The holiday season has arrived and with it comes lots of shopping days. Presents, food, and activities will bump up spending for many of us during this time of year. While it’s important not to overspend over the holidays, using a good credit card from a trusted bank can actually help to improve your credit score, save money, make for an easier shopping experience, and help you stay on budget.
To ensure you’re making the most of your credit card over the holidays, consider these smart tips the next time you go shop.
1. Using only one credit card
Limit your purchases to one card so that you can easily track your holiday purchases and stick to your budget. Using only one card means that you can easily monitor your card activity and quickly identify and correct any suspicious behavior.
2. Build your credit
If you are trying to build your credit score, it is a sound idea to use your credit cards consistently and frequently. Make sure you pay your bill each month or this strategy may backfire. Give careful attention to how much you are charging to make sure you can pay off the balance right away to get the maximum boost.
3. Avoid using store cards
Don’t be tempted by store credit cards this season. We’ve all been at the register when you’re offered 20% off today’s purchase if you open an account. It may sound great at first but be wary. Those deals don’t usually add up in the long run. With typically higher interest rates than bank credit cards, if you carry a balance for a few months you may end up spending more than you saved on interest and fees. It’s a much safer bet to use your trusted bank credit cards many of which have rewards and cash back offers that are just as enticing.
4. Avoid using a debit card online
The holidays are a busy time for bad actors, and it pays to be extra cautious about security this time of year. Online purchases save a lot of time and effort, but make sure your finances stay secure by taking extra steps to protect yourself. Debit cards are linked directly to your checking account, and money that is stolen directly from your bank account can be more difficult to recoup. Instead, opt for a credit card for your online purchases as most major credit cards will have theft-protection guarantees.
5. Consider linking to third-party payment processors
If you do a lot of your holiday shopping online, you may want to consider using a third-party payment processor such as PayPal or Google Checkout. You can link these accounts to your credit card, and then you don’t have to enter your credit card number every time you make a purchase. This is not only convenient but can also protect you from having your credit card number stolen.
6. Consider a Balance Transfer
If you’re carrying a balance on one or multiple credit cards that you are having difficulty paying off, consider doing a balance transfer. This means moving your outstanding balance(s) to another credit card to consolidate your payment or lower your interest rate. This is a great way to take advantage of low introductory interest rates on a new card so you can more easily pay down your debt.
7. Maximize your cash back or rewards points
The holiday season is a perfect time to rack up cash back or rewards points that can be put towards merchandise, gift cards, airline travel, and more. Also, some cards will give you initial bonus points after you first open the card, make your first purchase, or hit a certain purchase amount, so getting a new credit card right before or during the holidays can be a smart move.
8. Stick to a budget
Avoid facing a mountain of debt in the New Year by being proactive. Create a holiday budget so you know how much you can comfortably spend. Consider your gift list, food, entertainment, and travel expenses in this budget.
9. Protect yourself online
Before you type in your credit card information, consider these tips to keep your money safe and secure online this season:
Make sure your computer is up to date with the latest anti-virus, firewall, and anti-malware software.
Don’t click on pop-up ads or anything that says you have won a contest.
Before you buy, make sure the web address has https (the “s” means it’s secure) and that the form is verified safe by a company like VeriSign.
Don’t shop on public wireless hotspots; only shop on password-protected networks that require a security key.
10. Stay secure in the stores
Online shopping isn’t the only place to be wary this holiday season. Unfortunately, some people out there will try to take advantage of the bustle and chaos of holiday shopping. Don’t let your guard down and keep your finances secure:
Make sure you put your card back in your wallet after every purchase. Don’t put it in a pocket where it could fall out or be stolen.
Don’t let others see your card while you are waiting in line or checking out.
Cover keypads with your hand when shopping.
When in doubt, use credit instead of debit.
If you are looking for the right credit card for your holiday shopping, check out our competitive credit cards with low introductory APR, cash rewards, or reward points to make your holiday shopping pay off. Happy Holidays!