Make Your Turkey Count: Tips for Maximizing the Rewards on Your Thanksgiving Dinner Spend

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It’s shaping up to be a busy Thanksgiving, with many families able to come together again in ways they largely haven’t been able to over the past two holiday seasons. That means airports are sure to be crowdedas well as Thanksgiving dinner tables.

More than three quarters of those interviewed this fall by market research firm IRI said they plan to celebrate Thanksgiving as they did before the pandemic. However, this year’s party will cost more: Thanksgiving dinner spending is expected to increase by more than 13% this year compared to 2021.

In effect, inflation is a priority as many of us head to the grocery store to stock up on turkey, sides, drinks and desserts.

However, those holiday food expenses will sting a little less if you take advantage of some of the perks and offers of those same credit cards that let you main benefits of travel. And if you approach it strategically, the money you spend on your Thanksgiving spread could help pave your way to future free trips.

Here are a few things to keep in mind as you start jotting down your Thanksgiving dinner shopping list.

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Use a card that earns the most in grocery stores

Before you hit the grocery store, be sure to write down which card in your wallet earns you the most points or cash back on groceries.

The grocery store is a lucrative bonus spending category for multiple credit cards. You could turn your $150 grocery bill into 600 points with a card like the American Express Gold® Card, which earns 4 Amex Membership Rewards® points per dollar in US supermarkets (up to $25,000 per calendar year). The Citi Premier® Card also earns 3 ThankYou Rewards points per dollar on groceries. Other cards on List of the Best Grocery Credit Cards from TPG can also earn you money.

In many cases, this may be a different card than the one you want to use on your big holiday gift shopping a few days later. So if you’re expecting a big grocery bill before the holidays, using a grocery-specific card could be a good way to diversify your point earnings before the gift shopping begins in earnest.

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Same for restaurants.

Figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics show that inflation for food purchased at grocery stores, by some measures, is outpacing that for food at restaurants this fall. That could bring more Americans to dinner this Thanksgiving.

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Even if you’re not planning on taking the family out for Thanksgiving dinner, some restaurants are offering Thanksgiving takeout that you might want to take advantage of. For example, when my wife and I had to work on Thanksgiving last year, we received a huge, delicious Thanksgiving spread at a local restaurant near our home in North Carolina for $120 that allowed us to dinner and stay for days. Although cooking Thanksgiving dinner is a beloved tradition, the food was so good that we would consider doing it again.

If part or all of your Thanksgiving dinner will come from a restaurant, be sure to select the card in your wallet that earns the most points, miles or cash back on diningand take advantage of the meal credits you get when you swipe your card at a restaurant.

Consider moving your grocery shopping online

Eliminate crowded aisles and potentially earn more points by shopping online. With some credit cards, you’ll be able to earn a higher rate when you order groceries online.

With the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, for example, if you shop in person, you will earn 1 point per dollar. However, you will earn 3 Chase Ultimate Rewards points per dollar spent on purchases at an online grocery store.

So not only will you avoid searching for a parking spot, standing side by side with other customers trying to grab a pack of rolls and waiting in a frustrating checkout line, but you’ll also earn triple points by hitting write your grocery list from the comfort of your couch.

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Check Third-Party Sites Online

While we’re talking about Thanksgiving shopping online, keep in mind that you might want to look beyond your typical neighborhood grocery chain when it comes to your Thanksgiving dinner shopping. This can be a way to redirect your expenses so you can earn at a higher rate and even potentially stack your income.

Cards like Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card you get great returns on Amazon and Whole Foods purchases, for example. This means that an Amazon Fresh delivery order could be a way to maximize both convenience and cash back.

If you are chasing elite status before the end of the year or in the hope of earning enough airline miles for an upcoming redemption, you can check airline shopping portals to see if there are any offers that could help fill your Thanksgiving table.

These shopping portals can do more than help you stock up on household items or buy Christmas presents. There are also food and wine retailers on many of these sites. Some could earn you 2, 3 or more airline miles per dollar spent. If you don’t have a card that pays big on groceries (or everyday purchases, for that matter) in your wallet, this could be a way to accelerate your earnings.

You may not be able to purchase all aspects of your spread, but it could be a way to, for example, purchase pies, meat, and wine. Log into a portal and sort by “food and dining” to find options that might be useful to you.

If you pay for your purchase with a rewards credit card, this could be a way to accumulate your earnings for your Thanksgiving dinner purchases.

Information relating to Amazon Prime Rewards and Amazon Rewards cards has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Take advantage of credit card offers and benefits

Don’t forget the offers that you receive through your credit card portals. These offers can help you get back some of the money you spend on a particular credit card in the form of a credit statement. There are a lot of offers right now that could help you with your vacation expenses, and some offers could be useful to you during your shopping.

For example, I have access to the American Express portal via one of my credit cards. Here’s a deal I found that could be extremely helpful this Thanksgiving: Get $35 back on purchases of $100 or more with Crowd Cow, which is an online site that delivers meat and seafood, including Thanksgiving turkeys.

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And there is always wine. Right now, select members can get $50 back when they spend $100 or more at Macy’s Wine Shop through American Express — not to mention, you’ll get free shipping on orders of six bottles or more.

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Offers vary from account to account and portal to portal, so your best bet is to check your offers. There could very well be one that could help offset the cost of your dinner. Just be sure to add any offers that interest you to your card before making the purchase.

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At the end of the line

Perhaps the easiest way to earn a free trip (and in some cases, elite status) is to strategic approach to your usual expenses. Such a strategy becomes all the more important when life’s big expenses arrive, and certainly, Thanksgiving dinner is among the biggest grocery expenses of the year for many of us.

While inflation can make the final tally a bit painful at checkout, knowing that you’ve done everything to offset the cost — or are at least getting a good return on your spending — can help soften the blow a bit.

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