What to do if you co-signed a friend’s student loans

If you read our Halloween-themed credit horror stories, you probably remember the story from a recent grad who co-signed her friend’s student loan debt – and found herself with credit damage when that friend stopped paying.

It’s a troubling situation and one that’s all too easy for young people to get into. While the CARD Act of 2009 blocked the under-21 crowd from getting a credit card without proving sufficient independent income, no such requirements exist when it comes to co-signing loans for friends.

Has a friend ask you to co-sign a loan? Did you recently co-sign a student loan for a friend without understanding the consequences? Read on to make sure you’re fully informed about your options.Co-signer

Should you co-sign for a friend?

If you found this article because a friend has asked you to co-sign, set aside their tale of woe for a moment and consider what they’re asking you to do: When you co-sign a loan, you are taking equal responsibility for it. If the primary borrower stops paying, you have to step in – or face the same consequences the primary borrower will (collection calls, credit damage and even lawsuits from the lender).

“One of the first things I say about student loans, is, ‘Don’t co-sign any student loans,’ ” says Randall Ryder, a Minneapolis-based attorney whose practice frequently handles cases involving student loans.

Of course, it’s your prerogative to co-sign, and the potential ramifications should be very clear in the loan paperwork.

“But it is such a bad position to be in,” Ryder says. “… There seems to be this misconception that it’s going to be fine, the person is going to make the payments, and everything will be OK. That’s obviously not always the case.”

So, you co-signed someone’s student loan. Can you get out of it?

The technical term you’re looking for is “co-signer release.”

Usually, the discussion of co-signing student loans centers around private loans, as, generally speaking, a co-signer won’t be required for federal loans. And the thing about private loans, Ryder says, is they’re all different. So, expect the terms for releasing you as the co-signer to be different, too.

“As for options for getting out of it, I’d start by looking at the terms and conditions,” Ryder says.

In general, the primary borrower must apply for co-signer release (the co-signer can’t apply). We did a quick survey of private loan providers and found the following assortment of co-signer release conditions:

  • Wells Fargo: The most recent 24 consecutive monthly payments must be made on time. These consecutive payments must include the first payment. If the first payment is skipped, then 48 consecutive payments must be made on time for the co-signer to be released. The primary borrower must also undergo a credit and income evaluation.
  • Citizens Bank: The primary borrower must make 36 months of consecutive on-time payments, undergo a credit evaluation and provide documentation showing sufficient income. If the application for co-signer release is denied, the borrower has to wait a full year to re-apply.
  • Sallie Mae: The most recent 12 payments must be made on time, and the borrower must provide proof of graduation, pass a credit review, provide proof of income, have no other student loans in default and have no delinquencies of 90+ days in the past two years.
  • Discover: No option for co-signer release, as of February 2012. Co-signers are responsible for the life of the loan.

You may have noticed a pattern in the above conditions: For lenders that provide co-signer release options, a long string (as in years) of on-time payments is required from the borrower, and that uninterrupted string sometimes must include the first payment. So, while you may have a way out, it’s not a surefire one.

“In a magical world we don’t live in, the primary borrower will always make all the payments,” Ryder says. “That probably happens, but I just never see that scenario. Nobody ever calls me to say, ‘Hey just wanted to check in and tell you I’m paying all my student loans.'”

Are there any other options? Ryder has seen some other co-signer release provisions that make exceptions for co-signers who become permanently disabled. You might also consider calling up the lender and asking if there are any other options for getting off the loan. They’re not obligated to offer you a way out if it’s not in the paperwork, and the option they give you might not be acceptable to you. For example, they say they’ll let you off if you pay the entire balance.

You could luck out, though – a lender might let you off if you agree to pay half of the balance or some other portion of it.

“What I always suggest is to call them 10 times because you’ll probably talk to 10 different people and get 10 different answers,” Ryder says. “The tenth person may give you the best option.”

What if the primary borrower is just never going to pay?

