Reimbursable business expenses make meeting the minimum spend requirements for credit card signup bonuses pretty easy: airline tickets, hotels, meals, cabs, expenses add up pretty quickly.
And being in the position to cover even more than just that, conference hotel bills, registration fees, expenses for your colleagues, and you get a pretty bifurcated reaction to when I post about a credit card deal that has a hefty signup bonus. For some it’s a simple no brainer. Others react, “who in the world could spend $5000 on more than one credit card? In three months no less?”
Even reimbursable expenses aren’t a total panacea, you have to trust that your employer will reimburse you and reimburse you in a timely enough manner to cover your credit card bill, try to get the spend in at the beginning of a billing cycle and that provides time to get the reimbursement and maybe even make a little bit of money on the float before the bill comes due. Certainly some folks working for financially troubled companies won’t want to take the reimbursement risk, however.
Since many blog readers aren’t in the position to put large expenses on their personal cards that other people or entities will be paying for (and some folks with heavy business travel are forced to use company cards, this advice will apply to them as well), I offer thoughts on meeting credit card minimum spend requirements without being wealthy and dropping major coin on hookers and blow.
- Pay everything with a credit card. This is the “duh” one for the list, it may be obvious but plenty of bills that come in the mail, recurring bills, etc. can be paid by credit card. Some charge a fee, I usually avoid those but to meet minimum spend the fee can occasionally be worthwhile. The list is endless – vehicle registration, utilities, rent, don’t use cash unless you absolutely have to (I rarely use cash in a cab anymore) and avoid checks even for recurring bills, I avoid my bank’s billpay system like the plague.
- Sending money online for free. Amazon payments lets you transfer $1000 a month fee-free. Milepoint discussions of the technique are here and here. Don’t just transfer funds back and forth between two accounts, potentially keep individual transfer amounts under $1000, plenty of folks have been able to avoid Amazon’s ire on this one for quite awhile.
- Use the SkyGuide Executive Privilege Club ($20) to buy airline lounge day passes and health club passes and get reimbursed. The membership is valid for 12 months, you can get 12 each of airline passes (up to $50 each) and health club passes (up to $25 each) per calendar year. So joining mid-year allows you to get 12 of each in each of two different calendar years. That’s $1800 worth of reimbursements that are possible in 12 months, for a $20 fee, and of course you get to use the lounge and gym visits you’ve purchased and
- Free After Rebate items, Frequent Miler often chronicles these e.g. here, he focuses mostly on items that can be purchased via the Chase Ultimate Rewards Mall. And at Office Supply stores which earn quintuple points from the Ink Bold Charge Card. Staples runs about $1000 a month in free after rebate software downloads, where the rebates are easily trackable online. But for rebates generally as a way of meeting minimum spend — and print out all of your document and follow instructions to the letter — there’s lots of free after rebate sites like this one.
- American Express Gift cards. You can buy these with a credit card for face value. Of course you’re out the cash now and need to spend it later, but that can help you meet a minimum spend before the deadline, and push the spending out into the future past the deadline. Through January 31 I had promo codes which waived the $3.95 purchase fee for the gift cards. I don’t have any active ones. (Update: Through June 30th promo code EMMOTCM2 waives the purchase fee.) Though through May 31 promo code EMADMWL3 will get you free second day shipping. if you sign up for Premium Shipping they give you free next-day air 90 days prior to charging you for it and you can cancel online. Big Crumbs offers 1.4% cash back on the purchase, so you more than cover the fees when making the purchase through that portal.
- Visa Gift cards. This is especially useful for meeting minimum spend with a Chase Ink Bold Charge Card. If you buy $5000 worth of Visa gift cards at Office Depot, the charge will earn quintuple miles as an office supply expense. Each $500 gift card has a $4.95 service fee, so spending $50 earns 25,000 points plus the 50,000 point signup bonus for that card. Of course you still have to spend the $5000 Visa gift cards, this isn’t a way to get spend done for free but to maximize earning from spend and to give yourself a longer period of time to spend the money.
- Consider asking anyone that you pay for personal services — a housekeeper, a babysitter — if they would take American Express gift cards for their payments. Some folks will have people doing occasional work for them who don’t have checking accounts so a prepaid gift card is more useful to a check (that they’d be paying high fees to a check cashing store to deposit).
- Buy gifts in advance. Why wait until Christmas if you have a minimum spend requirement to meet now? Frontload as much spend as you can with available funds.
- Charitable contributions. Probably the worst way to give is cash sent via check. Do your giving by credit card to meet minimum send requirements. (Yes, the charity will be covering the merchant fee, but they’re also getting your donation, so on net you’re making them far better off.) Although the very best way to give is appreciated assets, like stocks, since you both avoid capital gains taxes on the shares you’re gifting and take a deduction based on the current value (rather than your cost basis) of those shares. Or consult your tax advisor on whether you can give an interest in an asset that you retain control over, such as ownership interest in your home that you continue to live in until you die, taking a tax deduction now for a gift that the charity won’t actually control until the future. Sadly those tax minimization strategies won’t help you meet your minimum credit card spend, however.
- Purchase and return. Not something I’ve done, but plenty of discussion over time about doing things like buying refundable airline tickets (or other returnable items) – get the bonus miles to post and then return the item, many issuers won’t bill you for the bonus miles if you close your account with a negative balance, but at the very least you’ve got more time to spend the funds. One of the more famous tricks, though Costco is less tolerant than they used to be, folks would buy on the Costco website with a Visa and then return in-store where they only handle American Express, the store would refund via check. Then there are retailers that will allow you to pay with one card, refund to another, then you ask the card issuer to cut you a check for the negative balance. All stuff very much borderline acceptability at best, and again not things I have direct experience with, but things that have been done…
It isn’t as easy as it once way — no more savings bonds, dollar coins from the US mint, prepaid visa debit cards with PINs that could be turned into money orders at the post office — but there are still things that plenty of folks can do to make strides towards minimum spend requirements with a little bit of work.
Between free after rebate items and Amazon payments transfers, you get most of the way there with many cards. And if you have a bit of extra cash, you frontload some spending via prepaid Amex or Visa gift cards. Nice ways to supplement daily spend and rack up those bonuses.