Credit cards – the smarter way to do your Christmas shopping?

Covered mag, presented by
  • | by Kristian Dando

The inevitable pre-Christmas adverts are all over the telly, and supermarket shelves are stacked with festive treats. It might not be ‘just around the corner’ quite yet, but there’s already a distinct whiff of Crimbo in the air.

While it might seem a little premature to be talking about Christmas and the accompanying palaver just now, getting ready for obligatory financial frivolities of Yule is less silly than you might think. With a bit of forward planning, you might be able to wring more out your festive spend than ever before...and a credit card just might be the way to do it.

“Hold your horses,” you’re probably thinking. “Isn’t reckless credit card spending what got us into this confounded world economic mess in the first place?” Well, not exactly. The operative word here is ‘reckless’ – by keeping a close tab on your spending, making your Christmas purchases on plastic could reap rewards lasting well into the new year and make the financial demands of Yuletide eminently more manageable. Here’s a few ideas to get you started….

Play the rewards game

Plenty of credit cards offer rewards like supermarket points, air miles and so forth for using them on purchases. To squeeze every drop of rewards-based goodness out of your credit card, you’ll have to give it some serious use. The annual spend-a-thon of Christmas presents the perfect opportunity.

But to get the best out of your card, you’ll need to make sure that your monthly balance is paid off in full. This means keeping a close eye on what you’re spending and making sure that you’ve got the readies to pay off the debt when the bill lands. “As soon as you stop paying off in full or missing payments altogether, rewards-based credit cards can be expensive things to have thanks to the usually high rates of interest associated with them,” says Jeremy Cryer, credit card expert at “Making sure that the balance is paid off straight away is the key to making sure that having a rewards-based card is worth your while.”

Whatever you do, don’t go spending more than you can afford recklessly in order to rake in the rewards – you may well find that it’s more hassle than it’s worth.

Nought a bad festive idea

Another way of making a credit card work for you at Christmas is with a 0 per cent purchases card. These can be useful for expensive items (or indeed, lots of smaller ones) that might be problematic to pay for in one large sum.

A 0 per cent card means that you can spread the payment so your budget doesn’t have an almighty hole blown out of it. Thankfully, there’s something of a 0 per-cent bunfight going on between Britain’s credit card providers, and there’s a veritable Santa’s sack full of 0 per cent deals out there, should you meet the criteria for one.

Get yourself protected

Using your credit card can afford you extra peace of mind on big ticket items. Goods priced between £100 and £30,000 are guaranteed by the credit card company under the Consumer Credit Act…even if they’re bought from foreign countries, which is particularly handy if you’re ordering an extra-special present from abroad. So if you’ve bought something which has a fault, or isn’t delivered (a sure-fire festive buzzkill) or the company from which you’ve bought if from goes bust, you’re still covered...all thanks to your credit card. “Having something go wrong with a present is an almighty pain in the backside, particularly when it’s Christmas time,” says’s Jeremy Cryer. “While it might not make the initial soul-sapping disappointment any easier to bear, using a credit card to buy presents can afford that extra bit of protection in case the worst happens.”

It doesn’t just apply to goods, either. Whether it’s heading to the mountains for some festive winter sports action or escaping Britain to enjoy Christmas somewhere altogether sunnier, the great festive getaway is as big a part of many people’s plans as sprouts, turkey and breaking wind during the Queen’s Speech. Using a credit card to book your holiday means that you’ve got extra protection should your tour operator or airline go bust, or there’s a repeat of last year’s well-documented ice-induced air travel chaos. “Getting stranded during the festive season time is the stuff of nightmares,” says’s Jeremy Cryer. “Booking on your credit card can make getting stuck a far easier ordeal than paying with cash – it’s definitely an option worth exploring.”

Be sure to use’s excellent credit card comparison service to check the best deals and rates on a wide range of credit cards.