As you already may know, I am a firm believer in using credit cards to catapult you towards financial freedom. That sentence may seem counter-intuitive at first, but credit cards give you a massive money advantage. Trust me when I say the rich know all about it! This does not promote using credit cards haphazardly, but rather, strategically. There is a technique, and it involves using the benefits, perks, and rewards earned from credit card usage. We use credit cards to increase our credit scores, build our wealth on borrowed money with higher returns, and travel for free. Since I don’t want you to fall into the trap of spending more by opening credit cards, I created a post about ways to meet credit card minimum spend to earn sign up bonus points without spending MORE MONEY.
If you want to save this post for later, go ahead and pin the image to your Pinterest so you can refer back to this time and time again!
I recently promoted a Southwest credit card on Instagram because they were awarding a companion pass for a year just by signing up. Southwest is our favorite airline, simply because SW guarantees us free flights through Companion Pass. One of us always has the credit card, and we alternate turns in order to maximize the benefits. We only need one card holder at a time, and since the card requires a 2 year break before receiving the bonus again, this allows us to replenish our award eligibility.
On the topic of using credit cards to travel for free, the best way to utilize them is by hitting the sign-up bonus. Sign-up bonuses for credit cards are usually a big chunk of points that you can earn, simply by spending a certain amount within the first few months of opening the card. However, as a frugal, minimalist blogger, I think it quite important to stress the following message:
New credit cards should not be used as an excuse to consume unnecessary goods. This is not how the rich get rich. You must use credit cards to grow wealth, not diminish it. Once again, let me reiterate: this is a post about how to meet your credit card’s minimum spend in order to earn the sign up bonus faster WITHOUT SPENDING MORE MONEY.
Without further ado…
Pay Your Rent or Mortgage
On the rare occasion that you can use a credit card to pay your rent or mortgage, I would highly recommend doing so. This recurring monthly fee is typically the biggest spending in all budgets and if you live in California like we do, your payment could catapult you towards the minimum spend. If you have a landlord that you’ve been renting from for a long time, perhaps call them and request that you pay with a credit card. They may be willing to work with you. You will never know unless you ASK. Unfortunately, mortgage companies are a bit tougher. It’s either they accept it or they don’t, in my experience. No worries, as there are plenty of other ways to meet minimum spend.
Pay Student Loans
Student loans are EXPENSIVE. Trust me, I would know. I graduated with $575,000 of student debt at age 26. My student loan repayment journey is what started this blog! Typically, student loan payments occur once a month. Some private lenders may allow you to pay off your debt with a credit card. If you want to get rid of your debt as fast as possible, you can also make additional payments to your loans in order to hit your minimum spend. This tactic works for those who wish to pay off their debt aggressively. I do not recommend paying extra if you are on one of the repayment plans.
Prepay Utilities & Phone Bills
Bills for utilities or your phone, are normally billed monthly. You should pay these bills with your new credit card! However, there is an added secret to getting more from these bills. You can technically overpay these companies when you make a payment online. If you know you are staying with the same cell-phone carrier for another six months, why not pay off the full six months? You’re future self will thank you, and you’ll hit your sign-up bonus faster.
Caveat: Only pay what you are sure you will use. If you pay the entire minimum spend to your utilities company and you move, then that’s no good. Some people will argue they will just get a refund of their overpayment, but the refund could mess with your sign-up bonus reward. Figuring all that out can be a massive headache, so I would rather hit the minimum spend with something else to avoid it if you aren’t sure about the long-term plan for your utilities or phone bill.
Insurance is another great example! It is a recurring monthly fee, but you can pay it off early. More easy to predict than your utilities, you know when the start and end date of a calendar year is for insurance. What you can do is just pay off the rest of the calendar year and then you won’t have to worry about it. This is a big category as you have many pre-pay opportunities.
For our particular situation, we have:
- health insurance
- dental insurance
- vision insurance
- malpractice insurance
- disability insurance
- life insurance
- auto insurance
- home mortgage insurance.
