Pulling out the same holiday music and decorations each year is a warm and wonderful tradition. Pulling out the same holiday savings advice every year is not. "Make a list!" "Do a gift exchange!" Blah, blah, blah. We've heard it all before. That's why I went searching for the forgotten and new instead of the tried and true. Here's what I found:
Snag gifts and gift cards for less
-Purchase gift cards at a discount. Websites like GiftCardGranny.com list thousands of gift cards available for 5% to 50% off. Sound crazy? Think of all the gift cards you've received to stores you don't frequent much. Other people have too, and they're willing to sell them to you at a loss. GiftCardGranny's partners offer buyer protection so you get what you paid for. Use a cash-back credit card to pay and save even more!
-Buy gift cards at the grocery store. Speaking of cash back credit cards, groceries are one of the most common --and generous--reward categories, often worth 5 percent cash back. And many grocery stores have kiosks featuring dozens of different retailers' gift cards. You'll be at the grocery store anyway, so this one will save you time too!
Sidestep schemes and scammers
-Get a chip card. As a consumer advocate, I'm such a fan of these high tech credit cards that I've partnered with the American Bankers Association to educate consumers about them. They contain microchips that create a one-time transaction code for each purchase you make, so they're almost impossible to counterfeit. Just dip your chip card into the reader when you pay for your purchase. Three in five Americans have already received their chip cards, but ask your bank if you don't have one already.
-Ask for chip readers. If you already have your chip card, be sure to check that your local retailers have chip readers at the register. If they don't, ask them to install or activate them. The one-time transaction code is only created when you dip your card into a chip card reader, so if you swipe the old-fashioned way, you will NOT get the same protection. But rest assured that, as always, you have zero liability if any fraudulent activity does occur, as long as you report it to your bank in a timely manner. So keep an eye on those statements!
-Change your financial passwords. It's fine for things like social media accounts to have the same password. But each of your financial accounts should have its own unique, complicated, super-strong password. Crooks have been known to hack social and email accounts to snag passwords and then --lucky them-- that same password works for the victim's checking account, credit card, and so on.
Make your credit card work for you
-Earn points better-faster-more! Use a comparison website to find a credit card that will earn you the absolute most points or cash back. I can't tell you the best rewards card because the key is to find one that pays the most for what you spend on the most. Get this right, and soon you'll have extra cash, shopping or travel coming your way. Just be sure to pay your bill off every month, otherwise the card interest could negate the rewards!
-Take advantage of price protection. With price protection, if you buy something with your credit card and the price drops, the card company will refund you the difference! You simply register the purchase with your card company and they will track pricing for you. About half of all credit cards now offer some form of this service.