NerdWallet’s Best Credit Card Tips for October 2018

Sep 28, 2018

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Break out the flannel and artfully arrange some decorative gourds on your doorstep — peak fall has arrived.

Between buying gifts and booking holiday travel, the last quarter of the year may be a time when you tend to spend more than usual. That makes October the perfect month to refresh your credit knowledge. It’s also when out-of-season items go on sale, so you can stock up for the future.

Here are some credit card tips that will help you make the most of the start of the holiday season.

Refresh your credit card knowledge

Get Smart About Credit Day falls on Oct. 18. While it was created as a day when bankers volunteer to teach students about how to use credit, it never hurts to get educated at any age.

Before you buy enough Halloween decorations to scare off the neighborhood kids so you can keep all your candy to yourself, take a moment to make sure you understand how credit cards work. They can be helpful tools, but only if you understand how you can use them to build a positive credit history and potentially earn rewards for your everyday spending. If you have kids or teenagers in your life, provide them with helpful credit card tips you've learned over time.

Many holiday shoppers exceed their budget (or don’t set one in the first place), which can lead to credit card debt they'll be paying off well into 2019.

Fill your patio (and shed) for less

Swimsuits may have sold out long ago, but there are great summer deals that extend well into the fall. Grills and patio furniture, for example, tend to go on clearance in October. This is the perfect time to outfit your yard at a discount, especially if it’s not yet too cold to spend time outside.

Of course, winter isn’t far off, making this month a good time to buy a snow blower. While you’ll need the room to store it, you’ll be glad it’s there when the first snowstorm of the season is heading your way.

If you have the Discover it® Cash Back, consider searching for these supplies at or an eligible wholesale club. That's because those are the bonus categories for that card in the fourth quarter of 2018. You can earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in those categories after you activate.

And speaking of that ...

Activate quarterly 5% bonus categories

The rotating bonus categories for the Discover it® Cash Back and the Chase Freedom® start Oct. 1 and go through Dec. 31, but you won't be eligible for the 5% bonus with either card if you don't activate your categories. You can do so via your online account. You'll get those 5% earnings on up to $1,500 in combined spending each quarter. All other spending earns 1% back.

The Discover it® Cash Back will be perfect if you prefer to buy holiday gifts from your couch via Amazon while eating pounds of candy corn. Don’t knock it till you try it.

But if your wholesale club of choice is Costco, you’ll need a Visa card to shop there — making Chase Freedom® cardholders doubly fortunate. It's a Visa, and it earns 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases at wholesale clubs, department stores and via Chase Pay when you activate.

Book holiday travel

According to travel website Hipmunk, early October is the best time to book Thanksgiving travel, while mid-October is ideal for finding the best fares for Christmas flights.’s 2018 Airfare Study found that three weeks to four months out is the best time to book travel at a good price, but holiday bookings are often priced at a premium.

If you’re considering a rewards card that offers a sizable point bonus if you hit a spending minimum, apply now before you look for flights and hotel rooms. Paying for peak-season travel will help you get a long way toward that bonus, allowing you to use your holiday travel to fund a future vacation.

Or you could just spend the holidays on your couch eating pounds of candy corn. Don’t knock it till you try it.

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