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As the end of the year nears, the COVID-19 pandemic has had an impact on many households. Incomes have changed, plans have changed, lives have changed. And November will be no exception.
Later this month, you might find yourself carving a turkey over a Zoom call with family or shopping Black Friday deals online instead of in stores. As you aim to make the most of the season, your credit cards may help you get more value whether you’re sticking with the same budget or adopting a new one.
Here’s how you can tackle your November spending like a Nerd.
Save on holiday meals
Maybe you're staying at home with family this Thanksgiving, planning a socially distanced gathering with a few friends or aiming for a COVID-19-conscious vacation. Regardless, the holiday offers plenty of rewards-earning opportunities for your food-related spending.
1. Get multiple helpings of rewards
This year, NerdWallet credit cards writer Erin Hurd is spending Thanksgiving at home with her immediate family and two parents. She plans to optimize her grocery-store spending for meal preparations by stacking rewards from her credit card and a grocery chain's rewards program.
"With holiday shopping right around the corner, I can buy a few gift cards at Giant and earn 5X points, and then use those points toward Thanksgiving dinner grocery shopping," she said.
She intends to pay for the gift cards with a credit card that earns rewards at grocery stores, to squeeze even more rewards out of her spending.
2. Use a card that's great for groceries ...
The Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express: Cardholders earn 3% cash back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases; 2% back at at U.S. gas stations and select U.S. department stores; 1% back everywhere else. The card has a $0 annual fee. Terms apply.
The Chase Sapphire Reserve® and the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card: From Nov. 1 through April 30, 2021, these cards earn more rewards at supermarkets. The $550-annual-fee Chase Sapphire Reserve® offers 3 points per $1 spent on grocery store purchases on up to $1,000 in purchases per month. The $95-annual-fee Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card earns 2 points per $1 spent on grocery store purchases on up to $1,000.
3. ... Or at restaurants
If you’re getting takeout or catering through a local restaurant, credit cards that earn rich rewards on dining can help offset some of the cost. The $0*-annual-fee U.S. Bank Altitude® Go Visa Signature® Card earns 4 points per $1 spent on dining (including takeout and deliveries); 2 points per $1 spent at grocery stores (including deliveries), gas stations and streaming services; and 1 point per $1 spent on everything else.
Save on travel
If you’re waiting until the last minute to book a stay at a travel destination, you might be able to score some limited-time offers.
World of Hyatt Credit Card: Through March 31, 2021, cardholders can get $75 in savings when they spend $250 or more with their card on stays at Hyatt’s Independent Collection brands in the U.S., including The Unbound Collection, Destination Hotels and Residences and Joie de Vivre hotels. The card has a $95 annual fee. (See other Hyatt card promotions.) The card also earns 9 points per $1 spent on Hyatt stays and experiences, and points in other categories like transit, restaurants, flights and gym memberships.
The Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card: Cardholders can earn an extra 6 points per $1 spent at Amazon, Walmart and Target on up to $3,500 in spending, through Dec. 27, 2020. That’s in addition to the 2X rewards you already earn. Cardholders must enroll their card in the promotion to be eligible. Terms apply. The annual fee is $450. Terms apply.
Check your inbox for potential similar deals on your credit cards. And if you have a credit card that earns rewards on gas, you can also guzzle more rewards if you're hitting the road this Thanksgiving.
When shopping, combine discounts with rewards
Whether you’re doing some holiday shopping or treating yourself, November brings plenty of opportunities to save with deals on Veterans Day, Black Friday and Cyber Monday. This month, Hurd has been eyeing a Casper mattress and plans to explore her options on Black Friday. She will be looking to online shopping portals and her credit cards to earn the most rewards.
"One of my favorite portals is Rakuten. I noticed that on Labor Day, they offered 10% cash back on Casper purchases (usually 1%)," she said. "I’ll be looking out for a heightened bonus like that. If Rakuten is my best bet, I’ll charge the purchase on my Rakuten Visa card and earn an extra 3 points on my spend."
Hurd opts to collect American Express Membership Rewards points (instead of cash back) via Rakuten, because she plans to use the points toward travel.
And if you have a card that earns 5% back in rotating bonus categories, make sure you opt into those categories, because you may find them useful as you shop:
Discover it® Cash Back: In Q4 2020, this card earns 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined spending at Amazon.com, Walmart.com and Target.com. All other purchases earn 1%. Activation is required. The card also offers a unique bonus, which Discover phrases this way: "INTRO OFFER: Unlimited Cashback Match – only from Discover. Discover will automatically match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year! There’s no minimum spending or maximum rewards. You could turn $150 cash back into $300." The annual fee is $0.
Chase Freedom Flex℠: In Q4 2020, this card earns 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined spending at Walmart and PayPal. Activation is required. This card, too, features a potentially lucrative sign-up bonus: Earn a $200 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening. And earn 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (not including Target® or Walmart® purchases) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year. The annual fee is $0.