When you're shopping online this Cyber Monday, don't just look for the best prices - look for the best cash-back opportunities as well. Credit card companies, airlines and other businesses provide numerous ways to get a little something extra from your online credit card purchases. Here are four ways to get the most out of your spending. (To help you maximize your rewards, during the holiday season read Maximize Your Rewards With A Few Credit Cards.)
TUTORIAL: Budgeting Basics
Earn Extra Frequent Flyer Miles by Shopping Through Airline Bonus Links
If you ever fly American Airlines, the AAdvantage eShopping mall is a great way to earn extra miles between flights. Simply log in to your AAdvantage eShopping account, select the retailer you want to shop with from the hundreds of available options and click on the special link that will take you to that retailer that allows you to earn miles on your purchase.
You can earn up to 10 miles per $1 spent. At the time of writing, some of the deals available at popular online retailers include one mile per $1 spent at Apple, one mile per $1 spent at Best Buy, five miles per $1 spent at Macy's and four miles per $1 spent at Sears. This program also lets AAdvantage members earn miles with a handful of brick and mortar stores including Domino's, Jos. A. Bank and Sunglass Hut.
To earn miles, you must first create an AAdvantage eShopping account, and register any credit or debit cards you want to earn miles with. Make sure no exclusions apply before you make your purchase (for example, Craftsman purchases from Sears.com are not eligible to earn miles). It takes six to eight weeks for the miles to post to your account.
You can find similar deals through Delta's SkyMiles Shopping, Southwest's Rapid Rewards Shopping and United's Mileage Plus Shopping. Some smaller airlines also offer rewards shopping programs. (To learn more on travel rewards, see Drawbacks Of Travel Reward Programs.)
Use ShopDiscover, Citibank's ThankYou Bonus Center and Other Credit Card Bonus Links
Credit card companies offer shopping rewards programs similar to airlines' mileage shopping rewards programs, except that you get cash back or points instead of frequent flyer miles. Clicking through links from ShopDiscover before making your purchase can earn you Cashback bonus rewards such as 10% at DSW.com, 20% at FannieMay.com and 10% at HSN.com. Cashback bonus rewards are redeemable for checks, statement credits, gift cards and more.
Citibank's ThankYou rewards program allows Citi cardholders to earn bonus ThankYou points when shopping through the ThankYouBonusCenter. There are more than 600 stores to choose from; deals include three points per $1 spent at Target.com, 12 points per $1 spent at Restaurant.com and three points per $1 spent at Overstock.com. Points are redeemable for gift cards, merchandise, travel and other goodies.
Use the Right Card for Your Purchase
Any time you make a purchase with a credit card, you should use the card that will give you the greatest rewards for that purchase. For example, Discover is giving 5% back on up to $300 on purchases at clothing and department stores this quarter, and Chase Freedom is giving 5% back on up to $1,500 in purchases at dining establishments, department stores, movie theaters and charitable and social service organizations this quarter.
Citibank's Citi Dividend card also offers 5% cash back in categories that change quarterly. Now through December 31 you can earn 5% cash back at department stores, clothing stores, electronics stores and toy stores. As with Chase and Discover, you must enroll for each quarterly promotion in order to earn the 5% back instead of the standard cash back rate that normally applies to all of your purchases. If you're just now signing up, wait two business days before making any purchases that the bonus would apply to, or else you might not get the extra 4%. (For more reasons to use your credit card, read 10 Reasons To Use Your Credit Card.)
Make sure to read the fine print to ensure that your purchases will be rewarded the way you expect them to be. Most quarterly cash-back promotions require that you sign up every quarter, and some don't award bonuses retroactively. That means that if a promotion starts on October 1 and ends on December 31 but you don't sign up until November 29, you'll only get the extra cash back for the last month of the year. Still, you're better late than never.
One caveat of getting the extra cash back is that the merchant must classify itself as being a department, clothing, electronics or toy store (or whatever the special categories are in a given quarter). If it doesn't, you won't get the bonus. Generally, the credit card company does not determine how a store is categorized - the merchant does. Also, rewards cards usually cap the total cash back you can earn per quarter and per year, so if you exceed those limits, you should switch cards to keep earning cash back.
Ebates works like a credit card or frequent flyer miles online shopping bonus center. If you're doing shopping that qualifies for a credit card's quarterly 5% back promotion, you can use that card when shopping through Ebates to earn both Ebates cash back and credit card cash back.
Another way to get extra cash back by shopping with Ebates, is by taking advantage of their holiday promotions and daily doubles. These deals increase the usual amount of cash back you'd get from a purchase. For example, right now you can get 5% cash back instead of 2.5% at Lowe's, 7% instead of 2% at Gap and Old Navy and 4% instead of 2% at Kohl's.
Yet, another way to save money through Ebates is by referring someone. When they make a purchase of $25 or more through an Ebates link, you earn $5 in Ebates cash back.
Ebates cash back usually posts to your account within 48 hours, though some stores wait until the return period has expired before reporting your purchase. Ebates distributes your cash back quarterly as long as you've earned at least $5.01. If you haven't, your cash back rolls over to the next quarter.
The Bottom Line
Not all shopping links offer comparable rewards for the same stores, so check the offers available through different shopping portals and choose the most valuable one, especially if you're making a larger purchase. Try not to let the cash back offers influence you to spend more than you usually would, and remember that it will usually take a couple of months to actually get your bonus miles, points or cash back. If you take advantage of every available offer this shopping season, you'll be rewarded with a nice chunk of extra change (or frequent flyer miles) after the holidays. (To learn more on the types of credit cards and which one matches your spending habits, check out Rewards Credit Cards.)
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