We’re all familiar with the concept that if you spend more on a rewards-earning credit card, you’ll earn more rewards.
While it’s a simple concept, if you can generate big spending on a credit card, you may be able to catapult your benefits to a higher level than just the normal rewards earned for spending.
Many credit cards have spending thresholds that trigger benefits far beyond regular earnings.
We’re not talking about exclusive high-net-worth or invitation-only credit cards here either — we’re looking at hotel, airline, and premium travel credit cards that most consumers with excellent credit can qualify for.
Hitting credit card spending thresholds can earn a variety of elevated reward levels, including the following:
- Free hotel nights
- Hotel loyalty program elite status
- Companion airline tickets
- Bonus frequent flyer miles
- Mileage/dollars toward airline elite status
- Bonus rewards points
- Generous sign-up bonuses
It may seem like only those who can spend big will reap rewards — but you don’t need to be a high roller or big business owner to earn these extra bonuses. With that said, you may need a high-limit credit card to meet some of these spending levels.
Let’s take a look at just what level of spending is required, and whether you might be sitting on the edge of greater rewards!
High Limit Credit Cards and High Spending
You generally can’t have high spending without having a high credit limit.
High limit credit cards are generally considered those credit cards with limits greater than $10,000. You’ll need an excellent credit score and sufficient income to qualify for a card with a credit limit greater than $10,000.
You won’t know up front what your credit limit will be when you apply for a card, but you’ll want it to be sufficient to allow you to match your anticipated spending levels and in turn earn the associated rewards.
Premium credit cards and business credit cards generally do have greater credit limits, thus allowing you to keep credit utilizing percentages in check.
Hot Tip: When you’re approved for a new credit card, make sure the credit limit is sufficient for your upcoming spending. It is possible to move credit limits between credit cards of the same issuer or ask for an increase due to a large upcoming purchase for example. To increase credit limits on existing credit cards, check out our suggestions for American Express and Chase credit cards.
Best High-Spend Credit Cards for Free Hotel Nights
Many hotel branded credit cards offer a free night certificate at your card renewal anniversary — but did you know you can spend your way to additional free nights?
Here are some of the most popular hotel credit cards that kick it up a notch with free nights for big spending:
Bottom Line: Many hotel-branded credit cards offer a free night certificate for renewing your credit card, or offer enough bonus points to redeem for a free night. This free night alone can almost always offset any annual fee.
Best High-Spend Credit Cards for Hotel Elite Status
Some hotel credit cards offer elite hotel loyalty status just for having their branded credit card, while others add the option for you to spend your way to elevated elite status.
This collection of hotel branded credit cards offers both elite status and the option to spend big for higher status:
While the Hilton Surpass Card and Hilton Honors American Express Business Card each come with Hilton Honors Gold Status and the option to spend $40,000 to reach Diamond Status, the Hilton Aspire Card automatically comes with top Hilton Honors Diamond status.
None of the Marriott branded credit cards automatically offer top elite status — you must spend $75,000 on the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant Card to reach Platinum Elite status (or stay the required 50 nights).
You do receive 15 qualifying nights for having the card toward this requirement.
The World of Hyatt Card offers the unique opportunity to combine spending with stay activity to qualify for Hyatt Globalist Elite status.
Although not recommended, you could actually qualify based on spending alone since as the card grants 2 elite night stay credits for each $5,000 spent.
Hot Tip: Not every great hotel branded credit card requires big spending to earn free nights, elite status, or rewards. Check out our recommendations for the best hotel credit cards in our complete guide.
Best High-Spend Airline Credit Cards for Companion Tickets
Several airline credit cards offer a companion ticket benefit for additional spending on their branded credit card.
Let’s take a look at those credit cards that allow you to spend your way to a discounted or free (subject to taxes and fees) companion ticket.
Southwest Airlines’ Companion Pass is a valuable benefit because it is not a one-time use companion ticket. Once earned, the pass is good for multiple flights flown throughout the remainder of the current year in which it’s earned plus the entire following year.
The American Airlines AAdvantage credit cards and the British Airways Visa Signature® Card require significant spending of $30,000 in a calendar year to earn a companion ticket.
It’s worth noting that many airline credit cards come with companion ticket benefits that do not require additional spending:
- Alaska Airlines Visa® Business Card and Alaska Airlines Visa Signature Credit Card – Each card offers a $99 companion ticket (plus taxes/fees) at card anniversary renewal
- Aeromexico Visa® and Visa® Signature Cards – Each card offers a free companion fare at card opening and a $99 companion fare at renewal
- Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card – Offers domestic (lower 48 states) main cabin companion ticket at card anniversary
- Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card – Offers domestic companion ticket good for coach, business, or first class at card anniversary
Bottom Line: While some airline branded credit cards require you to spend big in order to receive a companion ticket, many airline credit cards offer free or discounted companion tickets without additional spending.
