3 Outside-the-Box Ways to Spend Enough for a Credit Card Bonus

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When your normal spending isn't enough for a credit card bonus, you'll need to get creative.

For most credit card bonuses, you need to spend a certain amount of money to earn the bonus. Sometimes this is on the low side, such as $500 within three months. But other bonuses require much more. For example, you need to spend $5,000, $7,500, and even $15,000 in the first three months to get some bonuses.

So, what can you do if you want one of those big sign-up bonuses but you know you won't spend that much? Unfortunately, a lot of the advice is frustratingly obvious. Put all your bills on your credit card. Use your credit card for groceries. Things you're probably already doing.

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The good news is that there are a few outside-the-box ways to increase your credit card spending. These aren't necessarily methods you should use for the entire spending requirement, especially since two of them have fees and the other involves lending money. But they're all reliable options if some extra spending will make the difference in getting or missing out on a bonus.

1. Buy stocks with your credit card using Stockpile

Stockpile is unique among online stock brokers in that it lets you buy stocks with your credit card. The catch is there is a credit card fee of 3% plus $0.99 per trade. Considering most major online brokers now offer zero-commission trading, paying 3% extra isn't ideal. It can, however, be worth it if it will help you collect a credit card bonus.

The potential issue is that the stocks you buy may drop in value. For that reason, it's best to stay away from anything too volatile. I definitely wouldn't recommend maxing out your credit card to invest in Gamestop.

Instead, use Stockpile for low-risk investments you were going to make anyway. If you normally put $500 in an index fund every month, see if you can find the same fund in Stockpile. Then, you can simply make your $500 investment there and pay the extra $15.99 in fees so that it gets you closer to the spending requirement on a bonus.

One other thing to watch out for is making sure your card issuer doesn't consider the transaction a cash advance. That would cost you money in fees and interest, and it wouldn't count toward your sign-up bonus. Reports indicate that Stockpile transactions are generally considered purchases. But to be safe, call your card issuer first and ask to set your cash advance limit as low as possible. That way, if the transaction would be a cash advance and it's above your cash advance limit, it will get automatically denied.

2. Fund loans with Kiva

Kiva is a nonprofit that offers loans to underserved communities. Loans are crowdfunded, meaning Kiva users put up the money and get it back as the loan is repaid. Payments are made through PayPal, and there's no fee for paying by credit card.

The entire process of lending money with Kiva is simple and easy. From the home page, place the cursor over the "Lend" button. This opens a dropdown menu with different loan categories and regions. You can also just click "Lend" to view all the loan options. Click on a loan to learn more about it, including the length and repayment schedule.

When you've found a loan you want to fund, choose an amount to lend. Then, proceed through the checkout process. As the borrower repays the loan, you'll receive money to your PayPal account.

You'll tie up some money, since you'll be repaid over the term of the loan. There's also the risk of a borrower defaulting. According to Kiva, its repayment rate is 96%. It's not a risk-free way to raise your credit card spending, but there are no fees. It's also a nice way to help people in need.

3. Pay your rent, mortgage, and any other bill with Plastiq

Plastiq is a service that lets you pay just about anything with credit cards. The standard credit card fee is 2.85%.

After you sign up for an account with Plastiq, you can add a payment recipient and the amount you want to pay. Plastiq will then send the recipient the money by an ACH deposit to a bank account, a check, or a wire transfer. The recipient doesn't need to be a member of Plastiq to get your payment.

For the typical consumer, Plastiq could let you pay rent with a credit card (or your mortgage, if you're a homeowner). Housing tends to be the largest monthly expense, so being able to pay it with a credit card can help you make a lot of progress toward a bonus. But if you have any other significant expenses that can't be paid by credit card, Plastiq is a workaround.

The most effective way to get a credit card bonus is through your regular monthly expenses. Sometimes you may find yourself coming up a bit short, though. In situations like that, any of the options above can ensure you get those extra rewards without making any unnecessary purchases.

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