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Save the most money while holiday shopping with these credit tips

by Joshua D. Scroggin
November 21, 2017
A young mall shopper holds her CoastHills Encore Visa Signature credit card
You have a lot of options when holiday shopping. Here's how you can mix and match them to make sure you're saving the most money.

Whether you’re at a department store, big box store, hardware store, discount store or even shopping online, it’s tempting to hear and see those credit card offers at checkout promising a big discount or extra cash back and rewards points — especially during the holidays.

Some store cards can land you 20 percent in discounts, hundreds in cash back or even a zero percent interest offer, and those can be pretty cool incentives when you’re making big-ticket gift purchases or buying stocking stuffers in bulk.

Here are a few things to remember if you’re looking to maximize your savings this holiday shopping season.


Build Your Credit Responsibly

When you open a new credit account and use it responsibly, odds are that you’re going to improve your credit score over time. Your total number of credit accounts — things like credit cards, store cards, auto loans, personal loans and a mortgage — is one of the factors that can impact your FICO credit score, and having too few can hurt you. Having more available credit while lowering your overall utilization will help, and you’ve got to open accounts to do that.

In the short term, though, opening new accounts will immediately lower your credit score because they add hard credit checks to your record and lower the average age of your open accounts, two things that will negatively impact your score. So, if you’re looking to finance a car or home and want the best rate in the coming weeks, you may want to stay away from opening new store cards this holiday season.

If you have some time to build your score back up before making any major home or auto purchases, keep your mind open to credit-building opportunities if they can save you money.

Don’t Pay Any More Than You Have To

Store credit cards and branded rewards cards can be great since they often come with perks like those mentioned above. A percentage off of every purchase? Cash back? Special member-only deals? Those can be excellent money-savers. But for the convenience they bring, there’s also a downside. They’ll often come along with higher interest rates, meaning if you do not pay your balance off every month, you’ll be hit with larger finance charges than you may have been using another payment method.

Also, pay special attention to those 0% financing offers. They usually come with a fixed timespan to pay back the entire balance. Six months, 12 months — sometimes 18 or 24 if you’re buying major appliances, furniture or home decor. And if you don’t pay in full by the time the deal expires, you’ll be charged interest on the entire amount, not just the balance you have left to pay.

To avoid costly finance charges, you can make sure to pay off your full balance on or before your payment date. Knowing your strategy and sticking to it can help you from overspending. While paying off a balance in a month may be tough to do with a major purchase or a high volume of holiday gifts, in those cases there’s another tactic you can use to make sure you’re minimizing your holiday spend.


Use Balance Transfers To Get The Best Deals

Having a credit card with a low interest rate and using it to transfer balances from your store cards can help you make the most of your credit. If you have a purchase you’re planning to pay off over the course of more than a month, you can use your store card to get the best discount or rewards deal. Then when you receive your statement, get in touch with the issuer of your low-interest card to go through the process of transferring the balance to the card where you’ll pay less in finance charges.

At CoastHills, that process is easy. You can make a balance transfer to either your Encore Signature or Platinum Rewards Visa right from within the Credit Union’s mobile app. All you need to know is the name and address of your store card issuer and your account number. Just grab a copy of your statement, open the app and you’ll be done in minutes. If you’re not a mobile app user, you can download it here, or if you’d prefer, you can download the balance transfer form, print it out and deliver it either through email, snail mail, fax or in person at any of our 12 CoastHills branches. And don’t worry if you don’t have a CoastHills Visa card. It’s easy to apply, and once you’ve been approved, you can make a balance transfer even before your card arrives in the mail.

If you’re interested in saving money with balance transfers, be aware that some cards charge you a balance transfer fee on top of the interest rate they charge. Even those 0% offers can come with a hefty fee up front. And again, if you don’t pay the full balance before the end of the promotional period, you could be charged a higher rate for the full amount.

At CoastHills, all balance transfers have an introductory rate of 1.99% for the first six months and NO FEE. And after that first six months, there’s no penalty if you have not paid off the entire balance. Just pay your standard rate — as low as 7.99% — for the remainder of what you have left. Transferring your balance to the Credit Union’s card could even save you money over the 0% percent offers depending on how quickly you plan to pay off the balance. Make sure to do the math to find out what works best for you.

And now, for December and January only, receive rewards points for balance transfers with CoastHills. For every dollar you transfer over, you’ll get a rewards point added to your account. If you’re using other cards to take advantage of shopping deals, bring those balances to the Credit Union to make the rewards even sweeter.

Whatever your holiday plans, make sure to shop smart and use your credit wisely.

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