On top of this, some people have pet insurance, or even travel insurance. Prepay a few of them to hit your minimum spend. Alternatively, follow my next advice.
Entertainment and Streaming Services
If you are signing up for a membership or a subscription that gives an option for monthly billing versus yearly billing, why not opt for yearly billing?
While Netflix and Spotify don’t allow for this option, streaming services such as Disney Plus and Hulu allows their subscribers to pay for the annual fee in one go!
In the blogging world, a lot of my platforms, social media apps and website costs have the option of being paid monthly or yearly. I choose yearly since we are always travel hacking. It helps us go through minimum spend requirements, quicker.
In the cases of Netflix and Spotify, you can still use your credit card to pay for these on a monthly basis until you hit that minimum spend. Definitely do!
In line with the previous section, perhaps you can prepay your gym membership? Maybe you can ask your gym if they have a yearly fee, which might even give you a discount. Smaller gyms have more flexibility too, and they may prefer that you pay upfront since it secures your loyalty to them. Some people buy class passes. Why not buy a bundle of 5 classes instead of paying as you go? The good news is that yearly subscriptions and memberships can sometimes be cheaper, in the long run.
Pay Ahead for Future Travel Expenses
When we get a new credit card, we look ahead and plan for future travel. Usually, we use our credit card rewards to buy flights. Only once have we opened a hotel card and found it worth it. Marriott was the only hotel that awarded decent points to its card holders. I have this Marriott Bonvoy BOLD and Mikey has this Marriot Bonvoy BOUNDLESS Card. It also helps that we have relatives who work for the chain and can get us a family discount.
That being said, unless we have Marriott points, we opt for AirBNB which historically has been cheaper than booking with hotels, although it is becoming less so. We pre-pay in full any AirBNBs we need for future trips. We also pay in full any excursions or bookings we may have. By planning ahead, we get these payments out of the way and we can budget in real-time for our upcoming trip.
Side note: You should always use your credit cards for travel. Most of them award significantly higher returns for travel expenses – sometimes up to 3X the points per $1 spent.
Reimbursable Business Travel Expenses
My dad travels a lot for business. Many years ago, he started asking his company if he could pay for his travel expenses and if they can reimburse him, instead of him using the company card. For the most part, they said yes! This means he could accrue points on his credit card without spending more money. This works especially well if you work for a smaller company or hold a higher up position.
These are the things you can get reimbused for:
- Transportation and Gas
- Conference Rooms
- Event Costs
- Travel Insurance
A small warning: Sometimes, reimbursements from your company may take a while. Make sure you can shoulder the spending and pay off your credit card in full at the end of the month to make this tactic worth it. Also, make sure your company will pay you back! Keep a log of all company spending, as well as receipts for proof.
Pay for a Wedding
Do you have a wedding coming up? It doesn’t matter if it’s your own wedding or someone else’s wedding that you are a part of. Credit cards are great for paying for weddings. I actually wish we knew about travel hacking before we got married. Alas, I did not learn about it until 6 months into our marriage, so we payed for flights to New Zealand and hotels with our hard-earned post-tax dollars. Womp womp.
But by sharing it would our friends, we have helped them honeymoon in Japan FOR FREE (flights and hotels covered) by using credit cards to pay for their wedding! And the wedding payments gave them that boost for hitting minimum spends on multiple credit cards. Because there were two of them, they were able to skirt around Chase’s 5/24 rule by divvying up the credit cards they applied for.
If you are simply attending a wedding, you can still get a lot out of it! I wish I didn’t have to say this, but the truth is, weddings are costly! And when you are part of the party or even a guest to a wedding, you don’t really have much say (unless you opt out of it entirely, which I have done).
