Credit card welcome bonuses are a great way to earn a lump sum of cash back, points or miles from your credit card issuer, but they often come with hefty minimum spend requirements. If you want to cash in on a big welcome bonus, you’re going to have to be willing to pay the price.

Sign-up bonuses can be a great value as long as you set yourself up for success. Make sure you know the requirements and time limits to earn the bonus, so you can hit your minimum spend and get the most out of your new card.

What to consider before applying for a credit card with a sign-up bonus

Sign-up bonuses come in many forms. Even though the numbers may seem similar on the surface, different rewards programs offer different redemption offers. For example, a sign-up bonus of 100,000 Marriott Bonvoy points is less valuable than a sign-up bonus of 100,000 World of Hyatt points. As you browse credit cards and various sign-up bonuses, be realistic about how much of a minimum spend you can and cannot reach.

To earn the bonus, new cardholders usually have to spend a certain amount of money within the first few months of opening their account. If you’re considering applying for a new credit card, it’s important to know how much you’ll need to spend and how much time you’ll have to meet the minimum spending requirements. If you miss the spend threshold by even a dollar, you won’t get another opportunity to earn the welcome bonus.

Consider the spending threshold

The credit card issuer will set a spending threshold that you will need to meet on your new credit card in the first few months of card membership in order to earn the bonus. For example, you might be offered 40,000 points for spending $4,000 on purchases within the first three months of opening a new account.

When you apply for a new credit card, make sure you’re comfortable meeting the minimum spending requirement before you apply. If you aren’t sure if the spending threshold is feasible, it probably isn’t a good idea.

Develop a plan to meet your sign-up bonus

If you don’t already have a plan for hitting your minimum spending requirements, you should make one. Determine how much you need to spend each month in order to obtain the sign-up bonus, and keep an eye on your transaction history each month to ensure you are on track. There’s no shame in going about this the old-fashioned way. Get out a piece of paper and pen if you have to.

Keep in mind two things: The clock starts ticking the day your card application is approved, and any fees other than spending transactions won’t count toward your spending requirement. So, be mindful that your annual fee, balance transfer fee and any interest charges aren’t factored into the mix. For example, if your card has a Global Entry reimbursement and you get a $100 credit, the $100 you spent on Global Entry won’t count toward your minimum spend.

6 ways to hit your minimum spending requirement and earn your welcome bonus

1. Use your new credit card for all purchases

Once your new card arrives in the mail, make sure to use it for all your purchases. This includes everything from your weekly grocery run to your trip to the theater. The more you use your credit card, the faster you will meet your spending threshold. However, don’t get in over your head. Make sure you can keep up with your monthly payments so you don’t face interest charges.

2. Time your applications to coincide with large expenses

You can earn your sign-up bonus quickly by timing your credit card applications to coincide with large purchases, such as home or auto repairs, holiday shopping and any other larger expenses on your radar. If you’re considering a big purchase in the next few months and you have a solid credit score, this is a great opportunity to earn a welcome bonus.

3. Prepay expenses

If you can get ahead of yourself by prepaying for services such as your car insurance policy, you could earn your bonus by a matter of convenience. This route won’t be possible for everyone, but it is a good option if you’re getting ready to do some spring cleaning where annual bills are concerned. Even paying for your annual Amazon Prime membership will help you meet your minimum spend.

4. Foot the bill for someone else

If you tend to split up monthly expenses with a partner, you could earn your bonus more quickly by paying for all the shared expenses like groceries, gas and car insurance on the new card. Alternatively, you could pay for a group trip and earn your bonus in one go. Simply ask your friends to reimburse you later, and then you can take care of the hotel or rental car upfront.

5. Pay rent

It is possible to pay your rent with a credit card, though it may not be the easiest way to go about obtaining a sign-up bonus. If your landlord doesn’t accept credit card payments, you can pay your rent with credit through a third-party payment service. For a convenience fee (usually 2 percent to 3 percent), services like Plastiq will process your payment and issue your landlord a check or electronic payment.

6. Buy gift cards

Buying gift cards is another great way to hit your minimum spend requirements. If you buy gift cards from a grocery store or gas station, you can also earn rewards on your purchases. However, make sure that you only buy gift cards you will use, as you don’t want to miss out on the value. Keep in mind, too, that advance shopping for gift-giving is also a great way to help meet your minimum spend. No matter what month it is, you can jumpstart your holiday shopping or buy a whole year’s worth of birthday gifts for your family and friends in one go.

The bottom line

There are a handful of things to consider before applying for a credit card with a sign-up bonus, including the minimum spend requirement, the time limit for completing the spend requirement and the terms and conditions of the bonus. However, if you are strategic about it, earning a credit card sign-up bonus is a great way to get rewards.