A Pro’s Guide to Minimizing Holiday Shopping Costs

ARLINGTON, Va. (TheStreet) — It’s funny how the tenor of the holidays can change as you grow up. When you’re a kid, the holiday season is all about excitement and presents, but when you’re an adult, trying to make ends meet can cloud the fun. It’s therefore important that you’re aware of the best ways to minimize the cost of holiday shopping this year so the kid in you can emerge and maximize the merriment.

It all starts with comparison shopping and sale hunting, because if you aren’t paying the lowest possible prices you’re leaving money on the table. But you know that already. What you may not know is that being smart about the way you pay for holiday purchases can effectively supercharge your savings, while being careless can wipe them out altogether.

The right credit card can save you hundreds

When it comes to holiday shopping, there are indeed “right” and “wrong” credit cards to use. The best card for your holiday shopping needs depends on your spending and payment habits.

If, with holiday shopping considered, you expect to spend at least $3,000 during the next three months: The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card is the one for you. New cardholders who charge at least three grand during the first three months get 40,000 bonus points redeemable for a $400 statement credit or $500 in travel accommodations booked through Chase’s rewards portal. Considering the fact that the average holiday shopper is expected to spend $750 to $850, according to multiple surveys, the Sapphire Preferred Card could essentially lower your tab by around 50%.

If you want a card with more lasting benefit: The American Express Blue Cash Preferred Card might be preferable. While the preferred cards from Chase and Amex are by no means mutually exclusive, the latter certainly offers longer-lasting rewards earning potential. It gives you 6% cash back at supermarkets for up to $6,000 in annual expenditures, 3% at department stores and gas stations with no annual spending limit in those categories and 1% on everything else. It also offers a more easily attainable $150 initial rewards bonus for spending $1,000 during the first three months, which cancels out the card’s $75 annual fee for the first two years.