Things you can pay for in an upcoming wedding include:
For the guest
- Bachelor/Bachelorette Party and Trip Expenses
- Bridal Shower Party or Trip Expenses
- Engagement Party Expenses
- Gifts for any of the three previously mentioned events, or the wedding itself
- Bridesmaid Dresses or Groomsman Tux
- Any accessories you need for wedding day
- Hairstylist, Manicurist or Cosmetologist Fees
- Limos or Transportation Expenses
For the couple
- Bartenders and Alcohol
- Party Planner
Pay for the holidays
Every year, we apply for credit cards at the end of October so that we receive them in the mail mid-November. We do this because we know the holidays are coming up. We easily hit minimum spends in this way because I am always the one hosting Friendsgiving. Occasionally, I pitch it for my mom’s Thanksgiving dinner, too. I am also the one in charge of buying gifts for everyone in December. And there are plenty of opportunities to contribute a dessert plate, or gift in kindness during the holidays. If you know you spend a lot during the holidays, then definitely time your minimum spends accordingly.
If you wish to spend less on holidays, here are a few blog posts I’ve published around that.
- Thoughts on: The Blackest of Fridays.
- Writing A No-Gifting Holiday Letter
- A Simple Holiday Gift Guide – 10 gifts for the holiday season
Pay for Gifts
In line with the previous section, use your new credit card to pay for gifts. While I am not an advocate for big and extravagant gifts, the truth of the matter is that gift giving is my love language. And for the most part, I choose gift ideas for someone’s next birthday ahead of time. I’ll hear them casually mention something they wish they had or want to buy, and I’ll jot it down in my Apple Notes for safe-keeping.
If you already know what you want to buy a friend for their next birthday, why not buy it early? I mean, with the current rate of inflation, your dollar will buy more today than it will tomorrow anyway! And while minimalists will gape at me for wanting to stash things and take up space for an extra few months, it does make your life simpler since it prevents scrambling and last-minute shopping closer to that birthdate. Alternatively, for the anti-consumerist in you, these consumable gift ideas still require a bit of spending anyway.
This probably should have been higher up on the list because of the frequency of this spending, but I decided to put it a bit lower since the previous examples involved higher numbers. But now that we’re here…
Everyone spends money on groceries. In fact, most families don’t spend enough money on groceries! They dine out way too often!! But that’s neither here nor there. Regardless of your preferred habits, groceries are a great way to hit minimum spend. I like to go up and down the grocery aisle and stock up on non-perishable items that happen to be on sale. I also like to plan ahead and buy house cleaning items that I know we will run out of eventually. Even bathroom necessities like soap, shampoo, and conditioner are great options.
Once again, for the minimalists gawking at me – when I say buy in multiples, I mean not one. I also mean, not a hundred. Great arguments for buying a little extra include:
- Less stress when your current one runs out, leading to a simpler life.
- Less money in general, as buying in bulk usually means a discounted price (please check to make sure it IS cheaper. Some stores charge more for bulk, which makes no sense).
- Buying extra means less trips to the grocery store, which means less gas, if you have a gas vehicle. Considering gas prices, you should really buy for a few weeks at a time.
If you need ideas on what to buy, here are my favorite items to buy in order to hit minimum spend:
- Baking Powder and Baking Soda
- Oil and Vinegar
- Soy Sauce
- Maple Syrup
- Spices and Herbs
- Bouillon cubes in place of refridgerated broths
- Canned fish – I love sardines and tuna
- Canned vegetables (or my preferred option: pickled vegetables)
- Nuts and Seeds
- Protein Bars
- Shelf-stable milks (Non-dairy options can last for months in a pantry, such as oatmilk)
- Canned coconut milk
- Powdered Hot Chocolate
- Coffee (if you’re not picky on the roast date)
- Water (if you pay for water)
- Jarred Sauces or Dips
- Cat Food
- House cleaning Supplies (Dish Soap, Glass Cleaner, All-Purpose Spray, Towels, etc)
- Bathroom Essentials (Soap, Shampoo, Conditioner, Etc)
- Car Cleaning Essentials
- School Supplies
- Camping/Picnic Supplies
Okay, so if you dine out a lot, then this is an opportunity for you to put a dent in that minimum spend. But that does not mean spending more than what is customary! It does not give you a reason to add a glass of wine or a decadent dessert to the tab. But I do have some tricks up my sleeve.
