Buying holiday gifts with your credit card? Read this first

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As the weather cools, the question of how to manage holiday expenses often bubbles to the surface. A budget and dedicated savings account are excellent places to start, but there’s one way to take your spending plan to the next level: credit cards.

 

While they can be a tricky financial tool, especially if you aren’t used to tracking your finances, there can be significant upsides to using a credit card.

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Here’s what you should do to get the most out of your credit card for holiday purchases.

5 tips for using a credit card for holiday shopping

No. 1: Leverage credit card rewards

“The right credit card, used wisely, can extend your holiday shopping budget,” says Matt Schulz, LendingTree chief credit analyst. “If you don’t take advantage of credit card rewards, you’re leaving money on the table.”

 

Related Slideshow: Great holiday gifts under $100

 

Weirdest year on record? Check. Holiday gifts? Whoa…we have to think about that now? I know. It’s almost too much. This whole crazy year and now we have a holiday season coming up where so many traditions will be on hold. But, I’m here to help. I’ve been testing and trying and tasting lots of gifts under $100 that will cheer up anyone on your list, without busting your budget.

 

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First, food, sweet food, because food equals comfort, and we could use a dose of that right about now.

 

monkeybusinessimages / istockphoto

 

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Price: $22.50

Cinnamon Bourbon Pecan, Butter Almond Toffee, Reindeer Crunch…I had a chance to try several flavors of this scrumptious popcorn and they are all winners, Plus, the packaging is beautiful – just add a bow and give.

 

Poppy

 

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Price: $36

Chariteas sources custom blends from sustainable tea farms. The Herbal Infusion Tea Flight contains full sizes of Olive & Dingo Color Changing tea – color changing? cool! – Berry Fields Forever, and Blueberry Cobbler. With each tea purchase, the company replants trees.

 

Chariteas

 

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Prices: $35, $50 or $100

If someone you know loves variety, this box is filled to the brim with tasty treats, like granola butter, caramel, and chocolate cookies. Each purchase supports women-owned small businesses!

 

Small Packages

 

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Price: $70

If you’re looking for a gift for a family full of sweet-tooths, this is it! From the irresistible cranberry cocktail gummy bears to the festive candy cane caramels, this gift will please everyone.

 

Sugarfina

 

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Price: $60

This beautifully-packaged set from La Maison du Chocolat will keep your die-hard chocolate lover very busy.  The collection includes a 2-piece Plain Truffle Gift Box, 4-piece Pralines Gift Box, and a 2-piece Gesture Gift Box.

 

La Maison du Chocolat

 

Since we’re going to be spending more time at home than usual, gifts can help to create order will be much appreciated!

 

Evgeniia Siiankovskaia / istockphoto

 

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Price: $55 and up

I love this chic bin for storing bread, snacks, or whatever foods tend to clutter your countertop. Available in two sizes and a number of finishes. They also have a fantastic nesting set that includes two sturdy mixing bowls, a colander, and a juicer. Perfect for the pro home cook or newbie.

 

Brabantia

 

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Price: $14

This adorable tray is perfect for tiny treasures, like jewelry, or edible items, like olives.

 

Molly Hatch

 

Day Owl The Cord Pouch ($29)

This accessory brand creates products with sustainability in mind. Their bags are sturdy and can be repaired for life. Their Cord Pouch is for organizing cords and earbuds. Available in several colors.

 

Day Owl

 

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Price: $19.99

This leather wallet affixes to any phone or phone case and has a crossbody strap. A perfect gift for any smartphone owner and an easy way to keep your essentials with you at all times, whether you’re WFH or running errands. Available in three colors.

 

Smartish

 

Let’s face it, we’re all going to be staring at these four walls a lot more than last year. These gifts will hopefully make it comfier!

 

Space_Cat / istockphoto

 

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Price: $55

These ultra-comfortable slides come in several modern colors and are made from recycled tires. Flip flops and other styles are available. They even have arch support! I like them for travel and dorm life as well.

 

Indosole

 

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Price: Regularly $79, currently on sale for $48

We all love cozy, but sometimes cozy is bulky. This tailored, unisex crew is so warm and comfy, but also somehow flattering. I’ve already added it to my home uniform.

 

DESO

 

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Price: $59.99

This indoor/outdoor inflatable chair is not only comfortable and lightweight – it has over 120 color-changing light-up options! Great for family movie night, for adding pizazz to a teen’s room, or for lounging outside at night.

