4 easy ways to hit your credit card sign-up bonus spending target

There are plenty of Head for Points readers currently chasing a spending target on their American Express card.  Why?  Because they want to trigger a lucrative sign-up bonus in order to book a flight before the Avios devaluation takes place on April 28th.

(This article discusses cards you could get and still trigger a sign-up bonus before April 28th.  Time is ticking away – your window is a lot tighter than it was when that piece was published three weeks ago.  Unless you can hit your spending target within 1-2 weeks it is probably already too late to get a British Airways American Express.)

Here is a reminder of four ways to push your spend towards the target if you think you may fall short:

American Express gift cards

(EDIT:  A reader report in March 2015 suggests that gift card purchases are no longer earning points.  This was only one incident but be aware!)

As I wrote last week, Amex is currently selling its gift cards with no fees via a special promotional code. Until 31st March, you can order up to £500-worth per transaction. You can charge it to your BA / Gold / Platinum American Express card (it will go through as a purchase) and you can then spend it at your leisure during 2015.

Amex Gift Card

Supermarket gift vouchers

The easiest ideas are often the ones you forget. If you are running a little short on your spending, just buy £xxx-worth of gift vouchers or gift cards for your usual supermarket. This brings forward spending that you would do anyway and doesn’t cost you anything.

If you buy your petrol from your supermarket, even better – it means you will be able to spend the gift vouchers more quickly.

Ordering foreign currency and travellers cheques from Amex

As I wrote here, ordering foreign currency from the Amex travelmoneynow website is treated as a purchase. (Ignore what your card rules or the Amex website says contrary to this, I promise you it will go through as a purchase.)

The currency needs to be delivered to your home or office, however, as Amex only has offices at Birmingham International Airport.

Details of Amex’s foreign exchange rates can be found here.

If you are not travelling, one option used to be to order Sterling Travellers Cheques.  There is a 1.5% fee for this but that is relatively modest if it gets you to your spending target.  However, in the last couple of years a few major banks have stopped accepting them as deposits – HSBC pulled out last June.  Do not do this unless you are 100% sure that you can redeem them.

Use Paypal if a retailer accepts it but does not accept American Express

Some online retailers do not take American Express but do accept Paypal. In most cases (some retailers block Amex access to Paypal), you can select to pay with Paypal and use your Amex card through that. More information in this post.

It is, of course, also possible to send a payment to a friend or relative via Paypal, charged to your Amex. There will be a 3%+ charge for this. You need to be VERY careful if you do this, as Paypal operates under tough money laundering restrictions. Any signs of suspicious transactions will lead to your funds being frozen.

If you are a long-term Paypal user and / or have your personal bank account verified with them and / or have your Amex card ‘verified’ then, realistically, sending a few hundred pounds this way should not be a problem.  You would be foolish to push your luck though.

(Want to earn more miles and points from credit cards?  Click here to visit our ‘Credit Cards Update’ page or use the link in the menu bar at the top of the page.)

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  1. The other easy way to hit a credit card spending target is to pre-pay your rail travel on the East Coast website. If you do it before the end of the month you’ll earn reward points (available to use until 30 September).

    You can buy gift eVouchers that have no expiry date. So if you think you’re going to spend £2000 on rail travel over the next few months and you need to hit the card spend then do it this way.

    The East Coast site also accepts 3V so you could buy vouchers £25 at a time if you can find these cards.

    More info: http://saveecrewards.co.uk/rewards-guide/40-topping-up-ec-rewards-balance

    • Some Energy companies allow you to top-up your account using 3V cards. Some companies even pay 3% interest on your balance. Psssst this is tax free “income”.

      • Why is this tax free?

      • Does anyone know if:
        (a) Extra Energy accept 3V cards;
        (b) Pre-paying my energy bill like this (with Extra Energy) will mean that I lose the discount for paying by direct debit?


        • I have no knowledge of Extra Energy, but I pay Scottish Power partly by 3V (or other cards when I cannot find 3V). I have persuaded them to reduce the direct debit by 50% and pay the other half. Recently they refunded me the credit balance (which I took to be ready for the winter quarter) so I can start paying again. Of course Extra Energy may be different but I know that many energy company tariffs require direct debit payment.

    • Every recent purchase with them has gone into “pending points” and enquiries to resolve it are ignored…so I wouldn’t bet on getting any points credited.

      • Don’t worry from 1st of March the concept of pending will be no more.

        All points will be made available to spend from this point.

        However, gift vouchers don’t go into the pending state they credit between 24-48 hours.

        • So what happens if you book a fully flexible ticket and refund it after March 1st?!

