8 Credit Card Tips for Maximizing Your Reward Points on Holiday Shopping

Credit card rewards and cash back can provide an incentive to use a credit card for your holiday shopping, whether you do it online or in person. Of course, the trick is to know how to maximize your reward points!

Should you be using your rewards card for every purchase? Is it time to trade in your reward points for gift cards? These are all questions we’ve been hearing from our Addition Financial members.

With that in mind, we’ve compiled a list of the best credit card tips for maximizing reward points this holiday season.

#1: Audit Your Existing Rewards Cards

The first thing we recommend is reviewing your existing rewards cards to see if they still suit your needs. If you’ve had a card in your wallet for years and haven’t looked at your benefits in a while, you might find that it no longer works for you.

What should you look at? Here are a few things to add to your checklist:

  • What is the points structure for the card? Do some categories of spending receive more points than others?
  • If your points card does use a tiered structure, do the tiers reward the areas where you spend the most? For example, if you have a card that rewards travel and you’re not traveling now due to COVID, you may want to consider a different card for your holiday spending.
  • How much time do you have to use points once you’ve accrued them?
  • Do you have points that are about to expire?
  • What is the annual fee for the card?
  • What is the interest rate?
  • Does the card issuer offer any special seasonal deals for holiday shopping?

If a card no longer suits your needs, you may want to consider closing it. That said, be careful not to close several accounts at once, which can negatively impact your credit score. Instead, redeem any points you have now and space out the account closings.

#2: Consider a New Points Card

After you audit your existing cards, you may find that you don’t have the points card you wish you had. If that’s the case, it may be time to seek out a new card that will reward you in the spending categories you use the most.

When you evaluate new cards, keep these things in mind:

  • What is the points structure? Does it reward you where you spend the most?
  • Is there an initial bonus offer? If so, is it realistic? There’s no point in choosing a card that’s not going to reward you unless you spend money you can’t afford.
  • Is there an annual fee? Will it cost you more than the points you’ll earn are worth?
  • What is the interest rate? Is there a special introductory rate? If so, when does it end?
  • How long will it take for points to be credited to your account?
  • How long will you have to use points – do they expire?
  • What are your options for using points? Can you trade them in for gift cards? Miles? Cash back?

In other words, you should read the fine print and make sure you understand what you’re getting with the card you’re considering. Rewards cards sometimes have higher interest rates and annual fees than non-reward cards and you’ll need to factor that into your decision.

#3: Review Your Points Card Online Shopping Portal

We know some people get a rewards card and use it without being strategic about it. This holiday season, one of the best ways to maximize your reward points is to visit your credit card online shopping portal and review the deals that are available.

Some credit cards offer bonus points if you shop with their preferred retailers. An example is the Addition Financial Premier Rewards card, which offers 5 points for every dollar you spend on Amazon as a quarterly rewards category from October to December.

You may also discover that your card has monthly or quarterly special offers. Some rewards cards even offer bonus points for all holiday shopping. You may need to select offers to load onto your card, so make sure that you check back regularly to avoid missing out.

#4: Take Advantage of Special Introductory Offers

One of the ways that credit card companies entice people to choose their cards is by offering an incentive. With points cards, that often means handing out bonus points if you meet their spending threshold in an introductory period.

If you get an Addition Financial Premier Rewards card, for example, you’ll get 10,000 bonus points if you spend $1,000 within the first three months.

Provided you choose a card with a realistic spending threshold that won’t require you to buy more than you can afford to get the bonus, getting a new points card now can be a good way to maximize your points. If you’re planning to spend $1,000 anyway (like paying bills), you might as well get some bonus points in return.

The key is not to spend money you can’t afford just to get the points. The dollar value of the points won’t be enough to help you offset your bill.

#5: Trade in Your Points for Gift Cards

Gift cards are popular every year, and this year we anticipate they’ll be even more popular than usual. With online shopping expected to be higher than ever and anticipated shipping delays, giving a gift card as a present may be the best way to complete your holiday shopping.

Rewards points can be easily redeemed for gift cards. In fact, if you have a lot of points accumulated or about to expire, you may want to consider redeeming them for gift cards to use for your own holiday shopping if you don’t want to give them to your friends and family.

#6: Stack Offers to Save Money

It makes sense to use your points card for holiday spending, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t also try to save money while you earn rewards points. There are some easy ways to do that.

The first is to shop sales and couple sales shopping with bonus rewards to maximize your points. For example, if you have a card that has a special quarterly deal with Target, you could keep an eye out for Target sales and then use your card to earn points and save on holiday gifts.

Another option is to use the Honey app, which automatically searches for discount codes and coupons when you check out online. We find this app to be a huge time saver because we don’t need to scour the web for coupon codes. We can simply shop and let Honey do the work.

If you decide to stack offers, make sure to check your credit card portal for information about restrictions. Offers that you load onto your card may be invalidated if you add an additional code, or you may need to load the offer after you apply other discounts to take advantage of it. It’s always a good idea to read the fine print!

#7: Don’t Let Your Points Expire

By far the most common mistake people make with reward points is allowing them to expire without using them. If you do that, you’re missing out on any benefit of having a rewards card – and you may even be paying an annual fee for it.

We suggest always being aware of when your reward points expire and making sure to use them. Gift cards are always a good choice. As we noted above, you can either give the cards themselves as gifts, or you can use them to pay for your holiday shopping.

If you have a points card that no longer serves your purposes, you should always cash in any points on your account before you close the card. And, if you get a new card, make sure to keep track of when your points expire.

We suggest logging into your account regularly to review your points total and the expiration dates and rewards. If you pay your bill online, the easiest thing is to do everything at the same time. That way, you can review your statement, make your payment, redeem points and keep track of special offers.

#8: Use the Right Card

Finally, if you have more than one points card, we suggest being intentional about how you use each card. That means you’ll need to;

  • Understand each reward category and how it works. For example, the travel category may cover more than airfare, including things like tolls, parking, cabs and Ubers.
  • Take advantage of bonus categories. You might have one card that gives you three points for gas purchases and another that gives you three points for groceries and only two points for gas. Use multiple cards to get the most points possible for your regular spending.
  • Put reminders in your phone or wallet to help you keep multiple cards straight. You’re less likely to make a mistake if you have a reference to help you.

There’s nothing wrong with having multiple rewards cards as long as you use them in a way that allows you to maximize your points.

It will be easy to maximize your reward points if you use the eight credit card tips we’ve included here. Are you in the market for a new rewards card? Click here to apply for the Addition Financial Premier Rewards card now!

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