By Stephanie Miller


5 Min. To Read

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I know, I know, if feels like summer flew by in the blink of an eye. I can’t even believe it’s already October. But as much as I would love to enjoy the warm mornings and sunshine for a bit longer, the truth is that the holidays will be upon us before we know.

Between trips home to see family, big holiday dinners, and gift-buying for loved ones, the end of the year can get pretty pricey. So, here are a few ways that you can not only save money on your big holiday purchases, but also optimize the credit card rewards that you earn in the process.

Maximize Your Rewards

There’s never a better time to pay attention to credit card rewards categories than when you’re doing a lot of shopping. And as we all know, the holidays are prime time when it comes to spending money.

Be sure to note all of the spending categories that each of your cash back credit cards offer. Some products offer rotating categories -- like the Discover it Card, which is giving 5% back on those purchases through the end of the year. Other cards might be better for Thanksgiving dinner groceries, while some are ideal for those gas tank fill-ups on your way to Grandma’s house.

Take some time to map out what you should be spending and on which cards. Keep a cheat sheet in your wallet or tape categories to the front of your cards, so you know what to swipe at each register.

Earn Extra Rewards

Want to REALLY ramp up the cash back? With many cards, you can earn rewards outside of your usual spending categories, or without even spending a penny.

If your card offers an online shopping portal, check it out every time you buy online. You can frequently earn 3-5 times (or more!) the points by just visiting the portal first, even if you’re shopping at a store that doesn’t typically earn you cash back. American Express and Chase are known for their fantastic portals.

You can also snag extra points or miles by adding an authorized user, referring friends to your favorite card, or even signing up for paperless billing. Check out your online account or give your issuer a call to see what bonus opportunities are available.

Use Your Earned Rewards

Booking flights to see family this holiday season? Need a hotel for visiting friends or a rental car while you’re traveling? You could save a bundle by using those credit card rewards you’ve been earning all year.

Some card issuers, like Chase, will even give you a bonus on your points redemption when you book travel through them directly. For instance, if you carry the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card, $500 in points is actually worth $750 toward travel expenses!

Other credit cards will offer bonus points redemptions for specific gift cards or store purchases. If you can snag an added 25% bonus on a redemption you planned to get anyway, you can save yourself quite a bit of money. Be sure to weigh the options for your credit card rewards to see where you get the biggest bang for your buck.

Enjoy Sale Prices Without the Crowds

I don’t know about you, but the idea of fighting holiday crowds for a sale (especially on days like Black Friday) is entirely unappealing. But sometimes, the things I want are offered at a great price. What other option is there?

Well, if you have a card with a Price Protection feature, you’re in luck. Plan your shopping around pre-sale circulars or simply keep an eye out to see if your purchases’ prices drop over the holiday season. Then, submit a copy of the ad to your credit card issuer, and enjoy a credit for the difference.

Protect Your Information

Theft happens in many forms, and peaks around the holidays. It’s not just purse-snatching and burglarized cars that you need to worry about around Christmas, though: your accounts may be at risk, and the effects are even more far-reaching.

One of the easiest ways to protect your money is by using a credit card to do your holiday shopping. If your card number is compromised, you are typically alerted to the activity and aren’t usually liable for any of the expense. When you pay with a debit card, you risk having your account emptied and having the money tied up while your bank investigates. Use cash, and you’re simply out of luck in the case of theft.

Planning for the holidays can be a stressful time, between the expenses involved and the amount of work required. With the right credit cards and planning, though, you can make the process as easy – and lucrative! – as possible.

Planning for the holidays can be a stressful time, between the expenses involved and the amount of work required. With the right credit cards and planning, though, you can make the process as easy, and lucrative, as possible.

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