9 ways to save big on holiday shopping

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Fasten your seatbelts everyone — the craziest time of the year approaches. The high-blood-pressure-inducing Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals are in a few short days. And with COVID-19 likely lowering the number of people physically shopping in stores, everyone’s going to be slamming the “buy it now” key on their computers this year. At least you’ll be home wearing stretchy pants, right?

Don’t venture without this guide on how to maximize your savings on all your purchases this Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and beyond. You can double (even triple) dip by using the below strategies and combining things like shopping portals, targeted offers and using a travel rewards-earning credit card for your spending.

(Photo by Nelson Antoine/Shutterstock)

Ways to save on Black Friday, Cyber Monday and holiday shopping 

Use the right credit card

Let’s run down the best credit cards to have for Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Using the right credit card at the right retailers will ensure you maximize your cash back, points or miles earning for every dollar you spend. For instance, Citi is offering 5% back (up to $25 back total) for online purchases made with many of its credit cards from Nov. 24 to Nov. 30.

The list below are some of the best rewards credit cards:

  • Chase Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card: Best credit card for Amazon purchases
  • Chase Freedom Flex℠: Best credit card for Walmart
  • Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card: Best credit card for booking Black Friday and Cyber Monday travel deals
  • Ink Business Cash® Credit Card: Best credit card for office supply stores
  • The Platinum Card® from American Express: Best card for U.S. supermarkets (as a new applicant)

The information for the Chase Amazon Prime has been collected independently by Million Mile Secrets. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Don’t forget that these cards will still earn you cash back or points, even if you use a shopping portal. That’s called double-dipping — and it means more savings for you. Read our post on the best credit cards for holiday shopping for more details.

Use Amex offers

I have a deep love for Amex Offers, mostly because I’ve found them to be the most geared towards my usual purchases. Before I order anything online, I will check my current offers to see if the merchant is listed with any offers. But if I’m buying anything in-store, I keep an updated list on my phone’s notepad of any offers I’ve added to my cards so I can quickly reference which offer goes with what card. Right now I’m redecorating my apartment and Amex offers have saved me quite a bit!

Amex Offers are added through your Amex online account and will activate as a statement credit once you meet the requirements for the particular offer. Charge your purchase to the appropriate Amex card, and if you meet the requirement for the offer, the discount will automatically be credited to your account.

For example, I just used an Amex Offer last week for $10 off any DoorDash order of $30 or more. I placed the DoorDash order, used the correct card, and within a couple of days, the $10 was already posted to my account. 

My total savings YTD with Amex offers — and I’m waiting on two more totaling $40 to post currently.

If you have any American Express cards, check to see if you have any discounts with a merchant you’ll shop with during the upcoming holiday shopping season. You’ll also still earn the Amex Membership Rewards points for the purchase as you normally would. I noticed a couple of offers for cash back on gift card purchases. Check out your Amex Offers if that’s something you’re looking to buy. If you’ll be doing all your shopping online, be sure to use a merchant promo code or shopping portal to maximize your savings.

Use Chase Offers

Much like Amex Offers, you can add cashback offers to your Chase credit cards as an easy way to save some cash. See our guide on how to use Chase Offers.

Once you meet the offer’s spending requirements, you’ll receive a statement credit automatically posted to your account. Make sure you check out what offers you may be targeted for and add the offer to your card before you make a purchase.

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Though the Chase Offers concept is the same as Amex, I find Chase Offers don’t target the same merchants that I usually purchase from. Of course, spending habits vary by person, so it’s worth checking before any Black Friday shopping sprees! Chase may have different retailers on its platform than Amex.

And if you haven’t noticed a pattern yet, use a shopping portal to stack the savings on top of what you’d get back with Chase! 

My measly YTD redeemed Chase offers.

Take advantage of the Chase Pay Yourself Back categories

If you have a Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card or a Chase Sapphire Reserve®, you can utilize Chase’s Pay Yourself Back tool to use your points at a great rate to cover purchases made at grocery stores, home improvement stores, and dining establishments (including takeout). The feature is available through September 30, 2021.

Redeem your points at the following rates:

  • Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card– 1.25 cents each
  • Chase Sapphire Reserve® – 1.5 cents each

Redeeming your points through Pay Yourself Back means you’ll be getting more bang for your buck than just cashing out your points, which would only yield a value of 1 cent per point. Once your eligible transaction posts, you’ll have 90 days to offset or negate it with your Chase points. 

