Admit it: You can’t wait to get started on your holiday gift shopping. But if you’re planning to lean heavily on your credit card for Black Friday sales, the Nerds have a few important tips you can’t afford to miss.
Check out the details below for everything you need to know to swipe smart this holiday season (and beyond):
1. Shop with a rewards credit card to rack up serious points
The most important thing you can do to make the most of this holiday shopping season is select a card that provides a steady return on your spending in the form of points, miles, or cash back. Then, use it consistently. After all, you’re going to be shelling out big bucks anyway – you might as well get rewarded for it!
2. Use bonus malls to score even more rewards when you shop online
A lot of people forget about the online shopping portals (often known as “bonus malls”) operated by their credit card issuers. If you choose to make your online purchases through these platforms, you stand to earn even more rewards on your credit card spending. This is a great way to help your dollars go the extra mile this holiday season.
3. Use your Chase Freedom® for department store shopping
|Chase Freedom® bonus rewards categories for 2019|
|Q1 (Jan. 1 - March 31)||Gas stations, tolls and drugstores|
|Q2 (April 1 - June 30)||"Spring" — TBD
(In 2018: Grocery stores, PayPal, Chase Pay)
|Q3 (July 1 – Sept. 30)||"Summer" — TBD
(In 2018: Gas stations, Lyft, Walgreens)
|Q4 (Oct. 1 – Dec. 31)||"Holiday" — TBD
(In 2018: Department stores, wholesale clubs, Chase Pay)
Plus, you’ll earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases.
And don’t forget: If you also have the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, you can transfer all the Ultimate Rewards points you’re racking up with the Chase Freedom® over to it and cash them in for travel. Talk about a win-win!
4. Look into your credit card issuer’s extended warranty policy, pronto
Lots of people buy electronics on Black Friday, and many retailers try to hock extended warranty coverage at unsuspecting consumers. But it’s highly likely that your credit card already has your back. Visa, MasterCard and American Express each offer some kind of extended warranty on most purchases made with the card.
However, exclusions apply and every card provides slightly different benefits. Consequently, placing a quick call to your card’s customer service line to see what it covers before you hit the mall is a smart idea.
5. Keep a watch on your balance
Holiday cheer can be a powerful force, but don’t let it cause you to overspend on your plastic. Using more than 30% of the available credit on any of your cards at any time during the month could do damage to your credit score. If you’re starting to get close to that threshold, make a payment as soon as you can.
6. Use a card that offers price protection to be sure you’re getting the best deal
According to a 2014 NerdWallet analysis, Black Friday “deals” aren’t always the absolute lowest prices of the season. To ensure that you’re getting the best price on every gift you buy, shop with a card that offers price protection. MasterCard, Discover, and Citi all provide the opportunity to get some a refund if an item you’ve bought with your card drops in price within a certain window of time.
Again, this functions slightly differently from card to card and there are restrictions to keep in mind. Be sure to read your plastic’s terms and conditions carefully for the ins and outs of its price protection program.
7. Be sure to pay your bills on time
If you’re juggling several credit cards to maximize rewards on your holiday shopping, take steps to stay organized. Missing a payment on one of them could cause your credit score to take a serious hit, so set calendar alerts for your billing due dates. This way, you’ll be getting the best deals with your cards and keeping your credit in good shape.
Black Friday image via Shutterstock