Joint Accounts

How Can I Keep My Holiday Shopping Secret From My Husband?

Strategies for keeping the mystery in gift-giving when you share a credit card

Kristin Wong
Forge
Published in
4 min readDec 9, 2019

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Illustration: Laurie Rollitt

Welcome to Joint Accounts, a weekly advice column about money and relationships of all kinds. Have a question? Email jointaccounts@medium.com.

Dear Joint Accounts,

This is a practical question more than a relationship one. Christmas is coming up, so my husband and I are obviously planning to give each other gifts. How can we do this discreetly?

Is there a way we can adjust our shared finances around the holidays so we don’t know where the other person is shopping for gifts? We could use cash, but I also want to make sure we get our credit card rewards points.

Sincerely,

Wannabe Secret Santa

AsAs someone who has ruined many surprises with my borderline obsessive budgeting, I empathize with your question. You need full financial transparency in a committed relationship, but that transparency comes back to bite you when it’s gift-giving time. Fortunately, there are a handful of workarounds.

Obviously, you could use cash to buy your gifts. I know, I know: You specifically stated that cash isn’t an option because you want to earn credit card rewards. But let’s be honest: How much will those rewards add up to? Let’s say you shell out what the average American will spend on gifts this holiday season — according to the National Retail Federation, that’s $659 — and that you get a generous 5% cash back on your credit card purchases. That nets you a whopping $33. I’m not saying it’s nothing — you could buy a couple of rounds of mulled wine — but in the scheme of things, it’s a relatively small price to pay for keeping your surprises secret.

If you really want those rewards, however, you might be able to have the best of both worlds. You could buy a prepaid gift card with your credit card, then do your holiday shopping with the gift card. That way, you’ll still earn rewards, but you can also keep your spending secret.

There’s a big caveat here, though: Not every credit-card issuer allows this strategy, and the financial advice website…

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Kristin Wong
Forge
Writer for

Kristin Wong has written for the New York Times, The Cut, Catapult, The Atlantic and ELLE.