Opening a new rewards credit card account can help you earn points, cash, or miles quickly if the card offers an introductory, one-time bonus of money or points. There's just one thing to keep in mind: the minimum spending requirement to receive that bonus.
Many rewards cards require you to spend a certain amount of money within the first few months of opening your account to qualify for a bonus. While you might be focused on tracking points, cash, or miles earned with your new card, it's just as important to keep tabs on what you spend.
The good news is that cash back and other rewards earned after meeting a minimum spending requirement aren't considered taxable income. Here's how to create a simple system for monitoring your credit card minimum spend when trying to earn a bonus.
Pay off your card each month. Otherwise, whatever you receive in rewards may be wiped out by interest payments on a high balance.
Track Minimum Spending Requirements Using a Spreadsheet
Getting organized can help you stay on top of the minimum spending requirements. You could create a simple spreadsheet outlining:
- The card name
- Date opened
- The minimum-spend bonus available for each card
- Each card's minimum spending requirement
- The deadline for meeting the minimum spending requirement
- How much you’ve spent so far
Subtract how much you’ve spent so far from the minimum requirement to find out how much you need to spend. Or log your purchases for each card in the sheet so you have a running total to compare against the minimum spending requirement.
Here's a sample minimum spend tracking spreadsheet you can use to track expenses toward your minimum-spend goal. Download a copy for your own use.
Many cards won’t count your annual fee, balance transfers, returned items, cash advances, interest, fees, or other credit-card elements toward your minimum spend. Check your terms and conditions or bonus offer documentation for eligible purchases to make sure you’re spending wisely.
Use Your Card Issuer’s Tools
Many credit cards offer the ability to set a spending alert through text or email. These alerts can be a helpful tool for tracking card points, rewards, and your spending.
For example, you could set an alert within your card app to notify you when your balance reaches a certain amount each month. So if you have a card that requires you to spend $3,000 within three months to qualify for a bonus, you could set an alert to notify you when you hit $1,000 in spending monthly.
If you're getting the alert later in the month, that's a sign you need to bump up spending to stay on track. And if you get the alert earlier in the month, you'll know you're ahead of the game in making progress toward your spending goal.
Set up a notification in your personal calendar alerting you to a minimum spending deadline. A deadline can provide time to make up for any spending before the welcome offer expires.
Some cards have rewards and points trackers within their websites and apps; for example, Wells Fargo allows cardholders to track progress towards their Go Far Rewards.
Of course, you can also use your card account’s monthly statement to quickly add up purchases as you go along.
Link Credit Card Accounts to a Spending Tracker App
There are numerous budgeting apps that make it easier to track spending on your credit cards when trying to reach a minimum spending requirement.
You can also use an app like Awardwallet for tracking points, cash back, and miles earned with each of your rewards credit cards.
For many cards, the clock starts ticking toward minimum spend on the day your account opens or is approved—not necessarily when you receive the physical card.
Plan Ahead for Large Purchases To Max Out Spending
Reach the minimum spending requirement by planning fewer but larger purchases, so you don't have to track as many smaller purchases to reach your total. Consider opening new card accounts strategically based on your spending patterns.
For example, use your new travel-rewards card for an upcoming summer vacation, and book hotels, flights, and other arrangements for the trip. Depending on your vacation budget, you may be able to hit the minimum spending requirement fairly quickly.
During the holiday shopping season, you could cash in on cash back or points with a card that rewards you on groceries or retail purchases. If you run a small business or side hustle, you could plan for expensive outlays (such as merchandise or a new computer) before minimum spending deadlines.
If you can, coordinate your card charges with that card's rewards. If you're trying to earn miles or points for future travel, you might want to use an airline or general-travel card for travel purchases.
The Bottom Line
Unfortunately, most card issuers don’t make it easy to track your purchases en route to achieving the minimum spend to qualify for the bonus. You’ll need to find a system for adding up spending as you go, so you don’t miss out on miles, points, or money. By being strategic with purchases, utilizing apps, and tracking spending via alerts or a spreadsheet, you can reduce your odds of missing out on a valuable introductory points bonus.
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