 

 

Air Candy

 

If you know someone who needs some TLC, I found several gifts that will encourage them to take some “me time.”

 

 

Ирина Мещерякова / istockphoto

 

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Price: $99.95

If we’re going to be home all the time, home might as well smell good and we might as well feel good. This chic, ultrasonic Diamond Diffuser comes with six aromatherapeutic oils, including Anxiety Ease, Breathe Easier, and Fighting Five.

 

Eden’s Garden

 

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Price: Starting at $30.99/month

Curated by therapists, this affordable self-care subscription features 6-8 mindfully-curated self-care products and one happiness-boosting activity inspired by therapeutic research.

 

 

TheraBox

 

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Price: $16.99

This limited edition gift set is a treat for someone in need of some chill time. It includes the Just Breathe Clarifying Serum, which helps to calm skin and decongest pores, The Fix Emergency Eye Mask, to help revitalize the eye area, and a Frozen Cooling Globe to refresh and massage the skin.

 

 

VERSED

 

Gifts that help people keep busy, learning, and growing are a must this year. Here are some of my favorites.

 

vladans / istockphoto

 

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Price: $79, originally $99

Geneology-related gifts, like Ancestry, will be big because they offer that “discovery” that we are sorely missing these days. The Online Gif Subscription gives your recipient access to the world’s largest collection of online records to learn amazing details about your ancestors.

 

Ancestry.com

 

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Price: $65.00

1-800-Flowers has partnered with Alice’s Table to offer virtual flower-arranging workshops. Your recipient will receive their own kit, which includes farm-fresh flowers and a stylish vase, and then they will learn how to create a beautiful bouquet or wreath from a skilled Alice’s Table floral host.

 

1-800-flowers and Alice’s Table

 

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Price: $16.95

If they’re an art lover, they’ve probably seen a stunning glass Chihuly sculpture in their travels. Now, they can add their own flair to this paper version of the Sun sculpture.

Want more gift ideas under $100? Check out an expanded version of this gift guide.

This article originally appeared on TrueTrae.com and was syndicated by MediaFeed.org.

 

Chihuly

 

Many rewards cards offer 1% to 2% cash back, although some cards go as high as 5%, 6% or 8% for specific spending categories.

 

If it’s a cash back card, you may be able to use those rewards to pay down your balance — getting a discount on what you charge. Of course, it’s critical to know which card will give you the best return and not go overboard on spending.

No. 2: Pay off your charges ASAP

“One great move is to pay for your holiday purchases with a credit card and use that cash that you’ve saved for holiday shopping to pay off your credit card,” Schulz says. “That way, you’re getting the best of both worlds: earning rewards and avoiding debt.”

 

This can also help boost your credit score since you’d keep your balances lower (or, ideally, at zero). Check in with your spending regularly so you can pay it off before incurring interest charges.

No. 3: Avoid store cards

It can happen instantly: You’re shopping for presents or decor. As you check out, the cashier asks if you want to sign up for their store credit card. They may mention a promotional period. But you should use caution, Schulz says.

 

“Generally, it’s wise to avoid store credit cards,” Schulz says. “If you’re 1,000% sure that you can pay them off at the end of the month, they can be useful because of the discounts and perks. However, steer clear of these cards if you’re likely to carry a balance. They tend to have higher interest rates than regular credit cards, and that’s something in today’s sky-high-interest-rate world.”

No. 4: Be realistic about your budget

“Before you go shopping, make a plan,” Schulz says. “Having a list of what you’re going to buy and how much you’re able to spend can help you avoid potential issues and keep you from blowing up your budget.”

 

Once you have an idea of your total expenses, see if you need to cut any extras or downsize.

 

“Credit cards can be a useful tool, but they can also be dangerous,” Schulz says. “They make it really, really easy to overspend, and that’s especially true in the holiday season when we’re all bombarded with offers of great deals.”

No. 5: Consider a balance transfer card

balance transfer credit card may prove useful if you don’t have enough savings to cover your anticipated expenses. Those often come with a promotional 0% APR for several months. However, opening a new credit card would impact your credit score.

