Prepare for Holiday Shopping with These Timely Credit Tips

According to a YouGov Parent Survey in 2019, a quarter of parents entered the 2019 holiday shopping seasonstill paying down debt related to 2018 holiday spending. Deloitte numbers put holidayretail salesgrowth in 2019 at 4.1% year-over-year. In 2020, Deloitte predicts growth of between 1% and 1.5% year-over-year for the holiday season.

It might be that some people no longer want to pay for holiday gifts, decorations and food a year down the road. But it’s also true that the COVID-19 pandemic has hit consumerwallets and some people might be cutting back this year.

That doesn’t mean that people aren’t shopping. Google and other thought leaders note that changes to shopping habits and the need for social distancing and other measures will likely spread the holiday shopping season out longer. Shoppers are also likely to turn to online shopping.

With a ton of shopping opportunities, a longer holiday shopping season and pent-up pandemic energy, it might be easy to overspend and create debt you’ll deal with into the future. Follow these tips to prepare for holiday shopping so you can protect your financial standing, save money and make the most of the resources you have this season.

1. Check your credit scores

Begin by checking your credit scores and reports. They tell you where you stand if you want to apply for credit. They also give you a baseline of where you are so you know if your score goes up or down later with no explanation.

An unexplained drop in your credit score can be a sign your financial information is compromised. Unfortunately, the holidays are prime time for many scammers. Using a service, such as ExtraCredit’s Track It feature to keep tabs on 28 of your FICO scores, helps you know when you need to act to protect your credit.

2. Ask for a credit limit increase

If you have existing credit cards and you’re a cardholder in good standing, the months prior to the holidays can be a good time to ask for a credit limit increase. You’re not asking so you can spend more-it’s typically advisable to keep spending in line with your budget no matter how much credit you have.

You’re asking for a higher limit so you can spend what you already planned to without hurting your credit utilization. Credit utilization is the second-most important factor in determining your credit score-second only to payment history. It’s the ratio between your credit limit and how much of that credit you have used.

If you have a card with a limit of $1,000 and you spend $300, that’s a utilization rate of 30%. But if you get approved for a credit limit of $2,000 and you spend $300, that’s a utilization rate of only 15%, which is better for your score.

3. Apply for a credit cardwith a 0% APR introductory offer

Those with good or excellent credit might want to consider applying for a card with a 0% APR introductory offer. If you qualify for such a card, you typically have one or two years to pay off purchases made during the introductory period without accruing any interest.

This can be a way to finance your entire holiday without paying anything more for the privilege of doing so. However, it’s still important to maintain your budget and not overspend just because you won’t be paying the balance off until later. Otherwise, you make this season’s holiday festivities next season’s problem.

4. Pay down debt before-and after-the holidays

Speaking of last season’s debt: If you can pay it down before you start spending this season, that’s a great accomplishment. It also frees up your credit and your budget so you can better enjoy the current holiday season. If you’re paying $100 a month on your debt, that’s $100 a month that might go toward gifts or celebrations that you don’t have to put on a card this year.

If you do use credit to pay for the 2020 holidays, have a plan for paying it down as soon as possible. That’s especially true with 0% interest cards. The longer you wait, the greater the chance you’ll miss the introductory period and potentially be on the hook for a lot of interest expense.

5. Create a holiday spending budget

Whether you’re using cash or credit-or a mix of both-enter the 2020 holiday shopping season with a plan. Take an honest look at your personal budget. If you don’t have a budget, create one before you move forward. Then decide how much you can realistically spend during the holidays.

Consider which gifts you want to buy and which events you want to host or attend. You might not be able to do everything, and that’s OK. Be honest with yourself, your family and your friends about what you can afford to do with your time and money this year.

