Shop smart: How to use your credit card for holiday shopping

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Shopping during the holiday season is often hurried and hectic, leading some consumers to overspend. As a result, many experts suggest using cash or debit cards for gifts, groceries, travel and other holiday expenses to protect budgets. While this is sound advice, using credit cards can provide notable benefits that are unavailable from other payment options, including protection from fraud. Here are six ways consumers can use credit cards wisely this holiday season.

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Take advantage of card savings

Many credit cards are offering extra savings and perks this holiday season, so make sure you’re aware of these deals and how to use them. For example, the Citi Price Rewind program notifies cardholders of price drops on purchases within the last 60 days, allowing customers to request price adjustments. American Express cardholders receive complimentary subscriptions to ShopRunner, which provides free two-day shipping and returns from such stores as American Eagle, Tiger Direct and Lord & Taylor. Finally, Visa cardholders using VISA checkout can receive free two-day shipping from Lands’ End or $20 off their purchase from Shutterfly and Williams-Sonoma, plus other discounts.

Enjoy return protection policies

Most retailers offer return policies, but select credit cards provide an added bonus of return protection. Policies vary by card, but return protection often includes extended return periods beyond what’s provided by the store, and refunds for returns refused by retailers. All MasterCard, Discover and American Express credit cards offer some form of return protection, so read your card’s specific policy for more information.

Benefit from extended warranties

Gadgets and electronics represent popular gifts this season, and because of their price, many consumers are swayed by store offers for additional warranties. However, most credit cards offer an additional year of warranty protection on top of manufacturer warranties. While manufacturer warranties are often sufficient, this extra level of protection offered by credit cards should make consumers feel more comfortable declining pricey extra coverage from stores.

Stay better protected from fraud

According to a recent article in Consumer Reports, online scams are prevalent during the busy holiday shopping season. It’s no wonder with online shopping soaring this year, with Cyber Monday alone pulling in over $3 billion in online sales. Credit cards offer better fraud protection than debit cards, since credit cards aren’t tied directly to bank account funds. While a scammer can empty your bank account before you realize you’ve been scammed, you can always dispute questionable charges with your credit card company before paying your bill.

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Accrue more rewards

Using cash or debit cards can help you keep track of your funds, but credit cards offer something more: rewards. If you’re diligent about paying off your credit card every month, using it for holiday purchases including gifts, travel and groceries can result in major reward bonuses. These rewards can be redeemed for travel, gift cards, statement credits and more. Some cards offer additional rewards and cashback on certain product categories and brand purchases. For example, Chase Freedom cardholders receive 5-percent cashback on purchases from Amazon, Zappos and other online retailers through Dec. 31.

Receive travel perks and upgrades

Travel during the holiday season is often hectic and can be risky, depending on where and how you’re traveling. Credit cards can help you cut costs on common travel services and upgrades, and also help you recoup funds associated with accidents and lost items. For example, the Capital One Venture credit card offers such perks as rental car insurance, travel accident insurance, roadside assistance and lost luggage reimbursement, plus luxury hotel upgrades and a free six-month membership to CLEAR, the expedited airport security program. Read your card’s travel benefits before your holiday flight or road trip to ensure you’re taking advantage of these money and time-saving benefits.

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