          • I’d wondered when someone would spot that 😉

            But even with a “fully flexible” ticket, you have to pay a £10 administration fee to get it refunded. So for an isolated booking maybe they’d just take your tenner and say “thank you very much”. If you tried to do it on an industrial scale, it’s possible they could invoke the part of their T&Cs which prohibits “dishonest” use of the scheme.

    • For those travelling in London, you can pre pay and stack up your weekly/monthly travel cards in advance.

      For Amex Rewards they also go through with the travel bonus, and if applicable, the first year bonus as well, so earn up to triple MR points.

  2. Most supermarkets do not accept their own vouchers on their own Petrol stations.

    Visa & Amex gift cards seem to be fine tho. :-)

  3. Is sending money to friend via Paypal 100% legal?

    • It depends why you are sending it I guess!?

    • Eshaq Choudhury says:

      Its advertised as a service on Paypal so surely it can’t be against the rules. I think you will get flagged up if sending £10000 in one go or something similar.

      • sandgrounder says:

        I sent 800 quid a few years ago and got a warning email. It is against the Paypal rules to use the service to obtain a cash advance or to help someone do so. Google will throw up lots of cases of frozen funds. A one-off to someone with a different name at a different address shouldn’t go further than a warning though, although they may hold the funds for a few days. I wouldn’t bother tbh.

        • As you say, one of the purposes of papal is to allow you to transfer money to friends. As with all of these things, don’t go crazy and you should be Ok. I use it to make payments to a family member on a very regular basis and not had a problem.

    • There’s a fee of around 3% for doing that.

    • Obviously it is legal.

      However, Paypal is obliged under money laundering regulations to look at suspicious transactions. Paying a 3% fee to give money to a friend, when you could use BACS or a cheque, is seen as suspicious.

  4. Eshaq Choudhury says:

    Can I purchase the Amex gift cards using an MBNA issued Amex?

  5. Not sure about other operators but Three have in the past let me call up and put my mobile account into credit (I was going away and likely to spend a lot on roaming). They may just allow it in general, which could be a route for another couple of hundred pounds. I’ve also heard talk of being able to prepay Sky/Virgin for months in advance though not tried it myself.

  6. Slightly OT but does anyone know whether Amex plat supplementary cards need to be activated or even spent on to trigger the 10k MR points offer ?

    • Activated yes, spent on I don’t think so

    • Im still waiting for mine. Almost 2 months now. The sup card holders actually use the cards, but still no Points .

      • What_Economy says:

        Joe – I am in the same boat as you. Called them twice and raised a back-end case. The most recent notes from backend said it would take upto 90days from the day application was accepted.

    • The_Real_A says:

      I can confirm i got the points without spend. We forgot about the card to be honest – but my mother is enjoying her complimentory priority pass :)

    • Some people have got the points without activation

  7. As of September, Santander weren’t accepting Amex TC’s but Lloyd’s were. Haven’t tried since then.

  8. Only 15 days to hit my £3k spending says:

    Anyone has experience using betfair deposit via paypal? I am aware there is a 2% fee but thought I would:
    1) deposit funds to betfair via paypal with account linked to Amex credit card
    2) link my paypal account to my bank account
    3) withdraw funds from betfair back to paypal

    • Looks like this is turning into a manufactured spend thread, rather than a ‘bring your spend forward’ thread!

    • Wld amex treat this as a cash transaction tho? So poss fees/interest.
      Could withdraw from betfair straight to bank a/c to stop paypal getting fussy?

      • Only 15 days to hit my £3k spending says:

        @Kelvin: lol!
        I am pretty sure any payment done via Paypal is considered as en expense not cash advance.
        Due to anti-money laundering regulation, think Betfair only allows you to withdraw from the same source you deposited the money from, up to the amount deposited.

    • Lady London says:

      If you do anything like that you are messing with a gambling site. Gambling companies are highly regulated. Possibly gambling is the only type of business that could be more tightly scrutinised than the banks and personally I wouldn’t mess with any gambling site. I’d also avoid anything that looks like money laundering which this looks like. Doesn’t matter that it’s not, the site and possibly paypal as well will shut you down. Paypal is difficult to deal with in such circumstances and not good to upset if you would prefer to keep using their service either. Personally I wouldn’t go near this one.

      Just my two pence worth.

  9. Lots of interesting options – I’m boring and just buy Amazon gift vouchers then use these during the year for normal purchases / birthdays /Christmas.

  10. Slightly noob question and it’s stated in Raffles’ post, but can someone confirm that if I buy more than £500 of Euro in cash (i.e. not TC’s) on my BA Premium, it’s treated as a purchase?

    • Assuming you are buying it from the Amex travelmoneynow website then yes.

      If you are buying it from another regular forex site, no. Then it would be treated as a cash advance.

  11. So, if I find out whether Lloyds take TCs, I could potentially buy £1,000 worth and pay them into bank account. Could someone confirm for me please?


