How I earned the Chase Sapphire Preferred welcome bonus on a budget

When I decided I was ready to add my first travel rewards card to my wallet, I had to consider more than just budgeting for an annual fee and adding another monthly bill to my roster. As a moderate spender, one of my biggest concerns was figuring out how I could comfortably meet the spending requirement to earn a lucrative welcome bonus on a new card.

I selected the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card to start collecting valuable Ultimate Rewards points for a reasonable annual fee. The real value for a brand-new points collector like myself was packed in the card’s welcome offer ā€” 60,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 within the first three months from account opening. TPG’s valuation pegs this welcome offer at $1,230 when you leverage transfer partners or $750 if you redeem through the Chase travel portal at 1.25 cents per point, which was an enticing deal for a newcomer.

I found in my research that spending $4,000 within three months to meet a welcome bonus seemed to be pretty standard across Chase credit cards, so I decided the best way to kick off my rewards journey was to earn 60,000 Ultimate Rewards points upfront. When I first got the Chase Sapphire Preferred last November, the clock started ticking.

As someone who probably wouldn’t have spent $4,000 on purchases in three months with my typical spending habits, I made some small adjustments and reached my goal with a few weeks to spare. Here are five of the methods I used to earn the Sapphire Preferred’s welcome bonus as a moderate spender.

Covering full tabs on my Chase Sapphire Preferred
Whether it was for date night, midday lunch, or dinner with the girls, I started picking up everyone’s tab on one check at restaurants. Aside from helping me meet my spending goal, this was especially advantageous on the Sapphire Preferred card since it earns 3 points per dollar on dining, including:
– Delivery services
– Takeout
– Eating at restaurants

I’d pay the bill in full, and my friends would pay me back for their portion of the check. This way, each purchase helped me get closer to the required spending minimum needed to collect the points, and my credit card bill would get paid off in full without incurring a ton of additional expenses.

Paying to attend an event with the Chase Sapphire Preferred
More than half of my close friends here in Charlotte, North Carolina, attended the University of North Carolina, and I’d been hearing about how exciting the men’s basketball games were in Chapel Hill for months. We had discussed buying tickets for a less expensive home game for a while, and since I was making a push to spend more on my new Sapphire Preferred Card, I offered to buy seven tickets for a Monday night game between the Tar Heels and Wake Forest.

Once I purchased the tickets, I was $327 closer to that $4,000 spending minimum. After my friends paid me back and I paid my balance down, I received every dollar back on this purchase as Ultimate Rewards points. Even though the tickets didn’t automatically trigger a bonus category on my Sapphire Preferred, I activated a limited-time 5% cash-back offer from SeatGeek through an in-app offer before making the purchases. Thanks to this cash-back promo, my account was also credited some money from the ticket purchase. Plus, the Tar Heels won!

Planning a trip on the Chase Sapphire Preferred
Most of my friends who came to the UNC basketball game with me live in and around Charlotte. Since Chapel Hill is about two hours away from us, we decided to make a weekend trip out of it. Anytime you’re away from your home base, you’re naturally going to spend more money. Even though this was only a two-night trip (and we were graciously offered free lodging at a friend’s house), nights out and meals purchased were all additional spending toward earning my welcome bonus.

I didn’t have to splurge on a longer-term trip or even book a hotel night to spend more than I would’ve if I had stuck around Charlotte that weekend. I found that making a couple of extra $20-$40 transactions eventually added up across the three months I worked to meet my welcome bonus spending requirement. Trips like the one to Chapel Hill helped me realize that $4,000 doesn’t have to be as intimidating a threshold to reach as I’d thought it would be.

Holiday spending with the Chase Sapphire Preferred
I was also intentional with the timing of everything here. When I applied for the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, my first rewards credit card that came with a spending-dependent welcome bonus, it was around the middle of November. As it was for many others, this was at the very start of a spending-heavy season for me. Between traveling home to see my family in Georgia and finding the perfect gifts for my loved ones, I had already budgeted for some extra spending. That naturally made it easier to spend more money and meet the welcome offer’s spending requirement.

Only using my Chase Sapphire Preferred
That all brings me to my last point, which is perhaps the most intuitive and certainly the most important: I did as much of my spending as I could with my Chase Sapphire Preferred Card until I met my spending goal. The Chase Sapphire Preferred became the best card in my wallet thanks to its generous earning structure and high-value Ultimate Rewards points.

I’ll also use this strategy in the future when I open new credit cards that feature solid welcome offers and manageable minimum spending requirements. Bottom line I created a spending strategy that aligned with my budget before applying for my Sapphire Preferred card in order to earn the welcome offer. Within my personal budget, I don’t typically spend $4,000 across three months (excluding my rent).

However, remaining mindful of my budget while maximizing the benefits of my new credit card helped me responsibly earn 60,000 Ultimate Rewards points fairly easily. Some of my spending strategy was oriented around taking on larger payments for a group of people and being paid back by them later. I found a way to spend enough money without going over my personal budget because paying off my statement monthly is a priority for me.

Optimal timing was another part of my application strategy, which is why I applied for the card around the holiday season. I did this knowing that I had made room in my budget to spend a little bit extra from November to January for gifts and travel-related expenses. Additionally, I made sure to avoid accruing interest on my new credit card by paying the balance off in full come each statement.

Carrying a monthly balance can negatively affect your credit score and counteract any rewards you earn from your spending. This is why I prioritized spending within my budget while working to meet the welcome bonus requirements for the Sapphire Preferred. Now, I have a collection of Ultimate Rewards points to build off of for future redemptions, and I’m excited to continue to add points while making everyday purchases with my Sapphire Preferred Card.

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