Tired of holiday debt hangovers? Money Girl interviews Kristy Olinger, Credit Card Product Manager at Citizens, and co-host of The Opposite of Small Talk podcast, for tips on stretching your budget, using often-overlooked card benefits, and safe shopping this holiday season.

19 minute read

If you haven’t started thinking about the holidays yet they are right around the corner. That means it’s time to start making plans and strategizing ways to get through the holidays and still save some money. So if that’s important to you, don’t is today’s show. I’ve got a terrific interview coming up. We’re gonna talk about how a rewards credit card is an excellent tool for spending getting benefits and boosting your budget during the holidays. And we’ll talk about tips for getting a lot more from your credit cards this season. So stay with me and welcome to them on girl podcast. I’m Laura Adams. You guys probably know me as money girl. I’m a leading personal finance and small business expert, and award-winning author. I’ve been hosting money girls since 2008 and am really, really glad to have you along for the ride, no matter what you want to achieve with your money.

In my opinion, it all starts with finance, financial literacy or education. And that’s what money girl is all about. This show is for everyone looking for more financial wellness, knowledge tips, money hacks, and just down to earth. Practical advice. My goal is to help you live a healthy and rich life by making the most of what you have planning wisely for the future and making smart money decisions every day. So thanks again for being here. I’m so excited about today’s show. I interview Christie Allinger a credit card product manager at citizens. Christie has spent decades working in the credit card industry. And so she’s just, uh, uh, you know, a wealth of information. She’s an expert. She understands a lot about consumer behavior, often overlooked credit card benefits and ways to use credit cards wisely. She also hosts her own podcast called the opposite of small talk that you may wanna check out Christie and I had a great conversation about how to kick off the holiday season with wise strategies and what to do.

If you regularly end up with a debt hangover in January, here are a few of the topics we cover. In today’s episode, we talk about planning tips that are gonna help you stay out of debt. We talk about how to use credit card rewards to stretch your holiday budget further. And there’re probably a, a lot more ways you could be using your cards than you thought. So don’t miss this conversation. We talk about what is an extended card warranty, and when to use it, the importance of reviewing your cards, benefit guides, why it’s critical to use a credit card instead of a debit card online, we talk about using a card in a digital wallet actually gives you a lot of protection, which card is best for different types of purchases. When to use a balance transfer credit card to manage debt and some benefits of citizens cashback, plus world MasterCard, we cover a ton. And if you wanna check out the show notes, they are always in the money girl [email protected] Today’s episode is number 704 called holiday tips to get more from your credit cards. So here’s my interview with Christie Christie. I am so, so glad to have you on the show and kind of excited to talk about the holidays and using credit cards.

Can you believe it’s just around the corner? Where has the year gone? I know it, it is really nuts and I am somebody that used to buy ex you know, all of my, all of my shopping and all of my, my gifts with ahead of time. And I’m not doing that anymore. It seems like I’m kind of waiting until the last minute. So this conversation is really good for me, cuz it’ll get me thinking and planning about, about my holiday gifts and uh, travel that I wanna do and all that good stuff. So with all of that coming up, um, you know, I think the holiday for a lot of people they’re exciting, but a lot of people are kind of dreading the fact that they can be super expensive. You know, it’s really for a lot of people, a strain on their budget if they haven’t been planning throughout the year. Um, so I’m hoping that one of the things we can talk about today is how you can have a joy wi holiday without overspending, you know, without hurting your finances, any, you know, ideas or tips that you’ve got for us to think about ways to make the holidays a little bit easier financially.

I would just love that. And I think the audience would too.

It’s interesting to me, Laura, that you mentioned that you used to plan very far in advance, but you don’t always do that as much anymore. And I really think that having a plan is the linchpin to preventing the overspending. It’s kind of like when you go to the grocery store and you don’t have a list in your hand, you end up finding all of these great things and they end up in your cart and before you know, it you’ve spent much more than you had intended. So if you don’t have a plan upfront for who you’re buying for, and just a general idea on how much you’ll spend for them, then you really could get caught up in the excitement or the hustle and overspend. So starting early, certain certainly does help and I’ve I’ve been hit or miss on that. But this year is a year that I have planned to plan early.

