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Charging $5,000 in 3 Months is Tough!


So I’m trying to spend $5,000 in 3 months and now I know how it feels to be an American consumer! It’s liberating to spend more than usual, but at the same time I feel pretty guilty about it. Here is the deal. I signed up with Chase Ink Plus and if I charge $5,000 in the first 3 months, then I’ll receive 70,0000 bonus reward points. This will help fund our international trip next year.

I’m doing this because I’ve been thinking about travel hacking for quite a while now. We put off traveling for a few years because RB40 junior was a bit young. Next year he’ll be 4 and I think he will ready for some international adventures. It’s time to take advantage of travel hacking. 

Anyway, I’m thinking about Costa Rica or perhaps Belize. With 70,000 points, We’d be able to get 2 super saver round trip tickets* to San Jose with US Airways. Then we’d have to just buy one more ticket for the little guy. Actually, the US Airways credit card has a 50,000 point sign up bonus right now so maybe we’ll be able to get that last ticket with points after all.

*It seems the super saver tickets are pretty tough to book. We might have to go with regular discount tickets which will cost around 70,000 points for the round trip. I guess we’ll see when we book.

Charging $5,000

Okay, let’s get back to the main point of this story. Usually we put less than $1,000 on our personal credit card each month, so it’s a stretch to spend $5,000 in 3 months. That’s another reason why I’ve been putting off this whole travel hacking thing. However, I think we have a good chance with Christmas, Black Friday, business spending, and rental repairs all happening now.

It’s been about 60 days so now is a good time to check in and see if we’re going to reach $5,000. Let’s see what we’ve spent so far. Actually, Personal Capital is really good for this. 

charging $5000 in 3 months

$581 Business Miscellaneous – LLC renewal fee, domain renewal, VA, internet, phone, and CDN service. I also got a photo tent, lights, mice, phone battery, and headphone.

$451 Preschool – Oh, I almost forgot about preschool. We’re going back to our old preschool and they accept credit cards. This will make it much easier to reach the $5,000 mark. This is the January tuition and a few extra classes.

$422 Restaurants – This is about 50% business and 50% personal. We splurged on a nice restaurant at the end of October when we got that Hi-Tech worker settlement.

$357 Utilities – Water and trash for the rental.

$322 Groceries – Mostly food.

$311 Electronics – I got a new Chromebook + SD card for work. I probably could have stuck with my old laptop for another year, but I’m tired of lugging it around. The Toshiba Chromebook 2 is so much lighter and the screen is really nice.

$286 General Merchandise – Black Friday and Christmas. More on this later.

$281 Healthcare – I had a small biopsy (negative.) My mom had a few tests and routine care.

$178 Home Improvement – New shades, paving stones, straight saw, and rake for the rental maintenance.

$164 Personal Care – We went to a spa with the same Hi-Tech worker settlement.

$95 Service Charges – Annual fee! Ugh, I hate annual fees.

$30 Gas and parking

$16 Pet

$10 Long distance phone card

Discretionary Spending

Most of these are the usual expenses, but there are some discretionary spending in here too. We spent a bit more than usual on eating out. The spa date is also a rare treat for us. The one I’m a bit guilty about is the General Merchandise. I got a new set of nice cookware, an immersion blender, a basketball hoop, an electronic shaver, some kid clothes, and a wooden train. These are Christmas and Birthday gifts for us. I’d probably be a bit cheaper if I wasn’t trying to reach the spending threshold the credit card.

Will We Hit $5,000?

Okay, we are at $3,509 after 2 months. I’m sure we will hit the $5,000 threshold very soon. Actually, I just put $900 on the card today for the electrical work at the rental. I can also put another $400 on the card with the February preschool tuition. The business and preschool expenses made this much easier than I thought. I guess putting everything on a credit card is a valid strategy to get some travel points.

The only bad thing is that our accounting is a mess now. All the personal and business expenses are mixed together. I’ll have to sit down and parse them out very carefully. I guess this is not a good business practice.

Next Time

One great thing I found out a bit too late is that our county assessor accepts credit cards. They will charge 2. 4%, but they will make it much easier to meet the credit card spending requirement. The extra charge will be $120 for a $5,000 payment. That’s probably worth the convenience of not having to stress out about hitting the spending threshold. There are other ways to put points on your cards, but they seem to involve getting Visa gift cards. I don’t like holding a bunch of gift cards, so that’s out. Anyway, if I find some nice cards next year, then I’ll put my property taxes on them to make it easy.

Have you tried travel hacking? Is there a good way to run up the points without spending unnecessarily?

charge $5000 in 3 monthsa


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Joe started Retire by 40 in 2010 to figure out how to retire early. He spent 16 years working in computer design and enjoyed the technical work immensely. However, the job became too stressful and Joe retired from his engineering career to become a stay-at-home dad/blogger at 38. Today, he blogs about financial independence, early retirement, investing, and living a frugal lifestyle.

