December may be a month for giving, but November has become a month for spending — whether it’s for holiday travel, Thanksgiving dinner, Black Friday or Cyber Monday. Using credit cards wisely during this time can save you money just when you need it most.
Every month, the Nerds round up a new set of credit card tips to help you maximize rewards and minimize costs with each swipe. Here are our tips for November 2015.
1. Sign up for a 0% APR credit card
If you’re a big Black Friday shopper, a 0% APR credit card can allow you more time to pay off a hefty credit card bill interest-free.
With 0% APR credit cards, you won’t owe interest on purchases you make on the card for up to 21 months, depending on the card. That’s not to say you don’t have to pay any of your credit card bill. These types of credit cards almost always require making at least the minimum payment to maintain the promotional APR while it lasts. So if you suspect you might forget to pay your bill, it’s worth setting up auto-pay for (at least) the minimum payment before you make any purchases. Doing so could save you from a surprise chunk of interest if you slip and forget a payment.
Nerd note: Don’t wait until your 0% APR period is over before you start seriously attacking your balance. It can be easy to view a 0% APR credit line as free money, but if you get caught toward the end of the card’s promotional period without enough cash to cover the balance, the interest will pile on.
2. Sign up for a travel or gas credit card
For many, spending time with friends and family at Thanksgiving means time spent in a plane, train or automobile. It can also mean cash back and bonus miles if you pay for travel with the right credit card.
Plenty of cards earn points on travel all year long. Some even offer a large chunk of bonus points if you spend a certain amount of money on the card within the first few months of membership. If you’re planning on purchasing airline tickets for the family, it might be worth applying for this type of card at least a few months in advance so you can reap the rewards of your sign-up bonus.
Planning to drive instead of fly? Signing up for a card that earns bonus points or extra cash back on gas will save you money every time you fill up the tank, making that long drive to see your second cousin twice removed a little less stressful.
3. Use bonus malls for holiday shopping
Many rewards cards come with access to bonus malls that give cardholders discounts or bonus cash back on certain purchases. For example, if you’re looking at new TVs, before you buy at your local electronics store, check to see whether the same product, or a comparable one, is offered through such mall options as the Citi Bonus Cash Center or Chase Ultimate Rewards.
The process is fairly simple: Log on to your credit card’s site. Find the bonus mall. Search to see whether any of the associated retailers have what you’re looking for. If they do, and the price (or the price minus the cash back) is lower than what you’d pay elsewhere, buy it. If you’re going to spend the money anyway, it’s nice to be able to save some in the process.