Credit cards are one of the best ways to earn rewards quickly. To earn the signup bonus, you usually need to meet a threshold of purchases in a certain period of time, known as minimum spend requirements (MSR). In Canada, these aren’t too strenuous. The majority of products require between $1,000 to $3,000 within the first three months of card ownership. Most people can easily complete these without difficulty.
It gets more challenging with higher requirements. In some cases, minimum spend requirements can be $5,000 to $10,000. These amounts are much more common in the US. I have found that higher minimum spend requirements correlate with improved offers. Being able to hit those amounts allows you to unlock the best bonuses.
For example, the American Express Business Platinum Card has the highest welcome bonus and minimum spend requirement in Canada. The Business Platinum Card MSR is $7,000 through the referral offer. By meeting that, you earn up to 75,000 Membership Rewards points. The public offer is 50,000 points and $5,000 of spend.
That said, there are many methods to help you generate spend. The easiest is prepaying bills and buying gift cards. This lets you front-load your purchases without actually modifying your purchase behaviour. I also recommend PayTM for billers that normally do not accept credit cards. Doing Manufactured Spend gets into more complex territory.
Additional Reading: PayTM Canada: Pay Bills with your Credit Card and Earn Points!
Meet Minimum Spend – PayPal
This post talks about PayPal, one of the easier ways to meet minimum spend. While simple, it is a versatile and flexible option.
PayPal lets you send money to anyone, anywhere in the world. They are also a large online payment processor for businesses. Most people use their bank account to send money, but you can also use your credit cards.
The idea is to send money using your credit card, and then have the funds returned to you. This can be with a bank transfer or, or direct credit card bill payment. In a group, you could set up a circle so that everyone can use their card. If you need to send money to someone else, that’s even better, saving you the hassle of getting the money returned.
The lowest fees are transfers between Canadian PayPal accounts in CAD. The fee for this is 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction. This means the cost of generating spend will be roughly 2.9%, not a bad rate to meet minimum spends.
Take the $7,000 MSR of the American Express Business Platinum card. If you make seven transfers of $1,000 each, your cost is 2.9% * 7000 + 0.30 * 7, a total of $205.10 in fees. This is far below less than the value of the 75,000 points bonus. You also earn 1.25 points per dollar spent for a total earn of 83,750 points.
AMEX points transfer at a 1:1 ratio to Aeroplan and Avios. I value Aeroplan at 1.55 cents USD, so the value of 75,000 Membership Rewards points can be upwards of $1300. Even if you redeem points towards travel, the bonus is still worth $750.
The numbers are likely going to be even better, since you will have regular purchases on the card as well. If you spend $5,000 normally within three months, you only need an additional $2,000 of spend. The incremental cost of 4 x $500 transfers is under $60. Other cards with high spending requirements will have similar numbers, such as the American Express Platinum Card.
Is This Worth It?
Using PayPal is not cost effective for everyday purchases; it means you spend over 2 cents to earn one mile. However, it is very viable for minimum spend as long as fees are less than the value of the rewards you earn. You should consider this option if you avoid cards (and their respective bonuses) that have a high spending requirement.
PayPal makes it easy to get qualifying transactions on your credit card. It’s something you can do if you need to spend $3,000 within the next 3 days. You don’t need to search for prepaid cards, find refundable travel items, and resell/return items. All you need are friends that will help you send money around in a circle.
In the past, there have been fee-free transfer options (e.g. Mintchip and Tilt – now defunct) but those come and go. Prepaid cards, the next publicly accessible option, incur around 1% in fees. Instead of using those for minimum spend, you’re better off maximizing the points you earn with the Cobalt Card.
Paypal can be stringent with identity verification, especially with new or inactive accounts. You should be able to demonstrate that the transfer is a stipend or reimbursement to a friend, whether it’s a written agreement or equivalent. This is well within the Terms and Conditions, and there are hundreds of people that use Paypal specifically for this purpose.
As well, I would keep your ears out for changes with your cardholder agreements. Currently, most credit cards in Canada do not classify money transfers as ineligible transactions. When you first receive your card, the welcome package includes several booklets. It’s a good idea in general to keep and read them, but it’s key here.
Most agreements list items that do not qualify to earn rewards – cash advances, interest fees, and such. This can change, as it has in the US. With American Express in particular, the terms “purchase of cash equivalent[s]” and “person-to-person transfers” are explicitly excluded from earning rewards, and there have been crackdowns on people trying to circumvent these policies.
Otherwise, use Paypal as necessary for your Canadian credit card expenses, and enjoy your rewards!