Tuesday, 20 November 2018

Whether you're shopping for friends, family, or colleagues, credit card rewards are a smart way to save money while rewarding others.

From hotel and flight rewards to gift cards and cash back options, credit card rewards provide a flexible means of holiday shopping that won't drain the bank account.

Don't forget, though, if you're going to be like 20% of Americans who have picked up a tab to earn credit card rewards, don't be like the 31% of credit card holders who have never redeemed their rewards points.

1. Use your cash back to finance gifts

When it comes to holiday shopping, nothing is more flexible than cash, and if you've spent the year maximizing cash-back rewards on your credit cards, you could have a hefty heap from which to buy your gifts. 

Likewise, if you're just signing up for a new credit card before the holiday season, keep an eye out for one-time cash bonuses, which are typically tied to spending a certain amount within a limited time period.

Whether you're looking to buy a new fleece for your sweetheart or that pink chainsaw your mother-in-law has been gawking over, there's no better way to spend than with cash you've earned along the way.

2. Gift a vacation

You've probably heard the offers while jetting through your nearest airport, or even aboard your last flight: Air travel rewards are proliferate. Whether you are tethered to a specific airline through your credit card or have a flexible air travel-focused card, no present says adventure like a vacation. On top of airline rewards, you may also take advantage of hotel rewards, car rentals, and even experiences, such as concert tickets and excursions, depending on the card.

Whether you're planning a cruise with the parents or an island getaway with the family, there are many ways to use points to save money on travel.

3. Go for gift cards

We all have that niece or cousin or sibling who seems to have it all. They have specific taste, and no matter what you've tried to get them in the past, nothing seems to meet their high standards. Of course, they smile and nod, but you know deep down they hated every last gift. That's where gift cards come in!

Be wary, though, of low point conversion rates. Gift cards are controversial credit card rewards for their sometimes lackluster conversions. So, keep an eye on point-to-dollars conversion. If you could exchange points for a better value, that's a better route.

Alas, gift cards, are a handy option in a pinch, especially if you can't seem to find that perfect gift for the most discerning ones in your life.

4. Donate to charity

Have you ever received a birthday or wedding invite that implored attendees not to bring gifts, but instead to donate to a good cause on the honoree's behalf? I sure have, and boy do those cards make me feel great — about both the people I hang out with and the fact that I get to help others and give a gift all in one go.

Many credit cards let holders donate to charities, and others have transferrable points that can be redeemed towards charitable causes elsewhere. If all else fails and your credit card doesn't offer charitable donations as a rewards options, you can go the old fashioned route and purchase goods with points that would be needed at your local charity of choice.

A card with a donation receipt could send just the right message to the most socially- conscious ones on your list.

5. Pay with rewards

The world of credit card rewards is wrought with options, some focus on high point values for grocery and dining purchases, others are airline-specific with redemption, while others are linked to specific car rental providers, hotels, or retail outlets for point usage.

Some credit cards enable direct purchase of goods that could be gifted through their rewards center. When those opportunities arise, make sure to check conversion rates and compare with retail prices to make sure your points redemption is the best way to get Mom that stand mixer she's been raving about.

While you're at it, don't forget Black Friday and Cyber Monday are approaching. Take advantage of those deals to get the most of your savvy holiday shopping spree!

Happy holiday shopping, and may your season be ever bright.

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