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Holiday shopping season is upon us!
What would a regular person — someone who’s not into the points and miles — do when shopping during the holidays?
Probably just go online and order something on Amazon, or go to a store to pick up a few presents. And how would they pay? Probably with a credit card, or (gasp) a debit card, cash, or check. Do people still pay with checks?
However, points and miles enthusiasts, can do better! We won’t even make one purchase without thinking about how we can earn points and miles for future travel. If we are spending money, why not at least get a trip, or two, out of all the holiday spending? Am I right?
Let’s look at a few ways to optimize the money we spend during the holidays. And holiday spending doesn’t just mean buying gifts. If you’ve ever hosted Thanksgiving or Christmas, you know how much money is spent on buying food, decorations and, yes, alcohol.
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Apply for a New Credit Card
If you don’t normally spend a lot of money on a monthly basis, this is a great time of year to apply for new credit cards. Trying to earn a Southwest companion pass? Just trying to meet minimum spending requirements on a new card? Holidays are the perfect time to do that!
Most of us have increased spending at the end of the year. So instead of putting these expenses on an old card, consider opening a new credit card. The increased end of year expenses will help meet minimum spending requirements. Not sure which card to apply for? To take the guesswork out of this process, the team at 10X Travel compiled a list of the best credit card offers.
If you are a small business owner, consider paying estimated taxes with a new credit card. Yes, there’s a fee. But a sign-up bonus, and the points earned will help offset the fee. I love my Blue Business Plus Card from American Express and use it to pay taxes. The card has no annual fee and earns 2X on everything on the first $50,000 spent each year, so it’s definitely a long term keeper.
Maximize Shopping Portals
We also can’t forget about maximizing all the shopping portals! A shopping portal is a third-party site that you click through on the way to whatever store you were going to visit. The site will receive a small commission for any purchases you make and will reward you, the shopper, with miles, points or cash.
On top of regular earning rates, there are thousands of miles and points to be earned with the holiday bonuses. If you miss one bonus, don’t worry, there will be more.
For example, if you click through United’s shopping portal, you can earn up to 5,000 United Mileage Plus miles (promotion ends on November 21). You don’t have to spend the entire bonus amount on just one purchase. United’s shopping portal will track your shopping, and when you’ve reached a bonus threshold, you’ll be eligible for the bonus.
Delta is also running a promotion right now. This is a great way to top off your frequent flyer account. If you take advantage of these offers, it’s like earning over 3 miles per dollar!
American Airlines and Alaska Airlines are also running promotions during the holiday season.
If I have large purchases to make, I like to split and stagger them to take advantage of the increased shopping portals payouts.
And remember, you can buy a lot of everyday essentials and groceries online, often for less, and earn miles and points. I buy a lot of groceries on Vitacost. They often have some kind of sale going, which makes their already very reasonable priced pantry essentials even more affordable. So you’ll earn extra miles through the shopping portal and you don’t have to get up from the couch to do your grocery shopping. I call it a win-win!
Rakuten (formerly Ebates) even offers in-store cashback. You’ll have to link the offers to your card after each shopping trip, but the payout is well worth it. So don’t forget to login and add the in-store offers before you head out on Black Friday.
Rakuten now has an option to earn Amex Membership Rewards points instead of cashback. You can change the payout option under your account’s setting options. I value Membership Rewards points a lot more than 1 cent a point, so I switched my account as soon as that option became available. To earn Membership Rewards points with Rakuten, you do need to have at least one Membership Rewards earning American Express card.
Best Cards to Use for Holiday Shopping
Thanks to all the increased shopping we do during this time of year, this is the perfect time to meet the minimum spending requirements on a new card. If you’ve been considering getting a new card, now is the time to apply.
If you aren’t working on meeting minimum spending requirements on a new card, then I’d pick a card with a bonus spending category. Cards with rotating bonus categories, such as Chase Freedom, are a great option. Right now you’ll earn 5X on all purchases up to $1,500 at department stores or on any purchases made with PayPal or ChasePay.
Almost every online store has a PayPal checkout option. Earning 5X Ultimate Rewards points on every purchase is a very sweet deal.
When using the PayPal checkout option, make sure your preferred payment method is set to Chase Freedom. You can add, delete and set preferred payment methods under the Wallet tab. I also keep my PayPal balance at $0 to avoid accidentally using it instead of the Freedom card.
Don’t forget to click through the shopping portal to really maximize all the available opportunities.
Another great card to use for holiday spending is Chase Freedom Unlimited. It earns 1.5X on all purchases.
Citi Double Cash Card earns !% back on everything you buy, another 1% when you pay. Thanks to the recent changes, you can now convert this cashback to Citi ThankYou points if you also have Citi Premier Card or Citi Prestige Card. This makes it an excellent card for everyday spending. If you’re under 5/24, I’d hold off on getting this card but it might be a great addition to your wallet later in your points journey.
The Blue Business Plus credit card from American Express earns 2X on all purchases, up to $50,000 a year. It’s a great card for small business owners – it has no annual fee and doesn’t count toward Chase’s 5/24.
Amex and Chase Offers
This is an often overlooked aspect of holiday shopping. Amex and Chase offer some incredible deals at select retailers. You can earn statement credits or points when using a card with an offer attached to it. Stack this with a shopping portal for an even better deal.
Amex and Chase offers are valid only for a limited amount of time, and sometimes exclude gift cards, so it’s important to read the terms and conditions carefully. The offers change frequently, so check your accounts regularly to catch the best deals.
When you see an offer you might find useful, add it right away because it might disappear next time you log in. After you’ve added the offer, you can use it anytime until the offer’s expiration date. It’s very important to add the offer first, before shopping, or you won’t get the statement credit/extra points.
Amex offers are available on the web site and in the app.
Chase offers are also available in the app and on the site.
Here’s an example of Chase offers I found on my Chase Ink Preferred card. I am mostly excited about the BJ’s $25 back offer. I love my local BJ’s – besides great food and everything else you can ordinarily find at a warehouse club, it has a good selection of toys and clothes.
Need some wine for the holidays? Check Amex offers! You might find lots of affordable options thanks to these offers. And don’t forget to use a shopping portal, some of them offer huge bonuses for wine clubs or online wine sellers.
Need to buy a gift for a teenager or a college student? Amex offers got you covered. Both of these stores have lots of items that would appeal to young people.
There are Amex offers for spa gift certificates, clothing, makeup and accessories in all price ranges, as well as food gifts. The offers aren’t the same on all cards, so if you have more than one Amex card, go through all of them to see what gems you might find.
Sometimes, the same offer will appear on more than one card, but you can only add it once. I often get the same offer on my Amex Platinum and on the Hilton Amex. I’d rather earn Membership Rewards than Hilton Honors points, so I will add that offer to my Amex Platinum.
As you can see, there are a few ways to turn all the shopping we do during the holiday season into points and miles. Think strategically, apply for new credit cards and don’t forget to use the shopping portals, where the offers could be especially lucrative this time of year.
If you aren’t going to open new cards, use the card that earns the most points. I am loving all the Chase and Amex offers this time of year too, there are so many great deals for gifts or for little splurges for yourself!
Editors Note: Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.