I try to keep in touch with friends and family and one of the ways we do that is by grabbing a meal. While I prefer to cook for them and to hang out at home, dining out once in a while lowers the barrier to staying connected. Meaning, it eliminates the added stress that cooking and cleaning can create, which allows for more spontaneous get-togethers.
It would be odd to say that I have a rotation of friends and family with a semi-scheduled frequency of hanging out, but I sort of do. In order to meet that frequency, I invite my friends and family to dinner around times when we have minimum spends. I ask them if I could pay for the bill (even explaining that we do this travel hacking thing in life), and request that they pay for their portion via Venmo. I have never had anyone deny us. Actually, what it did was inspire our friends to start asking of us the same thing, and we were then happy to help them hit their minimum spends!
Nowadays, our friends and family rotate around who pays for the bill, depending on who has a minimum spend requirement to meet. You can definitely do this with a group of people in an organized way, allowing for your credit score to go back up while someone else benefits from travel hacking. Better yet, you can use the points accrued in your group to take a trip TOGETHER, allowing for more bonding time!
By the way, dining out includes everything from a 4-course meal for two, to that daily coffee you order at your local shop. No purchase is too small when it comes to hitting these minimum spends!
Here’s another one and it’s something many of us still use! Charge it, it you will reach your minimum spend faster … especially during this hike in prices (yikes!). At the gas station, we also fill up propane tanks for our Ooni Pizza Oven. Maybe fill up multiple propane tanks while you’re there, to save you the trip.
Store Gift Cards
This is probably a good time to insert gift cards. Gift cards are a super powerful tactic, and one of my travel-hacking best-kept secrets. Gift cards are an extra fast way to easily meet your minimum spend. Here is why.
There are certain stores that I am sure your household continually returns to. For us, our favorite grocery stores are Whole Foods and Sprouts. Occasionally, the Stater Bros in the same plaza as my work office offers convenience. We have certain gas stations that we go too, primarily, the ones closest to our homes. And we will frequently swing by Walmart or Target.
Likewise, there are certain restaurants that you visit more frequently than others. In the case of Mike’s family, they have ten favorite restaurants that they pretty much alternate through. They don’t stray much from HopDoddy, Marie Calendar’s, Chilli’s, The Habit, In’N’Out, and PF Chang’s. So I know that gift cards to these places will eventually be used!
Therein lies the ultimate hack. Buying gift cards to these stores means you can reach your minimum spend, without buying the actual STUFF right now. Gift cards usually don’t have expiration dates, which means you can stash them for later. Plus, big monetary amounts can be placed on gift cards, sometimes in the hundreds! They are also, well, giftable.
Here are a list of gift card options that you are sure to use everyday:
- Grocery Stores (Whole Foods, Stater Brothers, Albertson’s, Ralph’s, Sprouts, Costco, Etc)
- Gas Stations
- Department Stores (Target or Walmart)
- Home Improvement Stores (Lowe’s and Home Depot)
- Restaurants (Fast food and Dine In, for your own personal use or as a gifts)
- Hair Salons and Barber Shops
In terms of gifting, these are my favorite gift cards to buy for others.
A word on inflation. Currently, the inflation rate is up the wazoo at a whopping 7.9% in February 2022, and I believe it’s here to stay (at least for a while). This means that a dollar today may be worth more than a dollar a week from now. That being said, there is an argument during times of inflation to buy things in bulk/ahead of time. For example, compare the cost of a box of cereal today to what it was just a few months ago. If you didn’t notice, our California price for a box of wheat went up by $2 in the last 6 months. It isn’t just gas prices that has sky-rocketed. Groceries, fast food, car prices, and personal care services have increased. Food for thought, I suppose…
House Maintenance and Repairs
If you’re a home-owner, then you know all about this section. You can choose to wait until something breaks down to repair it, or you can be pro-active with house maintenance. If you know the roof needs replacement but it still hasn’t caused issues, maybe now is the time to address it? Or you have a leaky sink that you don’t have the time to tinker with. Go ahead and call the plumber. A majority of us like to ignore these repairs until we absolutely have to address them, but having a credit card that needs spending is a great time to be pro-active, especially when being pro-active can avoid more expensive costs in the future.
