3 strategies I use to earn as many points as possible from my holiday spending toward

Courtesy of Elizabeth AldrichPutting holiday expenses on a new card and earning a sign-up bonus will help me book future travel for free. Elizabeth Aldrich is pictured.
  • If you tend to spend more during the holidays, it’s wise to plan out your spending with rewards credit cards so that you can earn as many travel points or as much cash back as possible.
  • I target lucrative credit card welcome bonuses during the holiday season that require a higher level of spending to earn.
  • Holiday travel usually goes on whichever credit card offers the best travel insurance. For me, that’s the Chase Sapphire Reserve.
  • Finally, I put miscellaneous purchases like stocking stuffers on a flat-rate cash-back credit card.
  • Read more personal finance coverage.

The holidays are drawing near, and as most people are making shopping lists and dreaming up recipes, I’m busy planning out my credit card rewards strategy.

November and December is a bountiful time of year in more than one respect. It’s the best time of year for me – and many others – to go gung-ho on earning credit card rewards because it’s when our spending tends to spike.

By strategically planning how I’ll split up my holiday spending across my rewards credit cards, I stand to earn hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars in credit card points. Here’s how.

Keep in mind that we’re focusing on the rewards and perks that make these credit cards great options, not things like interest rates and late fees, which will far outweigh the value of any points or miles. It’s important to practice financial discipline when using credit cards by paying your balances in full each month, making payments on time, and only spending what you can afford to pay back.

I’m aiming for a generous welcome bonus with a high minimum spend requirement

There’s nothing I love more in the credit card rewards world than a good sign-up bonus. These bonuses offer a big lump sum of points or miles to new cardholders who can spend a certain amount within the first few months.

You’ll usually find these offers on the credit card application page, although you might get some in the mail too. A typical offer will say something like, “Apply now and get 30,000 bonus miles when you spend $US1,000 in the first three months.”

While I don’t have a problem putting $US1,000 of my regular spending on a credit card over the course of three months, some of the most generous sign-up bonuses require higher spending levels, like $US5,000 in the first three months. For those credit cards, I time my application so that I’m approved right before the holidays kick into full gear.


Read more:
6 easy ways to meet the minimum spending requirement to earn a credit card sign-up bonus

Not only do I spend more in the months of November and December on things like flights, food, and presents, but I also have more opportunities to put other people’s spending on my credit card, helping me reach higher spending requirements.

When my whole family goes out to dinner, I ask if I can put the bill on my credit card and have everyone pay me their share. The same goes for a group bar tab on New Year’s Eve. This makes earning a big sign-up bonus easy.

In the past, I’ve gone for the sign-up bonuses on the Platinum Card® from American Express, the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, and the Ink Business Preferred Credit Card.

This year, I’m aiming for a targeted offer I received for the American Express® Business Gold Card. The standard offer is for 35,000 Amex points after you spend $US5,000 in the first three months, but I’m eligible for a higher offer of 75,000 points – 50,000 points after spending $US5,000 in the first three months, and an additional 25,000 points after spending $US10,000 total in the first three months.

I’m putting holiday travel on a card with travel insurance

Rather than putting my flight to visit my family on a new credit card to try and earn a welcome bonus, I used my Chase Sapphire Reserve to purchase them. Of all my credit cards, this one offers the best travel insurance, so I always put my flights on it.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve offers a generous level of coverage that includes travel accident insurance, trip cancellation and interruption protection, trip delay reimbursement, and delayed and lost baggage insurance, among other protections. These travel benefits could save me thousands of dollars in the event of an emergency. Even during a non-emergency like delayed or lost luggage, having the insurance with your credit card means you’ll get reimbursed for food, clothes, and chargers you need to buy in the meantime.

I also plan to put my rental car on my Chase Sapphire Reserve. I always do this because the card offers primary rental car insurance. This means I can opt out of the collision coverage offered by rental car companies and save a significant amount of money. The fact that the coverage is primary is important, because secondary rental car insurance means you have to file a claim with your own personal car insurance before you can file a claim with your credit card.

I’m making miscellaneous purchases with a flat-rate cash-back card

I’m usually all about travel rewards over cash back, but cash-back credit cards that earn a flat rate of cash back on all your spending are great for non-travel holiday expenses. These cards let you earn a higher rate on all of those miscellaneous purchases you end up making during the holidays, from stocking stuffers to mashed potatoes.

Given that I’m all about travel rewards, I actually use the Chase Freedom Unlimited for my miscellaneous holiday purchases. Because I already have an Ultimate Rewards-earning credit card (more than one, actually, since I have the Sapphire Reserve and the Ink Business Preferred), I can convert the cash back that I earn to Ultimate Rewards points. So instead of earning an unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases, I earn 1.5 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar spent on all purchases.

If travel isn’t your thing, you’ll probably want to focus your efforts on cash-back credit cards. You’ll have to tweak this plan to fit your spending habits and rewards goals. No matter your goals, taking a little time this holiday season to maximise your credit card rewards strategy is well worth it.

Cash back: Click here to learn more about the Chase Freedom Unlimited.

Travel rewards: Click here to learn more about the Chase Sapphire Reserve.

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