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NerdWallet’s Best Credit Card Tips for December 2018

It's time to set New Year's resolutions for your credit cards. Should you keep your card or make a switch?
Dec. 5, 2018
Balance Transfer Credit Cards, Cash Back Credit Cards, Credit Card Basics, Credit Cards, Rewards Credit Cards
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It’s almost time to wish 2018 farewell and welcome the new year.

It’s also an ideal point to take stock of your credit cards and make sure everything you carry in your wallet is secure and a good fit for your spending habits. Use these credit card tips to save on gift purchases and keep your credit healthy long after the Christmas tree goes to the curb.

» MORE: Browse our archive of credit card tips

Re-evaluate your current cards

Think of credit cards as tools. You wouldn’t hang a picture frame with a wrench, so why select a card that doesn’t offer the benefits that you truly need? December is a great time to look through the cards you have and see whether anything is lacking.

If you have a big purchase coming up, this could be the time to apply for a card with a sign-up bonus. Wouldn’t it be great if your new refrigerator helped earn you a plane ticket? The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, for example, offers this sign-up bonus: Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. The card charges an annual fee of $95.

If you find redeeming miles for travel too confusing, it might just mean that your travel rewards card doesn’t quite suit you. And that’s OK! Consider a cash-back credit card instead, so you can pay yourself back in the form of a statement credit. Easy-peasy.

If you have credit card debt, consider transferring your balance to a card that offers a 0% introductory APR period. The Citi Simplicity® Card - No Late Fees Ever offers 0% on Balance Transfers for 21 months and 0% on Purchases for 12 months, and then the ongoing APR of 16.24% - 26.24% Variable APR, though its 5% balance transfer fee is on the higher side. The Discover it® Balance Transfer provides a still-lengthy 0% intro APR period for balance transfers: 0% on Purchases for 6 months and 0% on Balance Transfers for 18 months, and then the ongoing APR of 13.49% - 24.49% Variable APR. It charges a 3% intro balance transfer fee and up to a 5% fee on future balance transfers (see terms.)

Use points to save on gifts

Rewards points aren’t just for travel — redeem yours for merchandise or gift cards and get something for everyone on your list without spending any money.

If you’d rather earn points than spend them, shop through your credit card’s rewards portal to collect extra points or miles for each dollar you spend at participating retailers.

Protect yourself from fraudulent charges

Hitting up the gym after holiday indulgences isn’t the only way to get healthy. Take some time to assess your credit health as well. A 2018 holiday shopping survey by CreditWise from Capital One indicated that more people are afraid of identity theft around the holidays than they are of overspending, yet fewer than 1 in 5 people took more action to keep better track of their personal info during this time last year.

Always look through your credit card statements before paying them to check for anything unusual, and report fraudulent charges immediately. And don’t forget to periodically check your credit report for errors. You can access one free credit report per year from each of the three major credit bureaus at annualcreditreport.com.

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