Often that great credit card sign-up bonus comes with a huge string attached: You can only earn the cash or points if you spend thousands of dollars within a few months.
Follow these tips to ensure that you don’t miss out on the bonus:
Tip 1. When you apply online, print out the deal for your records.
Hold this information in case there is any question later about whether you signed up for the promotion. Be aware that simply printing out the page or saving a PDF of it often doesn’t capture all of the relevant information. You may need to use the snipping tool or print screen function to save a picture of the deal.
Tip 2. Write down the date you applied for the card.
This will be the date when the clock starts ticking on your spending window. We know — it’s unfair because you don’t even have the card yet, and it might be a week before it arrives. But that’s how these deals work.
Tip 3. Calculate the date that your spending window closes.
A common end to the spending window is three months from the application date. Aim to meet the spending threshold a week before this date.
Tip 4. Contact customer service to check your progress.
Shortly after you receive the card, email customer service to ask them to remind you of the details of the promotion you signed up for. Doing so ensures that you are, in fact, registered for the promotion and are on your way to earning the sign-up bonus. It also gives you written proof should you need it later.
When you think you’re close to meeting the spending requirement, but before the window closes, email customer service again to check your progress. Make sure their record — the only one that counts — matches yours.
Tip 5. If you’re married, order a second card for your spouse, as long the card is free.
It usually is, but read the fine print — if the main card has an annual fee, sometimes additional cards will, too. With each of you putting your regular purchases on the card, you’ll meet the spending threshold faster.
Tip 6. Consider foregoing the deals you normally earn on other credit cards while you’re working on the new deal.
For example, if you normally use a different card to get 5% back on your gas purchases and the promotional card does not offer this perk, consider foregoing the perk temporarily and shifting your gas purchases to the promotional card to make sure you meet the spending requirement.
Tip 7. Shift purchases you normally pay for with a check or online bill pay to your credit card.
Some utilities take credit cards (though you shouldn’t use credit if you’ll be charged a transaction fee). You also may be able to pay your cable bill, cell phone bill, insurance, medical bills and more by credit card.
Tip 8. Prepay for services you use regularly, don’t have any problems with and don’t expect to cancel.
You could prepay a few months’ worth of your electric and gas bills, for example. Even if you unexpectedly move and cancel the service, you should get a refund for your account balance.
Tip 9. Don’t purchase traveler’s checks or currency with your credit card.
These purchases might actually be treated as cash advances, which will incur a transaction fee and immediate interest charges. Likewise, avoid purchasing gift cards. While they won’t be treated as cash advances, they may not count toward the promotional spending requirement.