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3 Ways a Credit Card Gets Better Holiday Deals

NEW YORK (MainStreet) -- Sure, hiding your credit card is one way to keep yourself from falling into debt, but consumers with a solid credit history shouldn't necessarily put away the plastic until January. In fact, there are several reasons a credit card should be your payment method of choice this holiday shopping season. We looked at the ways your credit cards can help you save on gifts this year.

1. You can earn ample rewards.
Credit cards generally offer consumers anywhere from 1% to 5% cash back on purchases, and thanks to the nation's credit crunch and the Fed's new cap on debit card swipe fees, rewards programs have gotten much more lucrative. Popular rewards cards with no annual fees, such as the JPMorgan Chase (JPM) Chase Freedom and the Discover Financial (DFS) Discover More Card, are offering 5% back on all department store purchases made between October and December.

Here are three ways credit cards can help you save on gifts this year.

Savvy shoppers can also net even higher cash-back rewards when shopping at their issuer's online shopping mall. UPromise.com, for instance, is offering its UPromise World Class Master Card cardholders up to 21% cash back on purchases made at the online mall through Dec. 31, while Chase's Ultimate Rewards mall is letting its cardholders score 25% off on merchandise provided by Best Buy (BBY) when they pay with rewards points on Cyber Monday.

"Bonus point malls actually earn credit card companies a percentage of their sales," Tim Chen, CEO of the credit card ranking site Nerd Wallet, told us in February. "This is why during peak periods, such as Christmas or Valentine's days, issuers get competitive and offer some of their best deals."

2. Rewards can be used toward online purchases.
Earning rewards isn't the only thing easier around the holidays. Cardholders can apply points toward purchases made in these online malls.

Additionally, this year Discover has partnered with Amazon.com to let its customers pay for purchases using their reward points seamlessly at checkout. As part of the promotion, the company is letting cardholders earn double cash rewards on Amazon (AMZN) purchases of up to $250 each month through the end of the year.

American Express (AXP) cardholders can also pay for purchases on Amazon with their rewards points, a partnership that started last year.

3. Store charge cards entitle you to special sales, extra discounts and other assorted perks.
Those who have some store charge cards in their payment arsenal should be on the lookout for sales hosted by the retailer that let them put that plastic to good use.

Macy's (M), for instance, hosts an annual "friends and family" sale one weekend each December that entitles cardholders to 20% off on almost all store merchandise when they use either a Macy's charge card or branded credit card. The cards also let consumers return purchases without a receipt and score additional deals and discounts throughout the year. The Toys R Us store card also nets cardholders access to special offers and discounts.

But don't go shopping for some store credit if your score can't afford it; a number of inquiries can cost you three to 15 points each.

What should be your criteria for selecting a payment method for presents? Find out in our look at how to pay for your holiday shopping.

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