So I have over the summer purchased some holiday gifts already, which is, you know, which is big. Um, so starting early helps as well. When you’re pressured for time. Sometimes we throw our budget out of the window for convenience of just getting it done. So starting early and making a plan are the two big ones. And I know the other thing that comes up for people. I, I wanna share a story if I can, um, is spending on things outside of gift giving that can be joyous as well, like throwing parties. So for years I’ve thrown a holiday party. It’s really one of the only times that we entertain at our house in a big way. And for a long time, I, it was a very Orca straight event. I had a, I had help in the kitchen. I had a piano player to create ambiance.

I mean, it was a timed event. It was a lot. And what I found is that my focus and attention those years was very much on, okay, are the, is the next pastry coming out or, you know, whatever it is that I was trying to curate an event for, and I wasn’t focused on my guests and I wasn’t able to truly connect with them. So a couple of years ago I realized that I was over engineering this and quite frankly, overspending on something when, what I really wanted from the event was the joy and to celebrate and connect with the people in my life. So I completely changed my approach and honestly, it’s the best thing I ever did because now I don’t have to worry about all of those things and nobody cares about that stuff. Anyway, I can spend my time focused on the people and just celebrating this season with them. So I just invite listeners to think about those kinds of things. It’s great to do something fancy every once in a while, but are you doing it for the right reasons? And is it a barrier to, I don’t know, connecting or having the joy that you want? Yeah. I

Love that. I do agree that we can really get caught and you know, all of the events and, and the gift giving and it can really become, um, more of a burden really than, you know, something that we look forward to and, and feel joy in the moment about one thing that I know a lot of families will do if they really want to cut back or limit the amount of gift giving is to think about how you can create experiences. Like, you know, whether it is, um, what I always call the dirty Santa exchange, where you, you know, have the ability to, uh, steal gifts from others. I don’t know if you’ve ever played that game. Um, and, and that can be a lot of fun where everybody just brings one gift to a family event, uh, or a party instead of having to buy for everyone there and everyone in your family.

Or maybe you say, we’re gonna give gifts only for the little people, you know, only the kids in the family, or maybe we’re gonna limit all gifts to a certain dollar amount to make sure that nobody is really overspending reaching too far. Even though we may want to do that. You know, if it is, if it is a stretch on your budget, I think there are some creative ways to approach it and still have fun, you know, not feel like the gifts, uh, have to be the center of, of the holiday. Um, certainly having an informal party where even people bring food or you do, you know, cookies, you do kind of holiday sweets, that kind of thing, um, can be a fun and inexpensive way, like you said, to connect with people. Um, that’s really what it’s all about, uh, with, without feeling like you’ve got too much pressure on your budget.

I agree so much. So let’s talk about some strategies for gift giving. Um, one thing that I always kind of forget about around the holidays is that I probably have some credit card rewards that are sitting there. I, you know, I’m not really good at using them in a lot of cases throughout the year, especially now because haven’t, you know, we haven’t done much traveling. So if you’ve got, uh, points and rewards kind of sitting there accruing the holidays can be a, a pretty good time to get the most out of ’em. So I would love to know how you approach that. What are some ways that we can kind of leverage the, these cards and these rewards and kind of just remember how to use them and to, and just really get the most of them before we get into the new year.

Yes, well, you know, from our last episode that I am a big believer in CA’s king, I really is the most flexible, flexible option of VA to you. So I, I use cash. I use our citizens bank cash rewards, um, credit card cashback plus, and it, during the holidays, the way to use cashback to make the holidays more special is really just as simple as knowing what your cashback balance is and redeeming it as a statement credit against your purchases. So it’s a way for you to sort of boost your holiday budget in a way that maybe lets you do something that’s a little bit more extravagant than you had originally intended. Now I do have some friends who really like gift card redemption, um, particularly because they have a lot of people in their life. Um, like I don’t know the kids school bus drivers or, um, the person that, um, makes deliveries at their home that they want to give a little something to and gift cards are a good option for that. So I do have some friends that really appreciate using their credit card rewards for gift cards, um, as a way to, um, you know, to do that giving as well. So yes, I, I do think that people forget about their rewards sometimes because they’re accumulating in the background and the holidays is a great reason to get a little boost to your budget with your rewards.

