Rock Your Credit Card Rewards While Doing Your Holiday Shopping

Now that it’s the holiday season, you are likely spending more than usual.

I hope your spending isn’t putting you into debt you can’t pay off, but that’s an article for another day.

While you don’t want to overspend this year, you do want to take advantage of the opportunities your rewards credit card might offer you this holiday season.

After all, if you’re going to spend the money you should get as much back for it as you can!

Here are some tips for maximizing your credit card card rewards while you work on your holiday shopping:

Look for Special Promotions

Many credit card issuers offer special promotions during the holiday season.

This might be extra cash back, or special discounts with partners.  In some cases, it might mean an extra perk on a specific day of the week.  Check with your card holder to find out what perks they offer during the holiday season.  If your card offers airline mile bonuses then this could be a great opportunity to get closer to a free flight.

I’ve already taken advantage of a few offers through American Express which have given me statement credits.  In the case of Amex, make sure you sign up for the offer.  You can find these on your Account page.  Just scroll down and you should see a tab next to Latest Transactions that says Offers for you.  These offers are free to sign up for and require no money up front.  Just grab the offer, use your card, fulfill the terms and you’re set (some offers require you to spend a certain amount).

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There’s also an American Express deal for ShopRunner where you complimentary membership.  This gets you 2-day shipping at a number of retailers.  (I actually had to pause writing here so I could sign up.)

If you shop through Chase’s Ultimate Rewards portal you can find a number of deals that give you juicy cash back deals.

Check Rotating Categories

Double check your rotating categories to see where you are going to get the full cash back this quarter on your purchases.  Use cards that allow you to earn the maximum while you buy items on your holiday shopping list.  Work your card right and you can get better than 5% cash back.

And don’t forget about the gas you buy as you shuttle from place to place.

For items that aren’t in any of your rotating categories, pull out the card with the highest amount of regular cash back, or that offers a tiered program you can rely on.  Looking through your credit cards and seeing which will give you the highest return for your purchase is a good plan.

Pair with Online Savings Sites

Don’t forget about online savings sites and programs.

You can earn extra cash for your child’s education if you have joined Upromise (take a look at the Upromise World Mastercard® to get even more back.).  If you sign up for ebates, you can get cash back for shopping through that program, and if you pay with a credit card, you can cash back in that way, too.  FatWallet is another site to take a look at.

Stack your savings with credit cards and other programs so that you can get the most out of your purchases.

You can also check for promo codes that can save you extra money, as well as pay attention to free shipping promotions like Free Shipping Day.

Do what you can to combine your shopping efforts with your credit card use.

Don’t Ruin it by Overspending

As always, it’s important not to overspend.  Let me re-phrase it — Don’t Overspend!!

It’s tempting to use your rewards points as a justification for spending extra money during the holidays.

However, you shouldn’t let yourself fall into that trap.

Instead, you need make sure you adhere to your shopping list. Create your holiday shopping list, along with a budget of what you’ll spend per gift, and then stick to it. Make sure you have the money to pay for your purchases already in your checking account so that you can pay off the total immediately.

Think about it, what’s the point of any extra you get if you have to pay interest on your spending?  There is no point then.

I like to look at the bonuses as icing on the cake. I try not to go out of my way to spend any extra but I’m happy to use my card in specific situations if I was going to spend anyway to get extra discounts and bonuses.

Finally

You can use your credit card rewards programs and other promotions to reduce the total cost of your holiday shopping, offsetting some of the budget-breaking expenses.  But it doesn’t work if you end up spending a fortune in interest fees.

Do yourself a favor and plan ahead, and you’ll be able to reap the benefits of credit card rewards this holiday season.

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Published or updated March 15, 2014.

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