Home Renovations or Upgrades
If you were planning to renovate your home, I would highly recommend opening a credit card right before you do so. Same goes for if you are planning to move, or to upgrade anything in your house. Furniture, as well as everyday house items, can speed up hitting your minimum spend requirement. Contractors will typically accept credit cards, and you can use your credit card at home decor stores and department stores. Of course, new credit cards should not be used as an excuse to elevate your home.
Car Maintenance and Repairs
I take my car in regularly for its check-ups. But there are also maintenance things that I can pay for early. For example, if I notice my tires are getting thin, I replace them before they pop. I check for tire pressure and tread depth. If I notice a light on my dash, I bring it in for evaluation and address the issue. And I change my windshield wipers once a year. Since I have an older car, I also have to keep up with the brake lights, the coolant, and the battery. I actually keep a spare brake light in my trunk, after learning how to change it myself.
If you have kids, it is possible that they are signed up for sports and activities. You can always pay for these programs ahead of time. For example, if you want to sign up your child for a sport next season, why not sign-up early? You can also buy necessary activity items early too. This includes sports gear, sports goods, musical instruments, art supplies and more. Lastly, if you have a Team Mom, ask to pay ahead for your portion of the participation trophies and the end-of-the-year party. Or better yet, volunteer to be the Team Mom and pay for all of these things and get reimbursed by the other parents later on.
Your Resell Business
If you have read my post about Ways to Earn Extra Income Through Side-Hustles, then you already know that Poshmark or other reselling platforms have been proven to be viable businesses for some people. I, myself, have a friend who buys things and resells them on Poshmark. She goes to thrift stores and searches for things that she knows she can flip. It’s a hobby for her, but also, one that makes her money. If you are thinking of adding reselling to your side-hustle resume, then you can use your finds to hit the minimum spend. Just be careful not to bite off more than you can chew – advice for anyone looking to get into the reselling business.
Downpayment on a New Car
If you’ve been looking to buy a new car, make sure to open your credit card right before. You may be able to make a down-payment (as much as $5,000) with your credit card. But please call the car company first and make sure that they accept credit as a form of down-payment. Of course, only do this if you were already planning to buy a car…
Purchasing New Tech
I was 31 years old when I decided to buy tech for the first time. Until then, I was using hand-me-down work laptops from my dad or unwanted cell phones from Mike or my parents. They were always so slow, sometimes shut-down randomly, and for two years I built a blog on a permanently flickering screen. I am pretty much my eyes received permanent damage.
But when I decided to upgrade both my laptop and my cell phone, I planned ahead and opened a credit card. I decided to do both at the same time, which is what’s so great about optional spending. I waited until my credit card arrived in the mail, timed with Cyber Monday deals, and met my minimum spend in one day.
Some of you may make yearly charitable donations. There is certainly a tax benefit for doing so, plus you can contribute to a worthy cause. Feel free to charge it whenever possible! Make all your charitable donations early when you need to hit a minimum spend.
Ask for Help from Friends and Family
There was one instance wherein Mike and I bit off more than we can chew. It was 2018 and we had just discovered the concept of travel hacking. In true fashion, I signed us up for multiple credit cards. After a month or so, I realized that simultaneously opening multiple cards made it a bit difficult to hit the minimum spend. So I reached out to my parents and asked if there was anything I could prepay for them so that I could meet our minimum spending. All they had to do was Venmo me back.
It was actually quite easy and by opening up that avenue to friends and family, I have found that more of them ask the same of me. I am more than happy to help them out in return. As I mentioned in the dining out section, we kind of have a roulette going as to who would pay for what. By doing so, we are helping each other optimize our paths to financial independence. That’s friend goals right there!
Hopefully you enjoyed my tips and tricks on hitting credit card minimum spends. Please share any tips you have with the community in the comments below!
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