How To Get The Most From Your Credit Card During The Holidays

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Like it or not, the holiday season is quickly approaching. Shoppers are already creating gift lists, determining their budgets and seeking out deals even though it’s still months until December.

There are plenty of tools you can take advantage of to make your shopping experience smoother, cheaper and more rewarding. Many people just associate credit cards with a way to earn cash back or build their credit score, but they offer a myriad of other benefits that can help you save money and finance purchases with no interest.

Below, Select explores how to get the most out of your credit card’s benefits this holiday season.

Credit card rewards

Earning cash back, points and miles

People are going to be spending more this year: Deloitte estimates that retail sales will be 7 to 9% higher this holiday season compared to 2020. It’s important to remember that for every dollar that flows out of your pocket, you can potentially earn a percentage of it back when you use the right credit card.

When making purchases, make sure you use a card that earns cash back or some form of travel rewards. Consider a card that earns a solid rate on all types of purchases, like the Wells Fargo Active CashSM Card, which earns 2% cash rewards on all eligible purchases.

Or if you know you’re going to spend big at a certain retailer, look at cards that earn at a high rate in that category. For example, if you know you’re going to doing a lot of online shopping, you can earn 5% back on all your Amazon purchases with the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card.

Also, this is a good time to consider signing up for a credit card to earn a welcome bonus. You’ll be able to knock out the minimum spend requirements pretty easily by putting all your holiday purchases on your new card and earn a ton of rewards in the process.

A number of credit cards currently have bonuses that are at all-time highs — and the value from these offers can possibly offset the cost of the gifts you purchase. Take the Citi Premier® Card, which is currently offering cardholders an elevated welcome bonus of 80,000 points. Those points are potentially worth $800 toward gift cards or cash back. Or you can transfer them to travel partners like Avianca, JetBlue or Emirates and extract even more value.

Citi Premier® Card

  • Rewards

    3X points per $1 spent at restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, and on hotels and air travel, 1X points on all other purchases

  • Welcome bonus

    80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

  • Annual fee

  • Intro APR

  • Regular APR

    15.99% to 23.99% variable APR on purchases and balance transfers

  • Balance transfer fee

    5% of each balance transfer, $5 minimum

  • Foreign transaction fee

  • Credit needed

Finally, using a shopping portal can help you earn bonus cash back or points on purchases you were already planning to make. Use a service like Cashback Monitor to find the best portals for the retailers where you plan to shop.

For example, you can compare all the rates for a brand like Nike, then click through to the one that best suits your needs, and make the purchase at Nike as you normally would. The bonus cash back or points will show up in your account within a few weeks — and this is on top of the rewards you’d earn from your credit card.

Using rewards to cover purchases and holiday travel

Now is a great time to cash in those hard-earned points and miles to help reduce your out-of-pocket expenses over the next few months.

If you’re traveling home for the holidays, try to redeem any airline miles or hotel points that you’ve accumulated, as these rewards can often have outsized value when cash prices for travel are high. Just make sure to book your travel ASAP, as award availability can dry up quickly.

For instance, you can transfer points Chase Ultimate Rewards points earned from your Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card to British Airways to book flights on its partner American Airlines, where flights in the U.S. cost as little as 9,000 points one-way. That same flight could potentially cost hundreds of dollars when paying with cash.

For those who want to use points to cover holiday gifts, consider Amazon’s Shop With Points feature. You can connect your Amazon account to Amex Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, Citi ThankYou Points and more and lower the cost of your purchases from Amazon.

A word of warning though: You will receive a significantly lower value when using your points to pay for Amazon purchases (and with other retailers) compared to redeeming them for travel. Amex points are worth just .7 cents each when redeemed on Amazon while Chase, Citi and Capital One points are worth .8 cents apiece.

You’re often better off turning points into cash back and using that money to cover the costs of gifts in the form of a statement credit.

Direct savings when using your cards

On top of the points and cash back you can earn from spending on your cards, certain card issuers also have robust programs that offer a lump sum of cash back or points for spending at certain retailers.