Pretty much all your options for getting off the loan involves the co-signer making payments for a certain length of time (see above). If your friend isn’t going to do that, your own options are extremely limited – and extremely specific to your situation. Ryder suggests consulting an attorney who is familiar with co-signing issues and student loans to walk you through all courses of action.

Among these possible options are:

  • Taking over payments on the loan: You’ll be out the money, but your credit will survive. You might be backed into this corner if you’re trying to qualify for a car loan or mortgage in the near future.

    “I have talked to people who have, purely out of the self-interest of protecting their credit, just decided to pay it,” Ryder says.

  • Take the damage: If you’re going to attempt the head-in-the-sand approach (or the come-at-me approach if that’s more your style), keep in mind the lender is going to treat you like the primary borrower. When the loan goes into default, you’ll start getting collection calls. The delinquent loan will cast a pall over your credit for years. And the lender may decide to sue you.

    “The really scary thing for the co-signer is that the lender isn’t required to sue both people,” Ryder says. “They may decide to just sue the co-signer.”

    After all, the reason you were approved as a co-signer in the first place was that that lender found you more creditworthy than your friend.

    “So the reason they might go after the co-signer is that they know the co-signer is the one who actually has the means to pay,” Ryder says.

  • Go after your friend: Your friend has destroyed your credit, saddled you with thousands in debt and left you with no other choice than to start making payments with your own money. You should certainly try to encourage them to do the right thing. But getting any kind of compensation by suing isn’t likely, Ryder says.

    “I suppose that’s an option, but I wouldn’t view that as a good option,” he says. “I’m not very optimistic that you have a very good chance for recovering that money from the primary borrower.”

    If you can prove fraud (or that you were duped into co-signing), your chances at recovering damages may be better. However, the paperwork is usually pretty clear about your responsibility as co-signer, making this route difficult, Ryder says.

    It all depends on your situation, though, and it might be worth pursuing some kind of recompense through the legal system.

    “If you find yourself in a bad station, it is worth talking to an attorney who deals with this stuff somewhat regularly,” Ryder says. “The options may not be great, and they’re certainly not written in stone. But if you get in touch with an attorney who deals with this stuff, you might be able to minimize the damage.”

How card benefits can make family holiday travel less stressful

Toting your young kids through a busy airport, taking them on a long, crowded flight and then staying in a hotel room without all the comforts of home may be something you avoid most of the year. But, if you live far from family, “home for the holidays” may require all those things.

Luckily some credit cards can make the journey a bit less stressful – and may even reduce the cost. family travel luggage

Free checked bags

Handing off the big suitcases at check-in means fewer bags to cart around their airport and maneuver on and off the plane (while you’re concentrating on maneuvering your kids on and off the plane). But, with airlines charging $25 or more for the privilege of checking a bag, the cost can be prohibitive for families.

If you have a credit card affiliated with the airline, though, the baggage-checking fees will be waived for at least some of those traveling on your itinerary. The Citi/AAdvantage Platinum Select card (co-branded with American) makes the first checked bag free for you and four others on your itinerary. The United MileagePlus Explorer offers the same for you and one other travelling companion. Perhaps the most generous, Delta’s co-branded SkyMiles cards (from American Express, a CreditCardForum advertising partner) extend the free-first-checked-bag courtesy to you and up to eight others passengers on your itinerary.

While airline cards nearly always come with annual fees, checking bags for a single round trip with family can cancel out that cost.

If you don’t fly a particular airline often enough to justify getting its card, some cards offer travel credits, which you can use to reimburse yourself for the cost of checking bags. View a list of those cards here. Here’s one example:

Early (well, earlier) boarding

Another common perk among airline cards is guaranteed access to the first group of general boarding for the cardholder and those traveling on the same reservation. Sure, your family won’t be the very first on the plane (that privilege is reserved for those with airline status). But making sure you get overhead space saves you the hassle of gate-checking your bags, and having a little extra time and space to get everyone buckled in can be a little less overwhelming for all involved.

Lounge access

You’ll usually hear this perk mentioned in the same breath as “business travel.” But Dan Miller, father of six and founder of the travel blog Points with a Crew, has found lounges to also be family friendly.

