(NerdWallet) – Get your wallet ready – it’s that time again, the holidays are just around the corner. An estimated 91% of Americans will celebrate this holiday season in some way, according to a November 2022 report by the National Retail Federation. And for most people, partying means spending money.
According to a September 2022 study by the Deloitte Center for Industry Insights, the average consumer plans to shell out $1,455 on vacation spending this year, including food, travel, and gifts. And by taking a few extra steps when you shop, you can increase your rewards income every time you use your credit card.
If you think the holidays are stressful enough without jumping through hoops to earn some extra rewards, here’s the good news: it’s not as hard as you think it is. In just one or two steps, you can add significant value to your shopping budget. Here are six strategic steps to supercharge your credit card rewards this holiday season.
” SEE: The best rewards credit cards right now
1. Open a credit card
Credit card issuers often offer heaps of points or cashback when you open a card. But the catch is that you have to spend a certain amount of money on the card within a set timeframe to get this welcome offer. The holiday shopping season can be the perfect time to get rid of those spending requirements and earn a hefty bonus on a new card.
If that new credit card gets money back, those bonus funds can help expand your vacation budget. Some popular cards offer new cardholders $200 once spending requirements are met. If your new card bonus brings in a nice stash of travel rewards, these can offset future travel expenses. Now that’s something to celebrate.
” MORE: Is a credit card bonus worth it? Here’s how to say it
2. Online shopping portals
Leave the crowded stores behind this year? According to a study by Deloitte, 63% of holiday shoppers plan to do the majority of their shopping online. If you’re one of them, shopping portals (aka bonus malls) can be an easy way to earn extra miles, points, or cashback on top of the regular rewards your credit card earns.
A shopping portal is a website that offers an incentive in the form of cashback, points, or miles if you click on the links to make a purchase on a retailer’s website. The portal receives commissions from retailers, including many big brands, and then shares a portion with you if you buy through its link.
Many airlines and hotel brands have shopping portals, as do many major credit card issuers. Log in to the portal you want to use, find the retailer you want to buy from and click their link. Buy and pay as usual on this retailer’s website.
Although it may require a few extra clicks, the extra rewards will be automatically deposited into your account once your purchase is confirmed by the portal. This review may take a few weeks or, more rarely, months.
3. In-store shopping offers
Similar to shopping portals that offer a bonus for online purchases, several mobile apps offer bonus points or cashback for personal purchases. For example, apps like Rakuten, Dosh, and Swagbucks offer bonus rewards for shopping at hundreds of stores.
Download the app, enter your credit card details and use that card to complete your in-store purchase. The app tracks your purchase and bonus rewards are usually credited to your account within a few weeks. Many of these apps require you to reach a minimum deposit before you can cash out your rewards.
” TO LEARN: Ultimate Guide to the Best Cash Back Apps
4. Credit Card Linked Offers
Many credit card issuers offer discount programs for using their cards at certain retailers. These programs include, but are not limited to:
Think of these offers as an integrated digital coupon that you can click into your online account and add to your credit card. Discounts are granted through settlement credits or bonus points with the rewards program associated with your credit card. Log into your credit card account, find the “Offers” section and activate the offers you want to take advantage of.
Discount offers generally have an issue condition and an expiration date, and the terms vary by retailer. There’s no harm or obligation in taking advantage of the offers once added, so don’t be afraid to load them onto your credit card if you’re shopping at any of the retailers
5. Buy gift cards
If you buy gift cards to give as Christmas gifts, you can earn extra rewards by purchasing them at certain stores.
Suppose you want to give Aunt Sally a gift certificate to a clothing store. If you buy that gift card from the clothing retailer, you probably only deserve the standard credit card rewards policy for that purchase. But if you find a gift card for the same clothing store on the big gift card stand in the grocery store, you can buy it there and earn more rewards. Many popular credit cards offer bonus rewards at grocery stores – some cards offer 3%, 4% or even up to 6% back. American Express’ Blue Cash Preferred® Card, for example, earns 6% in US supermarkets on spends of up to $6,000 per year. Conditions apply.
While it’s not a problem to buy a gift card or even a few to get bonus rewards, don’t overdo it. If credit card issuers see a trend toward buying gift cards, they can reclaim your bonus points, especially if you’re trying to earn a first signup bonus.
6. Restaurant Rewards Programs
When you eat out this holiday season – or any other time – you can earn extra points and miles when you dine at certain restaurants. Most major hotel and airline loyalty programs are linked to a restaurant rewards network that you can join for free.
Find your favorite hotel or airline rewards website and enter your zip code to see which restaurants in your area participate in the program. You must register your credit card with this dining program and use this card at the restaurant when paying to receive the bonus rewards. These programs often offer a first-dine bonus of additional points and often additional rewards for writing a review of the restaurant.
Because these programs are all operated by the same parent company, you can generally only enroll in one airline or hotel dining program at a time to receive bonus rewards. And when you link a new credit card to the dining program, the old card is removed.
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