Then make a list and assign each item a monetary budget. That can include:

  • Gifts as a total
  • Gift extras, such as wrapping and tags
  • Shipping, both for receiving items you buy and for shipping gifts to others
  • Food and drinks
  • Travel
  • Decor
  • General festivities, such as tickets to holiday events

Once you assign a dollar amount to a category, stick to it. That’s a good idea even if you’re spending with credit.

6. Align budgeted spendingwith credit cardrewards

Once you know how much you want to spend, decide how best to spend it. If you’re using credit cards for the holidays, check your accounts to see if any offer cash back or rewards points. If they do, double-check which categories or stores you can shop in to earn the most points with each card.

For example, some travel rewards cards offer 6x points when you shop at supermarkets. You could use such a card to cover the food-and-drink portion of your holiday budget and reap the biggest rewards possible from that spending. You might also be able to maximize rewards when purchasing gift cards.

7. Guard your financial information and identity

As you enjoy holiday shopping, be on guard. Don’t use debit card PIN numbers unless you have to, and shield the keypad when you enter your information. Keep a close eye on your wallet or purse, and check your credit card statements regularly to ensure all charges are yours. You can also use ExtraCredit’s Guard It feature to help keep your identity and account information safe during and beyond the season.

Sign up for ExtraCredit today!

The post Prepare for Holiday Shopping with These Timely Credit Tips appeared first on Credit.com.

Source: credit.com

Best credit cards for grocery shopping

Americans spend on average $4,464 in groceries every year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Shopping for groceries is one of the main weekly expenses in every American household.

That’s why the credit cards tying reward points to grocery shopping are getting more numerous and their offers are getting increasingly more competitive. In 2020 you have a whole new lineup of cards ready to reward you for the purchases you make at grocery stores.

Here are the best cards whether you like those premium rewards, are an everyday shopper, are building credit, you’d rather skip the prep and go straight to the meal or you like to buy groceries at superstores.

See related: Best cash back cards

American Express® Gold Card – Best for earning Membership Rewards points on groceries

  • Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express – Best for earning cash back on groceries
  • Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card – Best for earning cash back on groceries with no annual fee
  • Chase Freedom Unlimited® – Best for earning cash back on groceries and everything else
  • Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card – Best for earning cash back on groceries and dining out
  • Target REDcard™ – Best for earning cash back on Target purchases
  • Capital One® Walmart Rewards® Mastercard® – Best for earning cash back on Walmart purchases
  • American Express® Gold Card: Best for earning Membership Rewards points on groceries

    Amex Gold gives you an unprecedented rewards rate whether you’re dining in or out. If that weren’t enough, paying at certain eligible restaurants (see terms for qualifying merchants) after enrollment can get you up to $10 a month in statement credit. You also get up to $120 in Uber Cash every year ($10 per month) that can be applied to U.S. Uber Eats orders – a big plus for those who order their groceries through the platform (must add Gold Card to Uber app in order to receive the Uber Cash benefit).

    The intro bonus of 60,000 points when you spend $4,000 in the first six months is excellent, and there are many redemption options, including gift cards, merchandise and travel with no blackout dates.

    The card charges an annual fee of $250, but if you take advantage of both the Uber Cash and the dining credit, keeping the Amex Gold card will essentially cost you $10 every year.

    If you are OK with only redeeming travel directly through Amextravel.com or Amex’s airline partners to maximize the value of the Membership Rewards points you’ll earn, this is a great card for foodies and travelers.

    Here’s a closer look at the features:

    • 60,000 American Express Membership Rewards points when you spend $4,000 in the first six months
    • 4 points per dollar spent at U.S. supermarkets on up to $25,000 per year in purchases – 1 point thereafter
    • 4 points per dollar spent at restaurants worldwide (including Uber Eats orders)
    • 3 points per dollar spent on flights booked directly through airlines or on amextravel.com
    • Up to $120 annual dining credit (up to a $10 statement credit monthly) when you pay at Grubhub, The Cheesecake Factory, Ruth’s Chris and participating Shake Shack locations (enrollment required)
    • Up to $120 in Uber Cash per year ($10 per month)
    • No foreign transaction fees

    Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express: Best for earning cash back on groceries

    Even though it has fewer features than the Amex Gold, it gives you perhaps the highest cash back rate available on groceries, and it has a lower annual fee – $95. Plus, running errands like groceries is way easier when you get cash back on gas for the commute. Take a closer look:

    • $250 statement credit when you spend $1,000 in the first three months
    • 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 in purchases per year, then 1%
    • 6% cash back on select U.S. streaming services, such as Netflix, Hulu or HBO Max
    • 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations
    • 3% on transit purchases
    • 1% cash back on all other purchases

    Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card: Best for earning cash back on groceries with no annual fee

    The Bank of America Cash Rewards card offers grocery shoppers the opportunity to double down on cash back for food by selecting dining for its 3% category along with its outstanding 2% rate on grocery stores and wholesale clubs, with no annual fee.

    If cardholders want something other than dining for the 3% rate, Cash Rewards offers the flexibility to let them choose their own category. However, the $2,500 quarterly spending cap on both categories is low.

    Have a closer look:

    • $200 in online cash rewards when you spend $1,000 in the first 90 days
    • 3% cash back on a category of your choice (gas, online shopping, dining, travel, drugstores or home improvements and furnishings)
    • 2% cash back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs
    • $2,500 combined quarterly limit on 2% and 3% cash back categories
    • 1% cash back on all other purchases
    • No annual fee

    Chase Freedom Unlimited®: Best for earning cash back on groceries and everything else

    For those who don’t want to have to choose a spending category but still want no annual fee, Chase Freedom Unlimited offers a consistent rate of at least 1.5% cash back on all purchases.

    • 5% cash back on travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards
    • 3% cash back on dining and drugstore purchases
    • 1.5% cash back on all other purchases
    • $200 bonus if you spend $500 in the first 3 months
    • Cash back rewards do not expire
    • No annual fee

    Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card*: Best for earning cash back on groceries and dining out

    This card is for those with way too packed a social life to buy groceries. Sure, you get 2% cash back at grocery stores for those times your social calendar eases up and you can actually get to the store, but otherwise, you get way more return on your cash back when you dine out or see a show.

    Plus, if you love concerts, 8% cash back on tickets through Vivid Seats is absolutely unprecedented.

    Check out the details:

    • $300 cash bonus if you spend $3,000 in the first three months
    • 8% cash back on tickets through Vivid Seats (offer expires January 2022)
    • 4% cash back on dining and entertainment.
    • 2% cash back at grocery stores
    • 1% cash back on all other purchases
    • $95 annual fee

    Why go to a standard grocery store when superstores allow you to get the grocery shopping done all in one shot? For those who prefer one-stop shopping, there are some great credit card options for superstore shoppers that will give you monster returns you don’t often see with standard cash back cards as long as you use them in-store.

    Target REDcard™: Best for earning cash back on Target purchases

    The Target Redcard has no annual fee. This, combined with its standard offer of 5% off in-store purchases applied right at the checkout counter and 5% off at Target.com with free shipping, makes it a great card for frequent Target shoppers, especially since the 5% discount is applied in perpetuity. You can also stack your discount with others available through Target’s Cartwheel app and in-store.

    Though most people don’t need 120 days to return an item, you get that with this card when its extra 30 days is combined with Target’s standard 90-day return policy. The extra time could allow a greater piece of mind on those large ticket items you buy.

    However, if you’re known to carry a balance, this isn’t the right card for you. The high variable APR can far outweigh the 5% discount, so pay the card off after each billing cycle.

