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The right way to use a credit card during any holiday season

The holidays signal spending on presents, travel expenses, and food. Here are our top tips to help you save money and get the most out of your credit card rewards.
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Written by Michael Gardon on
Reviewed by Evan Zimmer

For most of us, the arrival of the holidays signals an uptick in spending. Presents for family members and travel expenses on the way to Grandma's house add up quickly. One way to lessen this burden is by using holiday spending to top off the rewards points and miles earned on credit cards throughout the year.

Hunting for bonuses

The holiday season is a great time to take advantage of credit card welcome bonuses because most of them come with minimum spending requirements. If you're spending for the holidays, what better way to meet a minimal spending barrier than putting all of your holiday shopping toward a hefty helping of cashback points or airline miles?

Advice for happier holidays

After you pick the right credit card, use it to its full potential by following these three tips:

1. Be wary of flash deals: Black Friday and other short-term saving periods aren't all they're cracked up to be. Sure, some of the deals are nice, but many times, retailers make a big show of savings that aren't actually that impressive compared to their normal discounts.

The best thing you can do is purchase your presents throughout the year when you spot an abnormally good deal. However that's not always easy to do. If you waited until the last minute this year, don't jump at the first tempting deal you see. Compare prices between retailers to make sure you're really getting the best deal, and remember that a sale only saves you money if it's something you were going to buy anyway.

2. Search for coupon codes: If you see something you like and plan to buy it, take a few seconds to search for coupon codes from the item's retailer or manufacturer. It takes almost no time, and many websites dedicate themselves to compiling all of the holiday coupons in one place. A quick Google search could save you 10% to 20%.

3. Shop through rewards portals: Major credit card platforms like Chase Ultimate Rewards and American Express Offers have online partnerships with merchants that allow you to use points to purchase gifts -- often at discounted prices. You can also use these portals to find member-exclusive savings that won't show up on regular store webpages. Likewise, Discover cardholders can earn extra cashback at some online retailers if they shop through Discover's portal.

[This article was first published on The Simple Dollar in 2020. It was updated in March, 2022.]

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