It’s dark, but just enough light is coming through the crack in the door to make out a man’s silhouette.
A shadowy figure pauses outside, his breath visible in the cold night air. Just then he turns and the mysterious gentlemen locks eyes with you through the slit in the door.
He enters the room, sets a worn briefcase on the table with a thud, clicks the scratched golden locks open and slowly reaches in.
The air is still.
It’s getting weird.
You have to pee.
He turns to you, slowly with something in the palm of his hand. In a gravelly voice he says:
“Here’s a free plane ticket to anywhere in the world.”
He then hands you the golden key to a free trip. It feels small and has a bunch of numbers on it. Is it some kind of secret code?
Wait a second!
It’s a crummy credit card!
As he closes the lid on his briefcase, which he must carry due to his employment at a credit agency, he gives you brief instructions.
“First you must take this credit card, activate it then start spending money.”
“Damn!” you think. “How is this going to help me save money?”
Then he says, “You must spend $3,000 in three months in order to earn your free plane ticket. That is all.”
You hear the briefcase slam shut, the locks slip into place and he abruptly leaves the room, letting out an accidental burp on his way (the gift giving stranger has heartburn from the sausage he ate for dinner).
And there you are, holding a free plane ticket that isn’t really a free ticket until you figure out a way to spend more money that you have.
“Not cool” you think to yourself as you frantically search around for a bathroom…because you still have to pee.
13 Ways to Meet Your Travel Rewards Credit Card Minimum Spend Requirements
(Hint: Many of these work without spending an extra dime)
The biggest challenge in Travel Hacking is figuring out a way to meet the minimum spend in the allotted time without going bust.
For example, the Chase Sapphire Preferred card requires you to spend $4000 in the first 3 months in order to earn your rewards points.
And if you fail…
The Ink Bold Business card is even bigger, $5000 spend in the first 3 months.
Each card has it’s own set of rules, so it’s important to make sure you have plan on how you are going to meet the minimum spend before signing up for your travel rewards credit card.
Don’t let a small bank account stop you, because you can still do this.
This is Zero To Travel baby!
If you use these techniques you most likely won’t have to spend any extra money you don’t have to.
Screw you, minimum spend requirements!
Without further ado, check out these sweet moves…
Sweet Move #1 – Micro-Lend Your Money To Help People
Head over to Kiva.org and lend your minimum balance to poverty level entrepreneurs throughout the world.
It will take time to get paid back, but you’ll get it eventually. Make sure the time for repayment doesn’t exceed the allotted minimum time.
There is a very small chance some of the money won’t get paid back (they have a 99% repayment rate) but it’s unlikely.
If you go this route, try to leave some of the money in Kiva. You can keep lending to different people spreading the goodness even further.
There aren’t many better ways to meet a minimum balance than by contributing to somebody in need, even if it’s temporarily. Learn more before micro-lending at Kiva’s about page.
Sweet Move #2 – The Ultimate Win, Win, Win! Travel Hacking for Charity
This technique is one of the coolest ways to meet your minimum spend if you can pull it off.
It will challenge you, excite you and help others.
People do whacky things all the time for charity. Surely you’ve had friends ask you to donate for each mile they run in a marathon or go on some crazy adventure in the name of charity.
Susan Komen’s Race for the Cure is another popular example.
Find an awesome charity.
Head over to Charity Navigator where you can read reviews and make sure you pick something with a good rating.
If you need a recommendation check out Charity Water. This organization brings water to villages that need it and 100% of their donations go to the field, no joke!
Pick something you’ve wanted to do for a long time.
Want to climb a big mountain? Participate in a triathlon?
For organize events you could try a Zombie Run or Tough Mudder?
Whatever you choose the important thing is that you need to fundraise for the event on your own.
Now you need to hit up friends and family for donations.
The easy way to collect donations is through a website like crowdrise which allows you to set up a personal page for your charitable efforts.
But you can’t go that route because Crowdrise collects the donations from each individual then forwards that along to your charity.
Therefore, you cannot charge the entire donation on your card.
At this point the only way to pay with your personal card is to collect donations offline in the form of checks and cash.
Talk about kickin’ it old school.
The other big downside is that people who donate will not be able to get a receipt from the charity to write off the donation on their taxes.
Those are definitely challenges, but if you are transparent and honest it can be done, as long as your contributors don’t mind missing out on the tax write off.
The end result, if you can pull it off, is that you meet all or part of your minimum balance and the money spent goes to a great cause that you believe it.
The entire process looks like this:
- Choose a adventure
- Raise money.
- Go on your adventure
- Collect money offline. Use credit card to pay charity.
You earn your travel rewards bonus
The credit card company gets their minimum spend
You donate to a great cause you believe in!
Does it get any better than that?
Sweet Move #3 – Turn Taxes Into Travel
Boring, now we have to talk about taxes!
Yeah, but this technique actually makes you excited to pay the government your hard earned money. Who knew that was even possible?
Now before I get into this I have to insert this lame and obvious disclaimer, I am not a tax accountant, nor a tax professional.
Heck I don’t even balance a checkbook and rarely spend time analyzing my finances, unless I need to make some big purchases or I’m about to go traveling☺
You will have to look into what is possible and which option is best based on your situation but it’s not too hard if you follow the information included here.
Owe Money On Your Taxes
Absurd? Irresponsible? Ridiculous? Perhaps.
Unless you are a member of La Cosa Nostra, it’s fair to say that you have no choice but one in life, to pay your taxes.
Did you know that you could pay your taxes on a credit card?
