Timing Credit Card Applications and Minimum Spending Requirements

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Over the weekend I received an email from a reader who was in a bit of a pickle because meeting the minimum spending requirement on their new Amex card is proving more difficult than they thought.  I don’t have all the details of which Amex and what the minimum spending requirement is, but they are hitting a wall since their daycare doesn’t take Amex and their utilities don’t accept Amex.  I’m still in the middle of exchanging emails to try to help that person, but it made me think about our strategy in timing credit card applications and minimum spending requirements.

When timing credit card applications I primarily look at three issues: 1.  The offers that are out there.  I like to time my applications with great offers I want to take advantage of.  I won’t just get new cards because it has been a few months – there have to be offers that I really want.  2.  My credit score and credit inquiry situation has to be right for a new card (or two).  My credit score takes a decent hit when I apply for credit cards, so I like to give it at least a few months to rebound some before doing any additional applications.  Plus, banks get antsy when you have multiple recent credit inquiries, so it makes sense to wait at least three months between applications.  3.  And finally, when possible, I tie my applications that have hefty minimum spending requirements to a time when I am planning on making large purchases anyway.  All three of those three points are equally important for me, and unless you take all three into consideration, you may find yourself in a frustrating position like the family who recently emailed me.

I didn’t do the coin thing from the Mint, I didn’t do Amazon payments to my spouse or other family member, etc….  I don’t have time for that kind of stuff, and I’m really not interested in potentially drawing attention to my accounts in that way.  I know it has worked for others, but it just isn’t for me.  So, that leaves me with spending money the old fashioned way.  While we do put pretty much all of our expenses on credit cards – many of our recurring expenses are already auto-billed to a certain card, and I have no desire to mess with that to temporarily meet the spending requirement on a new card.  I would temporarily move those expenses if I absolutely had to, but I like to keep life as simple as possible.  For us that means timing credit card applications with when we plan to make new purchases (or you could argue we time new purchases with credit card apps……).  Anyway, I’ll give you a sneak peek into what that looked like this time for our family.

For a while now we have been delaying two thing – a good home work set-up for me, and a playroom for our kiddo.  I was working on a Dell that was so old it would give me the blue screen of death just about every day – more often than that on days that got about 75 degrees in the house.  My husband had done everything to keep it limping along for years, but its time had come.  So, to address my needs, once we got our new The Business Gold Rewards Amex (we got it since we were targeted for a 50,000 point sign-up offer, be aware that the regular offer comes with no sign-up bonus points), we quickly placed an order for a new office table and a MacBook Air (and all the requisite Apple accessories) via the Membership Rewards portal.  I’m still slowly making the transition to the Mac side of things, but my new work-at-home set-up is much better than the makeshift set-up I had before.  Plus, we were quickly about $2,300 closer to our $5,000 minimum spending requirement.  Note that we were not buying things just to meet the spending requirement – we were simply timing the purchases with when we got the new card.  If you start making extra purchases just to hit the spending requirement, you are going about it the wrong way.

Next up was a trip to Ikea for our kiddo’s long overdue playroom.  In case you have somehow missed out on the “excitement” of Ikea on a Saturday afternoon, let me save you the trouble and say DON’T DO IT!  It is a madhouse in there!  Somehow we survived the insanity of a weekend at Ikea, and for about $300 we now had the basics for our toddler’s new playroom.  We were also now $300 closer to our $5,000 minimum spending target.  For the record, that was the possibly the best $300 ever spent.

A playroom may not immediately sound very related to home office productivity, but let me tell you the two are very much linked.  Happy toddler playing in a safe environment = more productive parents.  Win, win.  It also looks way better than just having toys scattered everywhere.

After about an hour playing in the new playroom, Little C paused and said, “I’m so happy!  I’m going to do the Happy Dance!”  Minimum spending requirement or not, that made it totally worth it right there.

I also have some travel reservations to make soon that should jet me even closer to the $5K mark on my new Amex.  I am loving the 3x points on airfare with that card!  So, just by being strategic with timing these purchases, we will easily hit our spending requirement with plenty of time to spare.  Spending money is never fun (at least for me), but when you are accomplishing multiple goals at once by paying attention to timing, it does make it a bit easier.  We did the same thing with the The Chase Ink Bold in November.  That card also has a $5000 minimum spending requirement in the first three months, and we knew we had tons of expenses coming up in December, so it just made sense to go for it then.

Do you find yourself timing purchases with when you get new rewards credit cards that have minimum spending requirements?  Do you have any others tips or tricks you are willing to share about making it easier to hit minimum spending requirements?

PS. The Apple Magic Trackpad is about the weirdest thing ever.  I would have personally named it the “Mouseless Mouse”, but I guess that isn’t quite as catchy.  😉


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  1. If it weren’t for potential and fairly regular Membership Rewards transfer bonuses, I would not use my Amex Gold on airfare. You can get a slightly better 3.07 points per $1 with Ultimate Rewards and Travelocity. 2x for Travelocity in the mall and 1.07 for the spend, factoring in the annual 7% points rebate.

  2. I find it necessary to move my (household) monthly spending to my “new” card during the time I’m meeting minimum spends. It takes a few hours and your good to go! For the average person, it may prove to be difficult relying solely on large purchases – although they definitely do help the process along.

