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Daily life is busy enough, but end-of-year holidays add more to everyone’s to-do list. The Nerds have tips to help you manage those tasks — and get more out of your credit cards — this year.
Book your holiday travel
Using miles for holiday travel can be difficult, but it’s not impossible. Conde Nast Traveler writer Gary Leff suggests booking flights at the last minute. We know, you want to be sure you get to your destination on time, but hear him out. He says that as your flight date nears, airlines sometimes release still-empty seats for reward booking.
If you have a general travel credit card, such as the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card or the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, you aren’t dependent on any one airline. With the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card, you can buy your ticket and erase the cost from your statement with your points. The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card gives you a 20% discount when you book through Chase Ultimate Rewards, or you can transfer points at a 1-to-1 ratio to airlines including Southwest, United and Korean Air.
Save on Thanksgiving dinner
Thanksgiving will factor into the food budgets of many households, with the average cost of a feast for 10 running around $50, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation, a lobby group. Savvy cardholders can take a bite out of that bill by getting cash back on groceries. The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express, perennially one of NerdWallet's best credit cards, pays an industry-leading 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 of annual spending, then 1%. It has an annual fee: $0 intro for the first year, then $95.
Say yes to store cards?
Provided you haven’t put a freeze on your credit file because of the Equifax breach, you might be tempted to say yes when you’re offered a store credit card. As we head into the holiday shopping season, doing so might get you a discount or a bonus from the store.
Before you say yes, consider how much you shop at that retailer and whether your credit score can afford to take a dip.
If you do a lot of shopping at Target, you might benefit from the Target REDCard, which gives you a 5% discount on purchases at Target and Target.com, plus free shipping on most items from Target.com.
The Walmart credit card and Walmart Mastercard offer a tiered rewards program based on how you shop. You get 3% cash back on spending at Walmart.com, including “order online and pick up in store”; 2% back at Murphy USA and Walmart gas stations; and 1% back at brick-and-mortar Walmart stores and on all other purchases.
Many store cards offer an enticing double-digit discount the day you open the card but don't provide an ongoing discount. Some stores, however, offer exclusive savings and special shopping days for cardholders throughout the year.
Remember that applying for new credit causes a credit inquiry, which will lower your credit score by a few points for a few months. You can build it up again by paying your bills on time. Even better, pay the balance on your new card in full each month to avoid the high interest rates that most store cards charge.
Donate your points
The onslaught of Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday might leave you with a consumption hangover. The cure for it could be Giving Tuesday, celebrated on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving. Throughout 2016, individual Americans gave nearly $282 billion to charities, according to Giving USA. If you don't have extra cash to give away, consider whether you have credit card rewards to spare.
Many cards make it easy for cardholders to donate rewards to charity. Some issuers partner with charities, such as the American Red Cross or the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Airlines and hotel chains also smooth the way for their cardholders to donate miles to worthy causes, such as Hero Miles or Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals.
If the holidays get you down, helping someone in need might lift your spirits.
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