Alamy The holiday season is the make-or-break time of year for retailers. But what many people don’t consider is that it’s also a key season for credit card companies. They’re making money on every purchase, and it’s in their best interest to get you spending as much as you can.
This year, you’ll find several interesting offers from card credit banks looking to give you every incentive to pull out their plastic for your gift-buying. Let’s take a look at some of the most intriguing.
1. Citi Price Rewind: Price Protection After the Fact
Just about every holiday shopper has experienced the aggravation of buying a gift only to see it go on sale the next day. With its Citi Price Rewind program, Citigroup (C) lets its cardholders take advantage of lower prices even after they make a purchase.
When you buy eligible items with a Citi card and then register those purchases, the company searches websites for the next 30 days looking for lower prices. If Citi finds a price at least $25 below what you paid, you’ll be eligible to file a claim and get a partial refund for those savings.
Citi says that it has found lower prices for a quarter of all registered items selling for $100 or more, with average refunds amounting to $80. Citi is pitching the offer as a way to get Black Friday deals without dealing with the crowds, and as stores open earlier and earlier, that’s an increasingly compelling proposition.
2. Discover Cashback: Tapping Into the Online-Shopping Frenzy.
Card companies know that online shopping is a big growth area, and this year, many card companies prepared in advance for the year-end online spending spree. Discover (DFS) took its popular quarterly cashback program and tailored it to reward shoppers who turn to the Internet to score holiday deals.
For the holiday season, Discover’s Cashback program specifically targets online shopping, with no explicit restrictions on which retailers you need to use in order to take advantage of the program. Shoppers can save 5 percent on up to $1,500 in purchases between Oct. 1 and Dec. 31 .
3. Chase Freedom: Going Online and Old-Style
JPMorgan Chase (JPM) has also tapped into the online frenzy with its Chase Freedom program. During the holiday season, the Freedom program gives 5 percent off purchases from Amazon.com (AMZN). And for those who might be skeptical, knowing that not everything sold on the leading online website is actual sold by Amazon, the fine print explicitly states that third-party merchants selling on Amazon’s marketplace are included.
But Chase doesn’t reward only online shopping. Freedom also includes many popular brick-and-mortar retailers including J.C. Penney (JCP) and Sears (SHLD). Not every retailer qualifies, though: Chase specifically excludes Target (TGT), Walmart (WMT), and membership-based warehouse retailers and electronics stores. Cardholders can get the 5 percent savings on up to $1,500 in qualifying purchases.
4. Chase Sapphire and Ink: Score Cheap Gift Cards
Several Chase cards, including Freedom, Sapphire, and Ink, offer some temptng holiday-related options for getting gift cards. Ordinarily, Chase rewards programs will pay you cash back at a rate of about a penny per point. But if you redeem points for gift cards, Chase will discount them 10 percent to 20 percent, letting your rewards go further. For instance, Chase Ultimate Rewards users can spend 9,000 points to get a $100 Kohl’s (KSS) gift card or 2,000 points for a Callaway $25 gift card.
Users can also get extra rewards points by shopping online through the Ultimate Rewards website. With a variety of partnerships with retailers such as Sephora, Walgreen (WAG), Best Buy (BBY), and Home Depot (HD), Ultimate Rewards will offer between one and seven extra points for every dollar spent.
Don’t Go Overboard
Keep in mind that as generous as these credit-card programs are, they share a common goal: to get you to spend more. Don’t feel compelled to spend up to the maximum just to “save” a few percent on your purchases, especially when finance charges in the new year could well add up to far more than these programs return to you.
But if you stay smart with your purchases — and avoid carrying a balance for long — these offers can help you keep a little more cash in your pocket this holiday season.
You can follow Motley Fool contributor Dan Caplinger on Twitter @DanCaplinger or on Google+. He owns warrants on JPMorgan Chase. The Motley Fool recommends Amazon.com and Home Depot. The Motley Fool owns shares of Amazon.com, Citigroup, and JPMorgan Chase.