you can put on a credit card, such as home improvement, tuition or course fees, etc., then time your credit card applications for a week or two before it
  • Make sure you know the minimum spend and your deadline for meeting it for each card; I put a small sticky on the card to remind myself
  • Focus on first meeting the minimum spend of the cards with tighter deadlines, e.g. 3 months, before you work on cards with longer deadlines, e.g. 6 months
  • Earning sign up bonuses with new cards takes priority over earning category spend with existing cards, unless you're sure you'll easily be able to meet all minimum spend plus category spend on existing cards
Meet Credit Card Minimum Spend While Earning Category Bonuses

You may as well earn as many miles and points from your minimum spend as possible, in addition to the signup bonuses. The Ink Bold and Ink Plus are especially useful for this, particularly if you can combine them with the Ultimate Rewards Mall bonuses.

1. Amazon: Earn 5X on All Amazon Spend via Office Supply Stores and Ink Bold or Ink Plus

This is definitely one of my favorite ways of meeting minimum spend, because we do so much of our shopping via Amazon: we've gotten everything from lamps to my printer, various electronics, toys and games and even cereal and tea (with additional Subscribe & Save savings) from Amazon, several thousands of dollars worth every year. See 5X on All Amazon Spend

2. Shopping: Earn Over 5X Shopping via Ultimate Rewards Mall, Office Supply Stores and Ink Bold or Ink Plus

Why simply buy at a physical store for 1 point per dollar when you could be getting anywhere from 6X to 15X by using gift cards bought with your Ink Bold or Ink Plus at an office supply store, then bonuses from the Ultimate Rewards Mall? See Ultimate Rewards Mall February 2013 Deals for examples.

3. Gift Cards for Holiday and Birthday Gifts: Earn 5X for Gift Cards via Office Supply Stores and Ink Bold or Ink Plus

If you're giving to a hard-to-buy-for tween, teen or family member, consider giving a gift card to a store you know they enjoy. You'll get 5X points if you purchase at an office supply store using your Ink Bold or Ink Plus.

4. Airfare: Earn 3X on Airfare with the AMEX Premier Rewards Gold Card

While I personally don't have much domestic airfare spend, if you do spend a lot on airfare, 3X points using your AMEX Premier Rewards Gold Card is a good deal, especially since Membership Rewards points can be transferred to Singapore KrisFlyer to fly Singapore First Class or Singapore Suites.

5. Cellphone, Cable/Internet: Earn 5X with the Ink Bold or Ink Plus

Since phone and cable service are other 5X bonus categories with the Ink Bold and Ink Plus, don't forget to switch over your bills to your new Ink card to help meet the $5000 minimum spend.
6. Gas: Earn 6X on Gas at Stand-Alone Gas Stations with the Hilton HHonors Surpass, Earn 2X with Ink Bold or Ink Plus or AMEX Premier Rewards Gold Card

While there will be a much lower incentive to earn Hilton HHonors points after the Massive Hilton HHonors Devaluation on March 28, you do earn 6X points for gas using your Hilton HHonors Surpass. You earn 2X points with your Ink Bold, Ink Plus or AMEX Premier Rewards Gold Card.

7. Groceries: Earn 2X on Groceries with the AMEX Premier Rewards Gold Card, 6X with the Hilton HHonors Surpass

Especially for families in expensive cities such as NYC, grocery bills can add up. You can earn 6X HHonors points with the Hilton HHonors Surpass, or 2X Membership Rewards points with the AMEX Premier Rewards Gold card.