Instead of roaming noisy, crowded airports hunting for food and seating for cranky kids, you’ll find lots of great perks for families in the lounge, Miller says, including comfortable seats, free Wi-Fi and free snacks and drinks. Some even have separate areas for children.

“Lounges are great for airport layovers,” he says. “Or even the time after you clear security but before your flight boards, which could be an hour or two depending on how much buffer time you leave when traveling to the airport.”

However, the cost of lounge day passes can add up if you’re bringing the whole family. That’s where credit cards with lounge perks can help. Miller has gotten lounge access for his family through the American Express Platinum card, which grants access to Centurion Lounges, the Delta SkyClubs, Airspace lounges and Priority Pass lounges. These lounges have varying rules for bringing guests in, but the Centurion lounges are notable in that they let you bring in children under 18 for free.

“So being able to access those lounges as a credit card benefit can have huge savings,” he says.

Companion tickets

Holiday travel can be pricey – and cards that give you a free ticket (for which you pay only taxes and fees) might ease some of the burden. The Delta SkyMiles Platinum card, Delta Reserve card and American Express Platinum card are just some of the credit cards that offer companion ticket benefits (see more here).

Southwest, meanwhile, has a generous companion pass program – any Rapid Rewards member that earns 110,000 qualifying points in a calendar year gets a companion pass for the year in which it was earned and for the following calendar year. Points earned with the co-branded Southwest Rapid Rewards cards count toward that total.

So say you have a family of four and both parents earn companion-pass status. That means the kids can fly free. Because airfares tend to shoot up around the holidays, this benefit has the potential to save you a lot.

Complimentary hotel status

If the relatives you’re visiting don’t have room for you, or if too much time under the same roof doesn’t exactly bring you comfort and joy, you might end up seeking a hotel room for your family unit.

Some co-branded hotel cards give you automatic elite status at the partner properties – or accelerate your path to elite status. That’s compelling for families because many elite perks make hotel stays more tranquil and, sometimes, less cramped. Depending on the program, elite status might get you room upgrades, free in-room Internet, free breakfast (for up to a certain number of guests booked with you) and free bottled water.

Miller has gotten some value out of Hilton Gold status (which comes with the American Express Platinum card as well the Hilton HHonors Surpass card from American Express) when his family travels, as Gold status gives you a room upgrade (when available) at certain properties.

“We’ve used that to book a one-bedroom suite at a Homewood Suites and then get a free upgrade to a two-bedroom suite, which fits our family of eight much better,” he says.

As Delta and United already did this year, American Airlines is making massive changes to its rewards program. Instead of rewarding travelers for miles flown, it will reward them for dollars spent. Once all the planned changes roll out (by the second half of 2016), no U.S. legacy carrier will have a miles-based rewards model.American loyalty program changes

Read on for a description of the changes – and how they might impact your rewards card strategy.

What’s changing

American’s program is undergoing three major adjustments:

1. How miles are earned

You will earn miles based on dollars spent on tickets (government taxes and fees excluded) and your elite status level, instead of the distance (number of miles) flown:

AAdvantage reward-earning chart (beginning 2nd half of 2016
Status levelMiles earned
Basic AAdvantage member (no status)5 miles/dollar
Gold7 miles/dollar
Platinum8 miles/dollar
Executive Platinum11 miles/dollar

2. How many miles you need for a free flight

These changes will go into effect March 22, 2016. According to American’s press release, American is slashing the number of miles needed for flights under 500 miles in the U.S. and Canada (as low as 7,500 miles each way). Currently, the lowest redemption level is 12,500 miles each way unless you have an AAdvantage credit card, which gives you access to lower redemption amounts on limited itineraries.

