It’s that time of the year again: holiday shopping season is upon us!

With Black Friday right around the corner and Christmas soon to follow, it’s crucial to hone your credit card strategy to enable you to rack up thousands of points and miles on holiday spending.

Let’s look at the key ways you can maximize your points earned this holiday shopping season. Whether you’re just a few thousand points away from earning a companion fare, elite status with a hotel or airline, a free night award or welcome bonus, we’ll discuss several proven ways to earn those final points.

Apply for a New Credit Card and Earn Its Welcome Bonus

One of the key principles of responsible credit card usage and a successful credit card strategy is to never overspend when meeting minimum spending thresholds. Put differently, points and miles should be earned through organic spending only.

There are few other times of the year when your spending is as naturally high as it is during the holiday season. Whether you’re buying food and decorations for Thanksgiving or Christmas, splurging on last-minute Black Friday bargains, winter vacations or gift buying, the holiday season is the perfect opportunity to earn points from organic spending.

And what better way to take advantage of high spending than to apply for the credit card you’ve been eyeing and earn its welcome bonus?

If you time your application correctly, the first three months in which you’re typically required to meet the minimum spending requirement for a card’s welcome bonus should align perfectly with the holiday shopping season.

As always, you’ll want to apply for a card that matches your spending habits and lifestyle goals. This ensures that the card will remain valuable to you after earning its welcome bonus, which guarantees your ability to offset its annual fees.

Podcast: Holiday Shopping

Want to hear more? Learn about earning points, miles and cashback this holiday season from our team on Episode 13 of Takeoff: A Points and Miles Podcast by 10xTravel.


Earn The Last Few Points Toward a Companion Fare

Welcome bonuses aren’t the only way to benefit off your high expenditure during the holiday shopping season. If you’ve already maxed out on welcome bonuses and aren’t looking to open any new cards, consider using your spending to earn yourself a companion fare with your favorite co-branded airline card.

The following airlines all offer companion fares:

  • Alaska Airlines
  • American Airlines
  • British Airways
  • Delta Air Lines
  • Hawaiian Airlines
  • Lufthansa
  • Southwest Airlines

The Southwest Companion Pass is by far the most lucrative of all companion fares. It gives you an unlimited use buy-one-get-one-free ticket (plus taxes and fees) for your companion after earning 135,000 qualifying Rapid Rewards points within a calendar year.

It’s valid for the remainder of the year you earn it, plus the following calendar year. That means if you earn the 135,000 Rapid Rewards points at the beginning of a calendar year, your Southwest Companion Pass will be valid for almost two years.

For this reason, it’s best to open a Southwest card around November time but wait until after Jan. 1 to reach the minimum spend required for the welcome bonus, so that your points count toward the new calendar year. However, this means that it can be difficult to use the holiday shopping season to earn this Companion Pass. That’s why you should look at companion fares offered by other airlines, too.

For example, the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature Credit Card gives you its $99 Companion Fare™ (plus taxes and fees starting from $23) when you charge $6,000 in purchases to your card within a calendar year. It’s a one-time use voucher that can be redeemed for any round-trip itinerary. You’ll receive the companion fare in the following calendar year, meaning you can use this year’s spending to earn it.

Likewise, after charging $30,000 in purchases to your British Airways Visa Signature® Credit Card in a calendar year, you’ll be eligible to receive its Travel Together Ticket. Using this companion fare, you can either pay 50% of the required Avios when booking a reward seat for a solo flight or book a second reward seat for a companion and pay the taxes, fees and carrier charges only.

Reach Elite Status with Your Co-Branded Hotel or Airline Card

Many co-branded hotel and airline cards offer elite status when you reach a certain minimum spend threshold. If you focus on charging your holiday spending on these specific cards, you could secure yourself elite hotel or airline status for the following year.

For example, here are a few cards that all offer elite status through spending:

  • Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit Card: Spend $35,000 in purchases within a calendar year and receive Gold Elite status in the following year.
  • Hilton Honors American Express Card: Spend $20,000 on your card within a calendar year and enjoy Gold Elite status in the following year.
  • Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard®: Spend $40,000 on eligible purchases (excluding bonus category spending and welcome bonuses) and receive AAdvantage Gold. Your elite status takes effect the date you qualify or April 1, whichever occurs first, lasting through March 31 of the following year.