 

Used responsibly, a balance transfer card could allow you to buy necessities without paying a lot in interest charges (though you’ll likely pay a fee for the transfer itself.) Ideally, you’d get a rewards card that also offers a balance transfer. That way, you’d fully maximize that credit inquiry and make the most of your holiday budget.

 

This article originally appeared on LendingTree.com and was syndicated by MediaFeed.org.

More from MediaFeed:

50 smart ways to handle your holiday shopping

 

While the surging COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t fully canceled the holiday shopping season, it certainly has many Americans rethinking their plans.

Per the 2020 Deloitte holiday retail survey, 38% of shoppers plan to spend less year-over-year due to concerns around economic instability, and nearly 51% feel anxious about shopping in person.

Fortunately, there are new and old-school ways that budget- and health-conscious shoppers can successfully navigate the season. Here are 50 holiday shopping tips for the COVID-19 era.

 

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists “going shopping in crowded stores just before, on, or after Thanksgiving” as a higher-risk activity that’s best avoided to help prevent the spread of coronavirus. As such, consider doing the bulk of your shopping online. If you do plan on heading to a store …

 

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The CDC recommends covering your mouth and nose with a mask when around others, staying at least six feet away from other people and washing your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds after visiting a public place. Prospective in-store shoppers should also …

 

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“If you do go to the store to shop, bring a mask and your patience,” says Jon Vincent, founder of EarlyBlackFriday.com. “Retailers take Covid-19 very seriously and will require masks, social distancing, and strict limits on the amount of people allowed in the store at one time.”

 

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“‘Doorbuster’ deals are the deeply discounted products featured on the front page of the retailer’s Black Friday ad and traditionally, they were only available in stores,” Vincent says. “Due to the pandemic, these deals will now be available to purchase online.”

 

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Online sales are projected to increase 33% year-over-year to a record $189 billion in 2020, according to data from Adobe Analytics.

The surge could lead to product shortages and shipping delays, so, if you’re on a hard gift-giving deadline, avoid leaving online orders to the last minute.

 

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Shopping experts expect retailers will reduce prices through November and December to make up for tepid in-store Thanksgiving and Black Friday sales, so, if you’re on a flexible schedule, a little patience could pay off.

 

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“Because finances may be tight, set goals for each person you’re shopping for, and stick to those numbers,” says Alex Miller, founder and CEO of UpgradedPoints.com.

These 10 budgeting methods can help you get control of your spending.

 

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“We can’t deny we can get some incredible bargains during the holiday season, but don’t go wild,” says personal finance blogger Sara Trezzi of GatheringDreams.com. “Allocate a budget ahead of time, move it to a different online savings account or prepaid card, and when you use it up, stop spending.”

 

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If your budget is looking extra-tight, consider giving smaller or alternative gifts, “like fancy soaps or small bottles of high-quality olive oil”, writes MediaFeed contributor Anna Serio.

 

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Minimize the amount of people on your holiday shopping list by suggesting a socially distant gift exchange.

 

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Sites like FreeShipping.org can help you track down codes and coupons for skipping delivery charges.

 

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Free Shipping Day, a promotional date in which numerous retailers offer delivery sans fees, is slated to take place on Dec. 14. 2020.

 

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It entitles online shoppers to free shipping on select deliveries, exclusive deals and additional benefits. (Bonus: You can currently score a free 30-day trial. After that, Prime costs $12.99 a month or $119 a year.)

 

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To ensure advertised deals are legit, check a product’s price across a swath of retailers.

 

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Browser extension PriceBlink can help you automatically find lower prices on products while you surf for gifts.

 

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Camelcamelcamel, for instance, has historical pricing data on Amazon products so you can more readily spot a legitimate steal.

 

 

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A lower price point for a given product can easily be negated by an exorbitant shipping fee.

Conversely, “in some cases, a markup is built into the price of the item to compensate for the free shipping,” says Regina Conway, consumer expert with Slickdeals.net. “Make sure you’re still getting the best price.”

 

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Additionally, “some merchants may have free shipping to you, but require a fee for return shipping,” Conway says. “Others may have short return windows, which require you to make a quick decision or you end up being stuck with the item. Make sure you understand all the terms of your purchase in the event you need to return it.”

 

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Sites like eBay, Poshmark or ThredUp can help you secure designer duds for less.

Related: The best holiday gifts for recent college grads

 

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That way, the recipient can return or exchange ill-fitting, inoperable or duplicate presents.

