With the holidays almost here, you’ve probably already braced yourself for the busy days ahead. November and December are notorious for packing in so many events — with end-of-year work parties, family get-togethers, and holiday parties galore. And then there’s the gift shopping. The financial impact of the holidays shouldn’t be underestimated.
5 Ways to Use Credit Card Rewards this Christmas
If you’re struggling to afford Christmas this year — or just want to save as much as you can — your rewards credit card could become an unlikely ally. With enough points and miles, you could save a boatload on holiday gifts and other end-of-year expenses.
Consider these 5 strategies to maximize your rewards and boost the number of gifts you can put under the tree:
Redeem credit card points for gift cards.
While not every rewards credit card lets you redeem points for gift cards, most do. It’s usually easy to use. Log into your credit card account and you should be able to find an option to “use your points.” From there, you should see a selection of gift card options for redemption. Most $25 gift cards ring in at just 2,500 points.
While gift cards can be the perfect gift for some loved ones on your list, you don’t have to give your gift cards to others to save. If you’d rather, you can use your gift cards to purchase the perfect gift instead.
Use your rewards to book holiday travel for yourself or others.
Have hotel points or airline miles? A stash of flexible travel credit? Consider using your points to bless your family with the best gift of all — your presence during the holiday season.
That’s right; you can use your points and miles to travel to see family, or bring them to you. While it isn’t commonly advertised, most rewards programs let you use your points to book airfare and hotel stays for others. Depending on the type of travel rewards card you have, you might be able to redeem points on partner airlines, or transfer points to the travel program of your choice.
Use statement credits to save on your holiday shopping bill.
Most standard cash back credit cards and some travel credit cards let you redeem points for a statement credit. You’ll usually get the standard rate of one cent per point. This allows you to cover your Christmas bills easily. Calculate the number of points you have and what that would transfer for, set your budget, and then apply the points to your account to cover at least part of your holiday purchases. Some cards will allow you to cash in your points as a direct deposit into your bank account, making holiday shopping a breeze.
Redeem points for merchandise.
Various rewards credit cards offer their own version of a shopping mall. By logging into your credit card account, clicking over to your card’s rewards portal, and browsing options, you can redeem your points for nearly anything you can buy, or get big bonus points for shopping at the vendors through the portal.
Buy your mother the KitchenAid blender she’s always wanted, pick up a tablet for your nieces and nephews, or shop for electronics, jewelry, or arts and crafts. There are usually hundreds of vendors to select from.
Book experiences you can share.
Certain cards let you use your points for much more than merchandise and cash; some let you book valuable once-in-a-lifetime experiences as well. Depending on where you live, a wide range of fun events can be booked with points — and at no additional cost. I’ve gone snorkeling with stingrays in Grand Cayman, taken an electric bike tour in Athens, and booked a day trip to Tuscany all through my rewards points. Of course, there are tons of local options to try. No matter where you live and what your family enjoys, you can use your points to book something fun and unexpected.
While credit card rewards are often seen as something you earn for your own use, there’s no reason you can’t leverage your points to buy things for others.
If you’re in the market for a good rewards card, now is also the perfect time to sign up. With plenty of holiday spending in your future, you could earn a huge signup bonus and more rewards for every dollar you spend. (See also: Best Credit Cards for the Holidays)