Many of us rewards credit cards in order to accrue different types of benefits. My sister has one that gives her travel points, and I have a Navy Federal Credit Union card that gives me points that I redeem for gift cards for spending during the holiday season. I've just redeemed my points for this year, and I think I'm on to a trick that might eliminate some of the problems I've had in the past.
In past years, I've ordered one large gift card for the maximum amount of points that I have available. In an overseas PCS year, that might be a lot, like $250. However, redeeming a large gift card for multiple different purchases can be problematic. You've got to keep track of your spending and know how much is left so that you can get every last cent off that gift card. I know that I've left money on gift cards because I sometimes lose track of the details.
One solution that I have tried in the past is to use the entire gift card in one purchase. This works well for smaller gift cards. I'd use the gift card towards my grocery bill and then use the leftover grocery money for whatever I was planning to do with the gift card. However, even I rarely spend $250 at the grocery store in one trip.
This year, I've changed tactics. Instead of ordering one large gift card, I'm ordering multiple cards of the smallest denomination. You'll have to check your programs terms and conditions to make sure that isn't going to cost you more, either in lower redemption value or some sort of fees. With my Navy Federal card, I can get the same value whether I order one $500 gift card or ten $50 gift cards. I'm thinking that I will find it easier to spend the smaller denominations in just one transaction, decreasing the chances for me to mess up and leave money on the cards.
If you are redeeming points to do your holiday shopping, you should probably put in your redemption order soon so that you will get the cards in plenty of time to do thoughtful, sensible shopping. Rushing around at the last minute is a sure way to overspend, and no one likes that.