Yeah, absolutely. So as you’re making those purchases, I would re men using a rewards card to, to make those purchases so you can continue to rack up rewards, but also spend the rewards in, in smart ways. I love the gift card concept, um, that, that really, you know, in a lot of cases, it may not be the most valuable way to use rewards, but heck if you’ve got a bunch of rewards and you know, you’ve got a bunch of gifts to give in low denominations that I think is a really great way to, to take advantage of them. Let’s say you are making big purchases. You know, maybe you’re giving, like, I don’t know a laptop or a television or, or something that’s a little bit more high dollar. I think an often misunderstood credit card benefit is the extended warranty that you get on the card or on some cards mm-hmm , can you talk a little bit about how it works and what, what we should be looking for if we are thinking about putting a big purchase on a card as a gift, either for, you know, ourselves or for somebody else.

Absolutely. And I agree with you. I think most customers don’t realize that this is a benefit of their credit card and it does require a little bit of extra effort on your, but I, I believe that the listeners of this podcast are willing to put in the extra effort because they’re financially savvy. Um, so the basics are that an extended warranty increases the manufacturer warranty for items that you purchase using your credit card. So I’m gonna give you a spec specific example and in it, but what I would suggest to listeners is to get from their credit card issuer, something called the guide to benefits or the benefits guide. This is one of those documents that you probably received when you applied for your card. And depending on the type of person you are, it’s either sitting in a filing cabinet right now with all of your account opening documents, or it went in the shredder as soon as it arrived, but either way you should be able to get it from your credit card issuer.

And this outlines all of the benefits and insurance coverages of your credit card. And it will tell you any specific exclusions or limitations of that. So I’m gonna give you an example though, cause I think it it’s helpful. And I was again, trying to be a planner for the 20, 21 holiday season and researching the top gifts. I found that Yahoo life has published their gift guide. And one of the items on the list is a Keeg case Supreme plus smart coffee maker. Hmm. Laura, are you a coffee drinker? Oh, I love coffee. Oh my gosh. So the description of this is so funny because it’s got brew ID technology for a custom cup of coffee every time. Now this is not an ad, but I am a coffee drinker. And the fact that you can use your phone to, to brew your coffee. So I can be up here in my office and I can, right now we’re cording.

It’s the middle of the morning. I usually have a couple of cups in the morning. I could push a button and it would brew my coffee that is very appealing. So I can see why this is a tough gift. It’s about 200 bucks. And let’s just say for the sake of this example, that it comes with a manufacturer warranty of 12 months. So I buy it for Christmas. I give it to our household, but it’s really a gift for me, which everybody does that to a certain extent. And let’s just say on the 13th month. So in January of 2023, something happens and it’s not working any longer because I would’ve purchased that with my world, MasterCard, from citizens, my cashback plus card, I could use the extended warranty program, um, to, uh, you know, get a repair or a refund for that purchase. So that’s how an extended warranty works.

And it requires me to remember which card I used and to know what the manufacturer’s warranty is and to have the information available when the time comes. So that’s what I meant by. It does take a little bit of maybe upfront work on the customer’s part, um, which is probably why a lot of people don’t think of it, but, you know, anytime I buy something that’s a larger ticket item. These days, people are always, um, that within the purchase flow, they’re saying, Hey, do you wanna protect your purchase by buying this extra insurance? And it just kills me because I, I think people don’t know the insurance that’s available on the card that they’re already using, um, at no cost to them. So I would encourage you to get your guide to benefits and look into it so that you can be informed and you’re not buying extra insurance that you don’t actually need for that product.

