This article was updated on June 25, 2018.

If you aren't using a reward credit card to earn cash back or big bonuses this holiday season, you're missing out. It's not just about collecting travel perks, or points toward free nights in a hotel. Rewards credit cards can help you earn cash back, while some lesser-known features can help you save money and get Black Friday discounts without fighting crowds.

Here are two credit card hacks that you should know about this holiday season.

1. Use sign-up bonuses as a rebate on your spending

Sign-up bonuses are a really good way to collect some cash or travel rewards on money you'd spend anyway, and the holiday season can be the best time to cash in. Thanks to an incredibly competitive market for new cardholders, credit card companies are offering sign-up bonuses worth $150 to $625 in cash or travel value to qualifying cardholders who open a new account.

Sure, there are some strings attached, but they're relatively trivial. To qualify for a sign-up bonus, you generally have to be completely new to the credit card, and meet a minimum spending requirement in the first three months after account opening. However, these bonuses can be substantial, acting as an effective 30% rebate on your holiday spending.

How much can you earn? The table below shows some of Fool.com's favorite sign-up bonus offers.

Credit Card

New Cardholder Conus

Spending Requirement

Annual Fee?

Chase Sapphire Preferred®

50,000 points ($625 of travel value, or $500 in cash)

$4,000 in the first three months from account opening.

Yes. $95, waived in the first year.

Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card

$150 new cardholder cash rewards bonus

$500 in the first 90 days after account opening.

No.

Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card

20,000 bonus points ($200 of travel value)

$1,000 in the first 90 days after account opening.

No.

Chase Freedom Unlimited®

$150 new cardholder bonus

$500 in the first three months from account opening.

No.

Source: Card issuers.

Let's say you expect to spend $1,000 on gifts this holiday season. If you sign up for the Chase Freedom Unlimited® and Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card, and then split your spending equally between the two cards ($500 each), you could qualify for $300 of combined new cardholder bonuses from Chase and Bank of America.

Photo of two people in winter clothes looking at a shopping list of gifts.

Image source: Getty Images.

Given so many people line up in cold weather to save $10 on a toaster oven, the relative value of credit card sign-up bonuses is pretty high, all things considered. Think of it as a $150 rebate on $500 of spending, without having to fill out rebate forms, or jump through special hoops. Besides, in addition to sign-up bonuses, you'll also earn ordinary cash-back rewards on your spending from both cards, only adding to their value.

While we're on the subject, note that these two cards are actually really good rewards cards that complement one another pretty well after the initial new cardholder bonus period. The Chase Freedom Unlimited® offers 1.5% cash back on every purchase you make, with no minimum redemption. The Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card pays 3% on gas purchases and 2% at grocery stores and wholesale club spending, subject to a $2,500 spending cap each quarter. It also pays a flat 1% cash back on all other spending, and rewards can be redeemed for cash starting at $25.

After the holidays, use the Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card for gas and groceries and the Chase Freedom Unlimited® for everything else, and you'll earn at least 1.5% on every dollar you spend with just two credit cards, which is pretty darn good for no-annual-fee credit cards.

2. Get Black Friday prices -- without the crowds

I used to fight the crowds for discounts on Black Friday. Then I got older, wiser, and realized that lining up for discounts at 4 a.m. is a complete waste of time if you have a Discover® credit card.

Like most cards, Discover® credit cards offer a feature known as price protection. Price protection is essentially a price-matching feature whereby you can purchase a product and, if it's offered at a lower price in the future, make a claim to receive the difference in price. 

In other words, if you pay $500 for a tablet and find the same tablet on sale for $200 later, you can use the price-protection feature to get a $300 refund (via check) for the difference. It's an amazing benefit that few people know about, and even fewer use.

But you have to read the fine print. And if you do, you'll discover that Discover -- pun completely intended -- has really invested in having the best price-protection policy of any card issuer out there.

How to use price protection the smart way

Discover has an advantageous clause in its purchase-protection benefit that allows cardholders to make a claim even for "limited quantity" sale prices. In this case, limited quantity refers to sales where a retailer only honors the price for the first 10 people, or only has five of each item in stock, for example. Most of the biggest discounts on days like Black Friday and Cyber Monday are limited-quantity deals, which is why it's important to get a card that will allow you to match limited-quantity sales prices. 

That means you can buy a TV on Amazon for $600 today, and if you see it advertised for $200 at a brick-and-mortar store on Black Friday, make a claim to get paid back for the $400 difference in price. In effect, this allows you to get a Black Friday price without fighting the crowds and with all the convenience of buying online and having your purchase shipped right to your door.

Now, there are a few things you should know. Discover's price-protection benefit lasts for 90 days after you purchase the item, so you can't buy a TV now and make a claim for a discounted price you see five years from now. And the items have to be exactly the same, so you couldn't buy one Barbie doll and make a price-protection claim based on the sales price of another Barbie doll. 

Discover's price protection covers up to $500 per purchase and up to $2,500 per card. If you're buying any big-ticket items this holiday season, particularly items that are likely to be used as front page "doorbuster" sales, you'd be silly not to put it on a Discover® credit card to ensure you get the best possible price advertised this holiday season.

John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods Market, an Amazon subsidiary, is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. Jordan Wathen has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Amazon. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. The Motley Fool receives compensation from some advertisers who provide products and services that may be covered by our editorial team. It’s one way we make money. But know that our editorial integrity and transparency matters most and our ratings aren’t influenced by compensation. The statements above are The Motley Fool's alone and have not been provided or endorsed by bank advertisers. Review The Motley Fool’s ratings methodology to uncover how we pick the best credit cards.