Whether you’re just starting your holiday shopping or ready to finish it up, odds are good that in the next few weeks you’ll be hitting the local stores or shopping at your favorite online retailer for gifts. But you don’t have to settle for just getting someone else a present. Give yourself a holiday bonus by using your rewards cards strategically.
The types of cards that you have and the way you handle your credit card debt is the best way to determine how you make credit card purchases. Do you have more than one rewards card? Check with each card issuer to see if they’re offering any special promotions, like double or triple points on certain purchases during the holiday shopping season. You can usually get this information by looking at your monthly statement, by going online or by calling the customer service department. As you make your purchases, use the cards that give you the best benefits in that particular situation.
If you don’t pay off your cards each month, make sure that you know the interest rate you’re being charged on each card. If the interest on Card A is significantly higher than interest rates on Card B and Card C, you may not come out ahead financially when you use Card A even if you earn double points with that card.
Shop at stores where you’ll get the best points deals. Suppose your card is offering bonus points on purchases made at drug stores. You may not think of these stores as a place to pick up kids’ games, scarves or gloves, but at Christmas time they do stock many gift-type items. If the prices at the drug store are similar to what you’d pay at the discount department store, why not purchase your gifts where you’ll get double or triple points?
Don’t overlook other opportunities, like bonus points on restaurant purchases. Even if you’re not in the mood for a meal—or your budget won’t permit it during the holiday season—don’t forget someone on your gift list might welcome a gift certificate to their favorite restaurant. Extra points often apply to these purchases as well.
It’s tempting at any time of year to focus more on the points you’re earning than on the amount you’re spending. But keep in mind that the points (or cash back or other rewards) are like a bonus for you; you don’t want to spend money just to push up your point balance.
You can keep your holiday expenses under control by following these steps: