6 ways to save on Valentine's Day using card rewards, perks
From exclusive access to fine dining experiences to card-linked offers, here's how to leverage plastic to treat your plus-one
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Valentine’s Day is all about romance but your wallet may not feel the love if you’re spending on dinners, gifts, flowers or travel for two. The National Retail Federation estimates that the average person will spend $162 on Valentine’s Day this year.
Your rewards card can go a long way in curbing the cost if you’re redeeming points, miles or cash back for Valentine’s Day purchases. You could get even more value by tapping into your card’s shopping, dining, entertainment or travel benefits.
Sound good? Here’s how to enjoy maximum Valentine’s Day bliss with your rewards card.
6 tips for saving on Valentine's Day using credit cards
1. Look for exclusive dining access
Check your rewards card for special dining offers before booking dinner reservations.
“Exclusive restaurant promotions can give you an opportunity to dine in a fine restaurant while saving quite a lot on the meal,” says Jacob Seiter, finance expert and owner of My Best Wallets.
Capital One, for example, is making that easier with the Capital One Savor Cash Rewards Credit Card.
“Capital One Savor is obviously in dining right now with 4 percent cash back,” says Gilbert Ott, travel expert and founder of GodSavethePoints.com, “but it also offers access to events with some of the best chefs.”
Capital One recently paired up with reservation app Resy to book exclusive tables at hard-to-get restaurants. Through July 31, cardmembers can book a table for two at in-demand restaurants in Austin, New York City and Washington, D.C.
Right now, new members can also qualify for a $500 cash bonus if you spend $3,000 in the first three months, which is a sweet way to rack up savings on Valentine’s spending.
2. Take advantage of presale events and entertainment discount
Your card may also yield VIP access or deals on entertainment for Valentine’s Day.
Citi Private Pass, for example, offers access to concerts, sporting events and theater events, as well as dining experiences.
This program is available with any Citi credit card that bears the Visa, Mastercard or American Express logo, as well as Citi debit cards.
“It’s a great way for younger adults who don’t have a credit card yet to claim discounts and save money on Valentine’s activities,” says Seiter.
Ott and his wife prefer paying for experiences over things for Valentine’s Day and regularly uses Private Pass for entertainment.
“I love pre-sales for unlocking better seats or avoiding the hassle of secondary ticket markets when things inevitably sell out,” he says.
Chase Select Experiences is a similar program available to Chase credit and debit card members.
For example, Chase Sapphire cardmembers can access the Private Dining Series to enjoy dining experiences at top restaurants.
According to a Chase representative, card members can use Chase Ultimate Rewards points or cash to pay for experiences through the program.
3. Upgrade your hotel stay
“Everyone loves shacking up in hotels on Valentine’s Day, so it’s always great to get as much return as you can,” says Ott.
You can do that by using a hotel or travel rewards card that offers benefits such as:
- Free hotel nights
- Complimentary room upgrades
- Late checkout or early check-in
- Dining credits for free breakfast or dinners at the hotel
Additionally, “some cards may offer spa access discounts that can help organize a unique Valentine’s,” says Seiter. He also suggests looking into benefits such as room service credit or an annual travel credit, a feature that’s included with the newly relaunched Citi Prestige card.
If these perks aren’t available through your card, consider whether the hotel’s loyalty program offers them.
Just book wisely to get maximum rewards value.
With the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card, for example, you can earn 10X miles per dollar on hotels booked and prepaid through Hotels.com/Venture.
Booking through third-party sites, however, can potentially backfire. If you’re a member of a program like Marriott Rewards or Hilton Honors, you may not earn loyalty reward points on third-party bookings.
In that case, booking directly with the hotel might yield better options and perks.
4. Shop strategically for last-minute gifts
Picking up a greetings card or some chocolates on short notice may not be ideal, but you can capitalize on the situation by earning the most rewards possible on those purchases.
