How To Generate 10-15 Debit Transactions a Month

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Reward checking accounts have become very popular in the last few years because they offer high interest rates on accounts that typically offer none at all. They would routinely crush the rates offered by high yield savings accounts because the banks are passing on their transaction revenue to you in the form of higher interest rates (that’s why they require you to make 10-15 debit transactions a month!).

The hardest part about qualifying for the higher interest rate is that 10-15 transaction requirement. The others, like online banking and paperless electronic statements, are trivial. If you’ve been wondering whether the additional hassle is worth it, let me offer up a few ideas on how to hit the 10-15 transaction requirement and then you can decide if the hassle is worth the interest you’d earn.

Make It Your Regular Card

The easiest way to reach 10-15 transactions a month is to use the debit card as your main card. If you’re using credit cards for the rewards, think about how much you spend each month on your card. Our average is around a thousand dollars a month, which is about $10-$15 in rewards based on our mix of usage and our cards. It’s nice to get $10-$15 but if I had a reward checking account, I’d probably earn more with the checking account and I’d be rewarded on my savings, not my spending.

Donate to Charity

My personal favorite is to make small donations to charities. Keep in mind the minimum dollar donation, it’s usually $1.00, and you can’t go wrong. This is by far the easiest way to reach the 10-15 transactions a month because you don’t have to travel anywhere, you just log onto a charity’s website and make the donation online. If you itemize deductions, save the receipt and you can get a tax deduction at the end of the year (if you don’t mind keeping all that documentation around!)

Self-Serve Checkout

If your local grocery store has self-serve checkout lane, go when the traffic is lower (after or before lunch on a weekday) and break up your regular purchase into individual ones. You don’t have to buy sticks of gum, unless you like sticks of gum. Buy whatever you’d buy normally and break it up into individual purchases. Be sure to go during slow periods so you don’t hold up the line. If you don’t want to do it at the grocery store, some home improvement stores, Home Depot, also have self-checkout lanes.

Those are the three easiest ways to reach that 10-15 limit. Other classics include filling up small amounts of gasoline and other “small but frequent transaction” types, but they all require a significant amount of time (which these three ideas seem to cut down on).

In the end, you’ll have to decide if a few percentage points on your savings is worth having to do this each and every month.

{ 37 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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37 Responses to “How To Generate 10-15 Debit Transactions a Month”

  1. cablecellphone says:

    you can also pay your cable or cell phone bill in 1.00 increments, i have been doing it for few months now

    • Strebkr says:

      Wow that sounds really annoying to the billing company, but who cares. It sounds like it works for you. I might start doing that if I have a need to do debit card transactions. It really is a great idea. No fees, no running around, minor time spent paying the bill online.

  2. Ryan says:

    At the cafeteria at work, a lot of people (including myself) bring bread to make toast in the morning for breakfast, and they started charging a nickel to put butter on your own toast. For me, this became the perfect opportunity – it costs me $1.00 a month, and I get 20 transactions out of it.

    • cubiclegeoff says:

      That is ridiculous. Is the nickel for them really worth it? Also, some banks have started having a minimum purchase of $5-$10 in order for it to count.

      • Strebkr says:

        I think that is the future of it. But for now if it works it works. My bank just put a minimum on Direct Deposits for the account to be free. You used to just have a direct deposit. Now it has to be a min of $500. So I had to spread my paycheck over a few accounts to keep the rest of them free. Annoying, but it worked.

  3. cubiclegeoff says:

    One thing I do is put $10 or so towards my cell phone bill or insurance bill, and pay the rest with my rewards credit card. You can do this for a number of bills, as long as they take credit.

    After that, we generally have enough small purchases that we use the debit card for (gas, small snacks, random other things) that most big purchases are still on our regular credit card, essentially maximizing our interest in our rewards checking and our rewards from the credit card.

    • skylog says:

      i think i like your approach best. i think i would go crazy making several small transactions each month just to meet the requirements.

  4. Courtney says:

    The charity thing is a fantastic idea – I never thought of it!! And most charities will let you do automatic monthly donations, so you could research some charities, set them up once and forget it.

    • Regarding the charities… I think I first read that recommendation from you a long time ago Jim. I thought it was an awesome idea, and setup a few of them.

      One thing to consider is that once you start making a donation (regardless of the amount), some charities will put you on a mailing list. One in particular (Humane Society), sends out a very nice, color magazine regularly (I think monthly). I actually feel bad, because I can guarantee they are spending way more than the $1 I donate just to print that magazine that they mail to me.

  5. The Redbox movie kiosks have been a perfect way for me to meet my transaction limits. We don’t pay for Netflix, but we frequent the Redbox. Since we were doing this before I got my rewards checking, these were transactions I was making anyway, and I don’t even have to spend extra time making multiple checkouts at the grocery or anything like that.

  6. Matt K says:

    One other quick question.
    What charities have you find accepting DEBIT transactions?

    is there a difference between debit and credit transactions?

    • Strebkr says:

      The difference between Credit and Debit is at the business. It costs them less to process debit card transactions. As for the bank, they make more on the credit card transactions, thats why credit card rewards are more valuable.

    • In this case, it really doesn’t matter. So far, every bank I have looked at with these programs simply states “card transactions” or “swipe transactions”. I use my card in both fashions, and they both count. So, you are using the debit card like a credit card when giving it to the charities.

