How to meet credit card spend thresholds without breaking a sweat

Credit card sign-up bonuses these days are amazing: 40,000 miles! 50,000 points! 75,000 miles! And so on. A person can rack up close to a million points a year by signing up for these deals and meeting sign-up requirements. If you’re like me and you apply for and are approved for a bunch of credit cards all at once, your first reaction may be something like “Whoo hoo!” But, a few minutes later, reality will set in and the reaction turns into “Uh, oh…” as you realize that you have to meet some pretty steep spend requirements in order to earn all of those bonus points. Fortunately, if you have an iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, or an Android device, there is a simple solution that will let you safely meet all of those minimum spend requirements AND get your bonus points and miles faster. Here’s how:

What you need:

  • An iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, or Android device
  • An account and card reader from Square. Signing up is free and they’ll send you a free card reader as well
  • Download the free Square app to your device (iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, or Android)
  • An account with the Big Crumbs shopping portal. Big Crumbs gives you cash rebates for online shopping via their site. If you sign up with this link, you will earn the same rate as you would anyway, but you will also do me a favor by helping me earn referral money. Note: you may be tempted to create two accounts so that you may refer yourself or your spouse (in order to get referral money), but Big Crumbs does not allow more than one account per household so I do not recommend attempting this!

What to do (step by step):

STEP 1: Big Crumbs

Go to BigCrumbs.com and sign in. Search for “American Express” and click “Shop Now” in the American Express Gift Cards – Personal store. By going through Big Crumbs, you will receive a rebate of 1.6% for your gift card purchases:


STEP 2: Buy Gift Cards

Add to your cart up to $5000 worth of gift cards. The goal is to buy enough to meet your credit card’s spend requirements with as few gift cards as possible. In this example, I am purchasing $5000 worth of cards:


Next, go to check-out, select Express 2nd Day 8.95 shipping and enter promo code GEN374 in order to reduce your delivery charge to $3.00 even:

Now, buy the gift card(s) with the credit card for which you need to meet a minimum spend. You will be charged $3.95 per card and $3 for shipping. In this example, I paid a total of $5010.90 for $5000 worth of gift cards. But remember that I went through Big Crumbs, so I earned 1.6% back ($80)! It usually takes about a week to receive an email from Big Crumbs showing that you have earned this rebate.

Warning:

I have read from others that the techniques shown here will not work with Citibank cards because they treat gift card purchases as cash advances.

I believe that it will work with most other bank cards, but I have only tried this with American Express cards. If you are unsure about your card, try this technique with a small gift card purchase first.

Also note: some people have had their accounts frozen by American Express for “account review”. It is unclear whether this is due to purchasing very large amounts of gift cards, but it is likely that it is a contributing factor. So, if you do this technique with American Express, be sure to do just the minimum you need.  Please read the comments section at the bottom of this post to help you decide for yourself whether to try this with American Express cards.

STEP 3: Cash in your gift cards

Warning: since writing this post I have learned that using Square in the manner described here may violate the Square User Agreement. See more in this post.

By buying gift cards, you have met your minimum spend AND you’ve made a profit! Also, with many cards, you will receive your bonus points or miles faster for having met the spend requirements quickly. However, you still need to pay your credit card bill when it comes due. This is where your Square reader comes in. Once your gift cards arrive in the mail, you can cash them in through Square for a fee of 2.75% each:

  1. Plug in your Square card reader to your device
  2. Open the Square app and sign in
  3. Type in the $ amount of your gift card and press “charge”.
  4. Swipe the gift card (if you’re like me you’ll have to swipe several times before it takes)
  5. Sign your name and click “no receipt needed”.

Square will deposit the full amount less 2.75% into your bank account that evening. In the example from this post, I cashed in two cards for a total of $5000 less 2.75% ($4,862.50).

Review:

In the examples shown above, I went through the Big Crumbs portal to the American Express gift card store in order to buy $5000 worth of gift cards. I then used Square to turn the gift cards into cash in my bank account. Here is an accounting of my spend:

Transaction

Result

Two gift cards purchased

$-5010.90

Big Crumbs rebate

$+80

Square deposit

$+4862.50

Total:

$-68.40

So, even though I had to pay Square to cash in the gift cards, I ended up only having to pay $68.40 to meet my minimum spend all at once. If you consider the value of a typical credit card bonus (most of the good ones are worth at least $500), spending $68.40 is not bad! Of course, if the minimum spend you are trying to achieve is less than $5000 then your total cost will be proportionally smaller than $68.40.

About Greg The Frequent Miler

Greg is the owner, founder, and primary author of the Frequent Miler. He earns millions of points and miles each year, mostly without flying, and dedicates this blog to teaching others how to do the same.

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Pingbacks

  1. […] How to meet credit card spend thresholds without breaking a sweat, How to buy points and miles for less than a penny.I’ve listed two posts here because they both had the same flaw. They relied on a technique of buying American Express gift cards through Big Crumbs and then liquidating the cards through a service called Square. Well, it turns out that Amex doesn’t like people to do this, and neither does Square. Both companies have frozen some people’s accounts for doing this. Yikes. […]

Comments

  1. Interesting technique for liquidating Amex Gift Cards

    Worth noting that Amex frowns on buying gift cards too. Reports of people on FT getting financial reviews triggered by large GC purchases and even accounts being closed. Proceed with caution

  2. I agree with Phil, it’s best to stay away from AMEX CCs when it comes to buying these GCs.

    If people are using Citi, I recommend calling Customer Service and asking to put the Cash Advance as $0. If the order for GCs is denied when using that card then that means that Citi will consider it a Cash Advance.

