I receive compensation for content and many links on this blog. Citibank is an advertising partner of this site, as is American Express, Chase, Barclays and Capital One. Any opinions expressed in this post are my own, and have not been reviewed, approved, or endorsed by my advertising partners. I do not write about all credit cards that are available -- instead focusing on miles, points, and cash back (and currencies that can be converted into the same). Terms apply to the offers and benefits listed on this page.
You’ll need to meet minimum spending to earn a large amount of miles quickly than with a new credit card. It’s not super complicated and you probably have access to more spending that you can put on a credit card than you think.
Two of my current favorite bonuses are:
- Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card has a 100,000 point initial bonus after $15,000 spend within 3 months. That can even be enough for a roundtrip business class award ticket between the US and Europe.
It earns 3 points per dollar on the first $150,000 spent each year on travel — that’s airlines, hotels, rental cars, tolls, even Uber — and shipping and advertising on social media and search engines, so great for anyone who advertises on Facebook or Twitter, or who spends money advertising with Google. It also comes with $600 protection against theft or damage when you use it to pay your cell phone.
- Citi Premier® Card has a limited time offer to earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening.
Earning is 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets, 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels; 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases. Points can be transferred to a variety of airline frequent flyer programs. And once per calendar year you can receive $100 off a single hotel stay of $500 or more (excluding taxes and fees) booked through thankyou.com (also new).
Between initial bonuses and all the points earned from spending — and spending category bonuses — a plurality of miles are awarded by banks, no longer from flying.
With the points from Citi Premier® Card or Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card you can transfer points to a variety of airline and hotel programs and leverage your points for international business class award tickets or hotel suites.
To earn upfront bonuses you have to meet minimum spending requirements with most of the more lucrative cards. And that can limit the cards you can get.
When I started with miles and points there was no need to meet minimum spending requirements. About 15 years ago we started to see $250 (Chase) and $750 (Citibank) minimum spend requirements. Since then the amount of spending required has gone up. There are three reasons for this.
- Getting you used to using a card, and even using it exclusively, is a way to get you in the habit of pulling out that card and keeping it top of wallet.
- It focuses the card on higher spend customers. More expensive cards need people who spend a lot on them in order to be profitable.
- And it serves as a barrier to some people that would just sign up for the bonus and move on to the next bonus.
However it’s really not hard to meet minimum spending requirements for up front bonuses. And you don’t need to do complex things, either.
- You probably spend more than you think. So focus on the card you’re trying to meet minimum spend with. When adding up spend over a number of months the amounts start to sound big (“I don’t spend $4000!”) but when you break it down over time more people spend $1333 a month than realize it, especially adding up across different card products.
- Make sure you pay all your bills with a credit card, including your utilities. Break out of path dependency, if there’s anything you pay by check, via billpay, or ACH you should check to see whether it’s possible to pay by credit card. Don’t forget many charities will happily charge the donation you’re going to make to your credit card!
- Only get one card at a time. If that’s all the spend you can handle. Know how much you can easily spend, spread that out over new cards, and wait to get your next card until you are sure you have the available spending capacity.
- Plastiq for rent or car payments or mortgage (mortgage is Mastercard only). Once your biggest bills can go on a credit card it’s much easier to meet spend requirements. Of course the Bilt card lets you earn points for paying rent free and has no annual fee.
They charge 2.85% to charge your credit card (purchase) and mail a check for your bills. They also run promotions with lower fees.
- Prepay your bills. Since you have a specific period of time — from card approval (date the account is created) to the deadline for earning the bonus — you may want to pull future bills into the present. Spending from month four, five or six can be paid in month three if you need to in order to meet a spending requirement and you have the cash flow to do it.
Another version of this is to buy gift cards (e.g. Amazon, Trader Joes and Safeway) for things you’re going to spend on in the upcoming months.
- Pay quarterly taxes or end of year taxes due. Some people even overpay their taxes (make a quarterly payment) and get a refund later. Pay1040 charges 1.87% and PayUSATax charges 1.96%.
Similarly property taxes (if you’re a homeowner). This may incur a fee up to 3%, but if the return from the bonus is large enough the charge can make sense.
- Reimbursable business expenses. Some people are required to use company credit cards or purchasing cards, but even there are you required to do it for all business spend? And how firm is the requirement?
If you can use personal credit cards, and your company is stable (can reimburse you) and expeditious (will do so quickly enough) then you may want to put as many work expenses on a personal card as possible. That could be air, hotel, ground transportation and meals but perhaps you can even put business purchases — equipment, advertising, computers — on your card? See what precedents there are with other employees, what your boss will support, and what policies are in place.