2008 credit card holiday promotions

Card issuers sweeten their deals, add rewards and specials

By  and Erin Peterson  |  Published: December 19, 2008

The Grinch stole Christmas in 2008, at least when it comes to holiday credit card promotions.

As financial markets around the world continue to shake and quake in the wake of the U.S. mortgage meltdown, consumers are leery and lenders are wary when it comes to giving or receiving credit of any kind this season.

Holiday credit card specials

According to a 2008 Consumer Reports study, three out of four of us plan to spend less across the board this holiday season. Even a precipitous decline in gas prices has done little to loosen our purse strings.

Financial institutions aren't much in the giving spirit either. Many have scratched their traditional holiday barrage of promotion as credit card debt weighs heavy on their balance sheets. What seasonal promotions do exist seem Scrooge-like in comparison to previous holidays.

Still, there is a pony, albeit a Shetland, for those still willing to wish upon a card. Here are the more enticing holiday card offers to put a little merry in your season. (See chart.)

Chase captures the spirit of giving with its free Chase Holiday Bonus Rewards promotion, which bestows such goodies as triple points, three-in-one credit reports or a $25 Target Gift Card for purchases exceeding certain threshold amounts made from Oct. 1 through Dec. 31.

All of your purchases within the period will be applied as long as you enroll by midnight on New Year's Eve. To enroll, or to see if your card qualifies for the promotion, visit the Chase Holiday Rewards Bonus site.

But wait, there's more: After you enroll, Chase will award you 500 bonus points to add an authorized user to your account, 1,000 bonus points if you enroll at Chase Online, and 2,500 bonus points if you sign on for Chase Fraud Detector.

What else is in Chase's bag this year? If you make a qualifying purchase of $499 or more with your Chase Worklife Rewards Visa at Office Depot online and its retail locations nationwide through Dec. 24, you need not make a payment until January 2010.

New Worklife Rewards Visa cardholders also will receive a $20 bonus gift from Santa with their first purchase. Visit Office Depot's Worklife Rewards Visa site for details.

 Bank of America
Regardless of whether you've been naughty or nice, it's tough to get so much as bus fare out of many embattled credit card issuers this holiday season. But if you live in (or plan to visit) New York City, Bank of America will spring for a portion of your transit and commuting costs when you pay with an enrolled BofA Visa or check card.

BofA Visa cardholders can earn $10 cash back for every $100 they spend getting around New York City between Nov. 14 and Jan. 31, 2009, up to a maximum $100. Eligible New York area transit includes New York City subway and buses, Staten Island ferry and railroad, Long Island railroad and buses, Metro-North Railroad, Port Authority of New York/New Jersey, independent ferries and bridge and tunnel tolls, including EZ Pass.

The offer applies only to qualifying purchases made after enrollment. To enroll, or for complete terms and conditions, visit the BofA Visa Transit promotion site.

 Discover Card
Discover shares the yuletide spirit by offering a $20 Discover Gift Card for every $200 you spend on your Discover credit card at over 160 shopping malls nationwide through Jan. 4, 2009. Limit five gift cards per account, a $100 value, while supplies last. No enrollment is necessary.

Here's how it works: First, collect your receipts for purchases made on your Discover Card at a participating mall between Nov. 1, 2008 and Jan. 4, 2009. Then present your receipts totaling $200 or more along with the Discover Card you used to mall customer service by Jan. 4, 2009.

Gift cards are valid through July 31, 2009. Check here for a list of participating malls.

To make that holiday feast a little easier on the wallet, Discover Card also has doubled its normal cash back bonus rate on grocery purchases between Nov. 1 and Dec. 31. That means 2 percent cash back on the first $1,000 in groceries purchased on Discover Open Road and Discover Motiva cards, and double miles on the first $1,000 in groceries purchased on Miles by Discover Card during the period.

Holiday air travel can be hectic, and no more so than when arriving or departing out of New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport. But this holiday, HSBC Premier World MasterCard holders who plan to fly out of JFK's Terminal 8 through Jan. 14, 2009 can take advantage of American Airlines Five Star Service free when booked with their HSBC card, a $100 value.

A Five Star Service representative is available to meet cardholders curbside, help them with their check-in and luggage, and escort them to the Admiral Club lounge. The representative will then monitor their flight for delays or gate changes, escort them to their gate and coordinate car service.

The HSBC Premier World MasterCard offer includes two adults and all children under age 18 within the family. It is available for all departures, arrivals and connections at American Airlines JFK Terminal 8.

MasterCard has teamed up with The Home Depot and Yahoo to spread some holiday joy with its Overjoy of Giving sweepstakes, which has the mathematical potential at least to make you and your BFF truly overjoyed by splitting a $70,000 grand prize.

The promotion offers cardholders a chance to win two identical prizes -- one to keep, the other to give -- hence the name. Nine winners, one each week between Nov. 1 and Jan. 2, 2009, will choose one of four seeing-double prizes: two identical cars, trips, shopping sprees or home makeovers courtesy of The Home Depot.

Each MasterCard purchase you make during the promotion period enters you into that week's sweepstakes. You receive a double entry when you use your MasterCard PayPass or shop at The Home Depot.

No purchase is necessary to participate in the Instant Win Game on priceless.com, which awards two $500 Home Depot or MasterCard gift cards to one lucky winner each day. You can play up to 10 times a day.

Check out MasterCard's Overjoy of Giving site for full details.

