MileValue is part of an affiliate sales network and receives compensation for sending traffic to partner sites, such as CreditCards.com. This compensation may impact how and where links appear on this site. This site does not include all financial companies or all available financial offers. Terms apply to American Express benefits and offers. Enrollment may be required for select American Express benefits and offers. Visit americanexpress.com to learn more.

Note: Some of the offers mentioned below may have changed or are no longer be available. You can view current offers here.


Hey there, you’re reading an outdated post! The updated series from April 2015 can be found here.

This is the fourth post in a monthlong series. 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.

You’ve already opened your loyalty accounts and checked your credit; today we figure out how much you can spend on credit cards each month and how you can increase that amount without actually increasing how much money you spend per month.

Knowing how much you can spend on cards each month informs how many credit cards you can apply for, since many cards have a minimum spending requirement that must be met to unlock their sign up bonuses.

How many cards you can apply for will be limited by three things:

  1. Have you applied for any cards in the last 90 days? Best practice is to wait 91+ days between applications, so if you applied for a card more recently than that, for now apply for zero cards and wait until day 91. If it’s already been 91+ days, see limits 2 and 3.
  2. You should only apply for a maximum of one personal card and one business card at a time per issuing bank. (One exception to this will be discussed tomorrow.) This  ensures that no bank too quickly gets sick of your clearing the bonuses and opening new cards. We’ll talk about the big issuing banks tomorrow.
  3. Most, but not all, big bonus cards don’t give you the bonus miles upon receiving the card. Instead they have a minimum spending requirement in the first few months to unlock the bonus. Common examples: $3,000 in 3 months, $2,500 in 4 months. You should only apply for cards whose bonuses you can clear, so you need to make sure that the combined minimum spend requirements of all the cards in your app-o-rama are within your normal monthly spending plus a few tricks, which is the subject of this post.

 

The first step then is to calculate the normal monthly spend you put on cards. Look at your old credit and debit card statements to get an idea of your average monthly spend. Now read this list of ways to put spending on your cards compiled by Million Mile Secrets to make sure you are putting all your expenses on your cards.

When clearing credit card bonuses, I favor not only using the first 28 no-fee methods, but also the other methods that have a 2% fee like paying your mortgage, rent, or taxes online with a card. Why? A 2% fee is swamped by these sign up bonuses, which are often rebates of 50% or more.

Mortgage, Rent, Cars, Taxes

Pay your mortgage or car via Charge Smart for a 2.4% fee.

Pay your rent via William Paid for a 2.95% fee.

Pay your taxes via payUSAtax.com for a 1.89% fee.

Charge Smart and William Paid don’t require the approval of your bank or landlord. Read their full terms and conditions before using these services.

I don’t recommend paying these fees on ordinary spending. But when using these service to increase the number of credit card sign up bonuses you can clear, the benefits far outweigh a 3% fee on the spending.

Reloadable Cards and ATMs

Read this milevalue.com post. The amount you take out at the ATM is the amount by which your spending is increased under this trick. By using this trick, I increase my “spending” $800 per month for $13 in fees. Please read the bit about using and not abusing this trick.

Amazon Payments

You can send $1,000 per month without fees on Amazon Payments. If you send the money to someone who withdraws it and returns it to you, you can increase your credit card spend by $1,000 per month for free. Please read detailed analysis of using and not abusing this trick from FlyerTalk.

Total

So now calculate how much you could spend on cards without increasing your total budget by adding together what you currently spend monthly on cards and what you now plan on shifting to cards. Also add in the $1,000 per month you can send on Amazon Payments, the $800 you can withdraw at ATMs, and the amount you spend on taxes, car payments, rent, and mortgage.

This total is the amount you can spend monthly to clear sign up bonuses.

Example: Looking at your old credit and debit cards statements shows you spend $1,000 a month on cards normally. Looking at the Million Mile Secret list made you realize that you send in an $80 check each month to pay your cell phone bill instead of setting up autopay with a credit card.

You send in a $1,000 check every month for your mortgage, when you could pay $1,024 (2.4% fee) with a card at chargesmart.com. You could send $1,000 per month to your brother on Amazon Payments. You could withdraw $800 at ATMs from your Amex reloadable card.

Add it up, and you see that you could spend $3,904 ($1,000 + $80 + $1,024 + $1,000 + $800) a month on cards without affecting your total monthly spending by much.

The tricks increased monthly spend from $1,000 to $3,904 in the months when you are clearing bonuses!

If you’ve calculated your possible monthly credit card spend, write that down because you’ll use it in a few days to figure out how many of the best current offers you can apply for at once.

Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

Just getting started in the world of points and miles? The Chase Sapphire Preferred is the best card for you to start with.

With a bonus of 60,000 points after $4,000 spend in the first 3 months, 5x points on travel booked through the Chase Travel Portal and 3x points on restaurants, streaming services, and online groceries (excluding Target, Walmart, and wholesale clubs), this card truly cannot be beat for getting started!


Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

The comments section below is not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all questions are answered.