While racking up miles and points are great, they shouldn’t come first when deciding which credit cards to use for holiday shopping purchases.
Protecting your purchases
While I love earning miles and points for my family, I do not think that points come first when deciding which credit card to use for holiday shopping purchases, especially if I’m buying electronics or other pricey gifts.
Many credit cards offer purchase protections that range from getting you a statement credit if the item goes on sale in the next 60 – 90 days to replacing the item completely if it breaks or is damaged or lost in the first few months after you buy it.
For example, if you charge an eligible purchase to your Chase Sapphire Reserve and it becomes lost, broken or stolen in the next 120 days, you can submit a claim through the Chase third-party provider and it will repair, replace or reimburse you for up to $1,000 for that purchase.
There are limits and exclusions, of course, but for most of your holiday purchases it’s nice to know you’re covered in case the unfortunate occurs. In fact, this particular card perk saved us once when my husband fell in the lake with his brand-new iPhone!
A built-in warranty extension is another credit card perk to consider in case the item you purchase breaks or malfunctions. Sticking with the Sapphire Reserve example, you can get a one-year extension on U.S. repair warranties of three years or less, up to $10,000 per claim.
This also came in handy when we purchased an Apple product that had a battery problem just beyond the manufacturer’s warranty period. So, check your credit card’s benefit guide to see what protections are available.
A growing trend among some credit cards gives you bonus points or even a statement credit if you shop at a certain retailer with that card. This is basically free money if you were going to make that purchase anyway, so register for these offers as you see them.
American Express has Amex Offers; Bank of America has BankAmeriDeals, and Chase just introduced Chase Offers, currently valid only for Marriott Rewards cardholders.
Some examples of these card-linked offers: Chase awards 20 percent back on Nordstrom purchases (up to $30 back), BankAmeriDeals has 10 percent back at Victoria’s Secret (up to $9 back), and Amex Offers are by far the most prolific with discounts for Gap, Crate and Barrel, Best Buy, Etsy and more.
Maximize cash back category bonuses
Once you know your electronics and higher value items are being purchased with credit cards that offer built-in protections and you have maximized your savings with card specific offers, it is time to rack up the points using the category bonuses on your rewards credit cards.
While the new Uber card gives cardholders 2 percent back year-round for online shopping, there are some credit cards that have category bonus rewards for holiday shoppers.
From October 1 – December 31, 2017, Chase Freedom cardholders can earn 5 percent cash back at department stores and Walmart, while the Discover it and Discover More cardholders can earn 5 percent back at Amazon and Target. Citi Dividend cardholders can earn 5 percent cash back at Best Buy and department stores. All of these offers are subject to limits and require registration.
You also may be working toward hitting a certain annual spending threshold on a credit card to trigger an award, such as a free hotel night or elite status level, which could bump that card to the top of your wallet for holiday purchases as the year is coming to a close.
Finally, if you are making holiday purchases you don’t expect to pay off right away, then you will want to take your credit card’s interest rate into account when deciding which card is the best one to use. The value of bonus points and even statement credits can get wiped out if you are paying a high interest rate well after the holiday trees and decorations have been put away.