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May marks the start of the graduation and wedding seasons, and it may also pack the pressure to spend on gifts or travel with Mother’s Day and Memorial Day.
Being as generous or adventurous as you’d like could be a challenge, especially as inflation causes some prices to soar. Spending on gifts or travel can easily stretch your budget, especially if it’s already tight.
You can help lessen the blow to your finances with credit cards that offer perks and incentives to defray costs. Here’s how you can make the most of credit cards during this busy month.
Strategize when shopping for gifts
It’s never worth going into debt for a gift, especially if it's uncertain when you’ll be able to pay it off. But, if you’re looking for some wiggle room between paychecks or a way to save, consider these options:
A 0% APR on purchases
If you have back-to-back weddings or graduations coming up, and giving gifts is important, weigh whether it makes sense to get a new credit card that better matches your spending and offers a 0% APR on purchases over a long term.
The interest-free period can give you some breathing room between your purchases and payback. A card like the $0-annual-fee Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card, for instance, offers a 0% intro APR on Purchases for 15 months and 0% intro APR on Balance Transfers 15 months from account opening on qualifying balance transfers, and then the ongoing APR of 15.74%, 20.74%, or 25.74% Variable APR. The sign-up bonus may also help you make up some of the cost: Earn a $200 cash rewards bonus after spending $1,000 in purchases in the first 3 months.
Earn 2% or more on purchases
A credit card that earns rewards can also defray the cost of the purchase of a gift for a special occasion or Mother’s Day. The Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card, for example, earns 2% cash back on all purchases. Aim to earn this amount or higher with a credit card to get more value.
Explore merchant-specific discounts through your issuer
Some major credit card issuers also offer discounts or cash back when shopping with specific merchants. Offers, if available, are typically visible by logging into your account. Just click to add the offer to your card, and pay for the qualifying purchase with that card.
With a card like the $0-annual-fee Chase Freedom Flex℠, you earn between 5% cash back on up to $1,500 spent in quarterly changing categories. During Q2 2022, the Chase Freedom Flex℠ earns this rate on Amazon.com and on streaming services when you activate by June 14, 2022.
Use buy now, pay later
Without a 0% APR on purchases, your credit card might offer a "buy now, pay later" plan. Sticking with the Chase Freedom Flex℠ example, your purchases might be eligible for a My Chase plan, which lets you pay off a purchase of $100 or more in monthly installments for a monthly fee without interest. This option may be fitting when you need time to pay off a purchase in between paychecks.
» MORE: What to buy and skip in May
Plan a frugal Memorial Day weekend
If you’re planning to squeeze in some adventure this Memorial Day, go the frugal route by camping or exploring national parks if you’re looking to spend as little as possible. Or, you can tap some of your credit card’s perks to save on travel expenses.
Save on a 3-day weekend trip
The $95-annual-fee Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, for instance, offers a $50 annual credit on hotel stays purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. You’ll also earn 5 points per $1 on all travel purchased through that portal; 3 points per $1 spent on dining, streaming services and online grocery purchases; 2 points per $1 spent on travel not purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®; and 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases.
If you’re traveling a long distance in a gas guzzler, use the credit card that will get the most rewards on gas. It doesn’t even have to be a high-earning, gas-rewards card as long as it gets a decent rate and the other rewards categories also offer value. Take the $0-annual-fee U.S. Bank Altitude® Go Visa Signature® Card, for example, which earns 4 points per $1 spent on dining; 2 points per $1 spent at grocery stores, gas stations, EV charging stations and on eligible streaming services; and 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases. The categories combined are excellent for a road trip. You’ll save even more money shopping for groceries instead of dining out.
» MORE: How to save on road trips
Earn the most rewards as you host
If you’re hosting the Memorial Day get-together, put the expenses on a credit card that earns rewards at grocery stores.
A card like the $0-annual-fee Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card can get 3% back on dining, eligible steaming services and entertainment; 3% back on grocery store purchases; and 1% back on other spending.
If you’re hosting with a tight budget, it’s not ideal to go into debt to cover costs. You can still have fun and save money with a potluck or another option that doesn’t lead to overspending.