The Ultimate Guide to Credit Cards
Saturday, December 14, 2019

6 Credit Strategies to Help You Financially Prepare for the Holidays

6 Credit Strategies to Help You Financially Prepare for the Holidays

credit card advice

Andrea Woroch
By: Andrea Woroch
Updated: December 10, 2019

Disclosure: When you apply through links on our site, we often earn referral fees from partners. For more, see our ad disclosure and review policy.

Although we just welcomed fall, it’s time to start planning for the winter holidays. But, if thoughts of holiday shopping make you sweat and feel anxious, you’re not alone.

According to a survey from the investment firm Principal Financial Group, 52% of people feel financially stressed from holiday spending. The holiday season is an expensive time of year thanks to everything from buying gifts for family, friends, and co-workers to spending on decorations, travel, and playing host to holiday guests. But you don’t have to let money worries ruin your upcoming holiday this joyful season.

With a little extra planning, you can manage your spending and stretch your budget further. Here’s a look at six ways you can start using your credit card to prep for the holidays and alleviate the financial burden this season brings.

1. Take Advantage of New Card Bonuses

Credit card churning — the practice of opening new credit cards to take advantage of sign-up rewards and bonus offers — is an easy way to earn free money and rewards that can be used to offset the cost of holiday purchases.

For instance, the Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card offers a $300 cash bonus when you spend $3,000 in the first three months with no annual fee for the first year and $95 every year after that.

BEST OVERALL RATING

★★★★★
4.8

OVERALL RATING

4.8/5.0
  • Earn a one-time $300 cash bonus after you spend $3000 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening
  • Earn unlimited 4% cash back on dining and entertainment, 2% at grocery stores and 1% on all other purchases. Plus, earn 8% cash back on tickets at Vivid Seats through May 2020.
  • No rotating categories or sign-ups needed to earn cash rewards; plus cash back won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how much you can earn
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Capital One cardholders get access to premium experiences in dining, entertainment and more
  • $0 intro annual fee for the first year, $95 after that
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
16.24% - 25.24% (Variable)
$0 intro for first year; $95 after that
Excellent, Good

Meanwhile, the Chase Freedom® Card offers new cardholders $150 when they spend $500 within the first three months, and there’s no annual fee.

BEST OVERALL RATING

★★★★★
5.0

OVERALL RATING

5.0/5.0
  • Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening
  • Earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate. Enjoy new 5% categories each quarter!
  • Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - it's automatic
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 16.49 - 25.24%.
  • 3% intro balance transfer fee when you transfer a balance during the first 60 days your account is open, with a minimum of $5.
  • No annual fee
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% Intro APR on Purchases 15 months
0% Intro APR on Balance Transfers 15 months
16.49% - 25.24% Variable
$0
Good/Excellent

And, the Amazon Rewards Visa Signature Card offers a $75 gift card immediately upon account approval for Prime members or $50 for nonmembers.

However, this strategy only works when you use the cards wisely and only charge what you can afford to pay off in full so you don’t incur interest fees or get stuck in debt.

2. Make a Reward Redemption Plan

A 2017 Bankrate survey found that 31% of cardholders have never redeemed their rewards. If you fall into this statistic, it’s time to figure out your redemption plan and how it can help you save over the holidays.

First, look at the terms of your credit card’s redemption policy to see if you qualify for bonus points, miles, or cash back when you redeem for statement credit or a deposit into an affiliated bank account.

Alternatively, look at gift card redemption options with retailers you plan to shop at. Some credit cards like Chase offer discounts on retail cards when redeeming points.

For instance, Chase Ultimate Rewards offers 10% to 20% off select retailer gift cards. Depending on how long it will take to receive your gift card in the mail, you may want to redeem ahead of the shopping season so you get it by Black Friday to take full advantage of retailers’ holiday discounts.

3. Opt-In to New Bonus Categories

Select credit cards offer rotating bonus reward categories in which you can earn extra points or cash back at specific retailers, restaurants, or in general categories such as gas and groceries. What many people don’t realize is that you must opt-in to get these extra rewards.

The Discover it® Cash Back card is one such option with quarterly rotating bonus reward categories. You’ll earn 5% cash back up to the quarterly maximum limit in activated categories.

