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Holiday shoppers take advantage of hidden credit card benefits to save

Credit card usage remains high throughout the holidays
Credit card
Posted at 7:41 AM, Dec 20, 2022
and last updated 2022-12-20 08:11:05-05

BALTIMORE — Despite inflation, economists expect sales this holiday season to end on a high note.

There are ways to save whether consumers already have finished their holiday shopping or have yet to get started buying gifts.

Whether consumers shop Black Friday, Cyber Monday, or are just holding out for last minute deals, high inflation and rising interest rates on credit cards are the Grinch that stole many of this year's best bargains.

MoneyTips senior finance industry analyst Nathan Grant said “you really have to look at what you personally can do about it because there’s really not much the individual consumer can do about the overarching pressures of rising costs.”

The National Retail Federation expects retail sales this holiday season to end up between 6% and 8% higher than last year with total sales for the November-December period to add up to around $950 billion. The consumer credit reporting agency Equifax reports consumer reliance on bank cards alone is up more than 18% than last year with balances totaling more than $860 billion.

As consumers rely heavily on credit cards this holiday season, they may find untapped benefits behind each swipe.

“Go back and reread your card and see what perks earning rewards like I mention the cash back or something like that often focused on the earning miles for future flights. It’s those benefits that maybe you don’t use it often, it might be more valuable,” Grant said.

There also might be help for consumers who bought something on sale and thought they got a great deal, only to find out the retailer offered a deeper discount at a later date but won't adjust the price paid.

“Now it’s a cheaper price and you’re like ‘ah, I would have waited, I could have gotten a better deal.’ Well, if the card you use has price protection there’s often a way to utilize that benefit to get some money back on an item that did go down in price,” Grant said.

Another credit card feature might benefit recipients of presents purchased by early shoppers who discover it's too late to return a not so great gift.

“You gift the item and you got the wrong size, you got the wrong item that you intended to get. Then, it might be something where you go to return it, and the store only had a 30-day return policy or something. But, if you purchase with a credit card that had an extended warranty, you can actually return an item through the credit card benefit,” Grant said.

Other benefits include cash back or cash rewards, zero-percent interest on new purchases or balance transfers. While credit cards can offer convenience and benefits during the holidays, after New Year's some shoppers also face spending remorse, high interest rates, and debt.

“I don’t want to say you should turn to the credit cards always because again, it puts a little more risk, because you’ve got to make sure that it’s stuff you know you can afford to to pay off anyway, if you were just paying in cash,” Grant said.

Grant advises shoppers to hold onto all of their receipts so they can take advantage of all the benefits that their credit cards offer.