Amex Offers

The most well-known of these programs is Amex Offers. Nearly all Amex cards are eligible to participate in the program, which is quite simple to use. Simply log in to your Amex account and scroll down to find the card-linked offers. You’ll see dozens of deals and all you have to do is click “add to card” and then spend with that card at the retailer.

Right now, deals include:

  • Puma: Spend $75 or more, get $15 back
  • HBO Max annual subscription: Spend $99.99 or more, get $25 back
  • Wine.com: Spend $100 or more, get $30 back
  • Levi’s: Spending $150 or more, get $30 back

Keep in mind that offers can vary from card to card, so if you have multiple Amex cards, you may have more opportunities to save. There’s usually a spend requirement and expiration date tied to the offers.

The Platinum Card® from American Express may have unique Amex offers because its high annual fee premium perks. Or consider a low-annual-fee Amex card like the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express or the no-annual-fee Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express. (See rates and fees.)

Chase offers

Chase has a very similar program, aptly named, Chase Offers. Just log in to your Chase account, select your credit card and find the offers attached to the card. There are far fewer deals when compared to Amex.

Current promotions include

  • Adidas: 10% back, up to $17
  • Fanatics: 15% back, up to $15
  • Best Buy: 10$ back, up to $35

You’ll find similar card-linked deals with Bank of America’s BankAmeriDeals.

Credit card protections

Outside of just earning rewards or saving money on your holiday purchases, credit cards have some unique features that can aid you in case any of your purchases go awry.

Many cards have what’s called purchase protection, which covers your item for the first 90 to 120 days of ownership against theft and/or damage.

There’s also return protection, which is useful in case of buyer’s remorse, or if that gift wasn’t as popular as expected. If a retailer won’t accept a return, you can file a return protection claim with your card issuer to receive a refund (for qualifying claims).

Purchase and return protection policies vary by card issuer, and the card itself, so be sure to check the benefits of your card. Premium American Express cards, like the The Platinum Card® from American Express, are known for strong return and purchase protection benefits.

Finance your purchase with a 0% APR card

While it’s never a great idea to spend more than you can afford, sometimes you need flexibility when making large purchases. And while new “buy now, pay later” services offer a convenient way to finance a purchase, you may pay interest and not have much time to pay back the loan.

That’s where 0% APR credit cards come in. There are dozens of cards out there that have intro 0% APR offers, some even waive interest on the first 21 months you have the card.

The new Wells Fargo Reflect℠ Card offers up to 21 months of 0% APR after signing up for the card. Specifically, you’ll receive an intro 0% APR for 18 months from account opening on purchases and qualifying balance transfers. Additionally, you can receive an intro APR extension of up to three months with on-time minimum payments during the intro and extension periods.

After the introductory period, the interest rate will increase to 12.99% – 24.99% variable APR thereafter. Balance transfers made within 120 days qualify for the intro rate and fee.

Wells Fargo Reflect℠ Card

On Wells Fargo’s secure site

  • Rewards

  • Welcome bonus

  • Annual fee

  • Intro APR

    Introductory 0% APR on purchases and qualifying balance transfers for the first 18 months from account opening; extension of up to 3 months (totally 21 months) with on-time minimum payments during the intro and extension periods

  • Regular APR

    12.99% to 24.99% variable APR on purchases and balance transfers

  • Balance transfer fee

    Introductory fee of 3% ($5 minimum) for 120 days from account opening, then up to 5% ($5 minimum)

  • Foreign transaction fee

  • Credit needed

So with the Reflect card, if you made $1,000 in purchases on a card this October, you have until June 2023 before you had to start paying interest. If you wanted to break the purchase up as much as possible you could pay just $47.62 every month for 21 months.

Again, it’s important to not overspend and stick to a budget, and you never want to pay interest if you can help it, but 0% APR cards can be another useful tool to help get you through the holidays.  

Bottom line

Shopping during the holidays can often be stressful, overwhelming and expensive. If you strategically use your credit cards, you can earn you rewards, protect your purchases, enjoy a long interest-free repayment period and even get you discounts directly with retailers.

Consider what perk is most important to you and choose a credit card with that specific benefit in mind.

For rates and fees for the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express, click here

Editorial Note: Opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the Select editorial staff’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any third party.

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