The Ultimate Guide to Credit Cards
Saturday, September 26, 2020

6 Credit Strategies to Help You Financially Prepare for the Holidays

Credit Strategies To Financially Prepare For The Holidays

credit card advice

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

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.

Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card

This card is currently not available.

Best Overall Rating

★★★★★
N/A

OVERALL RATING

N/A
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A

Meanwhile, the Chase Freedom Flex℠ Card offers new cardholders a $200 signup bonus when they spend $500 within the first three months, and there’s no annual fee.

Chase Freedom Flex℠ Review

at the issuer'ssecure website

BEST OVERALL RATING

★★★★★
4.9

OVERALL RATING

4.9/5.0
  • Earn a $200 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.
  • Earn 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (not including Target® or Walmart® purchases) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year.
  • 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!
  • Earn 5% on travel purchased through Chase, 3% on dining at restaurants and drugstores, and 1% on all other purchases.
  • No annual fee.
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases, then a variable APR of 14.99 - 23.74%.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% Intro APR on Purchases 15 months
N/A
14.99% - 23.74% Variable
$0
Good/Excellent

Aside from the sizable signup bonus, new cardholders will enjoy competitive cash back rewards as well as a promotional APR.

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.

Discover it® Cash Back

This card is currently not available.

Cash Back Rating

★★★★★

N/A

OVERALL RATING

N/A
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A

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 $200 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.
  • Earn 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (not including Target® or Walmart® purchases) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year.
  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on all other purchases.
  • Earn 5% on travel purchased through Chase, 3% on dining at restaurants and drugstores, and 1.5% on all other purchases.
  • No annual fee.
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases, then a variable APR of 14.99 - 23.74%.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% Intro APR on Purchases 15 months
N/A
14.99% - 23.74% 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; 15.49%-25.49% variable APR after that
  • Pay no annual fee or foreign transaction fees
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 15 months
N/A
15.49% - 25.49% (Variable)
$0
Excellent, Good
Wells Fargo Platinum Card Review

at the issuer'ssecure website

0% INTRO APR RATING

★★★★★
4.9

OVERALL RATING

4.6/5.0
  • Introductory 0% APR for 18 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers (3% balance transfer fee applies)
  • Account protection features such as Zero Liability protection for promptly reported unauthorized transactions, alerts, and cell phone protection
  • My Money Map – tools to help you manage spending and create a budget with ease
  • Access to your FICO® Credit Score with Wells Fargo Online®
  • $0 annual fee
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 18 months
0% for 18 months
16.49% - 24.49%
$0
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.

Advertiser Disclosure

CardRates.com is a free online resource that offers valuable content and comparison services to users. To keep this resource 100% free, we receive compensation from many of the offers listed on the site. Along with key review factors, this compensation may impact how and where products appear across the site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). CardRates.com does not include the entire universe of available offers. Editorial opinions expressed on the site are strictly our own and are not provided, endorsed, or approved by advertisers.