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11 Creative Ways to Quickly Meet a Credit Card Minimum Spend

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Signing up for airline and hotel credit cards to earn huge miles and points bonuses for free travel is a smart — and simple — way to travel nearly free like my family! 

However, it must be done responsibly so you don’t incur debt. You want to take advantage of the benefits (free points) without falling prey to the negatives (paying high interest rate on debt).

The good news is you can absolutely use credit cards to your advantage!

Two rules of thumb include:

  • Paying off balances every few days and only charging items that you currently have money in the bank to cover.
  • Slowly applying for cards, ensuring you can meet the minimum spend required to earn your bonus points without buying things you don’t need.

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I’ve got some tips for how you will meet that minimum spend quickly and responsibly, but let’s first start with how you should NOT meet the minimum spend.

How You Should NOT Meet the Minimum Spend

  • Buy something you cannot afford.
  • Buy something for which you do not have cash to cover in the bank right now or in the next 30 days.
  • Splurge on something you don’t need.
  • Buy something JUST to earn the points.

BUT, there are plenty of ways you can responsibly meet the minimum spend with a little creativity and by paying your ordinary expenses.

11 Creative Ways to Quickly Meet a Credit Card Minimum Spend

11 Ways to Meet the Minimum Spend on an Airline Credit Card via @GotoTravelGal

Here are 11 examples you may not have thought of besides the obvious dining, grocery and everyday expenses:

  1. Summer Camps – Do you send your kids to various summer programs and camps? Those can run $100-$200 each, so use your new credit card.
  2. Technology Upgrades – Did your computer quit on you? Use your card to buy a new one. Read how I double-dipped on Southwest points by starting at the Rapid Rewards Shopping Portal and then paid for the item with my Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier credit card.
  3. School Fees – We have to pay a fee for each sport my child participates in at the middle and high schools, as well as pay a book fee for each kiddo. Charge it and then pay it off ASAP!
  4. Home Improvements – Need a new refrigerator or redoing the bathroom? Use your credit card to pay for this expense and get closer to meeting your minimum spend.
  5. Get Reimbursed – Offer to put the group’s dinner charge on your card and then apply to be reimbursed by your company (as long as you can be reimbursed before interest charges begin accruing). Or have everyone pay you in cash or send their money to you via a service like Zelle or PayPal. This is a great strategy for any expense for which you can be reimbursed. You pay it, then you get paid back! That lets you earn points on someone else’s dime!
  6. Medical & Dental Bills – Most medical bills allow you to go online to pay them these days. Whip out the credit card and then pay it off right after you’re done. Plus, we all need to visit the dentist about twice a year. Guess how I’ll be paying? 🙂
  7. School Clothing – With kids, it seems you have to buy new school clothes every few months as they grow quickly, especially my boys who are growing seemingly inches at a time! Buy online, starting at the Rapid Rewards Shopping Portal or your favorite airline or hotel shopping portal, then pay with your credit card and you can double dip!
  8. TSA Pre-Check – We invested in the $85 TSA Pre-Check to help us get through security lines more quickly since we do a lot of traveling. We think the $85/person (kids 12 and younger are free), which is good for five years, is a worthy spend. Note: TSA Pre-Check does not work with ALL airlines, especially budget carriers, but it DOES work with Southwest, my favorite airline. Some airports also do not have TSA Pre-Check.
  9. Utilities – Did you know you can pay many utilities online with a credit card, often with no additional fee? Give it a try. I am able to pay electric, gas, phone and water all online by credit card.
  10. College Tuition – Got a student headed to college this fall? Pay all or part of their tuition to knock out your minimum spend.
  11. Mortgage and Rent – Using a service like Plastiq (please note this is a referral link, which earns me fee free dollars if you use the service), which charges a 2.5% fee, you can pay bills that typically only accept cash or checks using a credit card. Note: You can no longer pay a mortgage with a Visa or AMEX card using Plastiq.

I even had one reader tell me she used her card to buy a new car. That must have been a hefty credit line!

All of these $100 and $200 fees add up very quickly. Combined with groceries and dining, you probably need only a handful of these to hit the minimum spend on one card. Just, PLEASE be sure you pay it off monthly, so you don’t get into debt in order to travel free (because then you aren’t really traveling free!).

Let me know other creative ways you’ve found to meet your minimum spends.

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12 thoughts on “11 Creative Ways to Quickly Meet a Credit Card Minimum Spend”

  1. if I currently have the southwest premier card, can I close the account and then re-apply and be eligible for the sign up bonus points to use towards a companions pass?

    • Hi there! You can only if you have not earned the bonus points on that card in the last 24 months. So before you close your card, wait until 24 months have passed since you last earned any bonus sign-up points and then close and re-apply. Alternately, you could keep the Premier card and sign up for the Plus card or the Business Premier card, as well. Let me know if you have any more questions. Thanks!

  2. All of those things you mentioned don’t earn tier qualifying points. Don’t you have to build up your tier qualifying points to earn the companion pass?

    • Hi Jack, Thanks for the question! You do not have to earn “tier qualifying points” only points that qualify for the Southwest Companion Pass. Anything you purchase using a Southwest credit card will earn points that could toward the Southwest Companion Pass. The Pass is a “tier” but it operates a bit differently than the A-list and A-list preferred qualifying points. Does that help? Thanks.

      • Helpful, and interesting. They don’t make it easy to understand all of this though, do they?

        Thanks for the clarification!

  3. My family of 4 are planning for some trips starting in the summer of 2019. We are trying to get the Companion Passes but want to make the best use of them and not affect our spending habits. If I got a set of the cards in November, spending up to but not over the minimum spending requirements by that year’s end (like $2500 of the $3000 required for bonus), then finished the spending requirements in January to get the bonuses in January of 2019, would that get me to the first Companion Pass? Then my wife could apply in January for spending through March.

    • Hi Ryan! Awesome! Yes, that is exactly how you should proceed. Just be sure you get two cards each with 50,000-60,000-point bonuses upon meeting the minimum spend. If you end up with two that have 50,000 points, you’ll have to earn the other 10,000 points in other ways. You can work on meeting the minimum spend by using the card for your everyday expenses or even things that you will be reimbursed for later. Good luck!

  4. We always get a new card about the time our homeowner and auto insurance comes due! Bingo! (Side note- typo above “card” should be “car”?).

  5. Hi Lyn- I have noticed this for the rules regarding Southwest Shopping Reward Points. Just to confirm, does this mean if you have signed up for an offer such as The Economist in the past through SWA, you are not eligible for points if you sign up again?

    “Program terms:
    Please note these terms & conditions: Eligible on one (1) subscription per loyalty account number.”

    Thank you!

    • Hmm… they used to read that you could subscribe once every 90 days, but the fine print seems to have changed. Thanks for bringing that to my attention! It does now say that there is only one per Rapid Rewards account and only for new subscriptions. So looks like they’ve made it so you can only do it once.

      Here are more options in our weekly updated Rapid Rewards Shopping post.


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