One of the great things about signing up for a new credit card is getting to take advantage of a terrific signup bonus. You may see an offer for 40,000 frequent flyer miles, hundreds of dollars worth of gift cards, or a free round trip flight and get excited. You think, do I really just have to sign up for this card, use it once, and I’ll get this reward?

In most cases, no. It’s not that these signup bonuses aren’t a great deal, or that they aren’t legitimate – they absolutely are. But almost all of the time, you have to do more than simply be approved for the card and make a purchase. You’ll need to spend a certain amount on the card before you are able to take advantage of the signup offer.

Most of time, you’ll have 90 days, or three months, to meet the minimum spending requirement for the bonus to kick in. It could be $1,000 or $3,000 – the card offer should make this clear.

How to get your bonus

Here’s how it works: you’ll apply for the card, and then once you get it, you’ll want to start using it right away. Use it to pay for all your everyday purchases, so you spend as much as possible on the card. At the same time, keep an eye on your spending and make sure to put aside money to pay off the balance in full on the payment due date.

Credit Card Signup Bonuses

If you end up carrying your balance over from month to month and paying interest, the danger is that the amount you pay in interest may cancel out the rewards you earned. So stick to a budget, to ensure this doesn’t happen.

Of course, your credit card may offer a 0% APR introductory rate on purchases for the first year, or several months. In this case, you don’t have to worry so much about paying off your balance in full every month. Still, you don’t want to get in over your head and end up in debt. Be very careful with your spending, and have a plan to pay off your balance when the promotional rate runs out.

In the meantime, when you hit your spending requirement and get your reward, enjoy! This is one of the best perks of having a new credit card.

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