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Seven Black Friday credit card tips you cannot afford to miss

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(Read caption) MasterCard sign on a revolving door in New York. MasterCard, Discover, and other credit cards offer some limited protection if you buy an item on Black Friday and its price drops afterward.

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Admit it: You can’t wait to get started on your holiday gift shopping. But if you’re planning to lean heavily on your credit card for Black Friday sales, the Nerds have a few important tips you can’t afford to miss.

Check out the details below for everything you need to know to swipe smart this holiday season (and beyond):

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1. Shop with a rewards credit card to rack up serious points

The most important thing you can do to make the most of this holiday shopping season is select a card that provides a steady return on your spending in the form of points, miles, or cash back. Then, use it consistently. After all, you’re going to be shelling out big bucks anyway – you might as well get rewarded for it!

Recommended:Up to 6 percent cash back? On almost everything? Here's how.

2. Use bonus malls to score even more rewards when you shop online

A lot of people forget about the online shopping portals (often known as “bonus malls”) operated by their credit card issuers. If you choose to make your online purchases through these platforms, you stand to earn even more rewards on your credit card spending.

One of the best bonus malls out there is the one operated by Discover, known as Discover Deals. If you use your Discover it® and shop through Discover Deals, you could score extra cash back, a statement credit, or instant savings at checkout. This is a great way to help your dollars go the extra mile this holiday season.

3. Use your Chase Freedom – $200 Bonus for department store shopping

If you’re planning to buy a lot of gifts at department stores this Black Friday, be sure to use your Chase Freedom® – $200 Bonus. With it, you’ll earn 5% cash back until December 31, 2014 at select department stores, as well as Amazon.com and Zappos.com (up to $1,500 spent). Plus, you’ll earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases.

And don’t forget: If you also have the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, you can transfer all the Ultimate Rewards points you’re racking up with the Chase Freedom® – $200 Bonus over to it and cash them in for travel. Talk about a win-win!

4. Look into your credit card issuer’s extended warranty policy, pronto

Lots of people buy electronics on Black Friday, and many retailers try to hock extended warranty coverage at unsuspecting consumers. But it’s highly likely that your credit card already has your back. Every major network (Visa, MasterCard, American Express and Discover) offers some kind of extended warranty on most purchases made with the card.

However, exclusions apply and every card provides slightly different benefits. Consequently, placing a quick call to your card’s customer service line to see what it covers before you hit the mall is a smart idea.

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5. Keep a watch on your balance

Holiday cheer can be a powerful force, but don’t let it cause you to overspend on your plastic. Using more than 30% of the available credit on any of your cards at any time during the month could do damage to your credit score. If you’re starting to get close to that threshold, make a payment as soon as you can.

6. Use a card that offers price protection to be sure you’re getting the best deal

According to a 2014 NerdWallet analysis, Black Friday “deals” aren’t always the absolute lowest prices of the season. To ensure that you’re getting the best price on every gift you buy, shop with a card that offers price protection. MasterCard, Discover, and Citi all provide the opportunity to get some a refund if an item you’ve bought with your card drops in price within a certain window of time.

Again, this functions slightly differently from card to card and there are restrictions to keep in mind. Be sure to read your plastic’s terms and conditions carefully for the ins and outs of its price protection program.

7. Be sure to pay your bills on time

If you’re juggling several credit cards to maximize rewards on your holiday shopping, take steps to stay organized. Missing a payment on one of them could cause your credit score to take a serious hit, so set calendar alerts for your billing due dates. This way, you’ll be getting the best deals with your cards and keeping your credit in good shape.

The post 7 Black Friday Credit Card Tips You Can’t Afford to Miss appeared first in NerdWallet News.