7 Tips for Using Credit Cards Wisely During the Holidays

If you're thinking about using a credit card for your holiday shopping, follow these savvy dos and don'ts to keep some jingle in your pockets.

Your annual holiday shopping spree may be one of the most tempting times of the year to go crazy with a credit card. However, even a single month of credit card misuse can lead to a serious financial hangover come New Year's. Young and experienced holiday shoppers alike can benefit from these seven credit card tips.

1. Set a gift budget

One of our first and most practical credit card tips is to come up with a spending budget for your holiday shopping. If you know your limits, you're far less likely to overspend—which can result in interest charges that might wipe out any of the benefits of using a card in the first place. Before you purchase that first gift, figure out how much you can really afford to spend on that person. Set a spending allotment for everyone on your gift list.

2. Plan exactly what you're going to buy

Once you have your holiday spending allotment figured out, it should be easier to come up with specific gifts that are in line with your budget. Do this before stepping foot inside any stores or adding items to your online cart. By having both your budget and gift list set, you'll be less likely to get distracted by holiday ads or spend money on something you don't actually need or want when you walk into a store or visit an online shopping site.

3. Monitor your accounts

This credit card tip is all about protecting your accounts. Digital security is more important than ever, and the holidays are one of the busiest times of the year for cyber criminals. If you're making a lot of purchases with your card, you may be less likely to notice activity that shouldn't be there. Therefore, it's important to routinely check each of your accounts. To help keep you protected, you can set up automatic alerts and card controls through U by BB&T.

You can find more info about keeping your accounts safe and what to do if you suspect fraud on our Privacy and Security Central page.

4. Be wary of store credit card offers

When holiday shopping is in full swing, retail employees are regularly pushing their store's credit card offers. They usually come with a one-time benefit like 10% off your purchase or a $50 statement credit. It may sound like a good deal at the time, but you should think twice before signing up for their card.

Applying for a credit card you don't really need or want for long-term use is probably not worth the impact it could have on your credit score. And if you really do want to get a new card, there may be better ones out there than most retail store cards. For example, BB&T's Spectrum Cash Rewards card offers you cash back on all eligible purchases (not just purchases from a single store), plus bonus cash back for everyday expenses like gas, groceries and utilities. If you're a frequent traveler, the Spectrum Travel Rewards card offers miles that can be redeemed for flights and hotel stays on all of your eligible everyday purchases, plus double the miles for most travel purchases. You can check to see if you prequalify for a BB&T credit card in just 60 seconds without impacting your credit score.

5. Use rewards to your advantage

Speaking of cash back and travel miles, the rewards can really rack up if you use the same card to do the bulk of your shopping. You could use those rewards for a gift for someone else or to treat yourself at the end of the year. Some savvy credit card users will even use the same rewards card throughout the entire year for as many expenses as they can. Then, they cash in on their rewards at the end of the year to cover all their holiday shopping.

Just keep in mind, if you don't pay off your balance in full each month, what you pay in interest will likely cost you more than any rewards dollars or points you've earned.

6. Consider low introductory rate offers

Among the latest lineup of BB&T cards, both the Bright and Spectrum Cash Rewards cards come with a 0% introductory annual percentage rate for a specific period of time on purchases and balance transfers. This can be useful if you have pre-existing debt from a previous card and want to transfer the balance to save on interest. If you do take advantage of an introductory offer, it's important to remember that you still have to make payments—and you should focus on getting that balance paid off completely before the introductory period expires.

7. Pay off your balances in full

Of all the credit card tips, one of the most important is to pay your balances in full each month. Using credit cards can be great—not only for earning rewards but also for building good credit history—which puts you in a better financial situation overall. By keeping your statement balances paid off, you'll never pay interest and you can actually earn money by using a credit card that offers rewards. Plus, 35% of your credit score is based on consistent, on-time payments. It can truly be a win-win if done responsibly.

Related topics

Vantage Credit Card Features  (Video)

Activate your Vantage Credit Card today to start enjoying all the features and benefits of your new account.  

BB&T Spectrum Travel Rewards Credit Card Features  (Video)

Earn 2x miles on your travel purchases and more with your BB&T Spectrum Travel Rewards credit card.

Digital Wallet Features  (Video)

You can use your phone as a digital wallet by storing your BB&T cards there.

BB&T Spectrum Cash Rewards Credit Card Features  (Video)

Earn rewards for the things you buy every day with your BB&T Spectrum Cash Rewards credit card.

  • 1

    You may earn rewards on eligible purchases made with your credit card. Eligible purchases include any signature-based purchase, Internet purchase, phone or mail-order purchase or automatic bill payment, excluding cash advances, traveler’s checks, access checks, balance transfers, money orders, cash equivalents, fees, interest charges, credit insurance, fraudulent transactions, credits and returns (each a qualifying purchase).

  • 2

    There is a monthly cap (first day of a month through the last day of a month) of $1,000 on spend at the bonus rate combination of 3% at gas stations and 2% at grocery store/supermarkets and utilities. Once the $1,000 monthly spend limit is reached, you will earn the base rewards of 1% for those purchases.

  • 3

    BB&T Bright APR for purchases and balance transfers is 0% for 15 months. After that, the APR is determined monthly by adding 7.99%-16.99% to Prime Rate. BB&T Bright 11.24% to 20.24% APR (annual percentage rate), BB&T Spectrum Cash Rewards 13.24% to 22.24% APR, and BB&T Spectrum Travel Rewards 13.24% to 22.24% APR are variable rates tied to The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) Prime + 7.99% to 16.99% (BB&T Bright), and the WSJ Prime + 9.99% to 18.99% (BB&T Spectrum) based on credit history. The Prime Rate used to determine your APR is a variable rate and is the highest prime rate published in WSJ as of the first day of the month. WSJ Prime currently is 3.25% as of June 16, 2020.

Fees from your mobile or data carrier may apply.

Loans, lines of credit and credit cards are subject to credit approval.

The information provided is not intended to be legal, tax, or financial advice. BB&T hopes you find this information useful but we cannot guarantee that it is accurate, up to date, or appropriate for your situation. Financial calculators are provided to assist you in estimating the approximate costs associated with any bank activity. Your actual costs may vary. You should consult with a qualified attorney or financial advisor to understand how the law applies to your particular circumstances or for financial information specific to your personal or business situation.

Branch Banking and Trust Company is a Member FDIC and an Equal Housing Lender. 

Branch Banking and Trust Company is now Truist Bank. Learn more.

BB&T and SunTrust have merged to become Truist. Both institutions will continue to offer independent product lines for a period of time. This may include differing underwriting guidelines, product features, terms, fees and pricing. Our friendly teammates at your local SunTrust branches will be happy to walk you through their respective products. You can also learn more by contacting them at 800-SUNTRUST or SunTrust.com.

BB&T Complete Client Protection

about Truist Bank