Watching movies like A Christmas Story or It's a Wonderful Life has become a holiday tradition for many families. If you're familiar with the latter, you know that getting in on the "ground floor" of the "plastics" industry is one of the many things on which George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart) missed out in making sure the family business stayed afloat throughout tough times. Oddly enough, this particular aspect of the classic Christmas movie is applicable to this year's holiday shopping season. You see, many of us are searching for ways to save in an uncertain economic environment, and strategically using plastics (i.e. credit cards and gift cards) could be part of the answer.
More specifically, opening the right credit card could be worth up to $500, and in light of the fact that the average U.S. household has $300 in unused gift cards, unlocking their value could prove pretty darn lucrative, as well. The question of the hour is, therefore: How does one go about realizing the monetary potential of plastic this holiday season?
Starting with credit cards, the first thing you need to know is that the Great Recession has actually resulted in particularly attractive offers for people with above-average credit. Credit card companies are competing so fiercely for the most stable consumers that they're offering better and better initial rewards bonuses as well as longer and longer 0 percent introductory interest rates. By opening the right card, you could therefore score some extra cash to pay for presents, give yourself extra time to pay for upcoming purchases before interest becomes a factor, or lower the cost of debt remaining from last year. Even if you don't want to open a credit card with just the holidays in mind, offers are available that can provide year-round benefit.
With that being said, after comparing over 1,000 credit card offers, the following cards were chosen as the best for holiday shopping:
Twenty-five percent of the consumers who participated in a recent Consumer Reports Holiday Poll reported having at least one unused gift card left over from last year. If you are in such a situation, you can forget sunk costs because there are a number of ways to make use of these holiday leftovers:
Like George Bailey, you might decide that plastics aren't for you, and that's fine. You simply don't want to have regrets like George, so it's important to understand exactly how credit cards and gift cards can make the holidays more affordable. After all, the average consumer will spend $831 on gifts this year, according to Amex, and we could all use as many money-saving ideas as possible.
Odysseas Papadimitriou is the founder and CEO of Card Hub, a leading credit card and gift card marketplace.
Follow Odysseas Papadimitriou on Twitter: www.twitter.com/cardhub