Yeah. We are buying so much insurance in, in many cases that we don’t use don’t even know is available on car it card. So thank you for that Christie. That’s a great reminder just to get familiar with what your card offers and make sure that you’re taking advantage of it because in a lot of cases it’s really valuable. I mean, it’s just really powerful to know that, you know, you’ve got that extended warranty. So thank you for explaining that. Yeah. Now I do. I mean, I would say 99% of my shopping online, um, and of course I’m always using a credit card online. A lot of people ask me what about using my debit card? What if I don’t wanna rack up a balance on a credit card? Why should I be using cards instead of a debit card? Do you have any, you know, I kind of ideas about the protection that we’re getting by using a credit card, uh, specifically online versus a debit card.

Yeah, I, I’ve got a couple of things, so I’m not a fraud expert, but I have been in credit card for two decades and a, you know, I think it’s important to know that no matter how, if you use your debit card or your credit card, um, if, if someone perpetrates fraud on your account, you have the opportunity to file a fraud claim. The reason you may want to use your credit card versus your debit card is that your debit card is direct access to your own money while the credit card is access to the bank’s money. And so I don’t know about you, but like, if there’s any possibility, no matter how slim that something like that could happen, I’d rather it happened to my bank’s money than my own money. So I think that’s the most compelling reason to be using your credit card versus your debit card. But another thing to consider is loading your credit card into your phone’s digital wallet. More and more merchants are integrating with digital wallets in the online checkout out experience. What many people don’t realize it is that those transactions using your digital wallet are tokenized. So that means that the merchant never actually sees your real account number. So that’s a good way to sort of give yourself an extra layer of protection as well.

Yeah. I love that. So the bottom line is that a debit card and a credit card are two totally different financial products that you shouldn’t confuse when you use a credit card online, you’ve got more protection. If someone uses your card, without your permission, your liability is limited to $50, but with a debit card, you may have unlimited liability, especially don’t catch the fraud quickly. If you don’t catch it, someone could literally drain your bank account if they’ve got your debit card information. So that’s why it’s so much safer to use a credit card online. You know, I, I get the fact that a lot of people say, well, you know, I don’t wanna, you know, I don’t wanna rack up a balance. The solution to that is to make the credit card charge, but then pay the bill off on time each month. And by doing that, you pay zero interest and you get to rack up valuable rewards.

So, you know, using the card responsibly really can help you save money and avoid losing any money. So I would encourage folks who are using a debit card online to really think of about maybe switching that habit going into, uh, the shopping season this year, or definitely as you go into the new year. So Christie, I, I would ask, you know, since there are so many cards out there, how do we know what’s the best option, uh, to use as you make your holiday purchases? Let’s say you’ve gotta wallet full of cards, or maybe you’re looking for a brand new card that will give you better rewards. You know, how do you think about, or which card to kind of pull out to use for those purchases,

Thinking through what you’re spending on and evaluating things like the benefits of the credit cards that you have, or are looking at, or even looking at what promotional offers might be out there in the holiday season are two different ways to, you know, think about which card you might wanna use. I have to tell you about one feature that comes with the world MasterCard, uh, and it’s particularly helpful for what we were talking about around shopping online this holiday season. So the world MasterCard products, um, including our citizens cashback plus product has a feature called shop runner. And if you’re not familiar with what that is, it’s a service that gives you free two day shipping. When you use your world MasterCard, it’s just sort of part of the benefits of the card. And when I think about consumer behavior, I think in the era of Amazon, we are all very sensitized to paying for shipping, but we also really like of specific brands that we really like.

