NerdWallet Report: 6 Best Holiday Hacks to Save on Gifts

Holiday Tips & News

Editor’s note, Dec. 18, 2014: Since this post was written, ShopDiscover has become Discover Deals, which continues to offer Discover card customers special access to exclusive shopping deals.

NerdWallet highlights some of the best holiday hacks for shoppers looking to save this year.

While discounting and couponing have become standard in modern retail, shoppers should look beyond the sale prices to save the most this holiday season. NerdWallet offers savings hacks that all shoppers can take advantage of:

1. Rewards Malls

Rewards malls are websites that give consumers bonuses on their purchases. These bonuses can include everything from airline miles to credit card program points, but often come as straight cash back as well. Though relatively few shoppers know about rewards malls, they’re an excellent source of a consistent 5 – 10% cash back on most online buys.

Rewards malls function like physical malls – they’re portals shoppers enter on their way to retailers’ websites. Shoppers first visit the rewards mall website, then surf around the website until they find a retailer they want to shop at. Shoppers then click on that retailer’s link and they’ll be taken to that retailer’s website. Shoppers receive their bonus as a percentage of their total purchase, so rewards malls are especially helpful for heavier spending during the holiday season.

Popular rewards malls include Ebates.com, FatWallet.com and ShopDiscover.com. At ShopDiscover, for example, shoppers can receive 15% cash back on their purchases at Nike, North Face and others, and 10% cash back at Macy’s, JCPenney and more.

2. Store Credit Card Sign-Up bonuses

Many major retailers offer significant sign-up bonuses for shoppers who go for their credit cards. While store credit cards often feature consumer-unfriendly policies like high APRs, savvy shoppers can take advantage of the sign-up bonuses and keep their spending in check to make the most of the offers.

Merchants often offer storewide discounts – which often apply to hot gifts that don’t see deep discounts during the holiday season – on the day you’re approved for the card. The trick? Take advantage of the temporary promotion, get your gift and get out. Stick that card in a non-tempting sock drawer for the rest of the year.

Sign-up bonuses include a 15% off discount at Bloomingdales the day you’re approved and the day after; a 15% or 20% off discount at Macy’s the day of and the day after approval; and a $25 Walmart statement credit for opening an account and hitting a $75 minimum spending threshold.

3. Store rewards programs

With store rewards programs, it pays to plan ahead. Store loyalty is all the rage amongst retailers who want repeat business, and they’ve set up store rewards programs to reward those that shop frequently and tempt those that don’t.

Shoppers, unfortunately, will often make infrequent purchases at a certain store and never track their store rewards. During the holidays, however, purchases add up – and so can store rewards.

Store rewards programs, like Staples, will typically offer 5% back in store credit. Shoppers should consider buying all their gifts from one retailer to get the most rewards on one account, rather than spreading purchases among different stores.

4. Email and mobile offers

Simply put, stores want to market to you. Merchants will give out significant discounts for access to your email or phone number. Some of these offers include 20% off at Bed Bath & Beyond for email signup and 10% off at Kohls.com for email subscription.

And if you find out you don’t like getting hit with offers, or that they’re tempting you to overspend? You can direct all their emails to a rarely used email account. Or just cancel the subscription – you’ll have received your signup bonus and there’s no taking that away.

5. Price matching

As online price comparison has become easier, retailers have had to step up their price matching policies to keep competitors from undercutting them. Many retailers will price match both area brick-and-mortar competitors’ prices and online prices.

The real allure of price matching, though, is finding a way to price match and then stacking another offer on top of that lowered price. Some retailers will specifically state that price matching cannot be combined with any other discount in their terms and conditions, but this isn’t necessarily the case – try to stack and see what you can get away with.

6. Registries

Weddings might not be on your mind during the holiday season, but maybe they should be. Many stores offer “completion discounts” on wedding registries, which are discounts given to shoppers on their remaining registry items after their big day comes and goes.

If you have a friend who’s getting married soon, ask if you can put an item or two on the registry after everyone’s bought their gifts – and purchase them afterward for 10% off. Or, get started on a test registry early for your “pre-wedding” and get your holiday gifts for 10% off.

Other

Other holiday hacks include refer-a-friend bonuses, business credit cards offers, professional discounts, wishlist discounts and veteran/military/student/senior discounts.

 

Examples of Hacks

The best way to take advantage of these hacks is to combine them. By hacking, you can buy some popular holiday items for less than they’re currently on sale for on major retailers’ websites. We offer some examples below. For a full list of holiday hacks on popular items, please check out NerdWallet’s newly launched Shophack tool to see the most up-to-date deals.

Apple iPad Air, 16 GB Wi-Fi (basic model):

Original price: $499.00

Current price: $479.00

Savings: $76.70

Final price: $402.30 

The iPad Air is currently on sale at Target for $479.00 off an original list price of $499.00. Sign up for the Target Pharmacy Rewards Program, fulfill 5 prescriptions and get 5% off a day of shopping for bothTarget.com and in-store. Use your Target debit or credit card, the RedCard, and get an additional 5% off. Plus, Target is offering a free $30 gift card when you purchase the iPad.

KitchenAid 5-Quart Artisan Stand Mixer:

Original price: $349.99

Current price: $349.99

Savings: $141.20

Final price: $208.79

Sign up for Bed Bath & Beyond mobile alerts and earn 20% off one item online. Sign up with Ebates.com to get $10 back with your new purchase, then shop through Ebates to earn 4% cash back.  Redeem your mobile offer at checkout on BedBathandBeyond.com. Then submit $50 a manufacturer’s mail-in rebate to get another $50 back.

LeapFrog LeapPad 2:

Original price: $99.99

Current price: $79.99

Savings: $19.20

Final price: $60.79

The LeapPad 2 is currently on sale at Bed Bath & Beyond for $79.99 with an original price of $99.99. Sign up for Bed Bath & Beyond mobile alerts and earn 20% off one item mobile offer. Go to Upromise.com first and click through to BedBathandBeyond.com to earn 5% cash back on your purchase. At checkout, make sure to remember to apply your mobile offer!

Barbie Dreamhouse:

Original price: $179.99

Current price: $159.99

Savings: $37.60

Final price: $122.39

The Barbie Dreamhouse is currently on sale for $159.99 at Toys R’ Us from an original price of $179.99. Open a Toys R’ Us credit card through an instant credit offer and get 15% off purchases eligible purchases made with the card. Shop in-store on a Saturday, too, to get an extra 10% discount off the 15% when you use your Toys R’ Us credit card. Ask for the 10% discount at the register, though, because the register will not automatically calculate your discount.

** Please note that prices and deals can change, and merchants offer discounts at their discretion.

Gifts image courtesy of Shutterstock.