When you go shopping as early as November, the window displays are already decked in all their holiday glory. Retailers do this to remind consumers to start doing their holiday shopping right now. Once you see such signs that Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year are all near, you can easily go into panic-buying mode, get your credit card out and buy everything that you think you need to complete your gift-giving list.
Although there’s absolutely nothing wrong in spreading the holiday cheer, there is no reason why you should break the bank, either. Worse, there are those who find themselves still paying for their holiday purchases a year or so later and this is something that you definitely don’t want to do. By knowing how to use your credit card wisely, you can actually maximize the benefits that you will reap as a consumer from all those holiday shopping promos.
How to Use Your Credit Card to Save Money on Holiday Shopping
If you are using your credit card for your holiday shopping, the good news is that there are ways for you to maximize the benefits that you can earn from it as a consumer. To give you an idea, here are the top ten ways for you to use your credit card to save money on holiday shopping:
1. Always make a price comparison before buying an item
Going comparison shopping is a rule that you should be following when buying any item in the first place – whether using your credit card or paying in cash. Let’s say that you are looking for a special Christmas gift for your mom and you’re thinking about giving her a tablet computer which she can use to play games during idle times. You can go comparison shopping by checking on the prices of different brands and models of tablet computers online.
While you’re at it, also check out the reviews so you’d know that you are getting the best quality product for your mom. After doing your research, you can narrow down your choices to two or three brands and models, then take your pick from there. You can use price, quality or both as basis. Doing your homework before buying a product is a great way to ensure that you are maximizing the use of your credit card once you use it to pay for your purchases.
2. Check if your credit card company offers the return feature
One of the many benefits of using your credit card to make purchases is that it offers features like return, price and purchase protection. Here’s a quick definition of the three terms:
- Price Protection is a credit card feature which allows a credit card holder to ask for a refund of the price difference if an item bought goes down in price within a specific time frame.
- Return Protection is a credit card feature which gives consumers a 60 to 90 day period for them to return or exchange items. Most retailers take advantage of the busyness of the holiday season so they refuse to accept returns or allow exchanges for products bought. If you have a card with Return Protection, you can bring the item back to the retailer. If the retailer fails to accept the item, the credit card company can give you a refund for the purchase price.
- Purchase Protection is a nifty feature which protects items from theft or damage. This usually lasts for 90 days from the date of purchase.
As you can see, it is your rights as a consumer which these three protection features are, well, protecting. This means that when choosing a credit card, it does pay to look for such features so that you can maximize its benefits especially during the rush of the holiday season.
3. Use the extended warranty offer
When buying big-ticket items like your living room television, washing machine or refrigerator, you will usually be offered an extended warranty. These are really pricey so customers on a budget typically say no. However, if you do have a credit card which has an extended warranty feature, you can have a one-year extension of the manufacturer’s warranty for one year. The condition is that you need to put the entire purchase on the card.
4. Maximize your cash back rewards
Cash back rewards usually come in the form of a statement balance which should be part of the monthly bill you’re receiving. Depending on the bank or credit union which issued your credit card, there are cash back rewards that you can earn.
Typically, you need to meet the minimum threshold amount or have a certain amount of purchases before the cash rewards can be applied. Upon application of the points, you can get a significant discount to be applied on the items that you recently bought using your cards.
5. Earn discounts from shopping portals
Buyers are taking full advantage of the ultimate convenience offered by online shopping these days, so you can easily find discount cards from your favorite sites. Most credit card companies are affiliated with retail businesses and together, they offer discounts when members shop through their site. Typically, you need to go to the shopping portal instead of the store’s direct website – but doing so will earn you a discount when using your card.
6. If you really need to buy an item, make sure to use a card which has 0% interest charges
APR is the Annual Percentage Rate on your credit card. Simply put, it’s the percentage of interest charged on your account. If you were unable to pay your credit card bill in full, the bank will charge you with a certain percentage as interest rate. There are different APRs for penalties, cash advances and most banks offer a promotional or introductory APR where it is lowered or 0 for a certain time frame.
It applies specifically for balance transfers, cash advances or purchases made which are paid on instalment basis. If you cannot help but buy big ticket items or a slew of purchases and you know that you cannot pay the balance in full next month, always use the card which has 0% APR.
7. When travelling for the holidays, use hotel discounts
If you’re flying to be with family for the holidays, don’t forget to use those frequent flyer points on your credit card. You can also use the card for discounts and upgrades on hotels – which are offered aplenty by such establishments during the holidays.
Check if your credit card has a hotel co-brand and use the benefits when booking. When booking flights, you can use your travel rewards and redeem the accumulated points via their travel portal site. It’s best to secure your airline tickets six to seven weeks in advance, and book your accommodations accordingly so you can get the best rates.
8. Shop using cards with special deals and discounts
Some credit cards specialize in rewards points, some in frequent flyer miles, others in store discounts. If you’re a frequent shopper, you’d want to look for a card which offers discounts and extra rewards for shopping.
Depending on the brand of card that you have, you might get discounts only at certain stores, online stores, department store chains, etc. Based on your buying habits and store preferences, choose a card that will give you the most set of rewards especially once you start with your holiday shopping.
9. Make a list for your holiday shopping and stick to it
Again, whether you are using cash or your credit card to pay for those holiday purchases, it’s a good idea to make a list of the people to whom you are giving gifts to. Stick to your list and do not go over budget.
Use your imagination to think of personalized yet affordable gifts that you can give to your loved ones. Make it a rule not to put all your holiday purchases on your credit card – and realize that you would have to pay for everything until the next holiday arrives.
10. Think twice before you swipe
Finally, think twice before swiping that plastic card. To resist the temptation of always finding yourself adding items to your shopping cart, do not save your credit card information to websites. When going to a store, carry just enough cash to buy what you need and leave your cards at home.
Leverage your credit card rewards and take advantage of holiday promos. You can also go online and choose which cards to use for overseas spending; get overall rewards; use for balance transfers; clearing debts; and spending on big purchases.
Credit cards need not be a necessary evil to deal with during the holidays. By knowing how to take full advantage of the rewards offered by your credit card company, you can actually turn things around and use its shopping benefits.