 

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Minimize your total shipping costs by placing one large order from a single retailer as opposed to several small ones across companies.

 

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Planning ahead can help you combine orders. It can also preclude impulse-shopping.

“As we are being bombarded with offers and discounts, it’s far too easy to buy stuff you don’t need,” Trezzi of GatheringDreams.com says.

 

 

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“Many stores will allow you to place your order online and then come in store for a pickup at a designated time,” Miller of UpgradedPoints.com says. “This way you can avoid the crowds.”

 

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Credit cards offer stronger fraud protections than debit cards or cash, and many tout ancillary services, like purchase protection and extended warranties, that are useful this time of year. Some credit cards also offer cash back on certain purchases.

 

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To avoid going over-budget, pay your credit card balances down each day via a linked bank account.

 

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Given the economic uncertainty associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, avoid taking retailers up on layaway plans or financing offers you’re unsure you’ll be able to pay off.

 

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Free spending alerts from your bank or credit card issuer can help you stay on budget. They can also help you readily spot fraudulent activity.

 

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The service, most notably offered by Amazon, is convenient, but budget-conscious shoppers might want to disable it in order to avoid impulse-buys.

 

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Ensure promotions, specials and deals come straight to your inbox by signing up for a brand’s e-newsletter.

 

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You can similarly spot specials by following a retailer on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

Related: 12 great Apple store gifts for under $50

 

Many brands will offer a one-time discount as an incentive to download their shopping app onto your phone. They are also known to offer exclusive deals within the apps throughout the year.

 

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Some retailers let you earn coupons, rewards or special savings when you sign up for their membership clubs.

 

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Email, social media and, even, app stores tend to get exploited by scammers this time of year. Avoid phishing schemes by checking all correspondence for typos and misspellings (a telltale sign there’s a scammer on the other end) and verifying unsolicited offers directly with the retailer (as opposed to blindly clicking on links).

 

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If you’re worried about an influx of spam or you want a place to carefully parse through promotional emails and newsletters, sign up for each via a secondary email account.

 

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You can generally shop online more securely by leveraging anti-virus software, sticking to private Wi-Fi networks and conducting a password audit of your financial and store accounts. Find more ways to avoid getting scammed during the holiday shopping season.

 

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“Strategies include using a cash-back rewards credit card [or] making purchases through cash back shopping sites like Rakuten,” says personal finance blogger Bella Wanana of BellaWanana.com.

 

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Many credit card issuers offer exclusive discounts or bonus cash back through their online shopping portals. Log into your credit card rewards account to see what deals are available.

 

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Some rewards credit cards offer bonus points, miles or cash back to new cardholders who spend a certain amount in their first few months of opening their account. If that spending threshold is within your holiday budget — and your credit is in good shape — consider taking the issuer up on their offer.

 

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Sites like RetailMeNot, Coupons.com and Groupon aggregate special offers from retailers throughout the year.

 

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Install a browser extension like Honey to automatically apply online discounts, Wanana says.

 

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Amazon advertises short-term and limited offers on its Today’s Deals page.

 

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Some retailers, including Walmart, Best Buy and Target, have price-matching policies. You might also qualify for price protection through your credit card issuer.

 

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For instance, students can get 50% off Amazon Prime and many retailers offer discounts for seniors through AARP.

 

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The CDC has cautioned against even small holiday gatherings, given the current state of the pandemic. You can adhere to its guidelines and still give gifts by sending online orders directly to friends or family members outside your household.

 

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Another option for people partaking in contactless gifting, digital gift cards can be emailed directly to recipients.

 

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Exchanges, like GiftCardGranny, Cardpool and Raise, sell gift car at a discount.

 

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Rebates are paid retroactively. If you’re eligible for one, be sure to send in the proper paperwork.

 

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Sometimes retailers will respond with a targeted deal, limited-time offer or free shipping.

 

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If you’re planning to celebrate the holidays post-pandemic, hold off on buying gifts until after Christmas. Retailers traditionally offer deep discounts on excess inventory and seasonal items, like decorations, once the holidays have officially ended.

 

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If you’re truly cash-strapped, consider foregoing gift-giving entirely. Given the current economic climate, your family should understand.

Related: 

 

This article was produced and syndicated by MediaFeed.org.

 

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Featured Image Credit: Prostock-Studio/iStock.

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