More changes are only apparent through examination of AA’s award chart. For some destinations and redemption levels, the number of miles required is decreasing – for others, it’s increasing. There are a lot of changes in store, but here are some of the most significant:

  • Economy off-peak SAAver fares to South America Zone 2 (Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile [excluding Easter Island], Paraguay, Uruguay) will no longer be available. Formerly, these fares cost 20,000 miles each way. Now, the lowest redemption level will be 30,000 miles (at the regular SAAver level).
  • Economy off-peak rewards fares to Asia Region 2 (Bhutan, Brunei, Guam, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Saipan, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam) will now be available at the SAAver level (for 32,500 miles). Previously, the lowest redemption fare for this region was 35,000 miles each way.
  • Business class SAAver fares to South America Zone 2 and to Europe will jump from 50,000 miles each way to 57,500 miles each way.
  • Business class SAAver fares to Asia are going up. Asia Region 1 (China, Japan, Korea, Mongolia) is going up from 50,000 miles each way to 60,000 each way. And Asia Region 2 is increasing from 55,000 miles each way to 75,000 each way.
  • Business class SAAver fares to the South Pacific are leaping from 62,500 miles each way to 80,000 miles each way.
  • First class SAAver fares are increasing across the board. None of it’s pretty, but the biggest jumps will be seen in fares to Asia Region 2 (from 67,500 miles each way to 110,000 miles each way and to Europe (from 62,500 miles each way to 85,000 miles each way).

The bottom line: Despite some minor fluctuations, economy fares won’t see many changes. But first-class international rewards fares are hitting new highs.

3. Elite status qualification

American will be streamlining its elite-qualification process a bit. There used to be three ways to qualify for elite: 1) elite-qualifying miles (actual miles spent in an airplane seat); 2) elite-qualifying segments (point-A-to-B segments flown); and 3) elite-qualifying points (bonus points you got for purchasing higher classes of service).

American is doing away with option No. 3. After the changes go into effect, you’ll earn bonus elite-qualifying miles for purchasing higher classes of service:

Service classEQMs earned
Discount economy1 per mile flown
Full-fare economy1.5 per mile flown
Discount first/business class2 per mile flown
Full-fare first/business3 per mile flown

That may be welcome news, because, for some fliers, that third elite currency (“points”) was frustrating. If, for example, you had the Citi Executive AAdvantage card, you would earn 10,000 elite-qualifying miles if you spent $40,000 on the card within a year. Meanwhile, you may have earned a bunch of elite-qualifying points for flying first class. Because you couldn’t convert EQMs to EQPs and vice versa, you might have ended up with not enough of either currency to get elite status. With everything in miles, you can combine the EQMs earned with your card and those earned from first-class tickets.

Here’s some more good news: Unlike Delta, American isn’t introducing spending thresholds. Members of Delta’s rewards program are required to spend at least $2,500 on flights per year to get into Medallion status.

Which travelers will benefit – and which ones won’t

In general, tying rewards to revenue is advantageous for high spenders and less so for budget travelers.

If you’re on a budget, you’ll likely jump on the lowest economy fare you find. If money is no object (perhaps you’re traveling for business or flying first class), you’ll pay more for your ticket.

Under the old system, both these scenarios would net you the same number of AAdvantage miles because the distance from New York to London doesn’t change, no matter how much you spend on the journey. Under the new system, however, the second scenario will likely earn you more miles – especially if you have elite status.

True, some budget travelers may be able to take advantage of the new lower-cost short-haul rewards fares. But, in general, when it comes to AAdvantage rewards, you’ll need to pay more to play in 2016. Just look at all the interlocking parts of American’s new system: Spending more on higher classes of service feeds your elite status, which, in turn, gets you more miles per dollar spent.

What AAdvantage cardholders need to know

These changes won’t directly impact AAdvantage cardholders, whether you have one of Citi’s AAdvantage cards or if you’re a former US Airways cardholder with a Barclaycard AAdvantage Aviator card who’s simply along for this bumpy ride thanks to the AA/US merger.

However, having a co-branded American Airlines credit card (whichever type) could affect your rewards strategy going forward:

Still want to fly American and make up for any losses under the new system?
Use your card on all the purchases you can to pad your rewards balance. That way, you can still take inexpensive flights and still earn some extra points for your everyday purchases.

The Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select card ($95 annual fee) and the Citi/AAdvantage Executive card ($450) annual fee both give you 2 miles per dollar on American Airlines purchases and 1 mile per dollar on everything else. The Aviator Blue ($49 annual fee) and Red ($89 annual fee) cards do the same. And the Aviator Silver ($195 annual fee) gives you 3 miles per dollar on American purchases, 2 miles per dollar on hotels and car rentals, and 1 mile per dollar on everything else.

Want to get elite status without flying more?
Elite status is a sure-fire way to profit from the new system, and the Executive card from Citi gives you 10,000 EQMs any year you spend $40,000 on the card. If that bumps you up into the next elite level, you’ll see your rewards earnings kick into a higher gear.

Ready to kiss airline loyalty goodbye after all these changes?

If you don’t like the path that airline loyalty programs are traveling, there are plenty of credit card rewards programs to consider as an alternative. Generic travel rewards cards (such as the Capital One Venture) give you fixed-value points you can put toward tickets on any airline. If you do like playing the miles game, some cards let you transfer points earned with your card to a bunch of airline programs – so you get the benefits of real airline miles, no loyalty required.

Check out the offers below (American Express is a CreditCardForum advertising partner):

Credit card protections for winter travel mishaps

In February 2014, Holly Johnson, founder and author of frugality site Club Thrifty, found herself stuck in paradise. The day she and her husband were scheduled to leave Jamaica, winter storms blocked nearly all flights from the Caribbean to East-Coast cities in the U.S. weather delay

Jamaica isn’t the worst place to be stuck during the winter, to be sure. But the delays necessitated two extra nights at the resort and additional meals at the airport – roughly $600 extra in additional expenses.

Luckily, Johnson’s Chase Ink business credit card offered trip cancellation and trip interruption coverage. She filed a claim and got her out-of-pocket expenses covered.

“As someone who writes about credit card rewards, I’m constantly telling people about these benefits, but you don’t get a chance to use them that often,” Johnson says.

With the with holiday travel season – and the season of blizzards and ice storms — approaching, it’s prudent to take a look at your card’s coverage to see if it offers any kind of protection against winter-weather-related snags.

Trip cancellation/interruption/delay coverage

Credit cards offer various levels of coverage for trip cancellations, interruptions and delays.

The kind of coverage generally offered by card issuers, as well as stand-alone travel insurance policies, is what the industry calls “named peril” coverage, says Damian Tysdal, founder of Travel Insurance Review. This means that the policy will list all the reasons for cancellation that it covers.

“That makes it very specific,” Tysdal says. “It goes through and spells it all out.”

If “weather” is not on the list of covered situations, your card will NOT cover winter-related travel disasters. And, according to Tysdal, it’s relatively rare to find weather as a covered reason on credit card trip protection coverage, compared to stand-alone travel insurance policies (which will nearly always cover severe weather). Travel protection policies on cards are offered by issuers through travel insurance companies – and are generally “stripped down” versions of what that insurer would offer on stand-alone policies.

That’s not to say no card policies cover weather. Select cards from Chase (including the Chase Sapphire Preferred and the United MileagePlus Explorer cards) both list weather under covered reasons for trip cancellations/delays:
Sapphire preffered trip cancel interrupt coverage for weather

The Citi Prestige covers weather, too, according to its benefit terms. The Barclaycard Arrival Plus card, meanwhile, provides trip cancellation/interruption coverage, but does not cover weather.

Another thing to check is your card’s limits of coverage for trip cancellation/interruption. Card-provided policies will often have a strict cap (from as low as $1,000, to up to $10,000 on some cards). Stand-alone travel insurance policies, meanwhile, may stipulate that they cover up to a certain percentage of prepaid costs (which could mean higher amounts of coverage for expensive trips).

So check your card’s policy carefully. While travel insurance “can be a great perk to have on your card, it’s certainly not always something you can rely on,” Tysdal says.