Discover it® Cash Back Review

at Discover Card'ssecure website

CASH BACK RATING

★★★★★

4.9

OVERALL RATING

5.0/5.0
  • INTRO OFFER: Discover will match ALL the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically. There's no signing up. And no limit to how much is matched.
  • Earn 5% cash back at different places each quarter like gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, Amazon.com and more up to the quarterly maximum, each time you activate.
  • Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - automatically.
  • Redeem cash back any amount, any time. Rewards never expire.
  • Use your rewards at Amazon.com checkout.
  • Get an alert if we find your Social Security number on any of thousands of Dark Web sites.* Activate for free.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 14 months
0% for 14 months
13.49% - 24.49% Variable
$0
Good/Excellent

Sign in to your credit card’s app for easy access to learn about what’s being offered and sign up to take advantage of those bonuses. Now is a great time to earn extra rewards and save them for the winter holidays to offset gift and travel costs!

4. Browse Available Deals through Your Card’s Online Mall

You can earn exclusive cardmember discounts and savings of around 20% through your credit card company’s online shopping portals. Frequently referred to as a credit card bonus mall, this is basically a website that offers affiliate links to several online retailers and may offer additional rewards — potentially more than you typically earn — for every dollar spent at a particular retailer.

You can view participating merchants and see the available discounts or bonus rewards once you log in to the credit card’s online shopping portal. If you have multiple credit cards, review discount and rewards options across each platform to figure out where you can get the biggest discount.

Keep in mind that some retailers may not accept additional coupons or discount codes, and you will not earn bonus rewards on shipping charges or taxes, only the cost of the merchandise.

5. Spread Out Purchases

You run the risk of going into debt and carrying a revolving balance that racks up interest fees if you wait to buy all your holiday gifts just before Christmas and don’t have enough money saved to pay off the full balance. Avoid this financially devastating scenario by spreading out purchases over several weeks.

Retailers will begin rolling out pre-Black Friday deals in early November. This is a good time to begin buying presents for various loved ones on your shopping list. This will help alleviate the financial pressure you may feel come December and help you better manage your cash flow.

If you have no choice but to use credit for purchases that you’ll need several months to pay off, see if you qualify for a card with a promotional 0% APR period. These cards allow you to make purchases and incur no interest fees for up to 15 months.

0% INTRO APR RATING

★★★★★
4.9

OVERALL RATING

5.0/5.0
  • Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.
  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases.
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 16.49 - 25.24%.
  • 3% intro balance transfer fee when you transfer a balance during the first 60 days your account is open, with a minimum of $5
  • No annual fee
  • No minimum to redeem for cash back
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% Intro APR on Purchases 15 months
0% Intro APR on Balance Transfers 15 months
16.49% - 25.24% Variable
$0
Good/Excellent

0% INTRO APR RATING

★★★★★
4.9

OVERALL RATING

5.0/5.0
  • Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening
  • Earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate. Enjoy new 5% categories each quarter!
  • Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - it's automatic
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 16.49 - 25.24%.
  • 3% intro balance transfer fee when you transfer a balance during the first 60 days your account is open, with a minimum of $5.
  • No annual fee
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% Intro APR on Purchases 15 months
0% Intro APR on Balance Transfers 15 months
16.49% - 25.24% Variable
$0
Good/Excellent

0% INTRO APR RATING

★★★★★
4.9

OVERALL RATING

4.8/5.0
  • One-time $150 cash bonus after you spend $500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening
  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day
  • No rotating categories or sign-ups needed to earn cash rewards; plus, cash back won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how much you can earn
  • 0% intro APR on purchases for 15 months; 15.74%-25.74% variable APR after that
  • 0% intro APR on balance transfers for 15 months; 15.74%-25.74% variable APR after that; 3% fee on the amounts transferred within the first 15 months
  • Pay no annual fee or foreign transaction fees
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 15 months
0% for 15 months
15.74% - 25.74% (Variable)
$0
Excellent, Good

Just be sure to pay the total balance off before the promotional period ends.

6. Rack Up Rewards Faster

Whether you’re going out to lunch with a couple of co-workers or meeting up with a group of friends for dinner, you can rack up rewards on your credit card faster by offering to cover the bill for various expenses on group outings.

Offer to pay for things like shared rides to restaurant meals and group activities with your credit card and ask everyone to quickly pay you back through a digital transfer app like Zelle or Venmo. This gives you the opportunity to rack up cash back or travel points faster without spending extra money out of your own pocket. You can then redeem those rewards for holiday gifts or flights home to visit family!

Employing one or more of the above credit strategies can help maximize the value of your credit card, and, hopefully, reduce some of the financial strain so you can relax this holiday season.