How to Meet Spending Requirements Ricky May 30, 2017

How to Meet Spending Requirements

Many of the credit cards with high signup bonuses come with some sort of minimum spending requirement. Usually, you are required to charge a certain amount in purchases onto your credit card within three months in order to be eligible to receive the signup bonus.

The clock starts ticking on the date of your application approval, so most of the time the real window for meeting the spending requirement is a little less than three months, given the time it takes to receive your card in the mail.

Most spending thresholds on Canadian credit cards are actually pretty reasonable targets, like $1,500 in the first three months. There are, however, a few cards whose minimum spending thresholds are more exorbitant, requiring up $3,000, $5,000, or even $7,000 in minimum spend within the first three months to unlock the bonus.

Even if you are fortunate enough such that these amounts are attainable with your normal spending patterns (do keep in mind that many establishments don’t take Amex), there are many reasons why it would be useful to have some tricks up your sleeve in terms of meeting high minimum spending requirements. 

For example, you could be chasing the bonuses on two or more cards with high thresholds at once during an overlapping three-month period. 

Or, if you ever wanted to dabble in US credit cards and grab the insanely high points bonuses available south of the border, the minimum spending thresholds on those cards can be upwards of US$10,000!

So let’s go through a few tricks and strategies worth knowing in order to meet high spending requirements and rack up the points.

Prepay Future Expenses

There are many ways to meet a minimum spending threshold within three months by effectively bringing forward your future spending, which would otherwise take place after the three-month window.

For example, if you normally spend $250 a month on gas, and you’re aiming to meet a $1,500 spend within three months, you could go to Shoppers Drug Mart or London Drugs and buy up six months’ worth of gas station gift cards. You’d be able to easily meet the spend, and in the next half a year as you’re filling up the tank, you’d use up the gift cards you bought.

Petro Canada Gift Cards | Prince of Travel | Miles & Points

Or, you could prepay your cell phone, cable, or internet bill for a few months (any bill that can be paid with a credit card would work) –you’d overpay your bill by a large amount using your credit card, helping you to meet the spend, and then the credit amount sitting in your account would be used up over the next few months. 

Of course, the disadvantage of this method lies in the time value of money. By prepaying future expenses, whether by buying gift cards or prepaying bills, you’re giving up the return you could’ve earned on that money in the intervening period. However, this return that you’re giving up is almost always far outweighed by the bonuses you earn as a result of meeting the minimum spending requirement.

Eat the Cost

Another good trick to know is that you can often blow many minimum spends out of the water if you’re willing to pay a small fee. This fee will again be dwarfed by the bonuses you earn as a result of meeting the minimum spend.

One good strategy that falls under this category is by making use of bill payment services such as Plastiq. These services allow you to pay bills you normally can’t pay with a credit card, such as mortgage payments, rent, taxes, tuition, and utilities. They usually charge nominal fees of around 2.5%, though they often run promotions in which the fee is lower.

Plastiq Logo | Prince of Travel | Miles & Points

Let’s say you’re trying to meet the minimum spending on a spanking new Business Gold Card of $5,000. If you went ahead and paid a few months’ rent or your kid’s tuition fees using Plastiq, you’d pay 2.5% x $5,000 = $125 in fees. This outlay would be more than offset by the welcome bonus on the Business Gold Card of 40,000 MR points. 

What’s more, Plastiq is one of the merchants you can designate as a “favourite supplier” on the Business Gold Card, allowing you to earn 2 MR per dollar spent. So you’d also earn $5,000 x 2 = 10,000 MR for your payment. That’s 50,000 MR in total, which is easily redeemable for $1,000 in value.

The advantage of this method is that it’s quick and easy; the $125 fee allowed you to easily knock the minimum spending off your list. It’s also nice to earn 2 MR per dollar spent with Plastiq on the Business Gold Card. The disadvantage, of course, is the presence of the fee itself: while it was just $125 in this example, the fees can really start adding up if you’re chasing bonuses on multiple cards.

Buy More Time

This is a more preferred method in my opinion, because it doesn’t cost you anything extra, whether that’s in the form of foregone returns on present-day money or transaction fees. The idea is that you use find ways to extend your three-month window into however long you need to meet the spending requirement organically.

One of the ways to do this is by making refundable hotel bookings. Say you’ve completed $3,000 of the required $5,000 minimum spend for the Business Platinum Card, and the three-month deadline is fast approaching. 

What you do is hop onto Expedia and book a $2,000 fully refundable hotel stay many, many months into the future. This takes you over the spending threshold before the three months are up, and you are awarded the 75,000 MR points.

The problem now is that you’re on the hook for this $2,000 hotel stay. No worries. You simply keep spending on the card until you’ve actually spent an additional $2,000, after which you cancel the hotel stay and receive a full refund. 

You can take your time completing this organic spending, as long as it’s before the date of your dummy hotel booking. Since your total life-to-date spending never dips below the $5,000 threshold, there’s no risk of Amex “clawing back” your welcome points.

If you don’t want to make dummy hotel bookings, you can leverage the same trick by buying expensive items from retailers with generous return policies (i.e., no limit how long you have to return an item) and then returning them after you’ve met the spend organically. Large department stores work best for this.

This method of meeting minimum spends is pretty great all around. It’s quick and easy, since you can do it from the comfort of your desk, and it costs you nothing. A small disadvantage is that you’d still have to make your usual monthly payments, which means you might have to “float” the extra amount – $2,000 in our example – with your own money. If that’s daunting to you, remember that the price of peace of mind is as low as 2.5%.

Manufactured Spending

One very brief word about manufactured spending (MS). Basically, you find ways to make purchases on your credit card, transform those purchases into cash of (near-)equivalent value, and then pay off your credit card. This not only allows you to easily meet minimum spending thresholds, but also to amass huge amounts of free points.

Manufactured spending is not easy. It also, by definition, imposes a cost on a third party other than yourself, since someone has to be paying for the free points you’re earning. That’s why good MS techniques are often closely guarded secrets in the Miles & Points world.

Conclusion

This has been a question I’ve received quite a few times, so I thought I would do an in-depth summary of the best ways to meet your minimum spending thresholds. Often, figuring out how to spend a couple thousand dollars on your credit card can be the last obstacle between you and your dream luxury trip, and besides organic spending, not all of the methods out there are immediately obvious.

I hope the examples I’ve given are not only informative, but also get you thinking along certain directions so that you’ll eventually be able to come up with your own methods. And if you’ve got any methods of your own you’d like to share, get in touch via email or comment below! 

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14 Comments
  1. Avatar
    David MacRae

    Hey Ricky,

    I’ve really been enjoying your posts. Just a comment to start with : we did use Plastiq and then changed to Waypay ( the former at 2.5 and the latter at 2% ) . So with that in mind ,we probably should stay with the Bus. Amex Platinum card and as opposed to going with the Business Gold Card?

    Also , we are slated to go to Four Seasons Bora Bora this year. We have some Amex points and some Aeroplan points. What is the easier/ cheapest way to business class on this trip ?
    Itinerary : YYZ – LAX – PPT – BOS

    Thanks ,

    David ( happy hacking 🙂

    We are

  2. Avatar
    Mark A

    Hi Ricky! Looking to apply for the Amex Plat as I have a big expenditure coming up. With this transaction I would be able to hit the MSR in one shot – my question to you is whether you would recommend hitting MSR in one go or whether it should be spread across a few transactions, in order for a FR not to be triggered. I do have a history with Amex with the Bus Gold and Cobalt, but it would be the first time spending this much in one transaction. Thanks!

    1. Avatar
      Ricky

      I’ve often hit the MSR in one go and had no problems, but ultimately it depends on your history with Amex and whether they view such a transaction on your part as a risk. If you’d like to play it the safest, then perhaps spreading it over multiple transactions is most prudent.

  3. Avatar
    Kunal

    Great post and blog Ricky! Still wrapping my head around MS and have personally relied mostly on organic spend and Plastiq. I get the reason behind the whole MS veil and without getting into any detail, was curious to know if you had any luck with US based tactics as a Canadian or if you rely on just Canada alone for all your MS.

  4. Avatar
    Alex

    Hello Ricky,

    Thanks for the detailed explanation – got couple nice ideas 😉
    Please clarify on the "Buy More Time" method with Expedia: when I am trying to book some hotel – it tells me to pay some small deposit now and the rest at the hotel. Are there known hotels that will require immediate payment at the time of the booking – and yet maintain the free cancellation policy?
    Thanks!

    1. Avatar
      Ricky

      Late reply – but yes, there are many hotels that will take the full payment upon booking and allow free cancellation and 100% refund.

      1. Avatar
        Jason

        Another option is to sign up for IHG or Bonvoy, HHonors, etc. Being a member allows you to pick a fully refundable rate at whatever hotel you choose for whatever length of time.

  5. Avatar
    Anne Betts

    As usual, Ricky, your posts have lots of helpful information. I’ve signed up for the AMEX Business Gold to coincide with our annual property taxes. My plan is to pay the taxes with Plastiq, taking your suggestion of naming Plastiq as one of my three suppliers for 2x points. I understand Plastiq has a referral program providing a refer-ee with fee-free dollars (FFD) on $500 worth of payments, and the refer-er with $1,000 worth of FFDs. If you don’t mind, I’d like to use your referral code. It’s the least I can do to thank you for your work. Would you mind sharing your code? Cheers.

    1. Avatar
      Ricky

      Sounds like a great plan, Anne. My referral code is try.plastiq.com/293103. Cheers!

      1. Avatar
        Mak

        Thanks Ricky, used your code and you should be getting $1000 FFD. You might not be using Plastiq but just token of appreciation from my side too.
        Now i have to find other ways to meet my 7k spending limit.
        PS: Sent an email as requested

  6. Avatar
    Glenn

    Has the bonus spend requirement for AmEx Business Platinum ever been lower than 10k / 3 months? If so, is it a recurring offer?

    1. Avatar
      Ricky

      Hi Glenn,

      I believe you’re talking about the Amex US offer? Here in Canada it’s recently changed to 60K MR points after $7K spending.

      Cheers,
      Ricky

  7. Avatar
    Sumit

    Again one of many great posts by you and very useful. Would like to know more about manufacturered spending and how it works and all.

    Perhaps another detailed post on just this. Very interested in this topic.

    Also is there a way to get american credit cards so that we can get their bonus points??

    1. Avatar
      Ricky

      Hey Sumit,

      Much of the conversation on MS takes place offline, as you can imagine. However, I do have a couple of posts planned for the near future that looks at several MS methods (and other points-related tricks) that were hugely successful in the past. The idea is to help readers get into the right mindset to be able to discover and explore these "uncharted territories" in the points world, such as MS, on their own.

      On the topic of American credit cards, I will probably do a post on it at some point, but in the meantime my friend PointsNerd has written a really excellent series that you should definitely check out. It’s really comprehensive and honestly the best resource I’ve seen to help Canadians get US credit cards: http://www.pointsnerd.ca/us-credit-cards/

      Cheers,
      Ricky

Ricky

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