During a holiday season that by all counts will be unlike any other experienced in recent history, shoppers may be looking for creative and nontraditional ways to celebrate and share the festive spirit, while at the same time carefully managing tight budgets in an especially challenging economy.
Offering gift cards during the holidays is nothing new, but the options people have for purchasing and using them are evolving.
Each year, PNC Bank sees a spike in credit card award redemptions during the holidays, and this year, there are more opportunities than ever to exchange points for gift cards without any additional expenses, according to Tammy McIntosh, head of credit card rewards at the bank.
“This year we are seeing more demand as credit card holders are finding new ways to give,” she said. “Given social distancing guidelines, there are far fewer holiday parties or other in-person engagements, so some may view awarding gift cards as a way to safely say thank you to a friend, newspaper carrier or hair stylist.”
In addition to general merchandise cards that allow recipients to choose their own gifts, other ideas this year include food delivery services, restaurant certificates for catering small gatherings and subscription services – things that may help the recipient offset costs for basic needs.
“In response to customer preferences, PNC and many other credit card issuers have changed their redemption policies to allow for more flexibility,” McIntosh said.
This has been especially true with travel cards, as many are home-bound due to the pandemic’s impacts on travel.
“Check with your issuer to see if it has expanded its redemption catalogue for travel card holders,” McIntosh said. “Many can now convert their travel points into redemption options for a variety of items, including physical and digital gift cards for retail, grocery stores, drug stores, restaurant takeout and delivery, or even charitable donations.”
Further, customers can add value by using their card company’s online shopping portals to receive extra rewards through cash back on those purchases.
“Accruing points throughout the year and redeeming for holiday gift cards, merchandise and even cash, for yourself or as a gift, is as trendy – and easy – as ever,” McIntosh said.
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