| November 22, 2011

Cash back offers beefed up for holidays

Consumers tend to spend far more during the two or three months leading up to the holiday season than at any other time of year, and credit card lenders are attempting to take advantage of that trend once again.

As the holidays approach, most of the nation’s largest credit card lenders are increasing the value of their rewards credit card programs, particularly those that give users cash back for every purchase they make, according to a report from USA Today. That’s because cash back cards have emerged as the most popular with consumers in recent years, and competition for top-quality borrowers seems to be at an all-time high nationwide.

The value of these rewards varies widely from one lender to another but in general they seem to reward shopping on credit cards when it’s done through certain retailers, the report said. For example, American Express is granting cardholders five times the rewards points for all purchases through select companies such as Apple or Target, and are simultaneously offering discounted items to those whose cards grant them rewards points.

Meanwhile, Discover cardholders can earn between 5 and 10 percent more cash back than they usually do when they shop at certain retailers through the lender’s “ShopDiscover” program, the report said.

And full-time lenders aren’t the only ones upping the ante on credit card offerings, the report said. Many retailers, both online and in the real world, are as well. Macy’s, Gap and Best Buy are all planning to increase marketing of their store-branded credit cards, and Amazon.com rewards credit cards grant consumers extra points for all digital downloads made on the site. However, while store accounts typically carry far higher interest rates than those for general use credit cards, they may also come in handy this holiday season by granting consumers exclusive access to deals and sale items. Generally, they also provide perks year-round as well.

Many experts warn that the holiday season is a time when many consumers tend to fall a bit behind on their credit card debt. The combination of increased general spending and greater card use leads many to have less cash on hand at the end of the month, leaving some unable to pay their bills until a month or two into the new year.

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