November 12, 2021 by Space Coast Credit Union
The holiday season often brings with it a cup of cheer and a shopping cart full of gifts for the ones you love. With many deals only available for a limited time and items often running out of stock, credit cards make holiday shopping fast, easy, and convenient both online and in stores. Plus, the best part about credit cards that debit cards don’t offer? Earning points for rewards! However, it’s also easy to get swept away in the whirlwind of spending, which can lead to debt once the festivities are over. Here are our top do’s and don’ts to keep in mind while holiday shopping with credit cards.
Credit Card Holiday Shopping Do’s:
With a Visa® Signature card, you can gift others while rewarding yourself with points at the same time. It’s a win-win! Take advantage of this program by shopping online at these three retailers: Walmart.com, Target.com, and Amazon.com to earn up to an extra 20,000 bonus points from November 22 to December 31. These points can be redeemed for vacations, theme park tickets, electronics, gift cards, and so much more. Read here for more details
about this rewards program as well as its terms and conditions. Don’t have a Visa® Signature card? Not a problem, you can apply today at SCCU
Between picking up the food, decorations, and gifts, it can be easy to fall into the trap of overspending while getting into the holiday spirit. (No judgment here.) The best remedy to prevent this is to set a budget for yourself beforehand. It’s a good idea to break down your budget in detail as much as possible, such as categories and maximum spend amounts. Setting up a budget also often helps with avoiding impulse buys. Set up your budget in the SCCU Mobile App
or your Online Banking
account. Members can even set up spending limits in the SCCU Card Control
companion app, which you can download from your SCCU Mobile App.
3) Check your card charges regularly
Fraud is often more prevalent during the holiday season than other times of the year. One of the best ways to catch it is as soon as possible is by checking credit card transactions frequently. In the SCCU Card Control companion app
, members can track their credit card charges, turn credit and debit cards on or off to prevent further transactions, and even manage permissions for groceries, restaurants, gas stations, and more.
Plus, checking transactions regularly is a good way to see if a store double charged you. The nice thing about credit cards is that cardholders can often get refunds sooner than with debit cards. Credit cards also offer more dynamic security protection. If you see anything suspicious, be sure to report it to your financial institution immediately. At SCCU, you can report fraudulent activity by visiting any of our branches, sending a Secure Message via Online Banking, or calling us at 800-447-7228, option 1.
SCCU also offers 2Way Text Fraud Alerts, a service that notifies members when we think there’s been fraudulent activity on your account. Learn more about how to fight fraud with SCCU here
4) Pay more than the minimum payment when possible
Paying the minimum payment every month prevents you from dealing with late payments and helps you keep in good credit standing. However, paying more than the minimum payment ensures that you’re not actually paying $100 for a $50 item because of interest, and you save money overall. You may also want to consider transferring balances from high-interest credit cards to lower-interest (or 0% APR) credit cards to help consolidate payments and pay off debts. Check with the credit card provider beforehand about balance transfer fees. It never hurts to request a lower interest rate from your card provider, especially if you’ve been a longstanding good customer.
5) Save less on shipping by putting more towards gift cards
Sometimes the gift you want to buy isn’t available in a brick-and-mortar store, but you don’t want to deal with shipping costs. However, many retailers online will waive shipping costs as long as you spend a minimum amount. Are the items in your cart not totaling up to that amount? Add a gift card to it! This little trick allows you to still earn rewards on your credit card and save money on shipping. Plus, you’ll have the gift card available to get future items later. Better yet, give the gift card to someone that’s hard to buy for. That’s one item you can cross off your shopping list!
Credit Card Holiday Shopping Don’ts:
1) Don’t apply for too many credit cards
When you’ve finally made it to check-out, it can be tempting to say “yes” to a store credit card with all of its attractive discounts and offers. But these often come with a catch, such as disappointing rewards programs and high interest rates, sometimes over 25%! The cost of the high interest rate often exceeds the cost of the items you bought.
Before you make such a financial decision to apply for a card, be sure to “sleep” on it and consider how often you shop at the store. If you shop there regularly, do a little research beforehand, weigh all the pros and cons first, read the fine print, and read some reviews from other store cardholders.
2) Don’t buy items online with your card while using public Wi-Fi
With so many people shopping online during the holidays, criminals will take any measure necessary to swipe sensitive information from shoppers. Whether you’re in a café, shop, or airport, it’s a good idea to think twice before making online purchases while on a public Wi-Fi network. Since public Wi-Fi connections are often unsecure, a hacker can find a way to “get in the middle” of you and the connection point. What can you do instead? If you must use public Wi-Fi, make sure your accounts have two-factor verification. It’s also a good idea to have a VPN on your devices too. Better yet, stick with using cellular data or a mobile hotspot for a more secure connection.
3) Don’t max out your credit cards
Unfortunately, reaching the credit card limit often leads to credit scores dropping. This is a result of using too much of the total credit available on your account(s), which is the second most important factor in determining your FICO credit score. It’s best not to exceed 30% of your total available credit limit to keep your balances low. It’s also possible to set up your account to send you alerts if you’re close to your spending limit. It’s a good idea to just use one credit card for all of your holiday purchases to track transactions more easily.
4) Don’t settle for high interest rates
Credit cards often come with high interest rates with the average being over 20%. This comes at a high price if your card falls into that category, and you don’t think you’ll be able to pay off your holiday bill in full. So, it’s a good idea to explore other credit card options for your gift-giving needs. Plus, other cards may come with better rewards programs. At Space Coast Credit Union, we offer a credit card with 0% APR for the first six billing cycles45
. Even after the introductory period, our competitive rates fall in the range of 9.24% to 16.24% (depending on the card you choose and your creditworthiness). Compare all SCCU credit cards
and view their rates
5) Don’t forget to check your annual credit reports
The three credit agencies that collect information about payment behaviors are Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. Be sure to check your credit reports with these agencies for free once a year on AnnualCreditReport.com
. As these reports determine your credit score, it’s a good idea to review the reports to check for any errors and prevent identity theft. If you see something odd or out of place, reach out to the respective agency right away to correct any mistakes. Cardholders can even request that the agency freeze your credit so that nobody can use your personal information to open an account. At SCCU, members can see their FICO credit score
SCCU Makes Holiday Shopping Rewarding
Before you know it, the festivities are over. By keeping track of what you purchased and sticking within a budget, you’re less likely to start your new year off with holiday debt. Best of all, you can redeem the points you earned from your credit card purchases. With our Visa® Signature card, members earn points on every purchase — and enjoy no annual fees, competitive variable rates, Visa® Zero Liability Protection14
, and more. Questions? Feel free to get in touch with us
and a Team Member will be happy to help you go over credit card qualifications and benefits.