So this feature helps to enable you to get that free shipping, but still shop some of your favorite brands, um, American Eagle under armor Bloomingdale’s, you know, coach. So, you know, you can shop at the places that you love to shop and still get at that two day shipping. So for those of you who are not planners, this is a, a great feature to have. And, um, it’s really simple to use. You do create a login with shop runner, but then once you have that, as you’re checking out with these online merchants, it’s just a couple of clicks in the experience. So I think that’s a really good benefit to know about. And then again, outside of the benefits of the cards, you have look around to see what promotional offers are out there for new accounts. So citizens, for example, is running a 5% cashback on everything on up to $6,000 spent on the purchases in the first year, um, as a promotional off for, for new credit card customers that apply between October 15th through November 19th of this year. So depending on how big your holiday spending plans are, it could be worth it to open a new credit card account to get that promotion.

Yeah. And what about travel? Let’s say you’re thinking about booking a trip this holiday, or maybe even right after the new year, if you do use the, uh, the citizen’s cash back plus world MasterCard, what travel benefits do you get? I know that’s important to a lot of people who are spending big bucks on travel.

Yeah. I mean, this is similar to the conversation that we had around extended warranty and knowing what the benefits are and reviewing that guide to benefit. So if you’re booking air travel or a rental car this season, you’re likely gonna be offered some kind of insurance as you make your purchase. And, um, you know, there are coverages of both master rental insurance trip, cancellation and interruption insurance that are just built into your product when you use your world MasterCard. So again, back to what we were talking about, being informed about the cards that you’re carrying and the benefits that you already have can save you money both in the event that the unexpected happens, but also in sort of preventing that, that impulse buy when it shows you okay, you’re about to spend $1,500 on airline tickets. Do you wanna protect this purchase? I think oftentimes people feel like they should be clicking that button because that’s a lot of money . Yeah,

Definitely. So Christie, let’s say we get through the holidays. We are in the new year, you know, can’t believe it’ll be 20, 22. A lot of people are going to be left with what we call the credit card hangover, you know, the dent that was racked up during the holidays. Do you have any advice for listeners when it comes to minimizing that debt and just, you know, strategies for tackling credit card debt in general?

Absolutely. I, I, so I’ve been in this industry for 20 years and the customer behavior follows a very predictable seasonal pattern of spending starting now through the end of the year. And then everyone’s in paid out mode starting in January. So if you didn’t happen to listen to this podcast in time to plan your budget, and you blew it a little bit, know that you’re in very good company and you can create a new plan, um, to, to get things back on track. An option to consider is to do a balanced transfer. So for listeners who aren’t familiar with exactly what that is, um, it’s basically paying a card with another card for lack of a, a different way to explain it. Now, why would you ever do that? Well, because oftentimes companies will offer promotional interest rates for doing a balanced transfer. So that means, um, if you need to pay your balance off over time, you can do that at a lower rate, even as low as zero.

Sometimes there’s typically a balance transfer fee, like a cost to make the transfer. So it goes back to doing your research and doing a little math. So depending on how much of a balance you wrapped up and what the AP is on the card that you’re currently carrying and how long you expect it to take you to pay off, um, that may or may not be good to do a balance transfer so that you can pay it off faster. Again, back to, you’ve gotta read the disclosures, you’ve gotta do the math, but knowing that that option’s available and thinking that through, if you find yourself in that spot, I think can be helpful to customers.

Yeah, definitely. You know, thinking about getting the longest balance transfer offer promotional offer possible is great. You know, if you can get one with no fees, that’s great. But as you mentioned, they typically do come with a two, three, maybe even 4% transfer fee. And in a lot of cases, it’s well worth it. When you compare that fee to the overall interest savings that you’re going to get, you might have a plan. So if you’ve got a 12 month promotional offer, maybe you can pay off that balance one 12 every single month. So by the time the promotion ends, you have paid it off and, you know, kind of taken advantage of, of all of that zero interest, uh, time. Um, so I love balance transfer offers. I think it’s just a really smart strategy. Christy, as we wrap up, are there any resources you can recommend for listeners, maybe folks wanna learn a little bit more about using cards wisely during the holidays, or they’re shopping for a brand new card and are really looking to maximize their rewards? What can you recommend?