“Many people rely on drugstores for last-minute cards and chocolates,” says Bank of America credit cards executive Jason Gaughan. “In fact, last Valentine’s Day represented the biggest purchase day at drugstores, with transactions spiking 43 percent compared to an average February day.”
A rewards card that offers a higher cash back rate at drugstores – or any other kind of store that may offer extra bonuses on purchases – can add up to savings on last-minute buys.
Gaughan points out that the Bank of America Cash Rewards credit card gives you some flexibility in where you can earn bonuses.
“The new card allows cardholders to choose their 3 percent cash back each month in one of six categories,” says Gaughan, including drugstores and dining, which can be appealing for Valentine’s Day spending.
The card also offers 2 percent cash back at grocery stores in case you need to quickly pull together a romantic candlelit dinner at home.
Here are a few other cards that may be good for last-minute Valentine’s Day shopping trips:
- Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature: 5 percent back on Amazon.com and Whole Foods purchases; 2 percent back at drugstores.
- Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express: 6 percent back at U.S. supermarkets, up to the first $6,000 in purchases annually; 3 percent back at select U.S. department stores.
- Chase Freedom: 5 percent quarterly cash back bonus on combined purchases of $1,500 at drugstores, gas stations and tolls through March 31.
- Discover it® Cash Back: 5 percent cash back at grocery stores on combined purchases up to $1,500 through March 31.
- If you have a Chase Freedom or Discover card, remember to opt in or activate the quarterly bonus in order to be eligible.
While you’re considering these cards, take time to check for card-linked offers. These are special savings offers or promotions linked directly to your card.
- Chase Offers allows you to activate deals instantly through the Chase mobile app.
- If you have an American Express card, you can browse deals through Amex Offers.
The list of deals for both programs is updated regularly but past promotions have included savings on flower delivery from FTD and Teleflora; discounts on dining, hotel stays and movie tickets, and deals on fruit and gift basket delivery, any of which could be great for saving money on Valentine’s Day.
5. Leverage card benefits for spontaneous travel
Booking a spur-of-the-moment trip can transform your Valentine’s Day experience.
“Anyone can spend money or buy roses, but getting impossible reservations or having dinner in another city or even country is cooler,” says Ott.
If you’ve got some miles or points stashed away you could use those to book airline tickets on the fly. Take advantage of practical extras that can take the hassle out of a last-minute trip.
This is where TSA Precheck and Global Entry can come in handy.
“They help take the grind out of the airport and allow seemingly spontaneous getaways to still feel romantic,” says Ott. “You can breeze through the airport, get onto a plane and be at dinner in another exciting destination,” without having to go through lengthy security checks.
Here are a few travel rewards card options that include TSA Precheck and/or Global Entry fee credits:
- Bank of America Premium Rewards
- Capital One Venture Rewards
- Chase Sapphire Reserve
- The Platinum Card® from American Express
- United Explorer Card
And if you get stuck with a long layover on Valentine’s Day, Seiter says having a card with Priority Pass can make killing time at the airport easier.
This card feature unlocks lounge access at more than 1,000 airports worldwide. Priority Pass' program benefits recently expanded to include meal credits and free private suites at partner restaurants and hotels in select U.S. cities.
Other practical benefits to consider for Valentine’s Day travel include free checked bags, priority boarding and or companion passes.
See related: How to use the Southwest Companion Pass
“Having a travel rewards card that incorporates more than just miles is extremely important,” says Seiter.
6. Pick a card with the right perks
When planning Valentine’s Day spending, make sure the rewards card you’re using rises to the occasion.
“The most important thing is to always research the best card for each category,” says Ott, especially if your plans include dining out or a trip.
Remember to check for discounts or shopping benefits when buying gifts.
“It would help having a card that offers extended warranty protection or purchase protection if you want to use your card for something like expensive jewelry,” says Seiter.
Regardless of card choice, make sure your budget can handle the load if you’re tempted to go all-out on Valentine’s Day. Careful spending and using your card’s perks to the fullest can help you make the most of the day without breaking the bank.
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