Passive income is the key to early retirement. This year, Joe is increasing his investment in real estate with CrowdStreet. He can invest in projects across the U.S. and diversify his real estate portfolio. There are many interesting projects available so sign up and check them out.

Joe also highly recommends Personal Capital for DIY investors. He logs on to Personal Capital almost daily to check his cash flow and net worth. They have many useful tools that will help DIY investors analyze their portfolio and plan for retirement.

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{ 35 comments… add one }
  • Kin August 17, 2015, 12:03 pm

    If you have a Costco member ship and shop there, you can buy Costco gift cards online with any credit card (not just American Express). There are no fees. Just think of it as pre-paying for your groceries or household supplies.

  • Ernie Zelinski December 29, 2014, 2:04 am

    I love travel hacking. One of the ways I increase my Aeroplan points (Air Canada affiliate) is to collect cash from friends with whom I have dinner and then use one of Visa Aeroplan or Amex Aeroplan cards to pay the bill and collect the points. I also pay for my home and car insurance with one of these cards.

    My monthly Visa bill has been know to be as high as $19,000 but I don’t believe that I am spending more because of my cards. I have an advantage of being able to charge a lot on credit cards since the Quebec printing company of my self-published “How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free” accepts Visa. A recent print run for 15,000 copies cost me around $23,000 which gave me 23,000 Aeroplan points alone. In 2014 I actually had 3 print runs so I received 69,000 Aeroplan miles just from printing books.

    I also signed up for an American Express Card which waived the annual fee and gave me 30,000 bonus points for charging only $500 in the first month. Then by getting a friend to get the same card I received another 10,000 bonus points. I cancelled that American Express Card and got the American Express Platinum Aeroplan one which will give me another 40,000 bonus points. There is a fee of $400 for this one but the 40,000 points alone are worth it, besides special benefits such as being to use the Air Canada Executive Class lounge even when I fly economy. Also once a year I can redeem Aeroplan points for a short haul flight and get a companion flight for free.

    I also played the game with the Visa Aeroplan cards. By the end of next month, I will have earned around 200,000 Aeroplan miles within a year. This is enough for 4 round trip Executive Class flights from my hometown of Edmonton to New York with a stopover in Toronto on the way back. Or I can take 13 round trip flights to Vancouver on economy class with this number of points. Since I have so many points, however, I will definitely take one Executive Class flight to London, England in October which will take 90,000 points. To pay for an Executive Class flight on Air Canada between Edmonton and London would cost anywhere between $5,500 and $12,000 (depending on how far in advance one books). Indeed, around 6 years ago the Turkish Congress on Quality paid $12,000 for my Executive Class return flight between Edmonton and London for my trip to Istanbul when they had me speak about “The Joy of Not Working.”

    Yeah for travel hacking.

    Ernie J. Zelinski
    The Prosperity Guy
    “Helping Adventurous Souls Live Prosperous and Free”
    Author of the Bestseller “How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free”
    (Over 225,000 copies sold and published in 9 languages)
    and the International Bestseller “The Joy of Not Working”
    (Over 275,000 copies sold and published in 17 languages)

  • Josh December 26, 2014, 7:33 pm

    You shouldn’t feel guilty about spending more money. As I commented previously, what’s the point of accumulating so much for all you frugal people if you can’t spend it on things you enjoy. Also consumer spending helps out the economy, so it’s a good thing as long as you don’t overspend. If majority of the population became frugal, the economy would tank so fast, and wouldn’t benefit anyone.

    • retirebyforty December 27, 2014, 5:36 am

      I agree with you. I shouldn’t feel guilty, but I do. I guess it’s habitual now. Most consumer should spend a lot of money to help the economy keep rolling. 🙂

  • Steve Adcock December 22, 2014, 7:46 am

    Manufactured spending to the rescue. It’s a potentially dangerous way to spend if you don’t know what you’re doing, but can get you passed these temporary spending spikes if managed properly.

  • Emily @ Simple Cheap Mom December 21, 2014, 11:42 am

    I ilke that you mentioned that it wasn’t an attractive option when your son was small. We have a two year old and we’re ok putting off travelling for a few years!

    Good luck sorting everything out for your bookeeping, should be a fun activity! Also, have fun in, Belize? wow!

  • Zoa December 20, 2014, 7:37 pm

    Manufactured spending Joe – Google it – purchase gift cards using your Chase card to pay for anything that you aren’t able to use your cc or use a checking account for or an Amex bluebird (Debit Card) that you can recharge with the gift cards. I got a similar deal for our Chase Sapphire Rewards card and 70,000 marriott points for their card – all cards are paid in full.

