3 Ways to Maximize Your Credit Cards During the Holidays

by Maurie Backman | Updated Jan. 11, 2022 - First published on Nov. 19, 2021

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A couple shops online with a credit card during the holiday season

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Credit cards tend to get swiped a lot during the holidays. Here's how to benefit from yours.


Key points

  • You might use your credit cards more often once the holiday season kicks off.
  • You can reap more rewards from those cards by using them strategically.

While many consumers use credit cards for everyday purchases, you may start charging even more expenses once the holidays are upon us. Between travel plans, festivities, meals, home decor, and a seemingly endless list of gifts, you may find yourself whipping out those credit cards multiple times a day starting in late November. Here are a few tips that'll help you make the most of your credit cards during the holiday season.

1. Snag a sign-up bonus

If you recently applied for a credit card with a sign-up bonus, it pays to use that card a lot in the course of your holiday shopping and spending. Doing so could help guarantee you snag that bonus so the extra money you collect can offset some of your extra spending.

Imagine you normally spend $700 a month on your credit cards, and now, you need to spend $3,000 on your newest card within three months of opening it to score a $200 cash bonus. If you charge all or most of your holiday expenses on that new card, that money could easily be yours. Otherwise, you might struggle to meet that spending threshold, or you might force yourself to spend extra just to meet it.

2. Look out for revolving reward categories

Some credit cards offer the same rewards all year round. Others have revolving categories that are eligible for bonus rewards. It pays to see what those are when you'll be doing more shopping than usual.

Imagine one of your credit cards normally offers 1% cash back on all purchases but also offers 5% cash back in its special categories that change from quarter to quarter. If that card is now offering 5% cash back on department store purchases, that's the one you should use when you visit those retailers to load up on holiday gifts.

Similarly, some credit cards offer extra cash back for restaurant purchases at specific points during the year. If you'll be ordering food for holiday parties, you could snag extra cash back by using a card that currently includes restaurants in its bonus category.

3. Take advantage of travel credit card perks

If you'll be flying to see family for the holidays, it could make a lot of sense to charge your airfare on a travel rewards credit card. Often, these cards come with built-in perks that can make air travel less expensive, like free checked bags on flights or discounts on in-flight meals. Your travel rewards card might also score you a discount on a rental car, so if you'll need one of those at your destination, it's worth seeing what your options are.

Let's face it -- the holidays can be an expensive time of the year. The more cash back and benefits you're able to get from your credit cards, the better. By making the most of your credit cards, you can help yourself avoid financial stress and focus on the joy of celebrating the holiday season with the people you hold dear.

Related: See The Ascent's list of the best holiday credit cards.

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