Best High-Spend Airline Credit Cards for Bonus Miles and Elite Status
Most airline frequent flyer programs have requirements for both the amount of miles flown and dollars spent with the airline in order to qualify for elite status.
Some airline branded credit cards allow you to earn these qualifying miles/dollars toward elite status, while some offer redeemable frequent flyer bonus miles when hitting spending thresholds.
First let’s clarify some terminology:
- Elite Qualifying Dollars (EQDs) – Revenue spending requirement needed on a particular airline to qualify for that airline’s elite status
- Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs/MQMs/PQMs) – Miles that count for elite status but are not redeemable
- Redeemable/Bonus Miles – Frequent flyer miles that can be redeemed for award tickets and other rewards, but do not count toward elite status
Here are the airline branded credit cards that offer one or more of the above bonus types when spending big on their credit card:
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- Revenue requirement waiver for elite status – spend $25,000 in a calendar year, and the MQD revenue requirement is waived for elite status qualification ( all levels except Diamond)
- 10,000 elite qualifying miles (MQMs) after spending $25,000 in a calendar year. Additional 10,000 bonus miles and 10,000 MQMs after spending $50,000
- Mosaic elite status after spending $50,000 in a calendar year
- Revenue requirement waiver for elite status – spend $25,000 in a calendar year, and the PQD revenue requirement is waived for elite status qualification (all levels except 1K)
Bottom Line: You’ll earn miles faster, reach elite status sooner, and receive benefits such as free checked bags and priority seating/boarding when having an airline branded credit card.
Best No Annual Fee Cards With High Spend Bonuses
It may come as a surprise that there are credit cards that reward high spending but don’t charge an annual fee.
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- Hilton Honors Gold status – $20,000 spent in a calendar year (card comes with Silver status)
- Barclays Choice Privileges® Visa Signature® Card
- 8,000 bonus points after $10,000 spent per account anniversary year
Hilton Honors Gold status comes with free breakfast and room upgrades.
Choice Hotel free nights start at 8,000 bonus points, so the card bonus alone could earn you 1 free hotel night.
Bottom Line: Even no annual fee credit cards can offer spending level bonuses such as elevated rewards, elite status, or free hotel nights.
Additional Credit Cards for Spending Bonus Rewards
If you’re spending a large amount annually on a credit card, you’ll want to receive all possible bonuses. These cards offer bonus rewards when hitting specific spending thresholds.
Bottom Line: Don’t miss out on spending level bonuses! Check your existing credit cards and make note of spending bonuses on newly acquired credit cards to ensure you meet the requirements of the reward levels you want to achieve.
If you have a business with large cash flow or spend a considerable amount personally, you’ll want to consider high limit or high spend credit cards that deliver the most value for your largest expenditures — and it may not be a hotel or airline branded credit card.
Directing major spending to achieve these bonuses shouldn’t be done without analyzing any lost opportunity cost either. For example, you may have cash-back credit cards with bonus categories earning 2%-6% cash-back that would deliver greater value for some expenses.
You may also have rewards-earning credit cards that earn flexible rewards, which can be redeemed for a greater return on your dollars spent.
Consider Sign-up Bonuses
The best return for credit card spending happens when you qualify for the initial sign-up bonus after being approved for a credit card.
Since it’s possible to receive, for example, over 100,000 hotel points for spending a few thousand dollars in the first 3 months after card approval, it makes sense to include sign-up bonuses in your credit card decision process.
Bottom Line: Unless you’re already spending large amounts on your credit card, striving for the additional big spend bonuses is hardly worth it. However, you should be aware of any available spending bonuses on your cards so that you don’t miss out by coming up short!
The information regarding the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card, Radisson Rewards™ Premier Visa® Signature Card, Radisson Rewards™ Business Visa® Card, Radisson Rewards™ Visa® Signature, AAdvantage Aviator Business Mastercard, Alaska Airlines Visa® Business Card, Alaska Airlines Visa Signature Credit Card, Aeromexico Visa®, Visa® Signature Cards, Barclays AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard, Barclays AAdvantage Aviator Business Mastercard, JetBlue Plus Card, JetBlue Business Card, United Explorer℠ Credit Card, United Explorer℠ Business Credit Card, United MileagePlus® Club Card, Barclays Choice Privileges® Visa Signature® Card, and Best Western Rewards® Premium MasterCard was independently collected by Upgraded Points and not provided nor reviewed by the issuer.