8. Dining: Earn 2.14X on All Dining with the Sapphire Preferred, or 2X with the Hyatt Visa

Unless you're dining using a gift card that earned 5X bought at an office supply store with the Ink Bold or Ink Plus, your best bet when dining out is to use your Sapphire Preferred card for 2.14X. That said, if you're dining at a Hyatt property, make sure to use your Hyatt Visa since you'll get your Platinum bonus as well as your bonus for Hyatt spend.
9. Hotels: Earn a Bonus for Starwood, Hyatt, Marriott, Hilton, etc. With a Hotel Loyalty Card

In most cases you'll want to use your new hotel credit card for a hotel reservation, to get the extra bonus points. Where it doesn't make sense is if you're travelling abroad and your card doesn't waive foreign transaction fees, or if you're staying at a U.S. Hyatt property and have just gotten the SPG Business AMEX or another AMEX business card, since that gives you OPEN savings of 5% on all Hyatt reservations. 
10. Travel: Earn 2.14X on All Travel with the Sapphire Preferred

Make sure to get the highest category bonus you can, depending on which minimum spend you're working on, but for all other travel spend, for example train, subway or bus tickets, taxis, tolls, car rental–you can get 2.14X points with the Sapphire Preferred, a nice bonus if you're working on minimum spend for it.

11. Home Remodeling: Earn 5X Using Home Depot or Lowe's Gift Cards and Ink Bold or Ink Plus

You can buy Home Depot and Lowe's gift cards at Office Max and Staples using your Ink Bold or Ink Plus to earn 5X, then use these to buy your remodeling supplies

Meet Credit Card Minimum Spend with Large Expenses 
12. Rent or Mortgage Payment

If you're lucky enough to have access to Vanilla Reloads that you can buy with a credit card, you can use these to refill Bluebird to pay your rent or mortgage, instead of a check. 

13. Tuition or Course Fees

Check to see if there's a convenience fee for paying by credit card, and if so, if it's worth it to you. Some colleges and universities allow you to pay using Official Payments, and the convenience fee is disclosed before you pay.
For families, don't forget to pay for extracurricular sports, dance, music and other enrichment courses by credit card if at all possible, as well as summer camp. And if you have an older child who will enroll in test preparation or tutoring, such as Kaplan, Princeton Review, etc. that's another significant expense that you can at least use towards meeting minimum spend.
14. Medical Expenses, Including for FSA Reimbursement

Don't neglect medical expenses, including copays and prescriptions, as a way to help meet minimum spend. Hopefully many of your expenses are reimbursed via an FSA account, after submitting the forms.
15. Taxes

As with rent and mortgage payments, it helps if you have access to Vanilla Reloads that can be bought with a credit card, so that you can use Bluebird to send checks for your tax payments. Another possibility, if you don't have Bluebird or don't want to use it to send such an important check, is to use Vanilla Reloads to fund your My Vanilla Debit Card, which functions as a regular debit card and can be used to pay your taxes with a low flat fee. See Pay Taxes by Debit Card and Earn 5X Points
I'd only suggest paying by credit card as a very last resort, given the high fees involved. See the chart on the IRS Web site.

16. Computer Purchase

17. Utilities

Depending on your utility, you may be able to set up a credit card for automatic payments at no additional fee. Other utilities charge a convenience fee, so check before doing this.

18. Charity

Most charities accept online donations via credit card, so instead of waiting until the holiday period to make your donation, consider moving it up so you can help your favorite charity while also helping to make minimum spend.

Other Ways to Meet Minimum Spending

19. Amazon Payments: Reimburse Friends or Colleagues

Note that you should only be using Amazon Payments for legitimate payments to pay or reimburse family, friends and colleagues. If you have regular help, such as a babysitter or house cleaner, it doesn't hurt to ask them if they would be willing to be paid via Amazon Payments. They may prefer it to something such as an AMEX gift card, since AMEX can't be used everywhere. See Use Amazon Payments to Meet Minimum Spend

20. Buy AMEX Gift Cards

You can front load some spend by purchasing AMEX gift cards. There's no bonus, so I recommend first exhausting the bonus category spend tips above before doing this. There are often codes floating around that waive the purchase fee, although not the shipping and handling fees. Caveat: Do *not* use Citi cards to buy AMEX gift cards, as it will be treated as a cash advance, with the associated high fees.

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