    As for the reader whose having problems meeting their minimum spend, there are many ways. Perhaps the most basis legitimate way will be to stack up on AmEx gift cards from Walmart or BigCrumbs.

  3. @Mark – Correct. I even had that in my head but didn’t write it that way. 4 points per $1 through Travelocity with a 7% rebate (which is technically 4.28 points, not 4.07, I’ve just bothered to realize).

    Of course you could use the UR mall/Travelocity to get the 2x UR points (plus 7%) but pay for airfare with the Amex Gold for the 3x MR points. There’s the best diversification method. And if you dump them all in BA that’s at least 5.14 Avios per $1 on airfare, not counting any possible MR transfer bonuses.

  4. @CodeAdam10 Thank you for the GC idea, I’ll look into that. I’m 6 weeks into points and miles and I didn’t want to shift our spending to make minimums. Two trips to visit the grandparents has turned into only one and with very cheap airfare. I had promised my wife she would not notice any change during my churns, but I have since changed everything to our Starwood card. From now on, I will probably stick with Visa/MC since I can hit most minimums with 2 kids in daycare.

  5. AZGuy I don’t think you’ll get 3X MR points if you go through the UR portal. You have to use the MR portal to get full points for that.

    MommyPoints it is a hard juggling act, with many unexpecteds popping up. Both unexpected expenses and unexpected non- or different expenseses, if that makes sense. For the first time in a long time I don’t have a min spend to make, and my next couple of CCs in the queue have low or little minimum spends. I’m using up some AmEx / BigCrumbs gift cards I got in a previous spending spree, so that is always an option for trying to spread out the min spends.

    If your reader is a big WalMart shopper, s/he can simply buy a $500 WM gift card(s) (usually for $485) through ebay using the AmEx through PayPal. Same principle. There are other ways to front-load the potential points but that is the most straight forward to meet a min spend. Or, buy grocery store gift cards at a favorite grocery store, often scoring fuel points; amazing how quickly those things disappear!

  6. @Arizona Guy, I concur 100% that the transfer bonuses are what makes MR “worth it”. Your second comment calculations are dead on. It’s awesome we have such great choices on how to pay for airfare. The Amex PRG via the UR Travelocity portal should be a top contender for points earnings. For various reasons (certificates, ticket holds, etc…) I keep having to book directly with the airlines, but I hope to go the UR Travelocity portal with Amex PRG card route in the near future.

    @CodeAdam10, gift cards such as Walmart would have likely been my first suggestion once I got more info as well. In fact, I plan to write a bit more about the world of gift cards in the near future. It can be a good way to hit minimum spending requirements in some cases. I would add that most average families (like ours) do have large purchases throughout the year, so if you can plan new cards around those it does make the process easier, but it is good to have a back-up plan for when that isn’t possible.

    @Mark, in fact it is 4.28 points per dollar if you use your Sapphire Preferred or Ink Bold via the UR Travelocity portal. 😉

    @Jaminson, ha ha….not unless you know something I don’t know.

    @InaCents, the penguin was a first b-day present from a friend. She liked it some then, but has outgrown it a bit now. It’s still cute though. It’s really getting to be time for a garage sale around here!

    @Kevin, I wouldn’t write off Amex completely, but those 5K Amex minimums can be tough. The gift card route is is a good one. You can buy ahead at the grocery store, gas stations, etc…. I will also be writing more about BigCrumbs soon.

    @MJL, it is a nice feeling to not be working toward a minimum spend sometimes. 😉 Good gift card suggestions. All signs do point toward getting the 3x through MR and the 2x UR by going that route with the Amex PRG card. I have not yet personally tested the theory, but I have read that it does work. I hope to test it myself very soon!

  7. Ok, we are all suppose to be responsible grown ups here; but wouldn’t it be nice to once again be so happy ya wanted to do the happy dance?
    I don’t have experience doing gift cards. It is unlikely that I would give up the miles/points on a new credit. But remember what it is; it’s a credit card. The last 20% of spend may be a bit of a stretch for me. I’m a frugal old troll, but sometimes the moment just calls for indulgence! Hey, I’m doing the happy dance at The Sun Dial!

  8. Chase and AmEx pull Experian but Barclays pulls Transunion and BofA Equifax. I don’t see the point in spacing the latter two’s churns with Chase/AmEx apps.

  9. @tassojunior – depends on where you live. Not a single bank pulls Equifax for me, except CapitalOne since they pull all three. Barclays does pull Transunion for me.

    Everyone pulls Experian for me, including BofA.

  10. It’s not necessary to change your autopay setups to meet the minimum spend on a new card. You almost always get a bill before the autopay kicks in. Just make that month’s payment before the autopay date, using the new card. Designate it as a “one time payment”. The autopay sees that nothing is owed that month, and so nothing is paid. Once the minimum spend is met, just do nothing else, and your original autopay set up continues as usual.

  11. @Robert – paying before autopay doesn’t always work. Depends on the service provider. If I pay my Cox cable bill ahead of time their pathetic system will still autopay anyway so I effectively pay twice in one month. It basically makes the following month free when the next statement is generated but that doesn’t make the system any less absurd.

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