Meet minimum spend at home or abroad

Its no secret that the quickest way to earn points and miles towards free travel is to signup for the best available credit card offers.  If you’re eyeing a luxury trip overseas, for example, its not that hard to find a collection of signup offers that would get you there.  The hard part, for many, is meeting the minimum spend requirements that most of the best offers include.  The best credit card offers usually require anywhere from $3,000 to $10,000 in spend over three months.

I write often about opportunities to meet spend requirements through purchase and liquidation of gift cards and reload cards.  These techniques usually require visits to stores (usually in the United States) that allow customers to buy these items with credit cards.  I hear often from readers, though, who are unable to use these techniques.  Either they live in the US but far from any useful stores, or they spend most of their time outside of the United States.  In those situations, meeting minimum spend requirements can be a big challenge.

Signing up for credit cards or buying things online from outside of the US is an easy way to trigger fraud alerts when using a US address as your home/billing address.  One workaround is to setup a computer in the US with remote control software (such as LogMeIn).  This will let you connect to that computer remotely and surf the web as if you are still in the United States. 

Another thing that might be helpful is to have a trusted friend in the United States who is willing to pick up your mail and send you the card numbers, expiration dates, and security codes on any credit cards or gift cards you have ordered.  An easy way to do this would be for them to use their phone to take pictures of the cards (front and back) and forward those photos to you.

With the above ideas in mind, here now are my top picks for meeting minimum spend requirements at home or abroad…

Amazon Payments

Use Amazon Payments to pay friends or family members, with a credit card, with no fee.  Amazon does limit each person to a maximum of $1000 sent per month.  So, many people setup circles where they pay friend B, and friend B pays friend C, and friend C pays them.  Generally if you pay just one other person back and forth without making a wider circle, you may be at risk of getting your Amazon Payments account shut down (but that won’t affect your regular Amazon account).

Load Serve

American Express Serve cards can be loaded by credit card, up to $1000 per month online.  And, if you have the Isis version of Serve, the limit goes up to $1500 per month.  Note that the primary account holder name on the credit card must match the name on the Serve account.

Kiva Loans

Kiva is a nonprofit organization that provides micro-loans to enterprising individuals around the world so that they may earn their own way out of poverty. One great feature of Kiva is that you can make loans using your credit card.  You won’t earn interest on your loans, but most loans do pay back in full… eventually.  The biggest downside to this approach is that it can take anywhere from 4 months to several years to get your money back depending upon which loans you fund.  So, this approach is only useful for those who have the money to float.  For a full write-up about this approach, please see: Kiva: loans, points, and miles.

Online Bets

This approach isn’t for me, but I expect that it appeals to some.  Fantasy sports leagues and other online betting options often accept credit cards for funding bets.  Travel Summary has a great write-up here.

Pay Bills (sometimes for a fee)

Obviously, if you have bills that can be paid directly by credit card fee-free, you should do so.  With some bills, though, you might not realize that there are options to pay by credit card.  For example:

  • Pay taxes by credit card.  You will incur fees, but it can be worth it to meet minimum spend requirements.  See “The ultimate guide to paying taxes by credit card, debit card, or gift card.
  • Use services such as WilliamPaid to pay rent, or ChargeSmart to make mortgage payments via credit card.  As with tax payments, these services do charge fees, but depending upon your situation, it may be worth it.

Buy debit, and pay bills for free

Evolve Money offers a way to pay many bills via debit cards, without fees (see “Pay bills online with debit and prepaid cards”).  While it is sometimes possible to use credit cards with Evolve, I don’t recommend it (see “Don’t do it”).  Instead, use your credit card to buy Visa or MasterCard debit cards and then use those to pay your bills.  Here are some options for buying from home or abroad:

  • Buy a Virtual Visa eGift from GiftCards.com.  If you buy $500 at a time, the $4.95 fee comes to just 1% which isn’t bad considering that you’ll earn credit card rewards from the purchase.  I don’t believe that there are currently any portals that pay out for GiftCards.com orders.
  • Buy physical gift cards from GiftCardMall.com.  They will charge card fees and shipping fees, but you can reduce the sting a bit by finding a cashback portal that pays out for Visa gift cards bought at GiftCardMall. You’ll have to read the fine print within each portal, though. Some explicitly say that no cash back is given for Visa gift card orders. Others have lower cash back rates for such orders.  TopCashBack, for example, currently offers 1% cash back for most gift cards, but only .5% cash back for Visa gift cards.
  • Sign up for Visa Buxx cards which can be loaded via credit card.  The Free-quent Flyer has the scoop here.

 

Pay bills for friends and family

If you know people who pay their bills from their bank account rather than by credit card, one option is to ask them if you can pay the bills for them.  They can then transfer the money to you so you can pay off your credit card bill. 

Other suggestions?’’

I’m sure I must have missed some good techniques that don’t require driving to a store.  Can you think of any?

