Though it may seem like credit card companies are generous folks who want to help you achieve your wildest travel dreams… they are are not – they are in the business of making money and lots of it. Credit card companies want you to use their card since every time you swipe they make money. They are even willing to offer you lucrative point/mile sign-up bonuses in order to get you to apply and carry their card in your wallet – but keep in mind that you have to spend for them to make money!
Congratulations you have been approved for the (insert name of glorious new credit card here) and will receive (X number of) points/miles that you will use in order to travel the world in style! Not so fast my friend…
For the majority of card offers out there you will need to meet your minimum spending requirement or you will never see those bonus points! And that bucket-list trip you have already planned to the last detail (even the bubbly champagne you will drink from your first class seat) may not be happening after all – enter the minimum spending requirement!
What is a “minimum spending requirement” anyway?
Essentially it is the fine print attached to the new credit card you just applied for. The credit card company is willing to award you a sign-up bonus if you prove that you are going to use their card by spending a certain amount of money in a defined period of time. It’s the same concept that grocery stores and retail stores use all the time with their “$10 off Coupons”… with a minimum purchase of $50.
How much does my new credit card require in minimum spend?
The short answer is that it varies… The most frequent language I see for credit cards sign-up’s includes the minimum spend terms of $3,000 in the first 3 months. The time restraints and spending requirements vary, so make sure you note the terms that you sign up for, as well as track your spending towards the minimum threshold.
Other bits of knowledge relating to the minimum spending requirements (always reference the actual offer details for specific requirements):
The “clock” for your minimum spend starts when you are approved for the card, rather than when you actually receive it in the mail.
The term “3 months” normally means 90 days (rather than the calendar dates – that way you are neither benefit nor suffer based on the number of days in a calendar month) – but just reference the additional terms before applying.
If the card you applied for has an annual fee that is not waived the first year and hits your first month statement, it will most likely NOT be included in determination meeting the minimum spend. Again, reference the terms of the specific card if you are unsure.
Meeting your Minimum Spend:
The Starter Guide advises you to never spend outside of your budget and to always pay your balance in full each month. If you think this rule may prevent you from meeting your spend requirements, here are some tips to help meet minimum spend requirements on credit cards (at no additional cost):
1. Use your credit card for every purchase – Whether it’s $2 or $200, put the spending on a credit card. The only time you should ever use a debit card or write a check is when an additional fee will be charged for credit card use (and even then you might want to consider it if it allows you to reach your spending).
2. Pay group bills (and get reimbursed) – Dinner with a group of friends? Family cell phone bill? Volunteer to pay the full bill and then get reimbursed by your friends and family for their portion – try to limit this to those friends and family members that you trust will pay you back 😉
3. Prepay your utilities – If your monthly budget allows, prepay your recurring expenses like utilities, electricity, or cable bills. You will carry a positive balance in your respective account and the following month charges will be applied to that positive balance. The extra expense in the current month may help you meet the minimum spending requirements, but remember you already paid the follow month! Note – check with your provider before doing this, but they shouldn’t worry too much about getting paid early…
4. Buy giftcards for groceries (or other) – similar to #3 above, you are essentially prepaying for your monthly groceries (or anything else that you know you will buy in the future). Buying a $200 giftcard now will help meet minimum spending, and you can use the giftcard at a later date.
5. Pay your rent, mortgages, tuition, taxes, and other large expenses – often times these expenses will charge a fee, but if you are significantly short of the spending requirements and have already exhausted #1-#4 above, then a 3% fee on a $1,000 expense (3% of $1,000 would be $30) would be worth the 50,000 points or miles that may be waiting for you upon meeting the minimum spend requirements. I have used this technique in the past to pay my mortgage when facing high minimum spends, but try to avoid it unless absolutely necessary, sincerity is an added cost and contrary to the goal of traveling free/cheap using points & miles!
There are some more creative ways to meet minimum spending requirements but the methods listed above are relatively simple and do not require too much imagination and legwork! If you have any questions related to meeting minimum spend requirements or need some additional guidance then make sure to comment or email me at email@example.com.