    • retirebyforty December 21, 2014, 10:32 pm

      I’ll check it out. I hate spending money on gift cards, but I guess I’ll have to try it out.

  • kevin December 20, 2014, 8:04 am

    You can reach the spending requirement by buying gift cards. I had many sign-up bonus offers from different of credit cards company in the past 2~3 years. What I did was buying gift cards from different stores I shop the most each month. For examples, Costco, Safeway, Target and Amazon. All these stores have gifts cards. So you can buy some gift cards within the first 3 months, and use them later. So you don’t need to buy something you normally don’t buy.

  • Mr. Captain Cash December 20, 2014, 1:43 am


    Interesting read, travel hacking is something I have been meaning to look into for awhile now the only problem I see with it is I would be tempted to spend on unnecessary items to reach the required threshold. What is your favourite site for travel hacking information? Have a great holidays!

  • Sharon December 19, 2014, 8:14 pm

    Be careful opening and closing accounts. Your auto and home insurance likely uses credit information to price your policy and likewise all loans or other financial instruments. Opening and closing lots of accounts can cause you to possibly pay more than a more stable experience. You may end up paying more net net even though you get a free airline ticket.

  • Alice December 19, 2014, 6:40 pm

    If you still have charitable contribution space, this is a good time for it. Many organizations take credit cards.

  • No Nonsense Landlord December 19, 2014, 4:18 pm

    I spend ~$3K a month on credit cards, almost every month. Doing normal buying. You can also buy Visa gift cards, transfer the gift card balance to a Bluebird account, and pay the credit card balance with the Bluebird account.

    You get the miles, for the cost of the gift cards.

  • Moon December 19, 2014, 11:15 am

    I got the exact same card (Ink plus) and it was a stretch for us to put $5000 on there too, but we met it with an impluse TV/soundbar buy around Thanksgiving. Oops. We sort of have been travel hacking, got our first award tickets to Japan next year and back. Now I am working on gettinge enough miles to Europe in 2016. We definitely have a lot more cards than we used to, but using credit cards is not difficult for us since we actually like to put everything on credit cards and pay it off, so I don’t have to track anything with cash. We just finished up the AMEX everyday preferred thershold, it was low and we do buy a lot of groceries, and got the amazon prime membership for free! And 2 nights ago I went apply for Chase Freedom and got approved also (only have to spend $500 in 3 months). I don’t feel comfortable yet to apply 3-4 cards every 3 months; I’d rather wait for the higher target offer and apply one card at a time (just to make sure I don’t have to meet all the minimum spending at once).

    • retirebyforty December 19, 2014, 11:55 am

      Yeah, that’s the problem with travel hacking. I’m tempted to spend more than usual. Good luck with Europe. AMEX is tougher because it seems like nobody accept them.

  • John Schneider @ Debt Free Guys December 19, 2014, 10:39 am

    For us, travel hacking can take up too much of our limited time. We each use United’s Chase Cards for everyday and occasional expenses, but don’t “play the game”. If we had more time, we totally would. Because of our limited time, we also have most of our finances on auto-pilot. We feel true travel hacking requires more engagement with money management to avoid being mired in credit cards debt again. We’ve been there and aren’t going back. Congrats on (soon) making your goal!We’ve heard both Belize and Costa Rica are awesome and both are on our “to do” list. We’re currently planning a trip to Malta in 2015 and now, maybe, Cuba.

    • retirebyforty December 19, 2014, 11:54 am

      I don’t have a lot of time either. That’s why we can only do one card at a time. Have fun on your trip. Cuba sounds like fun.

  • Andrew December 19, 2014, 8:38 am

    I’ve been wanting to go w/ the AA Advantage card w/ 50k bonus miles. I have to spend $3k in 3 months. Would be very difficult for me to do. Other than mortgage, I’m looking at $500 a month in spending.

    I don’t know how I’d get there. Thus I’ve held off on the card.

    • retirebyforty December 19, 2014, 11:53 am

      You probably need to do a bit more research. Transferring money on the internet might be the way to go. I think Amazon also has a Paypal like service. The softcard mentioned earlier sounds good too.

  • Vawt @ Early Retirement Ahead December 19, 2014, 8:23 am

    I got that same card. I paid the mortgage with it twice for a cost of about $70. I think getting at least $750 for $70 is worth it ($50 of the $750 is from the actual purchases).

    Make sure you go over the $5k far enough so that a return for an xmas gift or something won’t jeopardize your bonus.

    • retirebyforty December 19, 2014, 11:52 am

      How do you pay the mortgage with the card? I think my bank only accept checks and wire transfer.

  • EL December 19, 2014, 8:22 am

    That’s a big issue I have with travel hacking, you end up spending more than usual. I never spend 3000 – 5000 in 3 months. So history is a good gauge to tell me, I will overspend, just to get a free travel ticket. Getting gift cards is cool but you have to remember and many cards expire. I guess getting grocery and gas gifts cards is the best bet for me, and I will use them throughout the year.