    Here’s a snapshot of all the benefits of this card: 

    • 5% off eligible Target purchases in-store and online at Target.com (except pharmacy purchases)
    • Can be used together with Target Circle and other discounts
    • Free two-day shipping on orders from Target.com with no spending minimum
    • An extra 30 days to return items on top of the standard 90-day return policy
    • Early access to special events, products and promotions
    • No annual fee

    Capital One® Walmart Rewards® Mastercard®: Best for earning cash back on Walmart purchases

    This card is great because, unlike Target’s Redcard, it offers some cash back outside of Walmart purchases, including 2% cash back at restaurants and travel and 1% cash back on all other purchases.

    However, while Target’s Redcard offers its in-store 5% discount with no limit, the Capital One Walmart Rewards Mastercard only offers the same discount in-store for the first 12 months and you have to use Walmart’s mobile wallet on your purchases to get it.

    Where this card really shines is online, especially if you do a lot of grocery pickup or delivery orders from Walmart.com.

    It’s very easy to apply for and, like the Redcard, it carries no annual fee, as well as some smaller benefits you’ll see below:

    • 5% cash back on Walmart purchases online, including grocery and delivery orders
    • 5% cash back on in-store purchases in the first year when you pay using the Walmart Pay digital wallet
    • 2% cash back on restaurant and travel purchases
    • 1% cash back on all other purchases
    • No annual fee or foreign transaction fee
    • Easily apply via text message
    • Card is automatically transferred to Walmart Pay digital wallet on approval
    • Fraud alerts and the ability to freeze your account

    Comparing the best cards for grocery shopping

    Card Grocery bonus Other rewards Annual fee
    American Express® Gold Card 4 points per dollar spent at U.S. supermarkets on up to $25,000 per year in purchases – 1 point thereafter

     

    • 60,000 American Express Membership Rewards points when you spend $4,000 in the first six months
    • 4 points per dollar spent at restaurants worldwide (including Uber Eats orders)
    • 3 points per dollar spent on flights booked directly through airlines or on amextravel.com
    • Up to $120 annual dining credit (up to a $10 statement credit monthly) when you pay at Grubhub, The Cheesecake Factory, Ruth’s Chris and participating Shake Shack locations (enrollment required)
    • Up to $120 in Uber Cash per year ($10 per month)
    $250
    Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express
    6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 in purchases per year, then 1%
    • $250 statement credit when you spend $1,000 in the first three months
    • 6% cash back on select U.S. streaming services, such as Netflix, Hulu or HBO Max
    • 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations
    • 3% on transit purchases
    • 1% cash back on all other purchases
    $95
    Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card 2% cash back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs
    • $200 in online cash rewards when you spend $1,000 in the first 90 days
    • 3% cash back on a category of your choice (gas, online shopping, dining, travel, drugstores or home improvements and furnishings)
    • $2,500 combined quarterly limit on 2% and 3% cash back categories
    • 1% cash back on all other purchases
    $0
    Chase Freedom Unlimited® n/a
    • 5% cash back on travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards
    • 3% cash back on dining and drugstore purchases
    • 1.5% cash back on all other purchases
    • $200 bonus if you spend $500 in the first 3 months
    $0
    Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card 2% cash back at grocery stores
    • 8% cash back on tickets through Vivid Seats (offer ends January 2022)
    • 4% cash back on dining and entertainment
    • 1% cash back on other purchases
    • $300 bonus if you spend $3,000 in the first 3 months
    $95
    Target REDcard™ 5% discount at Target and Target.com n/a $0
    Capital One® Walmart Rewards® Mastercard®
    • 5% cash back on in-store purchases for the first 12 months when using Walmart Pay
    • 5% cash back on Walmart.com purchases, including grocery pickup and delivery orders
    • 2% cash back on in-store Walmart purchases after the introductory period
    • 2% cash back on restaurant and travel purchases
    • 2% cash back on the purchase of gift cards at Walmart (online, app, Walmart Pay or in stores
    • 1% cash back on all other purchases
    $0

    Honorable mentions

    There is no shortage of credit card options that reward grocery spending, so in addition to our top picks above, consider these alternatives.

    • Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card – A no-annual-fee alternative to the Capital One Savor Card, the SavorOne offers the same 2% cash back on grocery store purchases. While it offers a slightly lower rate on dining and entertainment than the Savor card, the SavorOne is a good alternative for those wary to pay an annual fee.
    • U.S. Bank Altitude Go Card – The newly launched U.S. Bank Altitude Go Card offers a competitive rewards rate on both dining and grocery purchases – 4 points per dollar on dining and food delivery and 2 points per dollar on groceries, to be exact. It also offers 2 points per dollar on gas and streaming service purchases and 1 point per dollar on everything else. Plus, it doesn’t charge an annual fee.
    • Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature card – If you prefer to do your grocery shopping at Whole Foods, you can’t beat the rewards rate on the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature card. In addition to 5% cash back on Amazon.com purchases, the card offers the same 5% rate at Whole Foods locations. You’ll also earn 2% back on restaurant, gas station and drug store purchases and 1% on everything else. You have to be a Prime member to qualify for the card, but if you spend a significant amount on Amazon orders or at Whole Foods, your rewards can help offset the cost of membership.
    • Apple Card – The Apple Card is best known for its high rewards rate on Apple purchases, but it can also be a great choice for grocery shopping. When you make a purchase via Apple Pay, the card offers 2% back on all qualifying purchases. This is on par with some of the highest flat-rate credit card offers. Just make sure your preferred grocery story accepts the mobile wallet before you work this card into your rewards strategy.

    How to pick the right card for grocery shopping

    For most of us, using a credit card at a grocery store simply involves taking it out in the checkout line. But if you want to up your grocery shopping game and save some serious money, here are some tips and secret strategies from credit card experts and the most seasoned shoppers we could find.

    When picking the credit card you’ll use at the grocery store most experts recommend either a card with a high cash back rate that can provide a percentage off every time you shop or a tiered rewards card that offers specific rewards every time you use it for groceries.

    “When you use a cash back card, it’s like having a coupon to save a certain amount off your total purchase each and every time you buy groceries. This savings isn’t limited to grocery stores – a flat-rate rewards card will apply the same cash back or miles to all of your purchases,” says Ashley Dull of CardRates.com.

    However, if you’re picking a tiered rewards card with a grocery store category, they often have a limit on how much you can earn annually.

    For example, American Express limits the 6% cash back rate spent at U.S. supermarkets annually on its Blue Cash Preferred Card to $6,000 in purchases (after that, it’s 1%), so be mindful of those restrictions.

    Apple Card gives you cash back every day.

    You also want to pick a card where rewards don’t expire, there are multiple options for redemption and you can transfer rewards between accounts. Always keep track of the terms of your credit card and compare card features vigorously before making your final selection.

    How to earn the most rewards while grocery shopping

    If you really want to maximize your rewards at the grocery store, stack your savings with a cash back app such as Ibotta, Fetch Rewards or Checkout 51. Your grocery store’s loyalty app is also a great way to double-dip on savings.

    “By taking a few minutes to scan in your grocery receipts, a family of four can easily earn over $25 a month in rewards,” says Nermeen Ghneim of The Savvy Dollar personal finance blog.

    Finally, if you’re choosing a store-branded credit card because you tend to shop at the same store all the time, make sure you pay off the balance before the billing cycle resets because store cards tend to have very high interest and fees.

    “Many people know that making a habit of paying off high interest credit cards will actually have a slightly negative effect on their credit,” says Dan Gallagher, author, retired financial planner and personal finance expert at ScoreSense.com. “But some grocery credit cards are in-house credit extensions, especially the ones that are valid in-store only. The in-store-only variety does not harm your score for avoiding interest and paying balances off early, so do not fear a grocery store credit card.”

    *All information about the Capital One Savor card has been collected independently by CreditCards.com and has not been reviewed by the issuer. 

    Source: creditcards.com