  3. Thanks Phil, Jimgotkp, and Jamison. It’s true that a number of FlyerTalk posts complain about the horrors of Amex financial reviews. My reading of it is that in most of these situations people were putting many tens of thousands of dollars on their cards each month, and it seems unclear what exactly triggers the review. All I can say is that in the last two months I’ve bought $8000 worth of gift cards using two different Amex cards, and I’ve been safe from review so far (knock on wood!). I’ll update the post, though, with a caution.

  4. I you first have your wife or sister or someone you like get a BIG C account and then have them refer you to BIG C they you two total net out 1.62% 🙂

  5. People don’t do this unless you want to get hounded by the Spanish Inquisition (Amex Financial Review). Buy Amex Gift Cards is ok but liquidating them is sure to land you into trouble.

  6. The Nomad: has this happened to you?

    deltaGOLDflyer: You would actually net 1.8% if you did that, but I wouldn’t advise it. On the Big Crumbs sign up page it says:

    One membership per person. Please do not refer members of the same household. This is strictly enforced and helps to ensure that BigCrumbs works for everyone!

    • Yes I have gone through FR. It was triggered because I had made a legitimate large purchase. But then they went through everything. They could even see the transactions on each of my gift cards. Fortunately, I was closely following the FR thread on FT and they didnt find anything much. But they were extremely unhappy about the ‘a*payments’ charges and kept on questioning about it. In the end, I came clean because I was over-cautious. But, having gone through their inquisition process, let me tell you they almost know everything about you and if they can spot these fake charges, your cards are almost sure to be closed. I am not sure if they will report back to IRS too!

  7. Nomad…how would Amex know you liquidated the GC to yourself? It posts as “SQ” followed by whatever name is in your profile. Seems to me if there is a problem, it would be with the GC purchase, wouldn’t you think?

  8. 1. Citi does charge cash advance fees on Amex GCs but they didn’t charge cash advance fees on mint purchases.

    2. Amex doesn’t like GCs that get spent immediately. Amex doesn’t like what they consider cash equivalents. An FR is an adversarial process and no fun but you should come out OK if you don’t lie on your apps. The nice after affect is once you get the all clear from amex, feel free to charge up the GCs and AP. I got FR’d last month and decided to celebrate by charging up 20K in GCs… 🙂

    • Richard, this is great information. Did Amex tell you that you are exempt from financial reviews going forward? Can you tell us anything more about the process? It would be very helpful towards deciding whether or not its worth the risk…

  9. So, no one has had problems with chase cards? Just got sapphire preferred and would like to take care of that spend requirement!

  10. @Frequent Miler:

    No, they didn’t say anything other than “we’ve reviewed your information and are satisfied with it your cards are reactivated, have a nice day ” and then i got a letter in the mail saying they couldn’t reach me and all was OK.

    Re-FR’ing me would be useless. They’ve already seen my tax returns. I pay them off every month no problems so I’m treating it as a good bump to my no preset limit value. {shrug}

    @Sam G:

    Buying GCs with a Sapphire card works fine. Sometimes a Chase card will burp and you either need to call them (or they’ll call you) or just resubmit it and it’ll go through.

    • @Richard: Thanks for the info. I might just buy and liquidate extra gift cards until I’m put through the financial review process so that I can blog about the experience. If I live through it that is…

  11. Just tried my Chase Sapphire Preferred, and it wouldn’t go through. I tried to buy 1 $3,000 GC. I just activated my card today, so I’m guessing something is flagging in Chase’s system.

  12. Update: got a call from Chase’s fraud department just checking to see if I indeed was making the attempt purchase the GC. Told them yes, and they cleared the transaction allowing me to buy the GC. Thanks for the tip!

    • I was curious about this as well. I saw that they only charge 1.7% per swipe (after a 12.95 monthly fee), so paired with Big Crumbs you would pretty much be getting the process for almost free. Anyone have any experience here?

  13. Is this method still valid? I am having hard time finding stores where they sell GC using CC. Y tried to buy a $1000 GC from giftcardmall but they cancel my purchase for no reason. Buying online is really a convienient way. Y bought 1500 worth of Chase GC with shipping fee waived but I am not sure if it will count for spending towards minimum spending to gain the Bonus. Any Orientation?

  14. I know this thread is ancient, but it comes up quite high in organic search results, so I consider it still active…
    My question is this: with all of these various ways to pay oneself in order to spend the gift cards (Square, Intuit, A*payments), I’ve been waiting for the flurry of posts about I was sent a 1099 from ___ for paying myself. It seems to me that this is a real risk–that to get the bonus points/miles and worrying about fees of 1.6% versus 1.8% along the way, that one ends up with a devastating 33% tax bill and a more complicated tax return (or worse, an IRS audit) along the way. I would tread very carefully with creative ways to fulfill the minimum spending requirements.

  15. Channon: Yeah, I don’t recommend Square any more. You don’t have to pay taxes on the money though. Instead, you need to show that your expenses (buying the Amex cards, for example) were as high as your revenue. In other words your profit was zero.

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