There is a processing fee and you’ll have to eat that cost. Since most people owe thousands on taxes this is an awesome opportunity to launch that stone in the air and take out those two pigeons, taxes and minimum spends.
If you work as a consultant and freelancer you are responsible for paying your own taxes. This in itself is a great reason to start a globetrotting business. We’ll get to some strategies for employees in a second.
Earning 50,000 Travel Rewards Points In Less Than 15 Minutes
In 2012, I applied for the Chase Ink Bold Business Card, which was awarding 50,000 points in exchange for a $5000 minimum spend within the first three months. Normally that amount would be difficult to charge without overspending.
Timing the card application with my tax due date allowed me to charge just over $5000 on my card, earning the rewards and settling my tax debt.
You can also charge your state taxes the same way.
Here is a link to all of the places you can go to charge your taxes. Individual payment processers may list option for paying your state taxes also:
How Else Can You Leverage Taxes For Travel?
If you work a traditional job, you’ll want to fill out your tax paperwork so that they take out the least amount. This way you’ll owe taxes at the end of the year. Too many scenarios to cover, if you have kids, are single, hold more than one job, etc. so do a little digging.
Advance tax payments to the government. Sure nobody want to give the government extra money, but you’ll eventually get it back if you overpay.
Pay your taxes quarterly and spread your credit card travel hacking throughout the year.
Start a sole proprietorship and ask your employer to pay you as a freelancer so you are responsible for your own tax payments.
Sweet Move #4 – Turn Your Bills into Thrills
The same bills show up every month, why not pay as many as possible on your credit card? Utilities, auto payments, insurance, mortgages, whatever, just charge as much as possible. On a side note first eliminate as many as possible first.
Paying bills on credit is fairly obvious yet it takes time to switch everything over and it’s annoying. Who wants to spend time on that stuff?
Do it now.
Start your research at Charge Smart for a handy all in one place to pay bills via credit card or get with your local bank.
Grab a margarita, slap an idyllic beach scene as wallpaper on your computer for motivation, and get busy!
Sweet Move #5 – Turn Student Loans into Tickets to Rome
Again, you can start at Charge Smart or call your loan company directly and ask about it.
Sweet Move #6 – Turn Big Purchases Into Big Trips
If you need a computer badly and you are buying one anyway, why not time that purchase to coincide with a new travel hacking rewards credit card?
Making a large (read necessary) purchase can knock out a big chunk, if not all of that minimum spend, in one shot.
Take this even one step further with the next tip.
Sweet Move #7 – Do Your Shopping Through Credit Cards Rewards Malls
Ok this might not help you spend money but if you’re shopping anyway make as many online purchases as possible through your rewards card shopping portal.
When you log in to Chase Rewards, for example, you can get to a list of stores offering up to 20 extra points on every dollar you spend.
The shopping experience doesn’t change, finding some new undies at Victoria Secrets or the latest FIFA Xbox game at Target is easy. Chase Rewards simply redirects to those websites for your purchase, the only difference being that you earn extra travel rewards points, sometimes up to 20x more!
The points earning world is ever changing, to keep track of offers check out
Or the shopping section of
Sweet Move #8 Don’t Spend Any Money
How is that possible?
Well, I already shared one way at the top of this article by lending money that will be paid back (see Sweet Move #1).
It’s called ‘manufactured spending’ the fancy pants travel hacking term for legal money laundering, or money cycling if you prefer.
Sound fishy? Apparently it’s all good as long as you follow the rules.
Manufactured spending strategies are ever changing. To discover the latest sweet moves check out this Flyer Talk Forum.
Sweet Move #9 – Buy and Collect
Does your Mom do a lot of shopping? Is the family buying a new computer? Have a trusted friend making a big purchase?
Why not tag along with them, purchase the item and have them transfer money to you or write you a check? Make your minimum spend with no investment on your part.
Better yet, contact the credit card company and authorize a trusted parent on the card then let them spend away for a few months on it and reimburse you the cash monthly to pay it off.
I am the co-founder of an online community where we chat about travel hacking all the time. It’s called Location Indie. You can listen to this exclusive members only ‘Jam Session’ on meeting the minimum spend.
Sweet Move #10 – Buy Yourself a Gift…..Card
Things like groceries and gas for car owners are a regular expense. If you shop at Whole Foods every week, buy a gift card and charge it.
Amazon gift cards are fantastic for anything under the sun and moon.
Stack up gift cards to meet your minimum spend.
Also, American Express and Visa offer gift cards that are essentially cash which can be spent anywhere.
Sweet Move #11- Pay Your Insurance in Advance
Yes, I’m actually suggesting paying some bills in ahead of time. Paying your car insurance, for example, for a 6 months period instead of month to month helps knock down your minimum spend.
On the same note, pay anything you can in advance.
Sweet Move #12 – The Company Situation
This only works if you are currently with a company and have expenses. If your company has issued you are corporate card, there is no reason you can’t ask them if you can use your own credit card and get reimbursed.
Sweet Move #13 – Buy and Return
This is more shady than sweet.
This isn’t something I’ve done and don’t necessarily recommend but it probably can be done.
Find a store that allows you to buy on one credit card and return on another one. If the store will return the item with cash back or a check, that also works.
If you buy and return after your rewards points post that may work, but credit card companies are pretty savvy so no promises here. This may not be worth the risk.
There a plenty of ways to skin a minimum balance requirement. Trying to achieve the goal without spending more money than normal is the goal. Get a plan together and go for it.
What other ideas do you have to meet the minimum spend requirements?
Want more in depth tips on how to stretch your travel dollars?