Rack up card rewards with holiday bonuses, perks

Shopping portals and gift card discounts can cut your costs

Cathleen McCarthy
Personal Finance Writer
Travel, small business and consumer credit expert

Why are so many utilities still charging us to pay with plastic?

The content on this page is accurate as of the posting date. Please see the bank’s website for the most current version of card offers.

With Halloween in the rearview mirror and Thanksgiving just ahead, holiday songs, sales and lots and lots of spending will soon be upon us. And with all those charges for gifts, meals out, holiday parties, and even long-distance travel to be with family, get ready also to rack up some serious miles, points or cash back.

This year, all that holiday spending is expected to add up to 4 percent more than in 2016, according to the National Retail Federation’s annual survey of consumers. Deloitte predicts the average household in the U.S. will spend more than $1,200 in the next couple of months.

CreditCards.com 2017 Holiday Shopping Guide

Go to "2017 holiday shopping guide"

“A great way to keep your holiday spending under those national estimates is to be smart about how you use your credit card rewards,” says money-saving expert Leah Ingram. “Stockpile points so you can use them to get free gift cards to give to people on your list. This allows you to get your holiday shopping done without spending a dime of ‘new money.’”

Michael F. Kay, founder of Financial Life Focus and author of “The Feel Rich Project,” suggests only charging holiday expenses that you know you’ll be able to pay off in full when the bill arrives.

“Understand your cash flow in advance of setting a spending amount,” he says. “If you don’t have a clear path to paying for your spending, revise your spending to fit what is available and comfortable to spend.”

How we are doing our holiday shopping is changing, too. For the first time, Americans this year are expected to do more of our holiday shopping online – especially via mass merchants – than in physical stores. According to Deloitte, shoppers have earmarked 51 percent of their holiday budgets for online spending versus 42 percent for use in stores. 

To earn more rewards on your online holiday shopping, use your card issuer’s shopping portal and card-linked offers. You’ll earn bonus points, miles or cash back on that centerpiece for Grandma’s kitchen table, a Fitbit for you daughter and a spa day gift certificate for your wife. In many cases, free shipping often will be included.

Ingram always looks for gift card deals during the holiday season. “Last year, lots of retailers, spa services and restaurants would give you $20 free in gift cards when you spent $100 in gift cards,” Ingram says. “So you get $120 worth of gift cards for only $100. That’s free money.”

Indeed, Wells Fargo and Chase are among card issuers offering discounts on gift card purchases.

Also, if your cash back card has a rotating 5 percent category, concentrate your shopping at Amazon and Target (Discover), Walmart and department stores (Chase Freedom) and Best Buy and department stores (Citi Dividend).

If you’re just starting your holiday shopping, frugal living expert and author Lauren Greutman suggests checking the promotions page of your credit card and loyalty program websites. Greutman did this with her Delta account and discovered $20 in free Lyft rides this month. If you have multiple accounts, check our page listing credit card special offers and limited-time promotions. Then, make your holiday spending list and check it thrice.

With your holiday spending list nearby, here’s our annual roundup of card issuer holiday bonus rewards and perks to help cut your costs. We will keep this updated with new holiday offers as they become available, too. 

AMERICAN EXPRESS

2x Membership Rewards points at select small businesses through Dec. 31. See participating merchants at the Shop Small Map. Your American Express card must be enrolled in the Membership Rewards program to qualify.

AmEx Offers: Cardholders select the holiday offers for dining, shopping and more, add the offers to their card and then get statement credits on their bills. 

Membership Experiences: For example, cardholders can get exclusive pre-sale tickets and preferred seating for the Broadway musical “Once on This Island” through Dec. 16. 

Earn points with Uber: American Express cardholders can spend Membership Rewards points or earn 2x points on Uber rides (which might with shopping or just getting home safe after a holiday party).

Spend points on gifts and travel: Cardholders can pay with points on Amazon, Best Buy, Airbnb, Ticketmaster, Expedia and other sites.

BANK OF AMERICA

BankAmeriDeals: Bank of America cardholders can earn up to 15 percent cash back by logging onto the issuer’s shopping portal and by using the bank’s mobile app. BankAmeriDeals include cash back at stores, restaurants and more. Choose and activate your deals and your account will be credited with the cash back by the end of the next month.

Support breast cancer research by charging holiday purchases on the Pink Ribbon Cash Rewards Visa, a Bank of America spokeswoman suggests. Cardholders earn 2 percent cash back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs and 3 percent on gas, and every purchase benefits the Susan G. Komen Foundation. 

CAPITAL ONE

Capital One doesn’t offer holidays specials, but ongoing credit card promotions can help cardholders save on music streaming and dining out this holiday season.

Spotify + Quicksilver: Quicksilver cardholders get a 50 percent discount on Spotify Premium through April 2018 when they use their cards to pay for their monthly subscription.

