We recently did a trip to Disney World for super cheap, using a combination of travel rewards and cashback rewards. After all was said and done, we spent $20 per person to get into the parks each day, saving us over $1,000.
In order to make it happen, we had to meet the minimum spend to get our bonus points on each card. Those spends can range from super low—the lowest we’ve ever had was $500—to quite a bit higher, with our highest minimum spend ever being $4,000.
What does that mean? Let’s look at PenFed’s Power Cash Rewards VISA Signature® Card. For Accounts approved and issued from October 1, 2017 – December 31, 2017 it has a $100 statement credit bonus if you spend $1,500 within the first 3 months of opening your account. In addition to the statement credit you may also qualify for 2% Cash Back on all purchases through the PenFed Honors Advantage Program.
Almost everyone spends more than $1,500 over the course of three months, but a lot of the big bills that add up are things that aren’t traditionally chargeable.
Well, it’s 2017, and the definition of traditional is changing. There’s a lot more you can put on a credit card to meet that minimum spend, though I am going to stress that if you do so, you should absolutely make sure you can pay it off before you start accruing interest.
Pay Your Utility, Cable and Wireless Service Bills with a Credit Card
It’s incredibly easy to pay your utility bills, cable and wireless service bills with a credit card. If you make monthly payments manually, it’s as simple as calling your service provider or logging onto their online payment system.
If you already have automatic monthly payments set up, you can switch them over to your credit card. Be careful with this method though; you don’t want to forget about the charge and end up with late payment fees or incur interest. Only use this method if you religiously pay off your credit card bill in full each and every month.
Pay Your Rent with a Credit Card
Yes! Many landlords will let you pay rent with a credit card. This is most common for big complexes where there is an online payment system set up, but it’s worth asking even if you rent from an individual.
Before you use this system, make sure you’re not getting charged an extra fee for credit card processing. Even a 2.5% fee can eat into any rewards you’ll be earning.
There are other ways to pay your rent with a credit card. There is a litany of third-party services out there that will let you pay them with a card, and then they’ll cut your landlord a check on your behalf. But these services charge those pesky fees, making them a not-so-great option. It’s extremely rare that you’ll come out the other side profitable—even with rewards.
If you’re going to pay your rent with a credit card, the best way to do it is through the system your landlord has established. If they don’t have one, look to other bills to meet your minimum spend.
Pay Insurance Premiums with a Credit Card
We regularly put our health insurance premiums on a credit card and then pay the balance off before it’s due. We do this even if we’re not trying to meet a minimum spend because it’s a BIG bill that racks up a lot of points. We’re able to do this because we don’t have employer-sponsored health insurance, but instead purchase a Marketplace plan.
You can also pay other kinds of insurance with a credit card, though. For example, my insurer allows me to pay my auto, valuable personal property and renter’s insurance policy premiums with a credit card. I just have to look a little harder for the payment option than I would if I were drawing the money from my checking account.
One thing to keep in mind is that your insurer may be giving you a discount to pay automatically every month—and that automatic payment may come from your checking account. Make sure you understand all policies before taking this route. It would be a shame to lose your monthly discount in the pursuit of rewards points.
Things Not to Pay with a Credit Card
There are some things you you might not be better off paying with a credit card. These are bills that could incur fees or charges, eating away at your rewards.
The biggest example is taxes. Yes, you can pay them with a card, but the IRS will charge you a 1.87% to 2.00% fee, with a minimum charge of $2.50. Be aware of what hidden costs may be before you decide whether earning additional points is worth it. If you owe very little, this route has a sliver of potential to be beneficial, but odds are this is a big bill that will end up costing you a lot of money to charge. It’s more often than not better to cut a check.
You know to look out for fees on payments for insurance, auto loans and rent, but there are other big bills that you can almost never charge for free. Some super travel hackers have convoluted workarounds, but they can be risky (card policies change frequently to combat these strategies) and often result in fees, anyways. If you know what you’re doing, the workarounds may earn you a marginal profit via your signup bonus, but there’s a lot of little steps to get right and therefore a lot of risk.
Meeting Your Minimum Spend
Meeting that minimum spend can be a huge boost, earning you hundreds of rewards dollars. Just be careful that in your pursuit of rewards, you’re not paying unnecessary fees. Also make sure that you’re paying your statement in full every month so you don’t incur interest, and that you’re not spending more than you normally would without a credit card.
This post is in collaboration with PenFed Credit Union. The views expressed in the article are the views of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Pentagon Federal Credit Union. PenFed Credit Union is an Equal Housing Lender and is federally insured by the NCUA.