Tips to Easily Meet the Initial Spending Requirements of New Credit Cards (2021)
If you miss meeting the initial spending requirement of a new credit card by even a single dollar, you won’t get the signup bonus. Even if you call in, banks are unlikely to give you any sort of reprieve.
If it looks like you may not meet the initial spending requirement for your new credit card, don't panic. There are ways to shift your spending around so that you can probably meet the signup bonus requirement before time runs out.
Note: Any annual fee you paid for your credit card doesn’t count against the initial spending requirement. Make sure you have charged enough additional purchases on the card to meet the minimum spend.
Use your new card for all your credit card spending
- Our basic advice is to use your new card for as much of your existing spending as you can. If you do this and also only apply for one new credit card at a time, you reduce the likelihood that you won't be able to meet the spending requirement.
- Double check to see which of your ongoing bills can be switched over to credit card payments. Many of the bills that you may currently pay by check or automatic withdrawal, such as insurance bills and gym memberships, can be paid by credit card (without any extra fees). It is worthwhile to go through all your regular bills and see whether you can shift some of them to your credit card.
Use your card to pay for things you ordinarily can’t use a credit card for
Most people spend a significant amount on rent or mortgage payments, car payments, and taxes; and many people spend a significant amount on tuition or personal services like housekeeping, daycare, or lawn care. Most of the time, these businesses do NOT usually accept credit card payments.
However, you can use a service called Plastiq to pay many of these bills using your card.
- Plastiq lets you pay almost any bill with a credit card. If the company isn’t already in their database, they will simply mail them a check or send them an ACH transfer. You can also use it to pay individuals, such as babysitters, as long as you are paying for an actual item or service and not just sending them money as a gift. One of the only other restrictions is that you can’t use it to send money to financial accounts, including paying off your credit card bills.
- Service fees are typically 2.85%, but they sometimes have promotions, which can reduce the cost with certain types of cards.
- If it makes the difference between meeting the initial spending requirement or not, paying a fee can easily be worth it. Let say you are going to be $500 short of the initial spending requirement for a new credit card. If you pay $500 worth of bills at a 2.85% convenience fee, you’ll only wind up paying $14.25 in fees. For that $14.25, you guarantee that you would qualify for a signup bonus typically worth $300 - 500 (or more).
- Mortgage payments can only be made with Mastercards and Discover cards. Rent (and HOA fees) can be paid with all cards.
- You can only use Amex credit cards for a limited set of payments. The only acceptable payments are for "Government, Utilities, Education (not including student loans), Residential Rent, and Club Fees & Memberships".
- There are a confusing set of limitations for Visa cards.
- Despite what the chart says, the only categories where you can safely use every Visa card are rent (and HOA fees), taxes (and government fees), utilities, and tuition (including daycare and camps).
- With most other Visas, if you try to pay one of the other categories shown in the chart, such as insurance, it could process as a cash advance. Plastiq will pop-up a warning, but if you continue, you'll wind up paying extra fees and won't receive any credit card rewards.
- However, with personal Visas from Chase, as long as the payment is less than 20% of your total line of credit, any cash advance charges will be reversed and you will still earn your rewards.
- Finally, Visa business cards and Wells Fargo credit cards can be used for all the Visa categories on the chart, without any issues.
Plastiq is the most flexible service for paying bills with your credit card, but there are a few other specialized options that offer lower fees. The fee for paying your federal taxes by credit card is only around 2%. The fee for paying off your student loans, by buying and using Gift of College gift cards, can be less than 2%. For more information see Pay Any Bill with a Credit Card (To Increase Your Credit Card Spending).
Pay for things ahead of time
If it looks like you might not meet the Initial spending requirement, you can try to spend money ahead-of-time (for things that you would normally buy later).
The goal is to avoid spending any more money than you would otherwise, but shift your spending around, so that you have enough to qualify for the signup bonus before time runs out.
Just make sure you have enough cash flow and/or money in the bank to fully pay your balance each month. In other words, don’t fund these prepayments with credit or fees and interest will quickly outweigh the value of the rewards you would earn.
- Pay bills ahead of time. Cell phone companies, TV companies, and many utilities and insurance companies, accept credit card payments. If you are need a little help to meet your spending requirements, you can pay them ahead-of-time for their services. They’ll usually let you carry a credit balance on your account. For example, paying your car insurance for the next six months can easily rack up hundreds of dollars of purchases this month, with money that you would have eventually needed to pay anyway (later in the year).
- Purchase items ahead of time. You can stock up on groceries, purchase Christmas presents ahead of time, buy some light bulbs, or pre-purchase anything else that you would otherwise buy over the next couple of months.
- Purchase gift cards. You can purchase gift cards now and then use them to pay for your purchases later in the year. Buy gift cards for your favorite merchants, such as Amazon, Target, or your supermarket. Amazon gift cards are nice, because you can easily add them to your online account as soon as you get them and then they will be automatically applied to your purchases. You don't have to keep track of them and remember to use them later.
- Make a charitable donation. Even if the rare case where the charity doesn't accept credit cards, you can use services on the internet to pay any charity with a credit card.
Unless you know what you are doing, avoid buying Visa, Mastercard, or Amex gift cards that can work at any merchant. Some credit card companies, including American Express, won't count them towards the initial spending requirements. Stick to gift cards that you can only redeem at specific merchants.
Starting in 2020, many banks started charging "cash advance" fees on person to person cash transfer services such as Venmo. Not only won't these count towards meeting your spending requirement, you'll usually be hit up with additional fees and interest charges (on top of the 3% or so that the services themselves charge).
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