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NerdWallet’s Best Credit Card Tips for February 2017

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NerdWallet's Best Credit Card Tips for February 2017

February might seem like a blah month — short days, cold, snow and ice in much of the country. But it also includes a few big holidays and celebrations. Credit card issuers won’t let you go unrewarded for your observances. Get out your calendars!

Feb. 2: Groundhog Day

In the movie “Groundhog Day,” Bill Murray relives the same day and makes the same mistakes repeatedly until he changes his behavior. Many people who are dealing with credit card debt keep repeating the same mistakes, too: They transfer a balance to a card with a 0% introductory interest rate, pay some of it off and then run up the balance again. Even though they’re paying lower interest, they’re still in debt.

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It’s time to break that cycle. When you transfer a balance, make a plan to pay off the entire balance before the 0% period ends. If you expect to make new purchases, look for a card that gives you 0% interest for both balance transfers and purchases, such as the Discover it® - Cashback Match™, the Chase Freedom® or Wells Fargo Platinum Visa® Card. Regardless of which card you choose, just be sure you get that balance paid off.

Feb. 14: Valentine’s Day

Credit cards’ online shopping malls crank into high gear for Valentine’s Day. Discounts and bonus cash back are available on sweets, flowers, dining out and shopping at specialty beauty and department stores. Here are some current bonus examples:

  • At American Airlines AAdvantage eShopping, earn 10 miles per dollar spent at ProFlowers.com and 1800Flowers.com, 6 miles per dollar at Kiehl’s, or 5 miles per dollar at Perfumania.com plus free shipping.
  • Discover Deals include 15% off purchases at Sweet Factory and a 5% cash-back bonus at Ulta Beauty and Saks Fifth Avenue.
  • American Express gives you access to experiences to share with your valentine, including the Broadway musical “Kinky Boots” in San Diego, a Jay Leno show in Atlanta or special seats at select Golden State Warriors home games.

Did you wait too long to make a reservation at a popular restaurant or do you need help choosing a gift? Credit card concierge to the rescue. Cards that have concierge service include The Platinum Card® from American Express, the Citi Prestige® Card and Visa Signature cards.

Feb. 20: Presidents Day

Sure, we honor our presidents — and a Hamilton and a Benjamin — on U.S. currency, but the use of paper money continues to decline. According to the “2015 Diary of Consumer Payment Choice” from the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, 26% of consumers prefer to pay with cash, 43% say debit cards and 27% prefer credit cards.

You’ll probably want to break out your credit card for Presidents Day, though, since the traditional sale categories are big-ticket items: furniture, mattresses and appliances. That’s when 0% or low-interest credit cards come in handy. And if you want to honor one of the Founding Fathers who wasn’t a president, use your American Express card to gain access to “Hamilton” tickets in New York or Chicago. Heck, it’s so hard to get those tickets, applying for an American Express card may be the only way you’ll get your shot.

Feb. 28: Mardi Gras

This year, Fat Tuesday just squeaks into February, so laissez les bons temps roulez. If you’re heading to New Orleans, you can earn bonus points and miles by using the right credit card. If you use the United MileagePlus® Explorer Card, for example, you get 2 miles per $1 spent on flights booked with United, your first bag checked free and priority boarding. If you don’t want to be tied to a specific airline, take a look at the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card. You’ll earn 2 miles on every purchase and you can redeem them for travel on any airline or hotel at any time.

Once you arrive, you need a place to stay. There are seven Starwood properties in NOLA, including the W New Orleans, Aloft New Orleans Downtown, Sheraton New Orleans and the Westin New Orleans Canal Place. If you use your Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express, you’ll earn 5 points per dollar spent at Starwood properties and 2 points per dollar when you Uber to New Orleans attractions.

Of course, in New Orleans you’ve got to eat. Whether you try Cafe du Monde for beignets, K-Paul’s Louisiana Kitchen for Cajun or Galatoire’s for history and New Orleans French fare, using a card that gives a bonus for dining is your meal ticket. Try the Citi ThankYou® Preferred Card, which pays 2 points per dollar spent on dining and entertainment, or the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, which pays 2 points per dollar spent on dining and travel.

Bon voyage!

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Ellen Cannon is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: ecannon@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @ellencannon.