Capital One’s new Savor card offers unlimited 3 percent cash back on dining (including gift cards bought at restaurants) and 2 percent on groceries (including ingredients to make your mom’s holiday cookies). 

CHASE

10 percent savings on select gift cards for Freedom and Freedom Unlimited cardholders purchased via the Ultimate Rewards site in November. “Don’t wait – there is a limited quantity of discounted gift cards available,” says Lauren Ryan, a Chase spokeswoman.

Ultimate Rewards shopping portal: For each dollar spent, cardholders can earn up to 6 points at Macys.com or Bose and 8 points at Nike or Kate Spade now. (Deals change frequently.)

Gift card redemptions: Choose from more than 150 gift cards, from $5 at Starbucks for 500 points to $500 worth of Carnival Cruises for 50,000 points.

ChasePay and Parkmobile: Early holiday shoppers can save $5 on a parking session by using ChasePay and Parkmobile in select cities through November 30. 
 
Exclusive events: For example, British Airways has a “Season’s Greetings in New York City” event Dec. 2 at Rockefeller Center, and United and Marriott are holding a “Private Cupcake Decorating Party with Duff Goldman” on Dec. 12 in Los Angeles. 

CITI

Citi hasn’t yet announced holiday promotions, but…

Citi Price Rewind guarantees cardholders a lower price for 60 days at over 500 retailers if they register holiday (and any other) purchases. Citi cardholders can get back up to $500 per item and up to $2,500 per year with Citi Price Rewind. Citi issued more than $8.5 million in refunds to cardholders in 2016 and has issued $12.8 million in refunds from January to September 2017.

DISCOVER

Discover Deals: At Discover’s shopping portal, cardholders earn a 5 percent cash back bonus at Walmart.com and Apple.com, 20 percent off at Bath & Body Works online, 25 percent off select PCs at Lenovo.com, a free pretzel with any pretzel nuggets at Auntie Anne’s, and much more. Deals are updated regularly.

Cash back bonus through Apple Pay. Select your Discover card in Apple Pay and make a qualifying purchase, then tap to redeem your cash back bonus as a statement credit in the amount of your purchase. 

NAVY FEDERAL CREDIT UNION 

Earn double rewards at warehouse clubs by using your Navy Federal Visa Rewards card at Costco, BJ’s and Sam’s Club, and for Costco gas purchases through Dec. 31.

Giveaway Sweepstakes: Now through November 30, every time you use your Navy Federal debit card or consumer credit card, you’ll be automatically entered for a chance to win four $1,000 prizes each entry period and a grand prize of $30,000. Entries are doubled for certain purchases. 

Member Mall: Earn up to 15 points or 15 percent cash back for every $1 spent by shopping via the Navy Federal portal.

USAA

MemberShop: Earn rewards credits by using the shopping portal to purchase items at stores including Home Depot, Macy’s, the Apple Store and Overstock.com.

WELLS FARGO

10 percent discount on gift cards: Cardholders redeeming rewards from select retailers and receive a 10 percent discount (while supplies last) through December 31. Choose from over 150 gift cards. 

Redeem rewards for Apple products. Wells Fargo customers can redeem their rewards for the latest products via a unique Apple experience, accessible through the bank’s Go Far Rewards site. Wells Fargo is the first financial institution in the U.S. to offer this, a Wells Fargo spokeswoman notes.

Earn up to 10x bonus rewards at thousands of retailers by using Wells Fargo’s shopping portal. Merchandise redemption option this year with in-store pick up options where available.

Remember, these holiday card offers and perks are just starting to roll out. Get into the habit of checking your card’s website (and this page) before you book your holiday travel or hit the mall, online or off. Even if you don’t stumble on a great new promotion, you’ll be a step away from that shopping portal that will earn more points for purchases.

After the holiday craziness is over, you’ll be glad to have that extra stash of rewards to trade for a little self-pampering.

See related: Discounts: 8 ways to get gift cards for less, Rev up holiday rewards with your card's shopping portal, 4 easy ways to stack your card rewards, 5 ways to earn airline miles without an airline card


Join the discussion
We encourage an active and insightful conversation among our users. Please help us keep our community civil and respectful. For your safety, do not disclose confidential or personal information such as bank account numbers or social security numbers. Anything you post may be disclosed, published, transmitted or reused.

If you are commenting using a Facebook account, your profile information may be displayed with your comment depending on your privacy settings. By leaving the 'Post to Facebook' box selected, your comment will be published to your Facebook profile in addition to the space below.

The editorial content on CreditCards.com is not sponsored by any bank or credit card issuer. The journalists in the editorial department are separate from the company's business operations. The comments posted below are not provided, reviewed or approved by any company mentioned in our editorial content. Additionally, any companies mentioned in the content do not assume responsibility to ensure that all posts and/or questions are answered.




Weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, advice, articles and tips delivered to your inbox. It's FREE.


Updated: 11-24-2017