Belfast Telegraph

Consumer: How to... get more bang for your buck this Christmas

By Claire McNeilly

We could all do with cutting back on festive expenditure, so here are four ways to get more bang for your buck:

1 Loyalty cards: Most big stores and supermarkets offer reward schemes. Earning points for things you already buy makes sense.

The most popular are Boots Advantage (collect four points for every £1 spent), Tesco Clubcard (one point per £1 in-store) and Nectar (two points per £1 spent).

But you should put price first. That said, with a few tricks up your sleeve you can come out on top. For example, you should trade in your normal Clubcard vouchers for Clubcard Rewards online (rather than spending them in-store at Tesco) which boosts a £5 voucher by up to four times its value. Boots often hosts 'mega points' weekends in the run-up to Christmas and you can earn Advantage points online via www. treatstreet.boots.com.

2 Reward credit cards: There are credit cards offering rewards, but you must be confident you will repay the balance in full each month because these come with high interest rates. If you're not, focus on the lowest APR instead.

Pick a reward card that suits your spending habits. For regular travellers the BA Amex card pays one Avios point for each £1 spent.

3Cashback credit cards: For general spending you may prefer to earn cash rather than loyalty points linked to one retailer. Once again, the number one rule is to pay off the bill each month.

The American Express Platinum Cashback Card offers an impressive 5% cashback on up to £2,500 spent in the first three months and 1.25% thereafter. This equates a total of £218.75 cashback if you spent £1,000 per month during the first year, according to MoneySupermarket (although do factor in the annual fee of £25). The new Santander 123 Cashback Card has introduced 1% bonus cashback on all Amazon purchases to January 31, 2014, as well as the usual 1% at major supermarkets, 2% at department stores and 3% at petrol stations.

4 Instant savings: Online prices often beat the high street and retailers are increasingly getting sales under way before Christmas, including Amazon.

Avios offers 50% more points than usual when members shop via Avios.com eStore until December 9 plus introductory 500 points if you spend £50 or more.

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