    • Andrew December 19, 2014, 8:41 am

      Agreed… It’s a lot of work, and I can’t get there for those minimums.

    • retirebyforty December 19, 2014, 11:51 am

      We’d never reach $5000 with just personal spending. The business spending, preschool, and rental really pushed it up.

  • Trevor December 19, 2014, 7:45 am

    I’ve been doing travel hacking for about a year now, and I love travelling pennies on the dollar. One of the easiest ways to help with minimum spending on the credit card is signing up for Softcard/Serve. Softcard is a mobile payment system (like apple pay, google wallet), and serve is a loadable amex credit card. When you sign up for softcard, you also get the Serve Card. You can then load your Serve card with your credit cards for no fee! You then can use Serve to pay off your credit card bills or any other bill. The max you’re able to load with credit cards is $1500/month.

    We also signed up for the 70k points for the ink bold card. I was able to do $1500/month on my Serve card, and only needed to spend $500 on the ink bold card to hit the $5000 in 3 months. My wife and I have the softcard/serve card and do $1500/month on 2 different credit cards. And then pay each other credit card bills. Super easy and can help hit those minimum spending thresholds. Good luck travel hacking!

    • Andrew December 19, 2014, 8:48 am

      How does the sofcard help you hit the number? Not sure I understand. thx

      • Trevor December 19, 2014, 6:00 pm

        If you have a softcard account on your mobile phone, it waives the fees of having a serve account. Also, normally you can only load $1000/month with a credit card, but having a softcard account, you can load $1500/month. So I get to do $1500/month credit card spend on my serve account, and it costs me nothing, and super easy to do.

    • retirebyforty December 19, 2014, 11:51 am

      Thanks for the tip. I will check softcard out. I think I already have a Serve, but may have lost it.

  • nicoleandmaggie December 19, 2014, 6:48 am

    Travel hacking seems like too much effort for us. Plus we are limited on time more than money. (And the times we need to travel, standard school vacation times, are either blocked out or 2x as expensive in terms of travel points.)

    We are very good at spending on the credit card though– everything except mortgage, child care, and piano lessons goes on there. If you’re short you could try stocking up your pantry or freezer with staples you usually use. Also things like toilet paper, detergent, or toothpaste.

    • retirebyforty December 19, 2014, 7:40 am

      Yeah, that’s why I haven’t done it before. I can only do one card at a time. Some people are juggling 10 cards and I think that’s nuts. We can travel during low seasons right now so it’s a good time to do it. It will be harder when the kid is in school full time.
      We’re not very good at charging everything. I prefer to use cash and checks. We’re trying now.

  • [email protected] December 19, 2014, 4:24 am

    I love travel hacking. Credit card points enabled my wife and I go to Hawaii for $20! We have also been to Florida, California, Mexico, and Washington all within 3 years.

    My tip to meet minimum spending requirements is buying and reselling items on eBay or Craigslist. A lot of people think it’s risky, but if your experienced, it’s a walk in the park. A lot of times I make a little bit of money buying and reselling. Worse case scenario is I break even financially, but still get the points because I charged the purchases.

    • retirebyforty December 19, 2014, 7:38 am

      Great idea flipping stuff on eBay and CL. What kind of things do you buy? I might try that when I have more time.

      • [email protected] December 19, 2014, 10:42 am


        I’ll give you one of my recent examples.

        There was a TV on sale from Dell.com. $600 + a $300 dell gift card. I bought the TV and sold it on craigslist for $550. I took a $50 hit, but I still got $300 in Dell gift cards.

        I then used the #$300 Dell gift cards to buy 3 x $100 Dell tablets on Black Friday. I put these tablets up on eBay for $125 a piece. So I got to put $600 on my credit card, and I made a little bit of money even after eBay/Paypal fees.

        There are always opportunities out there, just got to keep your eyes open for them.

    • Andrew December 19, 2014, 8:39 am

      Good idea. Seems like alot of work. Are you doing w/ big ticket items or more small ticket items?


      • [email protected] December 19, 2014, 7:21 pm


        I usually like to do it with small ticket items. I hate dealing with big ticket items with the fear of getting ripped off or the buyer wanting to make a return. I like to sell a lot of items that are $50 and under.

        Sometimes I’ll buy a few hundred dollars worth of Kohls gift cards. Then I’ll go to Kohl’s and buy stuff on clearance or brand name items that are heavily discounted and resell them on eBay. The profit is really small for these small ticket items, but my time invested is minimal.

        If I can make at least $3-5 per transaction, then I don’t mind doing it. Each transaction only takes up about 5-10 minutes of my total time. Don’t forget not only am I making money but, I am also racking up credit card points for travel.

        Best of luck Andrew!

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