Tips for using your coverage: Even if your card covers trip delays and cancellations, you can’t just call up your issuer when you get home and ask for money; proper documentation is required. For winter-related mishaps, evidence of the delay itself is easily obtained through the airline. So your job is to save evidence of your additional costs.

“If you need to pay for additional meals, for hotel stays, things like that, make sure you’re saving receipts for everything,” Tysdal says.

Don’t get give up if your card’s insurance provider asks for something you don’t have. Johnson was asked for her airline tickets, which she hadn’t thought to save. But she sent in everything she had, and Chase honored her claim.

Contact your issuer as soon as possible – preferably as soon as things go awry, Tysdal recommends. That way you make sure your claim is accurately documented – and you won’t run up against the insurance provider’s deadlines for filing a claim. In addition to describing the situation over the phone, you’ll likely need to fill out some paperwork and send in documentation.

For Johnson, the process was “really simple,” she says.

“I maybe spent a total of an hour talking to people on the phone and filling out the paperwork and mailing it back,” she says.

Rental car coverage

Flights grounded due to snow and ice can create a domino effect of delays that can leave travelers stranded for days. For those desperate to get home by Thanksgiving or Christmas, a rental car can be an effective work-around. And the good news is, many cards provide some insurance coverage for rental cars, saving you money every day you have the rental.

Most cards providing this coverage provide “secondary” coverage, meaning you must first file a claim with your own auto insurance. That generally means your card’s coverage could pick up the tab for your deductible. A few cards (including the Chase Sapphire Preferred and the United MileagePlus cards) offer primary coverage, meaning you don’t need to involve your personal auto insurance. American Express (a CreditCardForum advertising partner) also allows cardmembers to purchase primary coverage for a flat cost (between $19.95 and $24.95 for the entire rental).

Whether your card provides primary or secondary coverage, it will generally cover damage and theft – meaning you’ll have protection if you drive the car over a pothole, or get in an accident on icy roads.

Tips for using your coverage: For your card’s complimentary coverage to be effective, you must turn down the coverage the rental company tries to sell you. Also keep in mind that your card’s protection may not cover all vehicles (trucks and large vans are commonly excluded).

Is travel insurance worth paying extra for?

Should you seek out a card with trip delay/cancellation for your winter trip, even if it has a higher annual fee? Or consider shelling out for a stand-alone travel insurance policy if your card doesn’t provide coverage? That depends on your taste for risk – and the type of trip you’re taking.

“There’s more risk in the winter of blizzards and ice closing down airports and causing travel delays so you miss other connections,” Tysdal says.

So if you’re taking a winter trip that has a lot of prepaid expenses, travel insurance coverage that reimburses you for weather delays may be important to you. For example, if an ice storm at your home airport causes you to miss your winter cruise, travel insurance may cover your costs for meeting the boat at its next port of call, Tysdal says. A blizzard at your skiing destination could cause you to miss a couple nights at that non-refundable luxury resort you booked – and travel insurance could refund you so that you can stay a couple extra nights without spending extra money.

“Travel is messy,” Johnson says. “Flights get cancelled, flights get delayed, planes break down. It’s nice to have a benefit that can give you your money back, if you’re caught in the cross hairs.”

Credit card promos and deals for 2015 holiday season

The holidays are a sweet spot for card issuers, thanks to all the extra shopping, eating and travelling consumers are doing. One way they try to make sure you pull their card out of your wallet is to offer limited-time holiday promos – extra rewards, a gift card, or a discount in the future and, these days, maybe even a free Uber ride.2015 holiday promos cards

As we did last year, we’ve scanned issuers’ websites, social media profiles and press releases for holiday deals. While some seasonal favorites are notably missing (American Express, a CreditCardForum advertising partner, is no longer providing statement credits for Small Business Saturday this year), chances are the cards in your wallet offers a little something extra for your holiday purchases.

We will be updating this chart as more promos and deals are announced. Your issuer may also give you a targeted offer, just for you – so make sure you’re checking your mail and your account online.