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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Comments

  1. If I pay friend B then friend B liquidates money into his/her bank account then wires the money directly to me through our bank via instant transfer, will that work?

    Or is there a fee to deposit money into a bank account?

    • There is no fee to deposit to bank accounts. In fact, person B needs to withdraw the balance to a bank account before paying person C or else the funds will come out of their Amazon Payment balance rather than the credit card.

      • So Person B cannot pay Person C?

        What I am thinking is:

        1. Person A pays Person B via CC thru Amazon Payments
        2. Person B waits a day or two then initiates withdrawl from Amazon Payments to his/her bank checking account
        3. Once the funds post in the bank account, person B wires the money to Person A [paying back] via internal wire

        That works? Trying to avoid raising any potential flag with Amazon without having too many people in the mix.

  2. I have not found applying fur credit cards on a connection outside the US to be any different than when I apply while in the USA. I use my US address, and the cards go to that address.

    For meeting spending, one could just eat the forex fees, which compared to sigh-up bonuses are small. One way to avoid those is to pre-pay some bills you know you will incur anyway, such as cell phone and cable/internet.

  3. Be careful with round trip fund transfers and Amazon going in circles. You could set off alerts with financial authorities and warrant serious money laundering investigations into your financial and personal life.

    • Quit with the scare tactics. $1,000 a month is not going to set off any fraud alerts with FinCEN. I used to work on an Anti-Money Laundering team and it takes a lot more than $1,000 a month in Amazon Payments to set off alerts with anybody.

      • @ Chimmy — Thank you. This nothing but pure scare tactics. Even if the government inquired about one’s $1,00/month Amazon payments, I think it would take about 5 minutes for the investigation to be completed.

  4. is there a trick to get $500 on the visa egift thing? It says its only available in 20-200 dollar amounts ?

  5. Another option is to add a friend or relative as an authorized user and get a credit card in their name. I’ve helped a friend in Phily, a friend in South Korea, and my mother achieve the $10,000 minimum spend for the Citi AA Exec Card. Back when VRCs could be purchased with a credit card, I would go to CVS, use their card to buy a few VRCs and text/Facebook the pin to them. That was really easy to do, but no longer possible.

  6. Thank you for the helpful post. No new info for me, but I am looking forward to everyone’s comment.

    Online purchase of amex gc or visa from gcmall have always ended up being cancelled from abroad from my experience. Purchase from within US went through fine. They probably see oversea IP address.

  7. For the younger readers: if you still have student loans that are serviced by Sallie Mae you can pay the current portion due each month with a credit card with no fee, you just miss out on the .25% interest reduction from auto deposit.

    You just have to call to do this as I don’t believe this feature is online.

    Depending on your balance that can be a nice chunk towards a minimum spend.

    • you are reffering to money you have in your paypal already (probably via paypal my cash). FM is reffering to straight sending money via cc (i.e. something you can do from home).

  8. I have two suggestions which work when overseas.

    1) Airline gift certificates. I needed to meet a $1000 spend for Chase and just bought a $1001 United gift certificate for myself. This is only useful if you fly a particular airline regularly, and I do use United regularly. The certificates are good for 5 years.

    2) Amazon.com gift cards to yourself, which you then add to your account. Who doesn’t buy something from Amazon every now and then? Plus, the credit doesn’t expire, ever. I have around $800 sitting there. I’ll use it eventually.

    Also possible is grocery store gift cards, which, for instance Kroger, will mail for 50 cents to a US address. Strangely, Walmart gift cards, which can be mailed for free, wouldn’t go through on their site from my (second home overseas) country. YMMV.

  9. Amazon payments is not available abroad in my experience. Was in New Zealand and got an error message trying to login.

  10. I agree with mulbry about Amazon Payments being used abroad. I called Amazon and said that due to fraud challenges Amazon cannot be used outside the U.S. Has anyone ever tried logging in with a client that gives you a US IP address?

  11. You can avoid the PITA of setting up an always running PC by just going through an American proxy. That way all traffic looks like it’s coming form the proxy in the US vs. some overseas IP.

  12. I second Ken’s suggestion of a proxy. We use a paid VPN service for a small yearly fee and can log in with an IP address from dozens of different countries. However, I’ve never had issues logging into AP without the VPN, either (this from China).

    I really liked BillyBob’s suggestion of buying flight certificates. We fly to/from China every 6 months, and I used to time our CC apps so that we could meet minimum spend with the flights. Certificates would free me from this schedule.

    It’s really tough doing Manufactured Spending from overseas, as most of the options available are restricted to the US. A few AP accounts are my main resource. If needed, Google Wallet, taxes and prepaying utilities can help with minimum spend, though the first two have fees. I also try to make large purchases for friends and family at times, but be careful about doing so for airfare as the airline might insist on seeing the purchasing card. Maybe buying the airfare certificates like BillyBob suggested would be good for buying for others…

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