How to plan a 'Friendsgiving' feast using your rewards credit cards

Use these tips to stay on budget, share costs evenly with your friends and score savings while planning an alternative Thanksgiving celebration

Rebecca Lake
Personal Finance Writer
Making complex credit topics simple

Friendsgiving guide: Credit card tips

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When you can’t get home for Thanksgiving with the family, enjoying dinner with friends can be the next best thing.

Sixteen percent of adults celebrated Friendsgiving in 2017, according to Good Housekeeping’s “State of Thanksgiving in America” survey and it can be an affordable way to enjoy the holiday.

Here’s how to plan a Friendsgiving event for maximum savings using the right credit cards.

See related: Use rewards to save on these 5 great Thanksgiving destinations

Friendsgiving tips

Cover the basics first

Getting organized can ensure that your Friendsgiving dinner goes off without a hitch.

“Hosting will naturally force one person to do a bit more for Friendsgiving,” says Douglas Keller, finance expert at Peak Personal Finance and co-founder of Payless Power.

  • Be sure that you have enough space for seating and the right equipment to prepare Friendsgiving dishes. Keller suggests rotating hosting duties with friends each year to be fair.
  • You’ll also need to decide whether you’ll provide all the food as host or go potluck.

The advantage of everyone pitching in is that one person isn’t stuck footing the entire bill, says Carl Thibodeau, senior vice president, SunTrust consumer credit and debit card solutions. “If each person contributes a dish, everyone can feel like they played a role, and ease the burden on the host.”

Keller says if you’re opting for potluck, to go for maximum diversity of food choices to avoid overlap. He offers a simple tip for assigning and keeping track of Friendsgiving dishes.

“Create a Google sheet and list out those attending and the dishes they’ll bring,” says Keller. Or, “list out dishes and have people put their names by them to claim them.”

Amy Maliga, personal finance consultant with nonprofit credit counseling agency Take Charge America, says a planning tool like PerfectPotluck.com can also make meal prep easier. “It allows you to create a group, keep track of who’s bringing what and send out reminder emails,” she says.

"Create a Google sheet and list out those attending and the dishes they'll bring... [Or] list out dishes and have people put their names by them to claim them."

Plan your rewards card strategy

Your Friendsgiving shopping list may include food and alcohol, as well as other items, such as décor, disposable plates, cups and flatware. How you pay matters for maximizing rewards.

“Arm yourself with a credit card that offers rewards on grocery spending,” says Jason Gaughan, credit cards executive at Bank of America. He recommends the Bank of America Cash Rewards credit card, which offers 2 percent cash back at grocery stores.

Other cash back cards that offer generous bonuses on grocery shopping include Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express and Citi Double Cash Card.

See related: Best cards for groceries

Jill Caponera, consumer finance expert at Promocodes.com, says if you’re hosting a larger Friendsgiving gathering, consider shopping at wholesale clubs instead.

“Costco is a great option to buy food, snacks or alcohol in bulk and to get the best savings,” says Caponera. “The Costco Anywhere Visa Card by Citi gives you the most for your membership, offering 2 percent cash back on Costco purchases, making sticking to your Friendsgiving budget that much easier.”

Keller says the most important thing to keep in mind for maximizing rewards is using a card that aligns with what you need. He offers three card suggestions for Friendsgiving spending:

  • Chase Freedom: Earn 5 percent cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories that rotate each quarter and 1 percent cash back on all other purchases. From October through December 2018, Chase Freedom cash back categories include wholesale clubs, department stores and Chase Pay purchases.  “There’s no minimum to redeem cash back so this card can provide reasonable sums to be allocated toward Friendsgiving,” says Keller.
  • Capital One Savor Cash Rewards: Earn unlimited 4 percent cash back on dining and entertainment, 2 percent back at grocery stores and 1 percent on all other purchases.
  • Discover it® Cash Back: Enroll every quarter to earn 5 percent cash back on up to $1,500 in purchases in various categories throughout the year – and 1 percent back on all other purchases. From Oct. 1 through Dec. 31, Discover cash back categories include Amazon and wholesale clubs.

“Though this card is dependent on where rewards can be earned quarterly, it can work well in easing the financial burden of Friendsgiving,” says Keller.

You can get a head start on saving toward next year’s Friendsgiving by banking cash back or points now to redeem for a statement credit later.

“Plan ahead before the holiday, as far in advance as you can, by using your card for daily expenses like groceries and gas,” says Thibodeau. “With a few extra rewards in your pocket, you’ll be in an ideal position to splurge on celebrating the holiday with your friends.”

Use coupon, cash back apps for more rewards

Pairing rewards card purchases with coupon apps can add to your Friendsgiving savings.

Sites like Promocodes.com, Coupons.com, RetailMeNot and CouponSherpa feature discount codes you can apply to your online cart or use in-store.

Caponera says Promocodes.com can yield savings on party supplies, party favors and decorative items from top brands.

Groupon and LivingSocial are also good for finding daily deals on wine and food. Just be sure to take note of whether deals apply to individual items or bulk purchases so you don’t over or underbuy.

You can stack up additional cash rewards when shopping through cash back sites. You simply browse retailer cash back offers, click the one you want and make a purchase. You don’t need a rewards card to take advantage of these sites, but they’re an easy to way to multiply cash back earnings with your card.

Some of the most popular cash back sites include:

  • Ebates
  • Swagbucks
  • TopCashback.com
  • BeFrugal.com
  • ShopAtHome.com

Also, be sure to enroll in your grocery store’s rewards program if you haven’t done that already. This allows you to take advantage of card-linked savings, as well as loyalty savings discounts at the register when you check out.

See related: Cyber Monday: 10 hacks to score great deals

"Take into account everyone's current employment situation and set manageable expectations that work for the group, so no one feels pressured to spend more than they can afford."

Don’t forget to establish spending boundaries and share costs

Setting your budget as a group can help keep Friendsgiving costs under control, says Maliga.

“Take into account everyone’s current employment situation and set manageable expectations that work for the group, so no one feels pressured to spend more than they can afford,” she says.

Alternately, you could simplify the shopping process.

“Volunteer to use your rewards card to pay for the group’s groceries so you can increase your amount of cash back,” says Gaughan. Then, “consider using person-to-person payments to request money from your friends to pay you back for their portion of the grocery bill.”

Payment apps are helpful for avoiding awkward money conversations and keeping an accurate record of who’s paid and who still owes, says Maliga.

  • Pick an app that’s easy to use and accessible to everyone your circle of friends. And pay close attention to cost.  
  • Our guides to Venmo, Zelle and PayPal can help you pick the right P2P app for you and your friends.

“Venmo and Zelle don’t charge fees for transfers among friends, but guests should check with their banks to make sure there are no fees on that end,” says Maliga. “PayPal doesn’t charge a fee for transfers using a PayPal balance or bank account, however, there is a fee to send personal payments via credit or debit card.”


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Updated: 11-15-2018