by Bill Hardekopf
Throughout 2011, credit card issuers have sweetened reward card offers to attract more consumers. Since most consumers spend so much additional money during the holidays, this is a great time to take advantage of these offers and quickly earn some extra cash or miles.
Here are six tips for using reward credit cards to maximize your holiday shopping:
1) Use your rewards points.
These can be used to buy gift cards with many retailers. For example, you can use American Express Membership Reward points to shop at Amazon.com to pay in full or for part of your purchase.
2) Pay attention to partner programs.
Most credit card issuers have a partner program that offers discounts or bonuses for online purchases with certain companies. The program varies by issuer, but the partners could be stores where you already shop. Discover turns $20 rewards into $25 gift cards. Citi gives an additional 1%-5% cash back when you shop at their online partners. Capital One is adding bonus rewards for purchases made from November 25-28 with some retail partners in its online shopping portal, Perk Central. Some retailers include Landsend.com (100% rewards increase), Macys.com (40% rewards increase), Lego.com (100% rewards increase) and Gamestop.com (40% rewards increase).
3) Look for 5% rotating cash back offers.
Chase Freedom, Discover More and Citi Platinum Select offer an attractive 5% back on the spending on designated categories for a specific amount of time. The October-December bonus categories for these issuers focus on shopping and entertainment. If you have these cards, remember to sign up for these attractive rebate offers each quarter since enrollment is not automatic.
4) Check for spending bonus opportunities.
Chase Freedom offers $200 spending bonuses for new applicants who reach a set spending limit, $500 within three months. Holiday shopping is the best time to quickly reach these limits and then use the bonus to pay off your balance.
5) Pay attention to reward limits.
Some cards, like Discover More (5% cashback on up to $300 in purchases each quarter), place a limit on the bonus. After you reach the limit, switch to another bonus card.
Best Reward Cards for Holiday Shopping
Capital One Cash - Offers 1% cash back on every day purchases and a 50% anniversary bonus on cash earned on purchases in the previous year. It also gives a one-time $100 bonus once you spend $500 in the first three months. No annual fee.
Chase Freedom $200 Cash Back Bonus - Get $200 cash back after you spend $500 in your first three months. Earn 5% cash back on dining, department stores, movie theaters, and charitable giving. No annual fee.
Discover More - 0% APR for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers. Earn 5% Cashback Bonus on up to $300 in purchases at department stores, clothing stores and restaurants and 1% on all other purchases. No annual fee.
Citi Thank You Preferred - Earn 10,000 bonus ThankYou points after $500 in purchases within the first three months, good for a $100 gift card. Earn five ThankYou Points for every $1 spent on all purchases at gas stations, supermarkets and drugstores during the first 12 months and one point for every $1 spent thereafter. No annual fee.
Continental Airlines One PassPlus Card - Earn 25,000 bonus miles the first time you use this card. This is enough for a round trip ticket within the United States and Canada. The $95 annual fee is waived the first year.
BankAmericard Cash Rewards - Gives a $50 cash rewards bonus after you make at least $100 in purchases within 60 days of account opening.
Bill Hardekopf is CEO of LowCards.com, a site that simplifies the confusion of shopping for credit cards. It is a free, independent website that helps consumers easily compare credit cards in a variety of categories, such as lowest rates, rewards, rebates, balance transfers and lowest introductory rates. It also gives an unbiased ranking and review for each card.