Optimizing Spend on Black Friday & Cyber Monday

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Happy Thanksgiving everybody! While today is about stuffing yourself like a Roman, tomorrow and Monday are about shopping. Dun dun dun….

…are you ready for Black Friday and Cyber Monday?

Before you dive into Thanksgiving prep madness today, slow down with a cup of coffee (or maybe a glass of wine is more appropriate? I heard the in-laws were coming) and take a few minutes to think about how you’re going to optimize your Black Friday spending. Whether you’re planning on shopping online or braving the crowds, chances are you plan on taking advantage of the sales. Be sure you’re whipping out the right credit card to earn the most rewards possible.

Below are suggestions for the best travel credit cards to use broken down by specific category bonuses.

Hotels

Citi Prestige Card

The Citi Prestige Card earns 3 ThankYou Points per dollar spent on hotels (as well as air travel). I value ThankYou Points at 1.9 cents each.

You can earn 3 Ultimate Rewards per dollar spent with the Sapphire Reserve, and I find Ultimate Rewards to be more valuable than ThankYou Points, but the Prestige has a trick up its sleeve that the Sapphire Reserve does not: 4th hotel night free on consecutive hotel stays.

Unless you are collecting Ultimate Rewards for a very specific, high value award, I would use your Prestige for hotel stays of four or more nights if you have the choice. Getting a fourth hotel night free is more valuable than the marginal difference between a ThankYou Point and an Ultimate Reward.

Airfare

Platinum Cards from American Express

If you have any version of the American Express Platinum Card, and travel insurance isn’t your #1 priority (if it is, check out Travel Protection Benefits of Chase, Citi, & Amex Cards: Comparison Chart), then you should be buying airfare with it for the highest return.

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Specifically, the Amex Platinum personal cards offer 5 Membership Rewards per dollar spent on airfare booked directly with an airline or through Amex’s travel portal, while the Business Platinum only offers 5x Membership Rewards on travel booked through the Amex travel portal. Neither offer 5x for travel booked through online travel agencies like Expedia, Orbitz, or Kayak.

Check out the Best Credit Card to Buy Airfare for more details.

Dining

Chase Sapphire Reserve

Taking a shopping break to eat? The Chase Sapphire Reserve will give you 3 Ultimate Rewards per dollar spent on dining expenses. The following is from Chase’s terms in regards to what counts as a dinging expense:

Merchants in the restaurants category are merchants whose primary business is sit-down or eat-in dining, including fast food restaurants as well as fine dining establishments. Please note that some merchants that sell food and drinks located within larger merchants such as sports stadiums, hotels and casinos, theme parks, grocery and department stores will not be included in this category unless the merchant has set up such purchases to be classified in a restaurant category. In addition, gift card and delivery service merchants will not be included in this category unless the merchant has set up such purchases to be classified in the restaurant category.

I wouldn’t expect restaurant gift cards to earn 3x points, although apparently food delivery services are categorized as dining.

Grocery Stores

Amex EveryDay Preferred Credit Card

If you’re making 30 or more transactions at grocery stores during your statement period, than you should be using your Amex EveryDay Preferred Credit Card for grocery purchases.

You get 3 Membership Rewards per dollar spent at grocery stores (capped at $6,000 a year). Furthermore, if you make 30 or more transactions at grocery stores within a statement period you’ll earn a 50% bonus, racking up a total of 4.5 Membership Rewards per dollar spent. That’s a fantastic return.

Office Supply Stores

Ink Business Cash Credit Card

With 5 Ultimate Rewards earned per dollar spent at office supply stores (as well as internet, cable, and phone services) the Ink Business Cash Credit Card is king when it comes to this category.

However, I would only use this card for office supply store purchases if you also have a premium Chase card like the Sapphire Reserve, Sapphire Preferred, or Ink Business Preferred. Otherwise the Ultimate Rewards earned from the Ink Business Cash card are worth just one cent each. As long as you have one of those premium cards, you can transfer Ultimate Rewards between accounts and turn them into the kind of Ultimate Rewards that are worth about two cents each (those that can be transferred to airline and hotel loyalty programs).

Walmart & Department Stores

Chase Freedom Card

The Chase Freedom card has a 5x category bonus that rotates quarterly. The final quarter of the year’s category is Walmart & Department Stores.

You’ll earn 5 Ultimate Rewards per dollar spent at Walmart and places like J.C. Penny, Kohl’s, Nordstrom, Belk, and Saks 5th Avenue (plus many more). Here are some examples that don’t count as a department store…

Note that like the Ink Business Cash Credit Card, the points earned by the Freedom will only be worth 1 cent each if you don’t have a a premium Chase card account to transfer your Freedom-earned Ultimate Rewards to (like the Sapphire Reserve, Sapphire Preferred, or Ink Business Preferred). If you do, then your return is amped up to around 10% instead of 5% as you’ll be able to transfer them to airline and hotel programs!

Remember to activate the fourth quarter bonus for your Freedom Card by December 14. Doing so before or after spending at Walmart of department stores will still trigger bonus points, but you must register by December 14, 2017 at the latest.

Non-Bonus Spending

If you have an Amex Blue Business Plus Card, use it for all of your non-bonused spend (up to $50,000 a year). You’ll earn 2 Membership Rewards per dollar spent on everything. If you don’t have one, use your card that earns the type of point you value the highest. For me that’s my Starwood Preferred Guest Amex. I value SPG points at 2.5 cents each because of their extreme versatility.

REMINDER

This should go without saying, but the holidays can be hard and tryptophan is real so here’s a reminder: If you’re meeting a minimum spending requirement for a sign up bonus, use that card before any others. The return will nearly always be much, much higher than any category bonus you’re getting from a different card.

Other Deals

No need to reinvent the wheel here. A few other blogs have already covered hot Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals. Follow the links below for more info.

Bottom Line

If you plan on holiday shopping this weekend, be sure to choose the right card for your purchase to ensure the highest return on spending. I wish all the MileValue readers a lovely turkey day!

Which cards will be using on Friday and Monday?

Credit card links have been removed from posts and added to the menu bar at the top of every page of MileValue under the heading Top Travel Credit Cards.


Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

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