How would you like to make all of your holiday bills magically disappear -- and no, not by accidental shredding? It could happen if you enter the Gift Smarter Sweepstakes, sponsored by Visa and Office Depot.

Each time you make a purchase with your Visa card between Nov. 28 and Dec. 24 at any Office Depot store or online at officedepot.com, you are automatically entered to win thousands of prizes, including a grand-prize payoff of all your Visa holiday purchases up to $5,000.

An additional 500 Visa shoppers will make merry when their Visa holiday purchases at Office Depot magically disappear (up to $500), and another 2,000 winners will receive a $25 credit on their Visa statement.

Winners will be selected by random drawing on Jan. 15, 2009. You may also enter by mail, no purchase or Visa card necessary. Mail-in entries must be received by Dec. 31.

Visit the Gift Smarter Sweepstakes site for more information.

Company Promotion Who's eligible?Details Expiration Notes,  limitations


Holiday Travel Made Simpler

HSBC Premier members

Customers departing New York's Kennedy International Airport (Terminal 8) receive American Airlines Five Star Service for free. The promotion includes access to the Admiral Club lounge for two adults and all children, as well baggage assistance and expedited check-in. 

Travel must be completed by Jan. 14, 2009

Booking must be done at least 4 hours in advance. Call (888) 662-HSBC to find out if you're eligible.

Company Promotion Who's eligible?Details Expiration Notes,  limitations


More Cashback Bonus

Discover More card members

Discover More card members earn a 5% cash back bonus on restaurant, movie, and grocery store purchases.

Dec. 31, 2008 


Company Promotion Who's eligible?Details Expiration Notes,  limitations


Double Cashback

Discover Motiva, Open Road, and Miles Card members

Cardholders earn a double cash back bonus or double miles on grocery store purchases in addition to their ongoing rewards program benefits.

Dec. 31, 2008 


Company Promotion Who's eligible?Details Expiration Notes,  limitations


Shop Discover Savings

All Discover Card members

Card members earn an automatic, unlimited 5% to 20% cash back bonus or double miles on purchases from more than 150 merchants on the company's online site; many merchants, including Old Navy, Banana Republic, and Dick's Sporting Goods, have increased the cash back bonus. A hot deals page includes weekly specials.

Dec. 31, 2008 

Visit the site at ShopDiscover.

Company Promotion Who's eligible?Details Expiration Notes,  limitations


Rewarding Mall Experiences

All Discover Card members


Card members receive an instant $20 Discover gift card for every $200 spent on their Discover Card at one of more than 160 participating malls across the country. Card members present receipts to customer service at the participating mall to receive the card.

Jan. 4, 2009 

To find out which malls near you are eligible, visit Discover.


Five card limit

Company Promotion Who's eligible?Details Expiration Notes,  limitations


Discover Gift Card Savings


$1 off Discover gift card package; $2 off Discover gift card package with promo code "GIFT" at checkout; $3.95 off every Discover gift card package with purchase of 10 or more with promo "FREE" at checkout; contribution of 5% of face value of card to Make-A-Wish Foundation with purchase of Winter Scene Card

Dec. 31, 2008 

Purchase cards at Discover.

Denominations from $20 to $500


Chase Bonus

Selected Chase card members

After registering their card, card holders can choose one of three bonuses: 3% cash back up to $30, a $25 gift card, or a three-bureau credit report and score.

Dec. 31, 2008 

Find out if you're eligible (and register) at Chase Bonus.

Company Promotion Who's eligible?Details Expiration Notes,  limitations


Office Depot Promotion

Worklife Rewards Visa card holders

Customers who make a purchase of $499 or more at any Office Depot retail location nationwide or online at Office Depot don't have to make a payment until January 2010

Dec. 24, 2008


Company Promotion Who's eligible?Details Expiration Notes,  limitations


Debit Card Cash

Select Chase debit card holders

Get $25 for every $250 in qualifying nonPIN retail purchases, up to $75.

Dec. 31, 2008

Visit Chase to find out if you're eligible and to enroll.

Company Promotion Who's eligible?Details Expiration Notes,  limitations

U.S. Bank

Cash Bonus Rewards

U.S. Bank Cash Bonus Visa Check card holders

Earn triple cash back from a list of participating retailers.

Dec. 31, 2008

Visit a complete list of participating retailers here.

Company Promotion Who's eligible?Details Expiration Notes,  limitations


Sweetest Deals of the Season

All PayPal customers

Users visiting the special holiday site receive up to 20% cash back on purchases from major retailers. Other rebates and discounts range from 5 to 30%

Dec. 31, 2008

Visit PayPal for more details.

Company Promotion Who's eligible?Details Expiration Notes,  limitations


Nickelback and Mary J Blige Holiday Promotion

All Citi cardholders

Each time cardholders use an eligible Citi Card, they're entered to win a three-city tour with Nickelback, a recording session with Mary J Blige, or one of 100 $1,000 Live Nation gift cards for concert tickets

Dec. 28, 2008

Visit Citi's Web page for details.

Company Promotion Who's eligible?Details Expiration Notes,  limitations


Toys for Tots promotion


Toys for Tots will receive a $1 donation for any Visa gift card purchased from Wachovia (online or in stores)

Dec. 24, 2008 

Gift cards may be purchased at Wachovia.

Gift cards must be purchased in whole dollar denominations from $25 to $600.

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Updated: 10-16-2017

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