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Hey! You’re reading an outdated Free First Class Next Month series. Check out the latest version published in April of 2015 here.

Links to the cards listed below have been removed because their offers have expired. Click here for the top current credit card sign up bonuses.

This is the tenth post in a monthlong series that started here. Each post will take about two minutes to read and may include an action item that takes the reader another two minutes to complete. I am writing this for an audience of people who know nothing about frequent flier miles, and my goal is that by the end, you know enough to fly for free anywhere you want to go. Previously Best Current Credit Card Offers.

Yesterday you were hopefully approved for several new credit cards. Is there a best strategy to work on their minimum spending requirements at once? Yes!

For examples, I’ll use several of yesterday’s recommended cards from my last app-o-rama, but the advice will be general enough to use with any combination of cards. My cards are:

US Airways Premier World MasterCard (first purchase)

Citi American Airlines American Express ($2,500 in four months)

Citi American Airlines Visa ($2,500 in four months)

Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature Card ($2,500 in three months)

Hypothetical MasterCard ($5,000 in three months)

Here is the best way to meet multiple minimum spends at once:

1. Start with the cards that earn the sign up bonus on first purchase. Get those out of the way.

2. Order the rest of the cards by how long you have to meet the minimum spend requirement. This is key. The above cards have a minimum spend requirement of $12,500. If I did the Citi cards last, I would have four months to meet that. If I did them first, I would have three months to spend $12,500. Easy choice.

3. Among the cards with the same amount of time to meet the minimum spending requirement, start with the smallest spending requirement first: Imagine I got all the cards thinking I would spend $12,500 in the next four months, but my spending habits changed drastically, so I only spent $3,000.

It would have been a mistake to start with the Hypothetical MasterCard after the US Airways card. I would have ended up only clearing the US Airways card.

If instead I had followed the US Airways card with the Club Carlson card, I at least would have cleared two bonuses.

4. Tie goes to the AMEX. If two cards have the same minimum spend, start with the AMEX between the two. Why? AMEX isn’t accepted as many places as other cards. If you start with the AMEX, where it isn’t accepted, you can use the Visa, so every dollar is going toward clearing spend minimums. If you started with the Visa then cleared it, then started with the AMEX and got into the same situation, you wouldn’t have a card left to clear minimum spend on.

5. Put the last card you’ll clear on all your recurring bills. My last card above is the Citi AA Visa, so I put it as the payment for all my recurring bills, cell phone, internet, cable etc. If you want to make sure you remember all your recurring bills, look at the statement of the card set up to pay them all now.

The reason to put your last card on this task is that you won’t have to change cards on your bills every time you change the main card you’re spending on. And when you get to the last clearance, you’ll already have a head start.

6. Don’t spend past the bonus clearance yet. Monitor your spending closely online, so that you don’t go over the spending requirement. You don’t want to spend $2,800 on a $2,500 minimum card yet. You wasted $300 that could have cleared a different bonus. This also means: make sure to make a tiny purchase only on your cards that give you the bonus after the first purchase.

When you have all these bonuses cleared, you can then start to spend regularly on the cards that are the best for everyday spending.

7. Hit bonuses along the way if you can. Many cards have bonuses for certain types of spend. If you want to squeeze out every possible mile, carry all your cards at once, so you can take advantage of bonus spend along the way. Even when I’m clearing the Ink Bold, I’ll use the Citi AA Visa to purchase an AA ticket, so I can get 2x miles on the purchase.

Just to be clear, I will use a card that is further down the bonus clearance line to get a category bonus on certain types of spend. I will not use a card whose bonus I’ve already cleared just to pick up a 5x bonus on purchases at an office supply store for example. Clearing sign up bonuses is far more important than picking up these little category bonuses. If you can do both, though, do it.

Those are the rules. Order your cards by the rules listed, clear your cards one at a time, and enjoy your Free First Class Next Month.

In my example, the order of clearing would be:

  1. US Airways Premier World MasterCard (first purchase)
  2. Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature Card (tied for next shortest time, lower spending requirement than Ink)
  3. Hypothetical MasterCard with $5k spending
  4. Citi American Airlines American Express (tie goes to the AMEX)
  5. Citi American Airlines Visa

Of course, while I cleared these cards, the Citi AA Visa would pay all my recurring bills. And while I cleared other cards, I’d still use the Citi AA AMEX to buy AA tickets and the Ink Bold at office supply stores to clear those category bonuses along the way!

Continue to Transferable Points Program Basics.

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