With the holidays just around the corner, I’m not surprised to hear a good number of shoppers are still scrambling to finish their shopping lists and purchase last-minute gifts for their friends and family – because I’m one of them. But even though the clock is ticking, it pays to slow down and take stock of all the opportunities to earn rewards when you shop this holiday season.
Here are some of my favorite ways to earn points and miles when shopping last minute.
Seize seasonal multipliers
Believe it or not, you can get one step closer to earning a free flight or hotel stay while you shop for the holidays. And while it may already be too late for Black Friday, don’t forget that Super Saturday – the last Saturday before Christmas – is coming up soon. Typically, Super Saturday is brimming with one-day sales, deep discounts and extended store hours. It’s the perfect opportunity to rack up your rewards while shopping for friends and family.
A handful of travel and other rewards credit cards have seasonal cash-back bonus categories. For example, the Chase Freedom Card offers members the chance to earn 5 percent cash back on up to $1,500 in purchases from October 1 through December 31. The same is true for Discover it members, who can also earn 5 percent cash back on up to $1,500 on select purchases until the end of the year. While these deals are holiday specific, keep an eye out for bonuses offered by your rewards credit card throughout the year.
Tap into earn malls and loyalty auctions
If you’re shopping right before the holidays, then you might want to avoid the crowds during a last-minute trip to your local mall. You can still earn plenty of points and miles from the comfort of your own home when you shop through earn malls. Earn malls, which are one of the loyalty industry’s best kept secrets, are a collection of online stores that offer shoppers a certain amount of loyalty points or miles for every dollar they spend. One example is JetBlue’s ShopTrue earn mall. With an inventory of more than 730 retailers, ShopTrue members can earn up to two points for each dollar spent when shopping with major brand names like Nike, Macy’s and Disney.
If you frequently shop online, you’ll have no problems using an earn mall. Simply sign in with your loyalty program ID and password, and you’ll immediately have access to hundreds of retailers. All the points and miles you earn on your purchases are automatically transferred to your account.
Another way to purchase last-minute gifts is to take advantage of loyalty auctions, which enable loyalty members to bid online for certain prizes like concert tickets, Broadway shows, and vacation and spa packages. With loyalty auctions, you can use your points and miles to bid on prizes and experiences. Like earn malls, all you have to do to get started is sign in to your account and start browsing. In fact, you can think of loyalty auctions as earn malls with a little bit of friendly competition.
However, it’s important to remember that you’re required to have enough points in your account when you make a bid -- otherwise, you forfeit the prize if you win the auction. And some auctions won’t even allow you to make a bid unless you have enough points and miles available.
Go for gift cards
It can be tough to figure out the right gift for the right person. If you can’t find the perfect gift, it might be better to go for gift cards and let your recipients choose what they want to purchase. Gift cards are an effective way to redeem points and miles that may be nearing their expiration dates, particularly as the year comes to a close. Before you use your points and miles to pick up a gift card, make sure you check with your loyalty provider to understand your program’s redemption rates.
For example, Chase Ultimate Rewards allows you to redeem your points for gift cards at a ratio of one cent per point at retailers like Home Depot and Target. As an Ultimate Rewards member, for example, you can redeem 10,000 points for a $100 gift card.
If you plan on traveling over the holidays, you can also redeem your frequent flyer miles for gift cards at partner retailers. One example is Hawaiian Airlines, which lets members redeem their HawaiianMiles for gift cards to grocery stores, car rental services and more.