Six steps to boost your credit card rewards this holiday season

Get your wallet ready – it’s time again with the holidays fast approaching. An estimated 91% of Americans will be celebrating in some form this holiday season, according to a November 2022 report from the National Retail Federation. And for most people, celebrating means spending.

According to a September 2022 study from the Deloitte Center for Industry Insights, the average consumer expects to shell out $1,455 in vacation spending this year, including food, travel and gifts. And by taking a few extra steps when shopping, you can increase your rewards earnings every time you use your credit card.

If you think the holidays are stressful enough without jumping through hoops to earn a few extra rewards, here’s the good news: it’s not as hard as you think. Just one or two steps can add significant additional value to your purchasing budget. Here are six strategic steps to boost your credit card rewards this holiday season.

1. Open a credit card

Credit card issuers often offer heaps of points or cash back when you open a card. But the catch is that you will have to spend a certain amount of money on the card within a set time to earn this welcome offer. The holiday shopping season can be the perfect time to eliminate that spending requirement and earn a big bonus on a new card.

If that new credit card is earning cash back, those bonus funds can help stretch your vacation budget. Some popular cards offer new cardholders $200 once spending requirements are met. If your new card bonus yields a nice supply of travel rewards, these can offset future travel costs. It’s something to celebrate.

Also see: How to spot a good store credit card and a bad one

2. Online shopping portals

Ditch the crowded stores this year? According to Deloitte research, 63% of holiday shoppers plan to do most of their shopping online. If you’re one of them, shopping portals (also called bonus malls) can be an easy way to rack up extra miles, points, or cash back on top of the regular rewards your card has. of credit earns.

A shopping portal is a website that offers an incentive in the form of cash back, points or miles if you click on its links to make purchases from a retailer’s site. The portal receives commissions from retailers, including many top brands, and then shares a portion with you when you purchase through its link.

Many airlines and hotel brands have shopping portals, as do many major credit card issuers. Log in to the portal you want to use, find the merchant you want to shop with, and click on their link. Shop and pay on this merchant’s site as usual.

Although it may take a few extra clicks, once your purchase has been verified by the portal, the additional rewards will be automatically deposited into your account. This verification can take a few weeks or, less frequently, months.

Related: 7 Little-Known Ways to Maximize Your Credit Cards

3. In-store shopping offers

Similar to shopping portals that offer a bonus for online purchases, several mobile apps offer bonus points or cashback for in-person purchases. For example, apps like Rakuten, Dosh, and Swagbucks offer bonus rewards for purchases at hundreds of stores.

Download the app, enter your credit card details and use that card to make your purchase in store. The app tracks your purchase and bonus rewards will usually be deposited into your account within a few weeks. Many of these apps require you to reach a minimum threshold before you can cash out your rewards.

4. Credit card related offers

Many credit card issuers offer discount programs for using their cards at certain retailers. Think of these offers as an integrated digital coupon that you can click on from your online account and add to your credit card. Rebates are issued through statement credits or bonus points with the rewards program associated with your credit card. Log in to your credit card account and find the offers section and activate the offers you want to use.

Discount offers usually have a spend requirement and an expiration date, and terms vary by retailer. There’s no harm or obligation in using the offers once added, so don’t be afraid to load them onto your credit card in case you end up shopping at one of the retailers.

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5. Buy gift cards

If you purchase gift cards to give as holiday gifts, you can earn additional rewards by purchasing them at select stores.

Let’s say you want to give Aunt Sally a gift card to a clothing store. If you buy that gift card from the clothing retailer, you’ll likely only earn the standard base rate for credit card rewards on that purchase. But if you can find a gift card for that same clothing store on the big grocery store gift card holder, you can buy it there and earn more rewards. Many popular credit cards offer bonus rewards at grocery stores – some cards offer 3%, 4% or even up to 6% back.

While it’s okay to buy one or even a few gift cards for bonus rewards, don’t overdo it. If credit card issuers see a trend towards gift card purchases, they may reclaim your bonus points, especially if you’re trying to earn an initial sign-up bonus.

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6. Meal Rewards Programs

If you eat out during the holiday season, or anytime, you can earn extra points and miles when you dine at select restaurants. Most major hotel and airline loyalty programs are linked to a food rewards network that you can join for free.

Search your favorite hotel or airline’s dining rewards site and enter your zip code to see which restaurants near you are part of the program. You will need to register your credit card with this dining program and use this card at the restaurant when paying to earn the bonus rewards. These programs often offer a first diner bonus of extra points and often offer additional rewards for leaving a restaurant review.

Since these programs are all operated by the same parent company, you can usually register to earn bonus rewards with only one airline or hotel dining program at a time. And if you associate a new credit card with the restoration program, the old card will be deleted.

Craig Joseph writes for NerdWallet. Email: [email protected].

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