Credit card holiday promos and deals for the 2015 season
Card issuerRelevant datesOther information
American Express
Virgin America status for transfer: Transfer 80K Membership Rewards points by the deadline and get Elevate Gold Status.Dec. 31 deadlineGold Status applies through Feb. 2017.
Best Buy e-Gift card: Use Membership Rewards points to make a purchase of at least $50, and get an e-Gift card for Best Buy. Gift card value increases, with purchase total, up to a $300 gift card for a purchase of $1,000 or more.Ends Jan. 31, 2016Purchases must be made via membershiprewards.com/shopping.
2 free Uber rides for using LGA Centurion lounge:Expires Dec. 31, 2015Code given upon entry into lounge (which requires a Platinum or Centurion card and a boarding pass).
$50 back when spending $100 on Airbnb: Use your American Express card to spend $100 or more on Airbnb, and get $50 back (as a statement credit).Expires Dec. 31, 2015Valid on bookings and gift cards. Must be a single transaction of $100 or more. Your American Express card must be connected with Twitter, and you must tweet using #AmexAirbnb. Check out AmEx Offers website for full details.
Pay a $25 registration fee and then get 10 percent back on eligible Macy's purchases made with your Macy's credit card.Until Dec. 31, 2015Some purchases are not eligible for 10 percent rewards, including mattresses, furniture and luxury items.
Extra amenities on holiday getaways: Book at certain properties in AmEx's portfolio with your American Express card and get extra amenities, like free breakfast, event tickets and spa credits.Book by Dec. 31, 2015. Stay must be completed between Nov. 15, 2015 and Jan. 5, 2016.Subject to availability. View eligible properties here.
Rewards Boost holiday offers: Extra bonus points and free shipping for purchases with various holiday-friendly retailers.Varies. Check individual offers.Some offers require coupon codes.
10 percent cash back with certain retailers: In addition to the 5 percent category bonus, the Chase Freedom is giving an additional 5 percent back (for a total of 10 percent cash back) on Zappos, Audible.com, Diapers.com and Amazon.Between Nov. 23 and Dec. 31, 2015.For up to $1,500 in purchases between Nov. 23 and Dec. 31.
Cyber Monday Sale: 30 to 50 percent fewer points needed to redeem featured items.Nov. 30 (9 a.m. to 11:59 p.m.)Applies only to limited items. While supplies last. See a list of discounted items here.
Bonus points on Hilton HHonors point transfers: Get 2 Hilton HHonors bonus points for every ThankYou Point transferred into your HHonors rewards account.Ends Jan. 6, 2016Must have a Citi card that allows point transfers (Prestige, Chairman, ThankYou Premier)
Extra Cashback bonus on Discover Deals: Cardmembers can earn between 10 percent and 25 percent cash back with more than 65 merchants for a limited time. Merchants include Bloomingdales, Dillard's, Old Navy, Sephora, Starbucks, Zales and more.Ends Dec. 31, 2015Deals subject to rules of Discover Deals program. Keep in mind that, the Discover it Miles card doubles all miles (including bonus miles) earned in first year of cardmembership.
10 percent back with Apple pay purchases: Link your Discover card to Apple pay and earn 10 percent back with most purchases made with that card via Apple Pay.Ends Dec. 31, 2015Up to $10,000 in purchases. Gift cards not eligible.
Priceless Surprises IHG: Use your MasterCard to book and pay for a stay at an IHG property. The first time, you'll get 1,000 IHG reward points. Every subsequent time, you'll have a chance at getting a random, computer-selected surprise (could be a free trip, 1 million IHG reward points, a gift card, an adventure package, various merchandise or a free night at an IHG hotel).Nov. 15, 2015 to Feb. 15, 2016Official rules here. Card must have been opened before Nov. 15, 2015.

More options

If you didn’t find anything compelling on the chart, don’t forget that some cards have built-in bonuses for the holidays. Cards with rotating categories, for example, often make their Q4 bonus categories holiday-friendly. For example, you might get 5 percent back at department stores and various online retailers.

Updated Nov. 17, 2015