NerdWallet’s Best Credit Card Tips for October 2021

As you're navigating expenses this month, some credit card strategies may offer additional savings.

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October is the gateway to the holiday season. The first few weeks tend to be the calm before a storm of nonstop shopping, travel and festivities.

By taking the time right now to employ a strategy for your credit cards, you can stay true to financial goals, like paying down debt and scoring good deals on purchases. Here are some credit card moves to make this month for added value.

Give yourself a Halloween treat

Citi Custom Cash℠ Card
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This year, consumers plan to spend $102.74 per person on Halloween, according to the National Retail Federation’s annual survey conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics. If you’re in that category, you can wave the right credit card like a wand for some bewitching incentives on costumes, decorations or candy.

With a credit card like the $0-annual-fee Citi Custom Cash℠ Card, you could earn 5% in a top spending category from a list of 10 options (including grocery stores and drug stores). Pair the rewards credit card with a cash-back app, like Ibotta or Rakuten, for even more rewards.

Discover it® Cash Back
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If you have a different 5% card, like the $0-annual-fee Discover it® Cash Back or $0-annual-fee Chase Freedom Flex℠, don’t forget to activate your spending categories for the quarter. Depending on where you shop, you could earn elevated rewards on Halloween-related purchases. For instance, in the fourth quarter of 2021, the Discover it® Cash Back earns 5% back on up to $1,500 spent at Walmart.com, Target.com and Amazon.com and 1% on everything else. During that same window, the Chase Freedom Flex℠ earns 5% on up to $1,500 spent at Walmart and via PayPal. It also earns rewards in other categories.

Chase Freedom Flex
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Nerdy tip: While Chase's bonus categories this quarter are Walmart and PayPal, purchases made at Walmart using PayPal will earn a total of 5% cash back. Unfortunately for cardholders, there's no double-dipping.

Assess your finances before the holidays

If you haven’t been setting aside money for the holidays all year long, review your budget and make a plan. Assess the health of your credit cards by reviewing statements and ongoing balances. With credit card debt, you’ll need an exit strategy in place to prevent holiday spending from derailing your goals.

Wells Fargo Reflect Card
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With a good FICO credit score of 690 or higher, consider a 0% intro APR balance transfer credit card for your get-out-of-debt plan. A card like the new Wells Fargo Reflect℠ Card can offer a 0% intro APR for 18 months from account opening on purchases and qualifying balance transfers, and then an ongoing APR of 12.99% - 24.99% Variable APR. Intro APR extension of up to 3 months with on-time minimum payments during the intro and extension periods. It has a 3% fee for balances transferred within 120 days of opening the account, and after that it’s a 5% fee or a minimum of $5. Depending on the debt-payoff date, you’ll have to determine whether it’s worth paying this fee to save money on interest over time.

If you’re struggling to make payments and have less-than-ideal credit, explore whether a debt management plan through an accredited nonprofit credit counseling agency is right for you.

Take advantage of the bonus-friendly season

Without debt, October is an excellent time to take inventory of credit cards and determine whether they still align with your spending habits. For instance, if you’ve cut back on dining out, a credit card that earns rewards in that category may no longer be as valuable. If adding a new credit card to your wallet makes sense, the bonus-friendly season can offer cash back, points or miles toward holiday costs, an emergency fund, travel or something else.

Rewards credit cards typically offer a three-month window to meet sign-up bonus requirements. By getting a credit card in October and using it for everyday expenses and holiday purchases, it can be easier to snag the bonus.

Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card
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The $95-annual-fee Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, for instance, has a healthy introductory offer: Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. The card also earns 5 points per dollar spent on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®; 3 points per dollar on dining, select streaming services and online grocery store purchases; 2 points per dollar spent on travel booked outside of Chase Ultimate Rewards®; and 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.

Rack up rewards with fall hotel deals

It's not uncommon for hotels to offer discounted rates or incentives during the fall months. Whether you’re looking for a weekend getaway or planning future holiday travel, shop around for the best offer. Here are a few deals to consider:

  • Hilton Honors hotels: Through Dec. 31, 2021, Hilton Honors AmEx cardholders can earn 3 bonus points on every stay, on top of the rewards they already earn with their credit card. Without a credit card, Hilton Honors members earn 2 bonus points on every stay. To qualify, you have to register before booking a stay. Terms apply.

  • Marriott Bonvoy hotels: Through Dec. 12, 2021, members of the Marriott Bonvoy program can receive 1,500 bonus points on stays worldwide. Through Nov. 28, 2021, members can get 3,000 additional points for stays at All-Inclusive by Marriott Bonvoy. To qualify for either offer, you must register before booking. Terms apply. These points are in addition to those earned with a Marriott Bonvoy credit card.

  • IHG hotels and resorts: Through Dec. 31, 2021, IHG members can earn 2 bonus points on a second stay and 3 bonus points on a third stay. With an IHG Rewards Club credit card, you can earn an additional 3,000 bonus points on a second stay and an additional 3,000 on a third stay. Terms apply.

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
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Without a hotel credit card, you can still collect rewards by enrolling in a hotel’s loyalty program for free. Booking your stay with a general travel credit card or a cash-back credit card for even more rewards. A travel credit card like the $95-annual-fee Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card can get you 2 miles per dollar spent on all purchases and 1 mile per dollar spent on everything else.

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