While you may not be doing much holiday shopping at a grocery store, you can offset the costs of holiday gifts by redeeming some points through Pay Yourself back for eligible purchases.

Use shopping portals for extra cash back or points

Online shopping portals are a magical wonderland where you get money back just for doing your usual shopping. If you plan to buy online, your shopping spree should start with a shopping portal.

You can use a site like Cashback Monitor to quickly see which portals are giving you the biggest return. Whether you’re looking for cash, flexible points, or airline miles, you’ll find what you need with Cashback Monitor.

Here’s a quick rundown of how shopping portals work:

  • Decide what currency you want to earn (for example, if you want bonus Chase points, use the Chase shopping portal)
  • Search for the store that sells the item you want
  • If your store is available through the portal, click the “shop now” link. You’ll be taken to the official merchant website
  • Shop as you normally would
  • Points generally deposit a few days or weeks after your purchases

Read our guide on everything you need to know about earning bonus miles shopping online to become a pro in a single evening. One trick some of us hardcore users implement is hopping on our phone when we spot something we want while we’re in a store, and checking to see if any shopping portals are being extra generous. If so, we can order it online and schedule a store pickup before we leave.

Finally, if you’re new to a shopping portal you can sometimes earn a welcome bonus when signing up. Rakuten is offering its highest ever bonus, $40 or 4,000 Amex points, when signing up through a referral link and spending $40 within 90 days.

Get the best deal with price matching policies

If you’ve got deal-spotting hawk eyes and can find a cheaper price on an item you just purchased elsewhere, it could be worth looking into if the retailer will match the cheaper price and give you the difference back. There are terms and limitations which vary by store so you’ll need to read the fine print. 

Along similar lines, some stores, like Target, are price matching their own merchandise online and in their stores. If between Nov. 1 and Dec. 24, 2020 an item’s price drops lower than what you purchased it for, Target will adjust the price. 

Credit cards also offer price matching, but it’s known as price protection. Examples of popular cards that offer this benefit in 2020 are the Capital One Spark Cash for Business and the Capital One Spark Miles for Business.

Information for the Capital One Spark Cash for Business and the Capital One Spark Miles for Business has been collected independently by Million Mile Secrets. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Earn a credit card welcome bonus to offset purchases 

If you’ve got a lot of spending on the horizon, you should always be on the lookout for a big credit card welcome bonus to earn. They can help you to effectively discount your purchases (like, majorly) by earning either cash back or miles and points that you can use for free travel at a later date.

Take a look at our credit card bonus tracker page to see all the highest bonuses currently. My favorite is the Ink Business Cash® Credit Card, which currently comes with $7,500 cash back (75,000 Chase points) after spending $7,500 in the first three months of account opening. That’s worth $750 in cash — at the very least — giving you a massive discount on your holiday shopping. And the card has no annual fee!

Or, you can use Chase points for travel, which will provide you much, much more value. We estimate Chase points value to be around 1.7 cents each when redeemed for travel, making 75,000 points worth $1,275!

Capital One Shopping and Honey

Capital One Shopping is an extension (available on Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Microsoft Edge and Safari; extension not available on a mobile device) that helps you find what you’re looking for at a discount. While you’re shopping, the tool will alert you if it finds a lower price.

There’s no need to spend hours searching for a better deal. You don’t need to be a Capital One customer to use it and this extension can help you save money.

Read our Capital One Shopping review for a step-by-step guide to using it.

Capital One Shopping compensates us when you get the browser extension using the links we provided.

A browser extension like Honey will perform a similar function by scanning the internet and automatically entering a ton of promo codes before you check out to ensure you’re maximizing every discount.

Follow Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales 

Right now, many stores are doing early Black Friday sales and some have even been going on all month! Some stores are rotating categories throughout the month. If you’ve been eyeing something specific you’d like, make sure you check if that store has that item category on sale yet. 

We all get massive amounts of promotional emails daily, but they’re a good source of information for how long a store will run their Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals and what types of items will be discounted.

Bottom line

There are numerous ways to maximize your savings this Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Many of them are stackable, such as using an Amex offer, going through a shopping portal and using a discount code. Make sure you check all viable options for you — and happy shopping!

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Sarah Hostetler is a contributor to Million Mile Secrets. She covers topics on points and miles, credit cards, airlines, hotels, and general travel.

Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

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