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Take advantage of sign-up bonuses
If you haven't racked up many rewards points this year (or already spent them all … oops), it's not too late to get in on the holiday rewards game. Some major credit card issuers offer sign-up bonuses to attract new customers. You usually have to meet a spending minimum within a certain period of time. For example, you may need to spend at least $1,500 within 90 days to qualify for a $200 sign-up bonus. By putting all your expenses on your new credit card — and paying off the balance each month, of course — you can earn extra cash to put toward holiday gifts, in addition to whatever rewards you'll be earning for use later.
Credit your bill
Another way to save money on holiday shopping is by taking all the cash back you earned and applying it to your credit card balance.1 This will reduce your balance when your holiday shopping bill arrives, which helps take the pressure off an already stressful time of year.
Use points for holiday travel
If your loved ones live far enough away that spending the holidays together requires a plane flight, that could set you back quite a lot — especially if you plan to arrive or depart within a few days of Christmas. An analysis by AAA found that holiday flyers in the continental U.S. paid an average of $593 per person for a round-trip ticket for travel begun on December 21, $639 for travel begun on December 22 (the busiest air travel day during the Christmas week), and $603 for travel begun on December 23.2
If you have a travel rewards card that's been earning points all year, you can cash them in for miles and give your friends and family the greatest gift of all — your presence!
In fact, with some travel rewards credit cards, your points are worth more when you redeem them for travel-related purchases. A few minutes spent reviewing your travel rewards could save you a lot.
Start racking up rewards now
If you're a newcomer to the world of credit card rewards, don't feel left out. You can still take advantage of them to ease your budget and stay out of debt in 2020. Pick out the right credit card for you and take advantage of all the holiday spending you have to do anyway by putting it on your new card. Come January, you should have a good amount of points available to reduce your credit card bill.
Remember, credit card rewards aren't worth a dime if you use them as an excuse to spend more than you can afford. Rewards cards can be a useful tool or a debt trap, depending on how you use them. Be sure to use your rewards card strategically, so you can come out ahead in 2020.