  12. Currency route probably not an option for first time applicants. When I tried this a couple of years back I was unsuccessful, a call to CS reveayled I did not have a cash facility which was necessary, and that as a new card holder I had to apply for it but I had to wait 6 months. If I apply for it on my BA card will it then come automatically with any new cards I apply for? If it is necessay to apply for cash facility on each card then this is not a means to hit spending targets

  13. I have hit £1000 targets in one go several times by crediting my property managment fee account for a whole year In advance. With instant access savings rates as they are I didn’t lode much and hitting the target was painless.

  14. Singing Dwarf says:

    Raffles – have you ever considered an article on the travel insurance aspect when booking flights and/or hotels through points redemptions?

    Most travel insurance policies will not cover you for a flight that we booked through a points redemption – although the hotel would be covered, if it was paid for in currency rather than rewards points. If the hotel too were paid for using rewards points, that would not be covered either, in the event that you had to cancel the trip due to illness, etc.

    I appreciate that some rewards tickets can be cancelled or rebooked – with fees and usually at least 24 hours in advance. If one were to miss the flight, due to a motorway closure or similar, one would potentially forfeit the points used to book the flights and/or hotel – standard travel insurance not covering the value of, or the points themselves – even if the event leading to the delay was covered by the policy.

    There are some insurance providers who will cover points – or at least some of their value. They may even be interested in offering a small commission 😉

    • If you have a LLoyds Platinum current account which costs £17 per month you get travel insurance up to age 80. Insurance of Avios is included.
      You also get AA Breakdown, mobile phone insurance, card protection etc.

    • It would make a great article but the truth is I don’t know much about it. The idea of trawling through the small print of 20 travel insurance policies, most of which won’t mention miles one way or the other, is not great!

      Even with Amex Platinum, it is not fully clear if paying the taxes with your Platinum would satisfy the condition to have fully paid for your flight with the card – although I’m sure it would have come up by now if they caused trouble.

      As you say, the ability to cancel BA reward flights up to 24 hours before departure and most hotel redemptions up to the date of travel means that you don’t carry much risk.

      • The Amex gold flight delay terms have updated this: flight has to be fully paid on the card in cash, OR paid by air miles, with the air miles generated from MR transfers from the card. Taxes have to still be paid on the card.

  15. Could someone advise on the “fiddliness” of the Amex Gift Cards?

    I seem to recall someone saying that they don’t have a chip&pin, so how do retailers process them?
    I was considering buying some for a birthday present, as they had asked for gift vouchers and an Amex gift card would mean not being tied to one chain, but if it’s going to be an utter faff every time they try to use them, is there any point?

    • You swipe the card instead of sticking it in the slot and it prints out a slip for you to print. Many cards from USA have not got a chip so it does not cause a problem usually. Just swipe; don’t even mention it to the cashier.
      It is better if you buy something for less than the card value or pay the difference in cash before using the card.

    • Bear in mind though that some retailers will refuse them

  16. Another noob question, if You use a £100 gift card for £50 worth of petrol you keep the card for next time for another £50 worth and if you go over you pay the difference ? Just thinking how much hassle I am going to get from the other half if I tell her she’s going to paying for petrol via gift cards for the next year!

  17. I needed to up my spend to trigger my 241 voucher. Knowing i would immediately spend a couple of thousand on BA flights, and more on accomodation, i ordered an expensive laptop online. As soon as i had my voucher i paid for the flights and returned the laptop.

    My annual spend now well over the trigger so i don’t think AMEX will have a problem.

  18. Only 15 days to hit my £3k spending says:

    @ Lady London : Thanks for the two pence, think I will keep it more simple.
    Actually I am not totally sure that betfair will accept paypal payment linked to Amex

  19. buying in ebay the gift voucher will usually be cheaper and can be paid via paypal amex

  20. On the subject of Amex Plat Supp card 10k promo, I’ve had 4 supp cards declined as my wife had already added those 4 people to her Plat account. It seems any person can only be the recipient of 1 supplementary amex card, even from multiple main cardholders.

    • Added our eldest son to both mine and mrs plat card as supp without as problem. All the other 4 supp were different though.

  21. Question: If I have BA Amex card already and apply for Amex Gold – will I get a 20000miles sign-up bonus, or no chance?

    • 100% definite you get the bonus, don’t worry

      • In eligibility of Amex The Preferred Rewards Gold Card says “I understand I will not be eligible for any Welcome Bonus award if I hold or have held any Membership Rewards enrolled American Express Card in the past six months.” That’s why wasn’t sure

        • BA card isn’t a “Membership Rewards enrolled” card though.

          BA Amex gives you Avios.
          Amex Green, Gold & Plat give you Membership Rewards points (which you can then redeem for Avios or other things).