7 Ways To Boost Your Credit Card Spending

We’re seeing some outsized credit card bonuses at present, some of which have higher minimum spends. Reader Jeff posted on Ask Lucky wondering about his credit card strategy in light of needing to meet the minimum spend requirements.

While the thread itself covers several other topics, I thought I’d address the spending concern, as I think it’s something many of us can relate to. Granted, we’re a very small subset of the population that are looking for more ways to make purchases with credit cards, but sometimes it takes a bit of creativity and careful planning to meet larger spending requirements in the allotted time!

Besides not paying cash for anything (even parking meters if I can help it), what works best for me is to “shift” my spend. Rather than paying bills as they come due, for example, I’ll pay a few months in advance if the vendor takes credit cards. Some actually give a discount for doing so!

This has worked pretty well in our household, so I thought it might be useful to go through a handful of the expenses that I’ve shifted around. Many of you already do this stuff (and more!), so please share other easy tips if you have them.

Rule #1 – Don’t overspend

Before we get started, I think it’s key to remind everyone to be responsible with your credit card use, and with your spending. Don’t over-extend yourself.

Carrying a balance on a rewards card is not only stressful, but the interest can negate the value of the rewards you’re trying to earn.

Insurance premiums

Many people pay their insurance premiums monthly, but paying car (or pet) insurance ahead of time can be an easy way to goose your spending.

Maui_Road_To_Haleakala

My car insurance provider allows me to pay any amount via credit card. I used to have this on a monthly auto-pay, but have switched to paying six months or a year in advance. That’s an easy ~$2000 a year that I can divide up however I need.

Utilities

Many power and water companies won’t allow you to pay with a credit card, but most cable, internet, and phone companies will.

When I had Sprint as my cell phone provider I could pay any amount in advance, so we’d often pay for most of the year up front. Now I have Google Fi, which allows you to guesstimate how much data you’ll use and pay in advance if you’d like. Any credits are applied to your following bill, so you could theoretically pay quite a bit in advance.

It’s definitely worth checking to see what the rules are with your assorted providers, as expenses in this category can really add up.

Memberships, subscriptions, and deposits

The yoga studio I like to go to will frequently offer discounts for buying sessions in bulk, and I know many other gyms do the same. Just paying for an extra month or two can help in completing that minimum spend quickly.

W-Bogota-Gym-1

You might also be able to make deposits for events, or for some services. A contractor that typically only accepts cash equivalents might take a deposit via credit card, and we were even able to charge the down payment on our car last year to an AmEx.

Some professional fees can be paid before the exact due date as well, and subscriptions can always be renewed a bit early.

Heck, you could even renew your AARP membership!

Definitely ask, as you might be surprised by who is willing to accept credit cards for certain transactions.

Tuition & daycare

This one is very much a YMMV, but if you are paying tuition or daycare (for people or pets!), check and see what the credit card acceptance rules are. I was shocked to find out my husband’s university accepts Visa for no fee, which takes some of the sting out of paying tuition.

We don’t take our dog to daycare much anymore, but when we did we could pay for a bundle of visits at a time. Once they started taking credit cards via Square, that became a great option.

Brendle

(Speaking of Square, if you have a teenager in your life who babysits, does yard work, etc., set them up with a business and a Square reader. We did that for my nieces, and not only does it make it easier for everyone in the neighborhood to meet their minimum spends, the tips are much better!)

Estimated taxes

Small business owners are likely familiar with paying their estimated quarterly taxes online, but you can make individual payments as well. There is a fee to use a credit card, so it might not make sense to do this exclusively, but if you typically end up owing a bit in taxes at the end of the year you can certainly make that payment early.

I wouldn’t *short* your withholding, as that can cause other complications, but ask your CPA about making estimated payments, and what amounts could be reasonable for your situation.

Rent/mortgage

This one also depends on your situation, but it could be possible to pay your rent or mortgage via credit card. Given that this is probably the largest monthly expense for many of us, this can be an intriguing option.

Plastiq sends payments to any business, and has been reliable for Travis. My apartment building accepts credit card payments directly.

There’s a fee for this, so it’s not my favorite method, and I’d personally only use it in a pinch, but depending on your circumstances it could make sense for you.

Gift cards for stuff you know you’ll use soon (groceries, fuel, etc.)

Our dog’s food is outrageously expensive, and we’re obviously going to need it, but I don’t want to store six months worth of kibble anywhere near where a labrador might be able to get to it. But a $500 gift card to our local pet store allows us to shift that spend nicely.

And I don’t mind buying $500 in supermarket gift cards to cover groceries for the next month.

Groceries-7

Our preferred gas station gives free car wash vouchers when you buy fuel gift cards, so we’ll buy a few hundred dollars worth of gas ahead of time.

You get the idea.

Bottom line

In all of these cases it’s money we budgeted to spend anyway, we’re just time-shifting when we make the purchases. Again, you don’t want to over-extend yourself, or your credit, so you’ll want to leverage these techniques carefully if you have a less-reliable cashflow.

