How to Unlock a Credit Card Offer Without Going Into Debt

credit card bonus offers

Shopping for a new credit card? Keep an eye out for credit card bonus offers. Credit card issuers offer huge incentives worth hundreds of dollars to attract new customers, including cash back, travel miles, and bonus points.

Here’s how credit card signup bonuses work:

  • Sign-up bonuses are meant to attract new customers, so credit card issuers advertise these perks.
    • Credit card bonus offers must be clearly outlined in the credit card agreement you sign to become a cardholder. Make sure you carefully read this document and its fine print.
  • The new cardholder meets the sign-up bonus requirements.
    • This usually includes spending a certain amount within a given time limit — say $3,000 in the first 90 days.
  • If you spend enough and earn the bonus, you’ll be able to use it after the time limit is up.

To take advantage of credit card bonus offers, you often have to spend a certain amount. But don’t be tempted by a bonus to run up credit card debt you can’t afford. With some smart charging, you can meet the spending minimum and get that amazing sign-up bonus – without getting into debt.

Choose wisely from your credit card bonus offers

The most important thing is to choose from your credit card bonus offers carefully. You want to choose one that will give you the best rewards possible. But you also will want to choose a card with a spending requirement you can meet without going into debt.

You probably have an idea of how much you spend each month, and how much you’re planning to spend. Keep this number in mind as you compare credit cards with bonus offers. If any have spending limits that would be a stretch to meet, don’t apply.

Put all expenses on your new card

Maybe you normally use different credit cards to pay for different things. For instance, I usually pay for everyday expenses – groceries and gas – with a debit card and use credit cards for bills I pay online and for non-essentials such as eating out or shopping.

But when you have a minimum spending threshold to meet for a credit card sign-up bonus, you need to go all-out on that one card. Put away your other cards and use that card alone until you meet your spending minimum. Depending on your expenses and the minimum amount, it may be enough to meet the minimum.

Time credit card bonus offers with a major purchase

If you’re thinking of getting a new card, look ahead to the next few months and try to time it with a major purchase. Meeting a credit card bonus offer minimum will be easier when you’re paying for big expenses, including:

  • Home improvements or new furniture
  • Computer, smartphone or other electronics
  • Car repair or new tires
  • Vacation
  • Moving costs
  • Holiday purchases

Don’t use your new card as an excuse to make big, unplanned purchases. You should time your credit card bonus offers with purchases you’ve already planned and saved for. Use your card to cover the expenses, then pay it off right away to avoid interest charges.

Cover the group check

Another smart move is to use other people’s money to meet your credit card minimum. If there’s a group expense – a meal out or a group gift – offer to pay for it.

You can cover the combined check with your credit card. Then your friends or family can pay you back in cash, check, or with a peer payment app, such as Venmo or Square Cash. Just make sure you remind them that they owe you until they repay. And remember to use that cash to pay off your credit card balance.

Charge business expenses and get reimbursed

If your company has an expense reimbursement program, this could be another opportunity to rack up spending without getting into debt. Before you spend anything, double-check your company’s expense policy to make sure you’re following it.

If any qualifying purchases come up, charge them to your new credit card. Make sure you submit an expense report, so you’ll get reimbursed. Then, pay off your credit card as soon as that check hits your bank account.

Prepay your bills

If you don’t usually spend enough to meet the credit card bonus within the time limits, consider paying ahead on your bills. Most utility companies will allow you to prepay on your account. You also might be able to prepay on your cell phone, the internet, or cable bills.

Simply use your credit card’s online bill pay feature to send extra money to your service providers this month. Or you could buy a gift card from your favorite grocery store or gas station to use for next month’s purchases. Then, next month, pay the amount you would have spent on that bill to repay your credit card balance.

Note that if you prepay bills and can’t repay your credit card balance in full by the end of your grace period, it’ll carry over and you’ll get charged interest. This could cut into the savings you’re getting from the credit card bonus. But it might still be worth it if your other option is losing out on the bonus altogether.

Donate to a charity

Charitable giving is an important and healthy part of many people’s finances;  many write a check to a charity each month.

Instead of doing this, donate with your credit card; many charitable organizations accept credit card donations. Donate enough to meet your spending requirement — and don’t forget to write it off on your taxes.

Enjoy the perks (responsibly)

Credit card bonus offers can be an awesome perk of a new credit card. But don’t use them to justify overspending or to get into debt. It might qualify you for a bonus but could set your finances back for the next few months.

Instead, carefully choose a card that matches how you already spend. With a little mindfulness and small adjustments to how your charge, meeting credit card spending requirements can be painless, easy, and debt-free.

Interested in a personal loan?

Here are the top personal loan lenders of 2018!
LenderRates (APR)Loan Amount 
1 Includes AutoPay discount. Important Disclosures for SoFi.

