Practical advice: Make sure you don’t miss this credit card welcome bonus

There are many reasons to sign up for a travel credit card, from the points you earn through your regular spending to the other benefits you’ll receive through membership. Of course, one of the biggest benefits you can usually earn in the first few months after opening a card is the welcome bonus.

Many travel cards will give you a lot of bonus points for signing up, as long as you spend a certain amount of money within a certain amount of time.

Depending on the card and the offer, the points you earn from the one-time bonus may be more than the points you’ll earn in a year from spending alone. This is often enough for several free flights or several free nights in a hotel (depending, of course, on the flight and the property).

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Because they are essentially “free” points, the bonus can be a significant factor in your decision to apply for a card, take the credit check and incur the annual fee.

At the same time, it is important to remember that the welcome offer – and the possibility of accumulating, often, tens of thousands of bonus points – usually disappears after a given period, so it is imperative to respect this requirement of expense.

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Adjust your spending habits

When evaluating whether a particular credit card is right for you, check to see if the spending requirement is a realistic benchmark to meet within the time limit.

Once you’re approved for a card, you’ll want to sit down and formulate a plan to make sure you meet that benchmark.

Here are some general steps you can take to prepare for the first few months as a new cardholder to ensure you qualify for the bonus.

Maybe it’s time to spend big

If you’re already planning big expenses ahead, whether it’s flights, an appliance, or a new laptop you’re thinking about, the first few months with a new card can be a good time to make the purchase. Of course, you want to make sure you can afford to incur these expenses during this time. However, if it’s money you plan to spend in the near future, making the purchase at a time when it can help you meet a spending requirement can go a long way.

Unforeseen expenses can also ironically help, as much as you hate having them.

An unfortunate example is that while I was working on a spending requirement after adding the Platinum Card® from American Express to my wallet, my dog ​​got sick (he’s fine now!). I was out of town, so my wife took him to the vet and alerted me that the bill was $700. After backing off and asking for details of how he was doing, I said to my wife, “Make sure you charge for the visit to the Amex Platinum!”

As much as I hated having a sick pup, big expenses — planned and unplanned — can take some of the anxiety out of meeting the norm.

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Focus your attention on this card

You’ll probably want to funnel your spending to the new card, even if it’s not the ideal card for the type of spending you’re doing.

For example, let’s say you already have a card that earns 3 points per dollar on dining and you just opened one that only earns 1 point per dollar in restaurants. Just during this period, you might want to put the bill on the card at 1 point per dollar, even though technically you wouldn’t be maximizing your spend.

In the end, respecting the reference for the welcome bonus is more important.

Now, if you have planned your expenses carefully enough to know that you will easily meet the requirement, you can be more strategic; Generally, though, it’s a good idea to focus on the card with a welcome bonus you’re looking for.

Don’t buy things you don’t need

Over time, if you find you’re not getting close enough to the benchmark, there are better options than buying an expensive product that you wouldn’t otherwise buy.

After all, the goal here is to save money.

This is where you can get creative and think outside the box a bit. See if your employer will let you pay something and then reimburse you, or ask to pay a family member or friend’s bills.

As long as you’re reimbursed in a timely manner, paying for other people’s expenses with your card can be a great way to ensure you reach your goals.

There are many other tricks you can use to make sure you meet this requirement.

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Be careful when cutting it close

When trying to meet your spending requirements, it’s important to be careful about counting on spending to be processed too close to your due date.

Whether the cost of an item you purchased online doesn’t end up hitting your card until it ships (as opposed to when you click “buy”) or you get a refund for a shirt you returned four days before the deadline, small things can end up putting you back under the referral and prove costly if you don’t get the welcome bonus accordingly.

Without racking up expenses you can’t manage, the earlier you can reach the benchmark (and the further you can clear the benchmark), the safer you’ll be.

At the end of the line

While selecting the right credit card for your spending and travel habits can be crucial to your points-earning potential through bonus spending categories, it’s hard to replicate the value you get in points, essentially for free, on this welcome bonus.

For this reason, doing everything you can to qualify for this bonus (without spending money you don’t have or large sums of money you wouldn’t have spent otherwise) is a goal that it is worth planning and making sure you reach.

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