When it comes to holiday spending, one in four Canadians tend to pay with a credit card (according to a 2013 RBC report) and half of Canadians carry four or more rewards cards. Sound like you? If you plan on using your credit card this holiday season, make sure it's working harder for you, with some creative techniques to reap the maximum benefits - all while saving you money and amping up your rewards earnings.
Here are 5 credit card rewards hacks for smart cardholders to try this holiday season.
1. Maximize Your Earning Potential
Prep for the holiday season now by earning as many points and miles as you can ahead of peak spending season. Look for bonus offers on gas, groceries, liquor and other items. Sign up for survey programs, such as Air Miles Opinions by Research Now, where just a few minutes spent answering online questionnaires can earn you extra rewards with no purchase required. Each extra point and mile earned can add up to big redemption potential, helping you save money on holiday purchases.
2. Use Rewards to Buy Gifts
Those points and miles are good for more than just flights and hotels. Use Air Miles, Shoppers Optimum points, HBC Rewards, Aeroplan rewards and more to buy gifts like digital cameras, sporting event tickets, housewares and more. If you don’t have enough points or rewards to cover the entire cost of the item, some programs — including Air Miles — allow you to pay the rest with cash. For example, a Canon EOS Rebel T5 camera requires 5,600 Air Miles reward miles or 4,480 reward miles and $135 cash. The camera retails for over $400.
3. Save — and Earn — On Groceries
Holiday entertaining can be expensive. Why not redeem credit card rewards to save on your grocery bill? Redeem President’s Choice points at Loblaws stores and Air Miles cash miles at Metro stores to cut down on costs. If you belong to a grocery store loyalty program — such as PC Plus or Club Sobeys — watch for opportunities to earn extra points in the weeks leading up to your event, so you can redeem extra when it comes time to buy your party supplies.
4. Reap In Road Trip Rewards
If your holiday plans require car trips and hotel stays, look to your credit card rewards to help get you there for less. Redeem rewards from your Air Miles, Aeroplan and CIBC Aventura balances for vehicle rentals, hotel bookings and even restaurant gift cards, or take advantage of discounts available with other credit cards. The Capital One Priority Club World MasterCard, the Best Western MasterCard and the Chase Marriott Rewards Premier Visa (amongst many others) all offer discounts at various hotel chains.
5. Cash In
Some cashback credit cards — such as American Express — issue credits in January. Others, such as the Scotiabank Momentum Visa Infinite, issue credits in November. If you carry a cash back card, find out when your credit will be paid out. If it’s ahead of the gift-giving season, earmark that money for holiday expenditures.