The secret to the best Cyber Monday deal of them all: paying nothing

Credit Card Shopping
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Cyber Monday is here and it's time to save all the money.

There isn't a single credit card I use now that doesn't offer points or at least a penny or two back for every purchase I make. Usually, I don't even think about the points or coins I'm banking. I act like they're not there until, that is, Black Friday and Cyber Monday come along, my own, official cash-in days.

In case you're not familiar with points, it's a very simple and useful system. You use a specific credit card to make a purchase online or at a brick-and-mortar store, and the card company drops a point or two into a virtual piggy bank. There are credit cards like the Capital One Venture card, The Discover Card, Chase Freedom, Citi Premier, and countless others. Some give you as much as 3 points for every dollar spent.

Other cards offer a small percentage of cash back for every purchase you make and sometimes as much as 5% if you make a larger purchase or stay in, say, a recommended hotel. Even Apple has gotten in on the cash-back craze. If you use the Apple Card to make purchases, you get 3% on all Apple products you purchase with the card and 1% on other purchases.

I'm a fan of all these programs and use many of them, and then I wait. The fact is that none of them earn you money or points quickly, and if you're not a patient person, these programs are probably not for you.

I'm patient and also loyal, which means I stick with credit cards for years, decades even. And the points and tiny bits of cash back just pile up.

Also, if you're a little less patient, you can speed up the points and cash back collection by putting things like regularly occurring bills on the cards. Some people put their mortgages on them, which means they get bigger dumps of points or cash back every month.

Head to the checkout

Even though I'm always accumulating points and tiny bits of coin, I usually forget about these rewards and points systems until I go shopping online, usually at Amazon.

First, let me tell you that I've already made a pair of Black Friday Deals purchases. I'd tell you what I bought, but then I'd be revealing my gifts to the world. I want to help all of you but not at the expense of surprising my wife.

In any case, I found a pair of Black Friday Sale items and put them in my cart. At checkout, I ignored, as I always do, the come-on to sign up for yet another credit card. Amazon will always offer you quite a bit of money off if you sign up, for example, for Amazon's own credit card. But if you already have a bunch of cards doing things like earning you points, dollars, and miles, you probably don't need this one, too. Also, I'm not a big proponent of buying things on credit cards and not paying them off entirely at the end of the month. The only thing I like more than collecting points is having zero debt.

It's at the checkout, though, where you have to pay close attention. Amazon lets you plug in credit card info that you can reuse for subsequent purchases, and one thing Amazon can see from some cards is the number of points you have squirreled away.

I've been doing this for so long that I had thousands of points on one card. Granted, thousands of points boils down to, if you're lucky, maybe a couple of hundred dollars - points won't make you rich.

In this case, however, the combination of two excellent Black Friday Deals, and just under $100 of spare points/cash meant - guess what - I could cover the entire bill, taxes and all, with points. All I had to do was select the points from my card as payment and, at checkout, my total was "$0.00".

If your points card isn't in the system, you might also consider using a cash-back one like Apple, and then buying things with Apple Pay, which will draw from Apple Cash (which is where all my Apple Card cash back gets dumped), instead of a credit card.

I understand that you may never have been a point or cash-back person. That's okay, start now and prepare for next year. If you already are, take an inventory of all the points you've collected and the cash-back piggybanks. You might be surprised and find that this year's Black Friday Shopping could cost you a lot less - or even nothing.

Happy Shopping and if you're ready to spend some of those points, be sure to check out our huge Black Friday Deals list.

More Black Friday Deals

Lance Ulanoff
US Editor in Chief

A 35-year industry veteran and award-winning journalist, Lance has covered technology since PCs were the size of suitcases and “on line” meant “waiting.” He’s a former Lifewire Editor-in-Chief, Mashable Editor-in-Chief, and, before that, Editor in Chief of and Senior Vice President of Content for Ziff Davis, Inc. He also wrote a popular, weekly tech column for Medium called The Upgrade.

Lance Ulanoff makes frequent appearances on national, international, and local news programs including Live with Kelly and Ryan, Fox News, Fox Business, the Today Show, Good Morning America, CNBC, CNN, and the BBC.