Holiday shopping is not my forte, since in general I'm not an avid shopper. Plus, I'm a big proponent of giving experiences rather than things. That said, you'll probably find yourself buying at least a few things from stores, whether for family, relatives, friends, kids' teachers, etc. so you may as well maximize the miles and points you earn in the process.
I focus on the Ultimate Rewards Mall because I love how quickly points post there--I've never had to follow up with Chase for missing points, although the good thing is that, unlike other mileage malls, Chase does all its own customer service for the Ultimate Rewards Mall, so you don't have to deal with Cartera, the third party that operates this and other mileage malls. If you're new to the Ultimate Rewards Mall, just go to ultimaterewards.com, login with your Chase credit card credentials (Sapphire Preferred, Ink Bold or Ink Plus, or Freedom), go to "Earn Faster" and select the Ultimate Rewards Mall from the dropdown.
Here are my current top picks that leverage the Ultimate Rewards Mall, gift cards, credit card category bonuses, or all three.
1. Kohl's 15X with Chase Freedom and Ultimate Rewards Mall
I've written previously about Kohl's 15X, using the 4th quarter Chase Freedom 5X in conjunction with the Kohl's 10X bonus via the Ultimate Rewards Mall. You receive free shipping for purchases over $50, there's usually some kind of a sale, and there are also periodic Kohl's cash promos, further bringing the cost down.
2. Snapfish 10X via Ultimate Rewards Mall
Photo gifts may seem trite, but a calendar or photo mug with some of your family travel photos from the past year can make a great gift for parents and grandparents. Snapfish is currently running a 48 hour 50% off sale, so you could save while also getting 10X points for your spend.
3. Bloomingdales 11X via Ink, Gift Card, and Ultimate Rewards Mall
While I personally haven't bought anything from Bloomingdales in years, it's a popular destination for many during the holiday season. And since you can use your Ink Bold or Ink Plus to pick up Bloomingdales gift cards for 5X points at Office Depot or Staples, then use those gift cards to pay after clicking through the Ultimate Rewards Mall for an extra 6X points, you can earn 11 points per dollar. Not bad, for higher end brands than you'll manage to get at Kohl's. You can also get free shipping within the U.S. on all online orders (excluding furniture, rugs and mattresses) until 12/20.
4. Gap 8X via Ink, Gift Card and Ultimate Rewards Mall
I could kick myself for the in-store Gap purchases I made a few years back that only earned me straight credit card points. Instead of buying in-store, and similar to the Bloomingdales example above, pick up some Gap gift cards using your Ink Bold or Ink Plus for 5X points at Office Depot or Staples, then pay with those gift cards after clicking through the Ultimate Rewards Mall to earn an addition 3X points, for 8X total per $1.
5. Amazon 5X via Ink and Gift Cards
The great thing about Amazon is that it hosts many unique small sellers that you really can't find in the large department stores or malls. You can pick up Amazon gift cards with your Ink Bold or Ink Plus at Office Max to earn 5X on all Amazon spend.
6. J Crew 5-10X via Ultimate Rewards Mall
As far as I know you can't buy J Crew gift cards at any office supply stores, but you could potentially go through the Ultimate Rewards Mall to earn 5X on J Crew e-gift cards, then go through the Ultimate Rewards Mall again to earn another 5X while paying with your J Crew gift cards for a further 5X, total of 10X. I haven't personally tried this, but the terms don't say gift cards are excluded from earning points.
7. InterContinental or Marriott Stay 7X-8X via Chase Freedom and Ultimate Rewards Mall
Unfortunately InterContinental has reduced its bonus in the Ultimate Rewards Mall from 10X to 3X, so you can only get 8X for an InterContinental hotel stay in December by using your Freedom card for an additional 5X, and 7X for Marriott (2X in the UR Mall + 5X for Freedom card). So not nearly as lucrative as it was, but still not bad if you wanted to treat someone (or even yourself!) to a hotel stay for the holidays.
8. Plane Ticket 7X via Chase Freedom and Ultimate Rewards Mall
Again, taking advantage of the 4th Quarter 5X bonus for airfare using your Chase Freedom card, you could earn a total of 7X by going through the Ultimate Rewards Mall and using Hotwire. Even though the Freedom terms stipulate the 5X is for airfare purchased directly from airlines, so far Flyertalkers have had luck going through Hotwire because airfare purchases do end up having the airline as the merchant of record. This is NOT true for hotels, so don't attempt to get extra points for hotels by going through Hotwire or any of the third party travel agencies on the Ultimate Rewards Mall.
9. National Geographic 7X via Ultimate Rewards Mall
National Geographic, in addition to offering National Geographic videos and magazine subscriptions, also offers a variety of tasteful travel gear, apparel and travel themed gifts. Particularly for some of your older travel loving relatives (who probably have an affinity to NPR, Masterpiece Theater, etc. as well) this could be a good source of gifts.
10. Charles Tyrwhitt 5X via Ultimate Rewards Mall
If you want to gift some tasteful dress shirts to the man or men in your life, it's hard to go wrong with Charles Tyrwhitt of Jermyn Street, London. There have been higher bonuses in the Ultimate Rewards Mall, but 5X still isn't bad, and you won't find their shirts at Kohls, Bloomingdale's, etc. Plus, there's currently an end of year sale, so if they haven't run out of the size you need, you can find some good bargains.
What are your favorite holiday shopping bonuses this season using the Ultimate Rewards Mall and credit card category bonuses?