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How to maximize credit card rewards during the holidays

Young woman sits on her couch at night, looking at her laptop smiling. Her living room is lit with holiday lights and a festive holiday tree.
November 12, 2020

By Claire Hegstrom

The holidays are the perfect time of year to treat yourself and your loved ones, and reflect on all the hard work you’ve put into keeping your finances in check through the year’s ups and downs. Before you break the bank (and your budget) on buying gifts with your savings funds or credit cards, consider utilizing your credit card rewards to make the season merry and bright!

Whether you like to spend your money on experiences and small gatherings during the holiday, or on finding the perfect gift for your best friend, we have six ways to maximize your credit card rewards and save you money during the holiday festivities.

1.Maximize credit card rewards by redeeming points for gift cards

Sometimes the best gifts are the ones where you can buy what you actually want, right? Cashing out your rewards points to buy gift cards means you won’t have to guess what your boss would like, or what’s trendy for the teenagers in your life.

Here are some clever ideas for gift card use:

  • Redeem points for a restaurant gift card for new parents in desperate need of a dinner date (even if it’s takeout)
  • Cash out rewards for a local coffee shop gift card to treat a teacher who has been working extra hard this year
  • Use points to buy multiple small gift cards to tip your local heroes such as mail carriers, healthcare workers, grounds keepers, and the dog walker

2.Treat your friends to a tasty dinner

The holidays can be a tricky time of year to get together with friends amid holiday travel and end of year work projects. Why not use your rewards points to get gift cards to your group’s favorite restaurant and host a delicious dinner at your place! You can even use some of your points to buy new decorations or festive dinnerware with gift cards from your favorite merchants.

3.Stock up on necessities

I don’t know about you, but I personally don’t get excited to spend my hard-earned paycheck on socks or new bath towels. Make a list of necessities you have been waiting to replace and compile a list of stores that have multiple items on your list. You can then use rewards to purchase gift cards at those stores to cross off much needed items.

Your necessities list might include:

  • Socks, undergarments, pajamas
  • Bath linens and shower curtains
  • Pots, pans and silverware
  • Bedding for the spare bedroom
  • New pet toys, bowls and bedding
  • Kitchen appliances and pantry storage

4.Offset holiday expenses with cashback rewards

It can be difficult to budget for the few months of holiday festivities at the end of the year. We usually see an increase in our grocery purchases, we fill up at the gas pump more frequently, and don’t forget decorations and gifts. With many rewards credit cards, such as Alliant Visa® Platinum Rewards, you can turn your rewards points into cash to offset all the extra holiday expenses.

Using the cash to pay bills, loans, credit card payments, or as your holiday gift fund can help your budget stay on track to start the new year strong.

5.Give rewards cash or gift cards to charity

Sock drives and food pantry donations are an incredible way to give back during the holidays, but did you know you can give gift cards to your favorite charities as well? Using credit card rewards points for gift cards is a great way to give your favorite charities and shelters the funds to purchase the items they actually need for the long winter ahead. You may even be able to write off your gift cards as a charitable donation for your taxes next year.

6.Use rewards for your next trip

Credit card rewards points can be used for plane tickets, hotel rooms and even gift cards for gas! Whether you need to travel next year to help a new college student get settled in, or you know there is a wedding around the corner, utilizing your rewards points for travel far in advance means you’ll likely be getting excellent prices on plane and train tickets and hotel rooms.

 

Looking for more money tips? Check out these articles!


Claire Hegstrom is an advocate of the credit union movement through and through. Passionate about financial education, she approaches money conversations from a candid and inclusive space focused on growth and awareness. As our credit union founding father, Ed Filene, once said, “Progress is the constant replacing of the best there is with something still better.” Claire hopes reading Money Mentor will help transform your life from the best to even better.

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