10 Ways to Reach a Travel Credit Card’s Minimum Spend Requirement

This is how to meet the minimum credit card spend without breaking a sweat.
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Written by Alisha McDarris
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Edited by Mary M. Flory
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Nerdy takeaways
  • Sign up for a credit card before you pay for a large upcoming expense.

  • Do not go into debt to meet the minimum spending requirement. You should only buy things you need.

  • Put reimburseable expenses on your card, like business expenses or dinner with friends if they will pay you back.

You’ve seen the ads, and the sign-up bonus on that travel credit card is just too tempting to pass up. But the initial spending threshold required to earn the bonus might seem nearly impossible to reach. Some cards require you to spend $1,000, $3,000 — even $5,000 or more in just a few months.

But take heart: A little planning and some clever spending can make it easier earn that bonus, even if the minimum spend requirement initially seems out of reach. Here's our advice.

How to reach a credit card's minimum spend

1. Be strategic about when you sign up

Sure, you could jump on that limited-time large sign-up bonus the minute you see the ad … but it won’t mean much if you can’t meet the spending threshold.

Instead of trying to earn every bonus you see, have a short list of cards on deck that you’d like to sign up for. Then, when it’s time to make a large purchase — whether it’s a car repair, a new computer, expensive flight or business expense — use that high-dollar item as an excuse to sign up for the card you want.

If that purchase alone doesn’t meet the spending threshold, it will at least get you a lot closer. On the flip side, if you have the funds, you can also use that new card as a reason to finally get your air conditioner repaired or update the living room.

2. Use your new card for automatic payments

Another way to plug away at that sky-high minimum spend is to make your new card the default payment method for automatic expenses like bills. Some service providers won’t allow credit cards as a method of payment — but if your insurance, utility, cell phone or internet provider does (and they don’t charge an additional fee), set it up so you’re earning points and miles while chipping away at that big cash outlay.

3. Prepay for certain expenses

You can sometimes prepay your bills as well to help move spending forward into one large chunk. Car and health insurance providers are the most likely companies to offer this option, so if yours does, opt to pay for six months or a year of service all at once instead of paying every month.

Some companies may even offer a discount for doing so. And you’ll certainly get a nice bump toward that spending threshold.

4. Charge the big stuff

If your bank or landlord permits it, you can charge your monthly rent or mortgage payments to your card, too. Those are usually large expenses that will help you meet your limit fast. Car payments are sometimes a possibility too, so check with your lender.

If not, a service like Plastiq allows you to pay virtually any bill with a credit card, though there are fees involved. (Plastiq charges 2.9%.) So use this method as a last resort, and make sure to do the math on paying that fee vs. what your bonus will be worth if you earn it.

5. Use your new card for everyday spending

Another strategy is to leave all your other cards (even cash) at home and vow to use your new card for everything from groceries to gas to your morning cup of coffee. You may be surprised at how quickly you reach your spend goal when every little expense — even the ones that seem too insignificant to bother charging — starts adding up.

6. Foot the bill

Going out with friends or family? Pick up the check. Even if you weren’t planning on buying everyone’s meals or drinks, offer to pay and then have those joining you give you their portion of the total via cash or apps like Venmo.

This can work for movie tickets, event admission and plenty of other situations. Your friends will likely thank you for taking the initiative and be more than happy to send you their portion later. Just be sure to get reimbursed, and give your other points-earning friends a chance to return the favor.

7. Buy gift cards, with caution

If you still have a bit of spending to do before time is up, buy gift cards. You can certainly purchase them for others or as gifts, but you can also get cards from retailers at which you regularly shop (like gas stations, grocery stores or coffee shops). Only do this if this is money you'd absolutely be spending later anyway.

Many cards allow gift card purchases to go toward the initial spending threshold, but some, like the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express do not — so check terms and conditions carefully before relying on this method.

8. Ditch the company card

If your company permits it, charge business expenses like hotel stays or business dinners to your new card and then have the company reimburse you. If this method applies to you, you could even time acquiring a new card before a big business trip you already know you’re taking.

9. Pay your taxes

If April 15 is looming or you’re required to pay quarterly taxes, you can often use a credit card to do so. Be aware, however, that you may be charged a fee (usually a percentage of the overall total of the amount due), so gauge whether or not that additional charge is necessary or worth it in your quest to reach the minimum spend requirement.

10. Ask family for help

If you’re desperate and coming up on your initial spend deadline, there’s no shame in asking for help. If you have willing family members, ask if you can put their monthly electricity bill or Amazon shopping cart total on your card for a month or two. They can then cut you a check or use an app to send you the money.

And if a spouse has more or different expenses than you do, consider adding them as an authorized user so you can work together to meet that threshold.

Frequently asked questions

Generally speaking, purchases made via an authorized user card count toward the minimum spend for earning your sign-up offer. Keep in mind that you're on the hook for paying off these expenses, so only add authorized users you trust.

Minimum spend refers to the least amount of money a new cardholder must spend in order to qualify for the welcome offer/sign-up bonus for a given credit card.

Be leery of purchasing large amounts of gift cards to meet the minimum spend for any card issuer. These types of purchases are known as 'manufactured spending' and are generally frowned upon. Officially, AmEx does not qualify gift card purchases as counting towards meeting your minimum spend requirement.

Regardless of your credit limit, it is generally recommended that cardholders use less than 30% of the cap.

Reminders for meeting a travel card's minimum spend

Remember that travel cards with the biggest rewards typically come with annual fees, and there’s always a higher interest rate to worry about. So be careful about charging large amounts to your new card that you can’t pay off.

Interest charges can quickly make the points and miles you earn with a travel credit card worthless. However, if you know you can spend responsibly, then get creative, time your application right and use your new card for everything — you’ll meet the minimum spend requirement in no time.

How to maximize your rewards

You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are some of the best travel credit cards of 2024:

Travel Cards from Our Partners
Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card

on Chase's website

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
NerdWallet Rating
Rewards rate


5x on travel purchased through Chase Travel℠, 3x on dining, select streaming services and online groceries, 2x on all other travel purchases, 1x on all other purchases.


Intro offer


Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 when you redeem through Chase Travel℠.

Chase Freedom Unlimited Credit Card

on Chase's website

Chase Freedom Unlimited®
NerdWallet Rating
Rewards rate


Enjoy 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Travel℠, 3% cash back on drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery service, and unlimited 1.5% cash back on all other purchases.


Intro offer

Up to $300

Earn an additional 1.5% cash back on everything you buy (on up to $20,000 spent in the first year) - worth up to $300 cash back!

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

on Capital One's website

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
NerdWallet Rating
Rewards rate


Earn unlimited 2X miles on every purchase, every day. Earn 5X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of trip options.


Intro offer


Enjoy $250 to use on Capital One Travel in your first cardholder year, plus earn 75,000 bonus miles once you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening - that’s equal to $1,000 in travel.

See more travel cards
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