What you don’t want to do is buy a few thousand dollars in Best Buy gift cards and then use that as an excuse to buy a new flatscreen or something. That’s bad for marriage. Of course, if you know you have some big purchases coming up it can make sense to coordinate those with your card applications to ease the spending acrobatics.

You also want to be cautious not to prepay all your expenses “just because you can.” That gives you less flexibility down the road, so I’d only pay as much as you need to in advance.

Any other easy vendors you’ve found that take credit cards?

Comments

  1. I started using Plastiq after I saw your previous article on it. I now pay mortgages on 3 rent houses, office rent and health insurance premium to Aetna for employees. through Plastiq. This will add about $10,000 extra monthly spend.

    There is a fee, but because all these are business expenses, Uncle Sam subsidizes the fee

  2. I try to coordinate applying for cards with purchases for house renovations. Easy to meet some of larger expenditures and it was something I was going to have to purchase anyway. Even better when one of the shopping portals is having lots of points for Lowe’s or Home Depot.

  3. My medical and dental care (copay- not insurance) providers all take credit cards. Unfortunately, I haven’t found a way to pay my auto, medical and homeowners insurance or my car payment by card. In my area you can pay your property tax by card for a (high) fee which doesn’t make sense in my situation.

  4. Thanks for this post Tiffany. Timely for me as I try to figure out how to manufacture $15K in spend for the AMEX enhanced business platinum card. Property taxes and annual charitable donations (which I usually make in November anyway) will help big time.

    Question regarding that card’s benefits… can its fee credit be applied to award ticket surcharges? Like the fuel surcharges Delta applies when booking a Virgin Atlantic flight?

  5. @Tiffany. Thanks to you, I phoned my Auto and Homeowners Insurance company today and they put my all my payments on my credit card and applied a 3% discount. That’s around $2K per year and an extra $60! Thanks again!

  6. Tiff: your advice is always right on the money. (pun intended). I do exactly as your article suggests. When I get a credit card with a minimum spending amount to obtain the mileage bonus, I simply pay any bills in advance. Nearly everyone accepts a credit card payment in advance, e.g., DWP, Directv (over the phone), Equinox (I pay a year in advance), etc.
    Exceptions: AT&T’s website only allows you to pay a very small amount above what’s due. So Cal Gas Company charges a fee to pay with a credit card, so that’s one of my few vendors I have to use my checking account bill pay feature.

    Paying in advance simplifies life – I don’t need to worry about monthly bills and paying every month.

    Keep your great advice coming. Thanks.

  7. Thanks for the re-post, Tiffany!

    Good read! I’ve read a lot about minimum spend strategies lately, particularly on manufacturing spend through pre-paid visa cards or gift cards, or even grocery cards. My hesitation is due to the fact that I talked with a Chase rep over the phone awhile back and asked about buying “several gift cards for upcoming birthday gifts” (read: buying prepaid gift cards so I meet my minimum spend). She mentioned that in some cases these are seen as a type of “cash advance” or “money transfer” and won’t count towards minimum spend requirements. Has anyone else out there had a different experience? Obviously, if I were to try this tactic, I would buy a small amount at several places that I would use often, and wait to see how they process. I’m just wondering if someone has recently experimented with this and could save me the time of the process.

    Thanks!

  8. Good post. Concern: AMEX Enhanced Business Platinum says you get the second 50k point bonus for an additional $10,000 in “qualified purchases.” Any idea what they mean by “qualified purchase?”

  9. @ Matt — It depends on the card, and the airline, and how everything codes. I know some people have been reimbursed for award fees in the past, but I don’t know if that was on Delta or not.

  10. @ Jeff — We are not the blog to ask about that stuff, honestly. Small gift cards here and there are certainly fine, but I generally avoid anything other than small amounts of store gift cards personally.

  11. Two gimmicks I’ve come up with are putting several hundred dollars on our Starbucks cards for my wife and me. The other is to do the same with our Metro cards. I also buy Starbucks cards as gifts for Christmas and birthdays.

  12. Many nonprofits, including colleges and universities, accept donations via credit card. If you’re planning on giving at some point during the year anyway, might as well stick them on a card where you need to meet minimum spend. There are usually no fees involved.

    As someone who does taxes for a living, I’d generally suggest paying income or property taxes on a credit card as a last resort, only if you don’t have any other way to meet minimum spend. The fees eat up a lot of the benefit. The exception is if you run a business and/or are paying corporate taxes, in which case the fee becomes deductible, so you’re likely recovering between 20 and 40% of the fee at the end of the day.

  13. As a follow-up to the ‘Estimated Taxes” section above since that seemed mostly focused on income taxes…property taxes can also be paid via credit card (state-dependent). It’s definitely an option in California. However, they charge a 2.1% service fee for using a card, so obviously that’s something to think through before actually going through with it.

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