It’s supposed to be the happiest time of the year. So why are you so stressed out? Well, most of us lead pretty busy lives, and it’s hard to find the time — and the…
It’s supposed to be the happiest time of the year. So why are you so stressed out? Well, most of us lead pretty busy lives, and it’s hard to find the time — and the money — to survive the holidays, let alone Black Friday.
This holiday season, consumers are expected to spend, on average, $1,007 on decorations, food and gifts, according to a 2018 survey from the National Retail Foundation.
Whether you plan to top that or spend a fraction of that amount, there’s something you can do to make sure you have a more restful, affordable and joyful holiday season.
Here it is: Make your gift list, set a budget and get your holiday shopping done early. You’d be amazed at how painless the holidays can be if you get your shopping finished quickly.
So, to make things easier for you, I’ve compiled a list of credit cards that can help you survive holiday shopping. And there’s even a card recommendation to help cover the cost of visiting relatives who decide to spend the entire Thanksgiving weekend at your home.
Best Credit Card for Shopping From Your Family Room
Picture this: You’re sitting on your cushy sofa sipping coffee or, even better, hot chocolate. There’s a lovely fire in your fireplace, and you’ve got your gift list in front of you. You hop online and see a viral video of a fight taking place in a huge retailer’s parking lot. But this doesn’t bother you, because you’ve decided to do all of your shopping on Amazon.com this year.
You’re not the only one to make this choice. A 2018 Deloitte holiday retail survey showed that 60 percent of shoppers will buy gifts online, which is a 5 percent increase over 2017. Sounds like a low-stress way to navigate through the holidays, doesn’t it?
If you’re already an Amazon Prime member and you’ve decided that you’re done fighting for a parking space on Black Friday, you may consider the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature card. It pays 5 percent back on Amazon.com purchases, and new cardholders receive a $70 Amazon.com gift card.
Note: Amazon lists “no annual fee” as a selling feature, but you have to pay for a Prime membership, which is $119. So, consider it an annual fee that happens to come with a lot of movies and TV shows.
But if you want to stick with the cards you already have, then check out Amazon’s Shop with Pointsprogram, which allows you to use your cash back (or points) from selected credit cards to pay for Amazon purchases.
Selected cards from these issuers and rewards programs are eligible: American Express Membership Rewards, Hilton Honors, Chase Ultimate Rewards, Citi ThankYou Rewards, Discover and the Amazon Business American Express Card.
If your credit card is eligible, it’s easy to register for the program. Amazon then offers the option to use your rewards to pay for items when you check out.
Another option to save big online: The Discover it Cash Back card gives you 5 percent cash back (on up to $1,500, or $75 back) on Amazon.com through Dec. 31. Plus, Discover will double your cash back after your first year with the card.
Note that you have to activate the bonus categories online. Otherwise, you won’t earn 5 percent cash back for eligible purchases.
Best Credit Card for Entertaining or Feeding (too Many) Houseguests
When people put together their holiday budgets, they often forget to include the nongift portion of the holidays. This can be significant, since many of you have traditions, sometimes buy more alcohol (think entertaining) and eat more (sorry to bring this up, but you know it’s true).
If this is you, then consider the Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express. Use this card during the holidays, and when you’ve spent $1,000 within three months of opening your account, you’ll get a $200 statement credit.
Here are other cash back features of the card:
— 6 percent cash back at U.S. supermarkets on the first $6,000 spent annually (1 percent after that)
— 3 percent cash back at U.S. gas stations and select U.S. department stores
— 1 percent cash back on all other purchases
If you intend to drive a lot or shop at the mall during the holidays, then this card does triple duty: You get savings on groceries, gas and department stores.
Sometimes, you need to hit the mall. Believe it or not, I used to enjoy it. When my daughter was growing up, we had a tradition of getting up early on Black Friday, going to the mall to start holiday shopping and then going out for breakfast. One year, we did all that and even made it to her dentist appointment by 7:15 a.m. These days, I’m an online shopper.
But if you’re into the festive nature of the mall, then check out the Chase Freedom cash back card. It gives you 1 percent on all purchases, but it also has rotating bonus categories. Through the end of 2018, you get a 5 percent cash back bonus (on up to $1,500) on department stores, wholesale clubs and Chase Pay. After you spend $500 within your first three months, you get a $150 bonus that you can use as a statement credit.
You have to activate the bonus categories online. Current 5 percent bonus categories started Oct. 1. The Chase Freedom card is a little forgiving if you forget to sign up. If you activate your bonus by Dec. 14, you’ll get retroactive credit for purchases that fall within the quarterly time frame. But if you miss the deadline, you’re out of luck.
Though merchants eligible for the department store category don’t include most discount stores, I have a way around that for you.
Chase Pay is a 5 percent bonus category, too. If you use your mobile wallet at discount stores, like Target and Walmart, you’ll get 5 percent cash back at those stores. If you’re not comfortable with Chase Pay, you can still get 1 percent cash back at these stores.
I’m not a fan of retail cards in general, but I do make exceptions. If you’re credit-savvy and know how to work the rewards program without carrying a balance, then the REDcard Target credit card might do the job for you.
If you’re strapped for cash, avoid the pricier stores at the mall. You can get early access on deals with the REDcard, plus you get 5 percent off when you shop in the store or online. You also get free two-day shipping on many items when you use the card on Target.com, and an extended time frame for returns when you purchase items with the card.
A big warning here: Use this card only if you have the cash flow to pay it off when the bill comes. This card has a 24.9 annual percentage rate, and you’ll be further in debt if you carry a balance. Target does have a REDcard debit card option that you can hook up to your bank account, and it offers the same card perks as the REDcard credit card.
There’s nothing wrong with simplicity. I’m a huge fan of that. If this is what you want, then the Citi Double Cash Card may be for you. You get 1 percent cash back on your purchases and another 1 percent on each payment you make.
So, that’s a total of 2 percent across the board. Not bad, since it will take minimum thought. You’ll need good-to-excellent credit to be approved for this card, and there’s no annual fee.