Of course, I’m gonna send you two citizens bank.com/money girl, because we’ve collected some articles that are related to the topic of holidays that I think would really help listeners. And of course, I have to mention again, that we have a special promotion for the holiday season for our cashback plus MasterCard, um, which is a 5% cashback on everything on up to $6,000 spent on your purchases in the first year, it starts up October 15th and runs through November 19th of this year. And I think that would be a great way to rack up those rewards and to help you pay off in January. Um, but yeah, it’s citizens bank.com/money girl to access those

Resources. Thank you so much for setting that page up for listeners. That’s a, a great way to just, you know, have one place to go and get a lot of good information. Christie, thank you so much for all of this helpful advice and tips. I think it’s gonna help people manage the holidays and their budget a little bit better

This year. Thanks, Laura.

I really hope you enjoyed this interview with Christie before we go. I wanna invite you to scribe to the show. If you haven’t done that already, and I’d love you to participate. If you wanna send me your money, questions or comments, you can leave a voicemail message 24 7 simply by calling 3 0 2 3 6 4 0 3 0 8. You can also email me using my contact page. Laura D adams.com or connect with me on Instagram at Laura D. Adams. That’s all for now. I’ll talk to you next week until then here’s to living a richer life. Money girl is a quick and dirty tips podcast. It’s audio engineered by Steve Rickey bird with editing by Adams Cecil. Our operations and editorial manager is Michelle Marus. Our assistant manager is Emily Miller and our marketing and publicity assistant is Devina Tomlin.

Citizens is a brand name of citizens bank NA view express may not necessarily reflect those citizens. The information contained here in is for informational purposes only as the service to the public and is not legal advice or substitute for legal counsel, nor does it constitute advertising or solicitation. You should do your own research and or contact your own legal or tax advisor for assistance. With questions you may have on the information contained herein, visit citizens bank.com/money. Girl MasterCard is a registered trademark of MasterCard international incorporated member F D I C.

If you haven’t started thinking about the holidays yet, they’re right around the corner! That means it’s time to start making plans and strategizing ways to save money. A rewards credit card is an excellent tool for spending, getting benefits, and boosting your budget during the holidays.

To discuss tips for getting get more from your credit cards, I interviewed Kristy Olinger, a Credit Card Product Manager at Citizens. She’s spent decades working in the credit card industry and knows a lot about consumer behavior, often-overlooked card benefits, and ways to use cards safely. She also co-hosts her own podcast, The Opposite of Small Talk.

Kristy and I had a great conversation about how to kick off the holiday season with wise shopping strategies and what to do if you regularly end up with a debt hangover in January. Here are a few of the topics we cover on this Money Girl podcast interview:

  • Holiday planning tips that help you stay out of debt.
  • How to use credit card rewards to stretch your holiday budget further.
  • What is an extended card warranty and when to use it.
  • The importance of reviewing your cards’ benefit guides.
  • Why it’s critical to use a credit card instead of a debit card online.
  • How using a card in a digital wallet gives you more cyber protection.
  • Which credit card is best for different types of purchases.
  • When to use a balance transfer credit card to manage debt.
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About the Author

Laura Adams, Quick and Dirty Tips

Laura Adams, Quick and Dirty Tips

Laura Adams is an award-winning author of multiple books, including Money Girl’s Smart Moves to Grow Rich. Her newest title, Debt-Free Blueprint: How to Get Out of Debt and Build a Financial Life You Love, is an Amazon No. 1 New Release. Laura’s been the writer and host of the popular Money Girl Podcast, a top weekly audio show in Apple Podcasts, since 2008. She’s a frequent source for the national media and has been featured on most major news outlets including NBC, CBS, ABC FOX, Bloomberg, NPR, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Money, Time, Kiplinger’s, USA Today, U.S News, Huffington Post, Marketplace, Forbes, Fortune, Consumer Reports, MSN, and many other radio, print, and online publications. Millions of readers and listeners benefit from her practical financial advice. Her mission is to empower consumers to live richer lives through her podcasting, speaking, spokesperson, teaching, and advocacy work. Laura received an MBA from the University of Florida. Visit LauraDAdams.com to learn more and connect with her.

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