SoFi Disclosures

  1. Terms and Conditions Apply: SOFI RESERVES THE RIGHT TO MODIFY OR DISCONTINUE PRODUCTS AND BENEFITS AT ANY TIME WITHOUT NOTICE. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident in an eligible state and meet SoFi’s underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. To qualify for the lowest rate, you must have a responsible financial history and meet other conditions. If approved, your actual rate will be within the range of rates listed above and will depend on a variety of factors, including term of loan, a responsible financial history, years of experience, income and other factors. Rates and Terms are subject to change at anytime without notice and are subject to state restrictions. SoFi refinance loans are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that the federal loan program offers such as Income Based Repayment or Income Contingent Repayment or PAYE. Licensed by the Department of Business Oversight under the California Finance Lender Law License No. 6054612. SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Lending Corp., NMLS # 1121636. (
  2. Personal LoansFixed rates from 5.49% APR to 14.24% APR (with AutoPay). Variable rates from 4.98% APR to 11.44% APR (with AutoPay). SoFi rate ranges are current as of December 21, 2017 and are subject to change without notice. Not all rates and amounts available in all states. Not all applicants qualify for the lowest rate. If approved for a loan, to qualify for the lowest rate, you must have a responsible financial history and meet other conditions. Your actual rate will be within the range of rates listed above and will depend on a variety of factors, including evaluation of your credit worthiness, years of professional experience, income and other factors. Interest rates on variable rate loans are capped at 14.95%. Lowest variable rate of 4.98% APR assumes current 1-month LIBOR rate of 1.34% plus 3.89% margin minus 0.25% AutoPay discount. For the SoFi variable rate loan, the 1-month LIBOR index will adjust monthly and the loan payment will be re-amortized and may change monthly. APRs for variable rate loans may increase after origination if the LIBOR index increases. The SoFi 0.25% AutoPay interest rate reduction requires you to agree to make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic monthly deduction from a savings or checking account. The benefit will discontinue and be lost for periods in which you do not pay by automatic deduction from a savings or checking account.

2 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.

Citizens Bank Disclosures

  1. Personal Loan Rate Disclosure: Fixed interest rates range from 4.99% – 16.24% (4.99% – 16.24% APR) based on applicable terms. Lowest rates shown are for eligible applicants, require a 3-year repayment term, and include our Loyalty and Automatic Payment Discounts of 0.25 percentage points each, as outlined in the Loyalty Discount and Automatic Payment Discount disclosures. Subject to additional terms and conditions, and rates are subject to change at any time without notice. Such changes will only apply to applications taken after the effective date of change.
  2. Loyalty Discount: The borrower will be eligible for a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their loan if the borrower has a qualifying account in existence with us at the time the borrower has submitted a completed application authorizing us to review their credit request for the loan. The following are qualifying accounts: any checking account, savings account, money market account, certificate of deposit, automobile loan, home equity loan, home equity line of credit, mortgage, credit card account, student loans or other personal loans owned by Citizens Bank, N.A. Please note, our checking and savings account options are only available in the following states: CT, DE, MA, MI, NH, NJ, NY, OH, PA, RI and VT. This discount will be reflected in the interest rate and Annual Percentage Rate (APR) disclosed in the Truth-In-Lending Disclosure that will be provided to the borrower once the loan is approved. Limit of one Loyalty Discount per loan, and discount will not be applied to prior loans. The Loyalty Discount will remain in effect for the life of the loan.
  3. Automatic Payment Discount: Borrowers will be eligible to receive a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their Citizens Bank Personal Loan during such time as payments are required to be made and our loan servicer is authorized to automatically deduct payments each month from any bank account the borrower designates. If our loan servicer is unable to successfully withdraw the automatic deductions from the designated account two or more times within any 12-month period, the borrower will no longer be eligible for this discount.
7.39% - 29.99%$1,000 - $50,000
Check rate nowon SLH's secure site
4.98% - 14.24%1$5,000 - $100,000
Check rate nowon SLH's secure site
8.00% - 25.00%$5,000 - $35,000
Check rate nowon SLH's secure site
4.99% - 16.24%2$5,000 - $50,000Visit Citizens
5.99% - 35.89%$1,000 - $40,000Visit LendingClub
5.25% - 14.24%$2,000 - $50,000Visit Earnest
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Student Loan Hero Advertiser Disclosure

Our team at Student Loan Hero works hard to find and recommend products and services that we believe are of high quality and will make a positive impact in your life. We sometimes earn a sales commission or advertising fee when recommending various products and services to you. Similar to when you are being sold any product or service, be sure to read the fine print, understand what you are buying, and consult a licensed professional if you have any concerns. Student Loan Hero is not a lender or investment advisor. We are not involved in the loan approval or investment process, nor do we make credit or investment related decisions. The rates and terms listed on our website are estimates and are subject to change at any time. Please do your homework and let us know if you have any questions or concerns.