By Brett Arends, MarketWatch
Ishara S.KODIKARA/AFP/Getty Images
Holiday shoppers can save a third or more on this year’s spending if they sign up for the right credit cards and use a couple of other money hacks, banks and other financial sources reveal.
J.P. Morgan Chase /zigman2/quotes/205971034/composite JPM +4.04% and Wells Fargo /zigman2/quotes/203790192/composite WFC +5.25% offer credit cards that will earn you a $150 cash bonus if you spend just $500 using the card within the first three months.
That works out at a 30% rebate. You’ll also get another 1.5% back in rewards, and more if you spend in certain categories.
Signing up for online loyalty programs such as ebates.com as well can cut the bills still further when you shop online.
The banks say you can expect to get your card in the mail within five to ten business days if you apply and are approved. That would leave plenty of time for Christmas shopping unless you want to get it all done early. Capital One says applicants should have “excellent” credit. A Chase spokeswoman says, “we don’t release a threshold credit score, as we use a combination of factors.”
Of course, shoppers should take a card’s interest rate into account before signing up. After the 15-month introductory period, the Capital One SavorOne card has a variable APR of 14.74% - 24.74%. Chase Freedom Unlimited has a variable APR of 16.99% - 25.74% after the first 15 months. The average APR for cash back cards was 17.21% as of Nov. 28, up from 16.99% six months ago, according to CreditCards.com .
The average American expects to spend $885 on Christmas gifts this year, but a third plan to spend less than $500 , according to the polling firm Gallup. Those who plan to spend more than $500 might consider signing up for a card that gives a bigger rebate than $150 if you spend a lot more money. Capital One offers a version of its card that earns $500 cash back if you spend at least $3,000 in three months. Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa pays back $200 if you spend $1,000 in the first three months.
Shoppers who want to hack their Christmas spending can save still more money by making their purchases online and first signing up for loyalty programs. That not only includes individual stores’ promotions but also general programs such as ebates.com or Mr. Rebates . These typically give you between 1% and 5% back on purchases made through their site.