One of the problems with credit card sign-up bonuses is that many have large spend requirements. For example, the current public offer for the Ink Bold requires $10K in spend in 3 months to get the full 50K bonus (half of the bonus is given when you first use the card). Most cards have more modest requirements, but even those can be a challenge.
For a high level overview of ways to meet minimum spend, see my post from last year “Top 10 ways to spend a lot of money and get most of it back”. In that post, the #2 option I listed was to make loans via Kiva. You can read more about Kiva here “How to maximize points and virtue through Kiva loans”.
Kiva is a nonprofit organization that facilitates micro-loans to enterprising individuals around the world so that they may earn their own way out of poverty. By making loans through the Kiva website, you can be part of the solution to poverty AND earn points and miles. You can use your credit card to make loans (that’s how you earn points and miles) and you will get paid back over time. A typical loan takes about a year to pay off fully, but you will usually begin to see partial repayments in a month or two. Kiva’s default rate is barely over 1% (1.06%). Personally I have not yet had a single loan default.
If you’re new to Kiva, you can try it risk-free by signing up through this link: http://www.kiva.org/invitedby/FrequentMiler. This will give you $25 that you can loan to get a feel for the process. Just note that this loan is different than ones you fund yourself in that when it is repaid you will not get the money back. Also, while you’re in the process of joining Kiva, consider joining the Milepoint Lending Team on Kiva. It’s a fun group of like-minded micro-loaners.
The only problem I have with Kiva is that their web site can be a challenge if your goal is to loan a lot of money all at once. Kiva.org is setup for the average person who browses through prospective borrowers one at a time to find the ideal candidate for a $25 (or so) loan. Suppose, though, you want to loan thousands of dollars all at once?
Kivalens is a web app that makes it easy to loan lots of money all at once. The web site uses a technology called SilverLight so it may not load on your favorite smart phone or tablet, but it should work with most full fledged laptops. Browse to kivalens.org and you’ll see a screen like this:
On the left side are filters. In the “Loan” section you can pick characteristics of the loans. For example, if you want to be repaid quickly, you can filter out loans with greater than, say, 8 months before they are repaid.
On the left side, you will also see a “Partner” section. Kiva loans are managed by field partners. These are the organizations made up of people who actually live and work in the region being served by the loans, and who provide bank-like services to people seeking loans. In this section of the screen, you can filter to highly rated partners with low default rates in order to ensure you make only relatively safe loans.
In the middle of the screen are the loans that meet the criteria from the left side. When you click on a loan, more information is given to the right (not show above).
What I really like is the little “++” button at the bottom of the screen. When you click it, the following dialog box appears:
Let’s say you need to spend $3K on a credit card to meet it’s minimum spend requirements. Assuming you have enough money in the bank to cover the credit card bill, you can use this “Bulk Add” tool to spend $3K all at once. Simply slide the “Max Basket Amount” slider to the right until the total comes to $3000. You can also increase the max amount per loan if you want to. Personally I like to keep it at $25 in order to spread my risk as much as possible. Click OK, and then click the “Checkout!” button at the bottom of the screen. This will move all of your selected loans to the Kiva.org website where you can then pay for the loans by credit card.
For details about how to use a credit card to pay loans on Kiva.org, please see “How to maximize points and virtue through Kiva loans”.
If you’re new to Frequent Miler, please start here