Beware the aftermath of holiday credit card shopping


If you plan to be exceptionally generous with your holiday gift buying this year, there are some savvy ways to avoid a financial hangover.

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Holiday shopping can tempt you to overspend, but that can leave you buried in debt when the new year arrives.

On average, consumers are expected to spend $1,496 this holiday season, down from $1,536, according to a survey by consulting firm Deloitte. And 1 in 5 say they plan to spend less this year. However, a recent poll revealed 61 percent of those who carry a card balance are willing to add to their deficit this holiday season.

If you plan to be exceptionally generous with your holiday gift buying this year, there are some savvy ways to avoid a financial hangover. Keep reading for expert advice on how you can avoid the pitfalls of holiday spending.

See related: Holiday shopping and credit card guide 2019

Consider a 0 percent APR credit card

One way to minimize damage associated with overspending during the holidays is to apply for a new card with an introductory 0 percent APR according to Jacob Dayan, CEO and co-founder of Community Tax and Finance Pal.

Another option to consider is a balance transfer card with an introductory 0 percent APR period. After your holiday spending is done, you can transfer debt from an existing credit card onto the new one and pay the debt off at 0 percent for an extended period of time, Dayan suggested.

This will enable you to stop paying interest on the debt you owe on your old cards for however long your new balance transfer card’s introductory period lasts (typically 12-21 months, depending on the card). Keep in mind that balance transfers typically come with a 3-5-percent fee, though some waive the fee if you complete the transfer within a set period of time.

Many balance transfer cards also offer an introductory 0 percent APR on purchases. One card to look at is the Citi Simplicity® Card, which has some great perks – it offers a 12-month, introductory, 0 percent APR on purchases and a 21-month, introductory, 0 percent APR for balance transfers. While the card offers a variable APR of 14.74 percent to 24.74 percent and has no annual fee, you will have to pay a 5 percent fee ($5 minimum) on any transferred balance.

Pay your balance before the intro period ends

It’s also crucial to keep in mind that credit card interest is accrued from day one, advised RJ Mansfield, retired financial professional and author of “Debt Assassin: A Black Ops Guide to Cleaning Up Your Credit.”

If you pay your balance in full by your statement due date, you won’t be charged interest. But if you miss a payment, you don’t pay the balance in full by the end date or you’re late on one payment, the card issuer will instantly tack on the interest from day one, voiding the 0 percent interest offer.

In addition, Mansfield warned, the minimum required payment on these offers rarely results in the consumer paying in full on time to meet the 0 percent interest agreement. And again, that will result in the card issuer immediately adding the interest.

“Remember, with these offers – as with any credit card – you can’t double up on a payment in any given month and think you don’t have a payment due the following month. If you have a balance, you must make at least the minimum monthly payment,” Mansfield said.

Robert Forrester, financial advisor at National Securities Corporation, advises to proceed with caution if you’re considering a retail card that offers a deferred interest deal.

“With these cards, you can delay your interest payments for 18 or 24 months. But be wary and read the terms. Some of these cards are attractive, but if you don’t pay the balance in full by the end of the term, they will charge you interest on the entire transfer amount. Do yourself a favor and set yourself up to pay off the entire balance at the very least by the time the term ends,” Forrester said.

Mansfield noted the approval criteria for retail cards is generally less stringent than for a standard credit card application.

“These offers target people with weak credit scores,” he said. “Consumers with good credit receive offers throughout the year from their current credit card companies with longer and more favorable terms.”

See related: Discover cash back calendar

Create a budget and stick to it

Consumer finance expert Kevin Gallegos, senior vice president of client enrollment at Freedom Debt Relief, has some tough, but good, advice regarding holiday spending – rely strictly on a budget.

Many people get into spending trouble and pull out the credit card too often because they haven’t planned their purchases. The trick to avoid that is knowing ahead of time what you can spend by developing a simple holiday budget, Gallegos said.

“Calculate how much you can and want to spend for holiday festivities, and write it down. Compare your total to a list of everything you anticipate spending on this holiday season, and be prepared to modify,” he advised.

Depending on your individual situation, you might need to include:

  • Everyone you’ll give a gift to and how much you plan to spend
  • Cards and postage (which could be zero if you send cards online or by email)
  • Decorations
  • Entertaining, including food, drinks, special garments, childcare, etc.
  • Year-end tips for newspaper carriers, babysitters, housecleaners, doormen, hairdressers and other service providers.
  • Gifts for teachers, doctors, neighbors or others close to you.
  • Travel costs

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The editorial content on this page is based solely on the objective assessment of our writers and is not driven by advertising dollars. It has not been provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. However, we may receive compensation when you click on links to products from our partners.

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