When you sign up for a credit card promotion with a particular reward bonus -- perhaps an airline credit card with a 40,000 mile travel bonus -- there's always a sizable catch. It usually comes in the form of a minimum spending requirement.
If you like to take advantage of these kinds of credit card bonuses, arm yourself beforehand with the following rewards card tips. Your better "bonus savvy" will help you meet and beat the spending requirements for rewards cards.
How family and friends can help
Try using Amazon Payments to send money to family and friends via your credit card. Once they get the cash, they just give it back to you. This move costs nothing but a little time and effort from both of you.
Socializing with friends can be another source of help, too. Bring your credit card with you to outings like going to the movies with pals or for happy hour with colleagues. Use your card to pay for the bill and ask you friends to pay you back with cash or send money securely through a payment app such as Venmo.
When you use these particular tips remember to direct payments from family members or friends into the appropriate bank account so that you use that money to pay off your credit card bill. You want to rack up rewards, not higher interest charges.
Many of your bills for services, like utilities, will let you pay by credit card. And they won't object to your prepaying these bills a few months in advance.
If you live with a roommate, ask if they'll agree to let you pay all the bills and just write you a check for their part of the total cost. You can apply this idea to your cell phone service, insurance policies, professional fees, dues and other billed expenses. Sometimes there's a fee to use a credit card -- but often there's a discount if you pay ahead for a longer term.
Buy gift cards to pay for regular expenses
You can also apply the prepay idea to shopping for your groceries, clothing and gasoline. For most people, it's really not practical to go on a massive grocery shopping spree to add $600 to your credit card balance. Instead, buy gift cards to the stores where you shop the most.
If you tend to spend $300 on groceries and household supplies at Walmart or Target each month, just use your credit card to buy $600 in gift cards. Then use the cards to shop as you normally do. With a little online research you can make this an even better deal. Find one of the websites that sells discounted gift cards and by your cards from them.
Charge your rent payment
If you're renting, this is probably your biggest monthly expense. Putting it on your card would give you a huge boost toward meeting the spending requirement. Unfortunately, most landlords don't accept credit cards, but with the online service WilliamPaid you can use your credit card to pay your rent. There is a small fee for paying by credit card, but the rewards might be worth the expense.
The mortgage industry generally does not allow borrowers to make direct payments via credit card. You may be able to indirectly pay your mortgage if your credit card offers a bill pay service, but these services usually limit cardholders to a selected list of potential payees, which are unlikely to include your mortgage vendor. There are third-party services that help you pay your mortgage using your credit card, but the fees they charge will probably exceed the credit card rewards you would receive.
The reloadable prepaid card option
An alternative to what the major credit cards offer as bonuses is something to consider. You can also use reloadable prepaid cards to maximize your credit rewards. These prepaid cards are meant for continuous use and are compatible with the three major reload networks: Vanilla Reloads, Green Dot Money Paks and REloadit.
There are hundreds of reloadable prepaid cards available, but most are not ideal for earning points and miles. Since these products are typically marketed to the so-called "unbanked" population, they often contain a bill payment service which is especially useful for those of us who collect points and miles. If you can find a store that allows you to purchase reload packs with your credit card, you can then use the bill pay feature to pay your rent, mortgage, or even the credit card bill itself.
The downside is that some of these card issuers will shut down the accounts of those who use this feature too aggressively. If this happens, you will not lose any money, but you will be unable to reload the card.
Non-reloadable prepaid cards, also known as gift cards, can be purchased at a surprising variety of stores including gas stations, super markets, drug stores, and some home improvement and department stores.
With nearly all prepaid card purchases, there is a one-time activation fee (less than $10). This fee is paid at the time of purchase, and credit card users earn rewards on both the value of the card and any fees paid.
A relatively new feature of these cards is the ability to create a PIN number. This feature is necessary for some uses since it allows the card to function as a debit card. Finally, most prepaid cards will offer the ability to register the card with a zip code, which is also necessary for some types of transactions.
All of these rewards card tips should help you give yourself a bonus when you cash in your rewards.
This article originally appeared on My Bank Tracker.
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