How to rack up extra rewards over the holidays

Want to make the season merry by racking up points you can cash in for a post-holiday spa vacation or the one gift you didn’t find under the tree? It’ll be easy if you strategize to make the most of your holiday spending.

Holidays are a great time to grow your rewards stash because companies dangle extra opportunities to earn, says Alex Miller, founder and CEO of the rewards site UpgradedPoints.com.

“There are a lot of stores out there, and tons of choices for which credit card to open or use, so both issuers and stores try extra hard to get you to pick them,” he says.

That makes sense because so much money changes hands during the holiday season, and the average U.S. consumer banks on spending about $1,000 on the festivities – from the gifts to the holiday feast and the décor that will deck the halls. Of course, some get carried away playing Santa and go over their budgets as well.

These five tips will help you use that flurry of competition to your advantage and ring up extra rewards this holiday season.
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Charge or credit? For the average consumer these two words are probably used interchangeably when it comes to making purchases with plastic. But there are a few distinct differences between charge cards and credit cards, as well as benefits and pitfalls that come with both.

“The confusion between the two is understandable and I don’t think most consumers appreciate the difference,” says credit card and travel journalist Jason Steele. “That difference is narrowing more and more, but it’s still important to understand the distinction.”
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Close to a reward? How to scrounge up those last few points

You sit down to search award flights, poised to book your dream trip, when you get hit with an unpleasant surprise: you’re a few points short of a ticket.

“This is a common problem, and I’ve faced it myself many times,” says Jason Steele, a credit card and travel journalist and frequent rewards traveler.

But don’t worry — coming up slightly short on rewards doesn’t mean your travel dreams are dashed. In fact, you can scrounge up those last few points or miles pretty quickly without having to purchase the points.
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The 7 worst things to have on your credit report

bankruptcy signLess-than-perfect credit can be fixed, but the first step is to face down your enemy — the negative items that muck up credit and drag down scores.

Here are the seven worst items you can have on your credit, along with advice on how to bounce back from each one.
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