Don’t Mess Up Your Minimum Spend with Bad Math


These days, it’s all about the opening bonuses when it comes to credit card rewards, not the paltry one or two percent cash back (or points) you can earn for regular spending.

After all, credit card issuers are offering up to 100,000 points for simply spending $4,000 on cards like the Chase Sapphire Reserve.

It would take at least $20,000 in spending in 5X categories to snag that many points, something most normal people couldn’t and wouldn’t possibly achieve.

So you know the opening bonus is where the money’s at, but you don’t want to screw it up. Otherwise the credit card issuer wins. And trust me, they win a lot, otherwise they wouldn’t dole out these awesome offers.

You’re Keeping Too Much Track (You Think)

When I open a new credit card with a minimum spending requirement, I hammer it hard to ensure I get the bonus ASAP. I know you get three months (generally), but I like to hit that spend within a month or slightly longer.

I’m not about hitting it at the wire. Why? Well, for one, you might mess up your math because you worked so hard to get it just right.

There are some very particular people out there who track their spending to the last dime, thinking they’ve hit the minimum required, at which point they seize all spending on the card in order to not overspend.

But guess what? There are probably folks who do this, only to realize they didn’t subtract their annual fee from the math. Or a refund they made.

In the end, they only chalked $3,550 in qualified purchases, well short of the $4,000 required. So be sure to spend $4,450 on the Chase Sapphire Reserve card if you want the 100,000 bonus points.

I asked my wife what her balance was on the card recently, as she hasn’t met the spend yet, and she said she was close. I said did you factor in the annual fee they charged at the outset? No, she replied.

Whelp, looks like we have more spending to do than we thought…

Long story short, annual fees do not count toward minimum spend! They aren’t purchases.

Tip: Interestingly, Chase Sapphire Reserve has a travel credit that can make your spending appear lower than it really is. These purchases actually do count toward your minimum spend, even though they’re instantly refunded.

Don’t Wait Until the Last Minute

Along those same lines, it’s important to hit the bonus well before the three months are up.

As I’ve said before, the credit card open date is often several days or even a week or so before you actually receive the card.

It’s essentially the day you were approved for the card, though you don’t get your hands on the sucker until it’s sent through the mail.

You may have mistakenly assumed you had more time to hit the spend, only to get the bad news after your bonus didn’t post as expected.

When you apply for a card and get approved, ask when the card open date is. But perhaps more importantly, hit the minimum spend well before that time.

Sometimes transactions don’t go through on the day you made a purchase, and if you cut things too close, it could burn you.

End of the day, you should be aiming to hit the minimum spend within a couple months and nowhere close to the 90 days you’re usually given. It’s just not worth the risk.

By Colin Robertson

Colin created this blog after spending several years in a job that required him to scour credit reports on a daily basis. His goal is to help individuals better understand their credit and get the most out of credit cards.

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