These are just a handful of the many credit cards available that offer status perks through spending. Likewise, select co-branded hotel cards offer a free night certificate when you reach a certain minimum spend threshold. For instance, the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card offers a free night certificate after spending $15,000 within a calendar year.

Using your holiday spending strategically to earn you status tiers and free night certificates is a great way to earn a return while shopping.

Use Online Shopping Portals to Maximize Rewards

One of the top ways to earn extra cash back, miles and points is by using online shopping portals. These portals direct you to retailers and earn a commission on your purchases for doing so. In return, you benefit from accelerated points, miles and cashback earnings.

There are a variety of online shopping portals available, from credit card and airline portals to cashback and hybrid portals. The number of points, miles and cashback amounts you can earn vary with the portal you use and the retailer you purchase from.

Here’s a selection of online shopping portals you can use to earn an increased return on your spending:

• Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan Shopping• JetBlue TrueBlue Shopping
• American Airlines AAdvantage eShopping• Mr. Rebates
• Barclaycard RewardsBoostRakuten
• BeFrugal• Southwest Rapid Rewards Shopping
Capital One Shopping• Swagbucks Shopping
• Chase Ultimate Rewards ShoppingTopCashBack
• Citi Bonus Cash Center• United MileagePlus Shopping
• Delta SkyMiles Shopping• Wyndham Rewards

To use a portal, you’ll first log into the portal and select the online store you want to shop with. You can then make your purchases as usual directly from the merchant.

However, by accessing the online store via the portal, your purchases will earn bonus cash back, miles or points (depending on the specific offer), which you can stack with the bonus spend category rates offered by your credit card.

You also can stack portal bonuses with activated limited-time offers from your credit card issuer. This makes online shopping portals especially profitable for credit card users during the holiday shopping season.

To benefit from online shopping portal bonus rates, you’ll need to ensure cookies are enabled on your browser. Otherwise your purchase via the portal won’t be tracked, meaning you won’t earn any bonuses.

You also should ensure you use a credit card that has a good overall earning rate for non-bonus category spending so that your point earning is stacked with the portal bonuses. For example, the Citi® Double Cash Card earns 2% cash back on every purchase: 1% when you make a purchase and another 1% when you pay off the balance.

With so many portals to choose from, it can be overwhelming when trying to decide which one to use to maximize your return on your spending. Luckily, that’s where a shopping portal aggregator, such as Cashback Monitor, can lend you a helping hand.

A shopping portal aggregator enables you to compare the earning rates with a specific merchant across all shopping portals. This means if you’re looking to buy a gift at Adidas, for example, you can see which portal will earn you the greatest return on Adidas purchases and use it to complete your purchase.

As of now, Rakuten is one of the best portals in giving you flexibility in how you earn rewards. You can opt to earn either cash back or American Express Membership Rewards when shopping with more than 3,500 online merchants.

Rakuten Cash Back Portal

Check Credit Card Issuer Offers

Credit card issuers often post limited-time card offers. These can be anything from boosted cash back to bonus points at select retailers, allowing you to accelerate your return earnings on entertainment, travel, food, dining purchases and much more.

If you stack these offers with bonuses from online shopping portals, your point and cashback earnings could triple or even quadruple.

A typical offer takes the form of “Spend $1,000 or more at retailer X and get $300 back.”

American Express, Chase and Citi Merchant Offers are some of the big names when it comes to limited-time card offers.

You’ll find current card offers by logging into your credit card account. Once you find an offer you want, you’ll need to manually add it to your card before making a purchase for it to apply to your spending.

American Express Offers

Example of American Express offers

Offers come and go quickly, so it’s advisable to add the offer you’re interested in to your card immediately. Logging out and coming back to the offers page a few hours later could easily lose you the offer you want.

Capitalizing upon these offers is an excellent way to boost the return on your holiday shopping expenditure, especially when it comes to gift buying and last minute Black Friday purchases.

Final Thoughts

Periods of naturally high expenditure are a godsend for the savvy credit card user. The holiday shopping season is one of these periods of time to capitalize on.

You can use your increased expenditure to maximize your return in miles and points or to simply offset the upfront cost through cashback rewards.

If you were planning on opening a new credit card, the holiday shopping season presents an easy opportunity to earn a welcome bonus. It’s also an excellent time frame in which you can earn the last few points required for elite airline or hotel status.

And if you stack your credit card point earning with bonuses offered by shopping portals as well as limited-time card issuer offers, you’ll be well on your way to making your rewards-funded travel dreams come true.