The holidays are fast approaching, and whether you’re gearing up for Black Friday, holiday dinners or winter travel, GreedyRates is focused on getting you the most bang for your buck from your credit cards.
Some of you may be happy with the cards in your wallet, others on the hunt for an upgrade. Regardless, make sure you’re squeezing every last drop of value from your plastic. Credit cards offer lots of benefits to consumers, but complacency can lead to tons of dollars being left on the table. Here are just a few tips to help you squeeze a few extra dollars out of your credit cards.
Explore Travel Credit Card Sign-Up Bonuses
There’s no better time of year to get credit card sign-up bonuses in Canada than now. Top welcome bonuses often waive the first year annual fee and offer enough points or miles for free return airfare to any destination in continental North America. Here are just a few promos to consider:
- American Express Gold Rewards: No fee first year, 25,000 ($250) point welcome bonus
- Scotia Amex Gold: No fee first year, 30,000 points worth $300 (until October 31, 2017)
- Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card: 25,000 Starpoints worth up to 5 nights stay!
- BMO AIR MILES World Elite Mastercard: Annual fee waived, 3,000 Air Miles welcome bonus
Some credit card bonuses have a minimum spend requirement within a certain period of time to be eligible for the bonus. Because many of us spend more during the holidays than any other time of year, it’s the most opportune time to apply for a credit card with a rich bonus, that has a minimum spending requirement.
Get Prepared for Foreign Travel
If you plan on travelling outside the country, your holiday credit card can offer added benefits from earning perks, to saving dollars and getting free insurance.
Every time you use your credit card to make a foreign purchase, most issuers charge a foreign transaction fee of 2.5%, on top of the foreign exchange rate. Consider using a card that either eliminates the foreign transaction fee or offsets it with increased rewards, like the Rogers Platinum MasterCard, which offers 4% cashback on foreign purchases.
Family travel can cost an arm and a leg. Consider a credit card like the Home Trust Preferred card that offers a generous 0% foreign transaction fee and no annual fees.
If you’re travelling outside the country, travel insurance is a must. Even if you’re just driving over the border, some credit cards’ travel medical insurance step in to cover you, your spouse, and dependents. The Scotiabank Gold American Express card has one of the most comprehensive travel insurance plans in Canada including emergency medical, trip cancellation/interruption, and rental car collision/damage insurance.
Plan B: 0% Interest Rates
Get yourself through the inevitable holiday debt by preparing in advance. Look for credit cards with a 0% balance transfer offer now, so that you’ll already have your low interest solution in hand.
A balance transfer card gives you the opportunity to transfer all your credit card balances to a 0% option after the holidays. Paying 0% will let you carry your debt interest-free, giving you time to pay down your balance at no cost.
The best balance transfer credit cards offer 0% for at least 12 months, and a low 1% balance transfer fee.
Get Rewarded for Holiday Spending
If you’re going to spend, you may as well get rewarded for it. The holidays are a great opportunity to rack up points, miles, and cash back. While travel is likely the largest holiday expense, for those staying put, grocery bills can still pile up as you entertain guests and family. Choose your credit card strategically.
If you’re going to fly, see if you can get a travel rewards credit card that gives you extra points for travel purchases. For example, the BMO Air Miles World Elite Mastercard has an excellent air miles structure that actually gives you twice the miles when spending at any of the air miles partners, a huge network that amounts to double the air mileage.
If Costco is going to be your one-stop-shop for gifts and groceries alike, explore a Mastercard that earns the most at Costco like the MBNA Rewards World Elite MasterCard which gets you 2% on all purchases and no annual fee in the first year.
Whether you’re shopping online, going on vacation or buying something from a brick-and-mortar shop, credit cards offer significant advantages over cash and debit.
First, if you lose your credit cards or they’re stolen while on holiday, you’re not liable for any fraudulent charges that follow. Lose your cash while on holiday, and it’s gone for good.
Second, credit cards offer really powerful and unique protections neither cash nor debit can. For example, many credit cards offer free extended warranty coverage. Others offer purchase protection, which protects your purchases from theft or damage for up to 90 days after purchase. Perhaps most unique of all, and most relevant to the holidays, some cards offer price protection – buy something with your card and find the same product at a lower price within 60 days and the difference will be refunded!