      • Strebkr says:

        There isn’t a difference to the person who is using their card (the buyer), except the rewards they get on their credit card. The difference is with the seller because it costs them different amounts to process transactions. Knowing this, you can see why companies push for more debit cards. It costs them less.

  7. BrianC says:

    Also check out vending machines–we just got some new ones at work that accept credit cards.

  8. EricH says:

    Make several small transactions (a few cents) every time you get gas. I use rewards checking cards for a few small transactions, then use my Amex (5% cash back) to fill up the tank. I will limit my rewards transactions to just one if their is a line behind me at the pump.

    • cubiclegeoff says:

      Some gas stations may put a hold on some money in your account, and this would probably add up.

      • Strebkr says:

        I don’t use debit cards, but I have heard gas stations and hotels are areas that you can get in hot water because of the authorization amounts they hold on your card for a few days.

    • EricH says:

      I’ve never had holds amounts on my two rewards accounts using the debit option at several gas stations.

  9. zapeta says:

    My plan is pretty simple. Any transaction that I’d earn a high percentage credit card reward on (5% for example) I put on my CC. Other transactions I do on my debit until I reach 10 and satisfy the requirements and then use the credit card. It can be a pain to keep track of the number of transactions but I think this maximizes my rewards without doing any stupid tricks like buying $1.00 of gas that my bank might flag and that will eventually lead to the banks getting rid of the accounts.

    • Shirley says:

      I like this idea and it will be easy to follow if I just number them in my excel spreadsheet.

    • EricH says:

      The “stupid trick” has worked for me for several years. Obviously, it’s not the amount of each debit purchase that is important to the bank… it’s the number of transactions….and no I don’t get hold amounts placed on each debit transaction..

  10. Strebkr says:

    I get an offer twice a year from my Marriott Rewards Visa that says if you do 10 transactions a month for 3 months you get a free hotel room. I think they are doing it to encourage card use out of me. I got the card as a separate card for when I traveled for work.

    I just don’t travel anymore so they probably flagged the card as one that doesnt get much use.

    So for my 10 transactions, I top off my car every day for 10 straight days. I have a gas station on my way to work and I just get 2-3 gallons a day. Yes it takes me a bit more time, but I get a very nice room out of it.

    We then use the room to split up our long drive to the beach with our young kids.

  11. Phil says:

    You could always just purchase $1 coins from the US Mint a bunch of times if you’re short a few transactions. Then just deposit or spend them.

    • Strebkr says:

      They have been cracking down on that for sometime now. They won’t ship if you abuse, and the banks are starting to say no to depositing them.

  12. Rachel says:

    I divide my utility bill by 12 and make 12 online payments each month. I have had this account for years and have never missed a month of rewards.

    • Strebkr says:

      Do you do this automatically, or do you have to log in on 12 days and tell it to do it.

      • Rachel says:

        I log in once a month and post 12 separate payments. I know not all accounts will let you do this, but if you have just one account that does, then you’re set.

  13. Kim says:

    Someone on suggested buying Amazon gift cards.
    You can buy them for as little as .10 cents (maybe even less,never tried…).
    So,every month I buy five .20 cent gift cards and I’m all set.
    Only $1 a month and who doesn’t spend a ton on Amazon anyway…

  14. I am pleasantly surprised. For most PF bloggers, earning interest in a rewards checking account should never be selected over worshiping at the altar of credit cards rewards. At the same time, they promote the hell out of online savings accounts that pay less than 1/2 the interest rate of rewards checking accounts. Of course, they don’t get affiliate payments for talking about rewards checking accounts. Refreshing to see a different point of view here.

  15. eric says:

    I just break down a utility bill or phone bill into smaller transactions. I wish I can automate it somehow though!

  16. Bonnie says:

    Man, Jim, the more I read your blog, the more you just seem so self-serving. I can’t believe you’re suggesting “giving” $1 increments to charities via credit card when most credit card processors charge merchants a minimum fee over $1 per transaction, so essentially, they’re paying to process your measly donation. Sure, you’re getting your 10-15 monthly transactions, but rather than helping the charity, you’re actually COSTING them. If you want to screw over a business for your own selfish purposes, you could at least do it to a large for-profit company.

  17. Irenee says:

    So doing it to large for-profit company is less unethical than non-profit organization? Sorry, but you’re no better either. Judge Not Lest Ye Be Judged. What’s with the prejudice against corporation? Not everyone is a CEO with nine-figures salary, most are just earning two-figure salary, three-figure if you’re lucky.

    I think the best way to say is to this: If you’re going to do that to charity, balance it out by donating a single-transaction, large sum to cover the fee. You can make that your 10th or 15th transaction. Or just volunteer for a number of hours. That way, you can still keep a good conscience and enjoy your rewards checking account.

  18. Cindy says:

    I agree with Bonnie. I come from a family of small business owners and small transactions processed as credit can really dig into their profits. Now most of them have had to start a minimum purchase with credit policy to put a stop to it.

    @Irenee – I don’t know if you have noticed but the small businesses and mom & pop shops of this country are diminishing quickly. Things are much easier for the larger for-profits these days, and some of those (not all) are strategically pushing out the little guys. That is why there is prejudice against the large for-profit companies.

  19. BuffetFan says:

    How much profit are we talking about?

    For us, to make on a monthly basis to go through all this work with the debit card transactions.

    • SDLOPP says:


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