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CHICAGO (CBS 2) – Just in time for the holidays, tips on how to survive the shopping season without going into debt and here’s a bonus you can even make some money.

CBS 2’s Dorothy Tucker reports on the hottest rewards programs that pay you for spending.

‘Tis the season to spend money. Scott Neubauer is shopping at the Sears in West Dundee and is doing just that, but he’s also making money.

Neubauer paid $32.54 for a sweater, but he’ll earn 5% or $1.50 in rewards. Scott gets cash back because he used a PerkStreet rewards card where he’s opened an online checking account. Unlike credit cards that offer rewards, there are no monthly bills, no interest rates and as experts point out, a Christmas bonus.

”Once Christmas is done zero balances for you because everything came off your card as you drew out of your own bank account,” explains Edward Sanchez, President, Money Sharp Credit Counseling.

On most purchases you earn 1% or 2%, depending on how much you have in your account, but PerkStreet’s offering a holiday special of 5% cash back at 14 retailers. So far Neubauer’s earned more than $100.

“It’s helped quite a bit. We’re probably going to save it up for the end of the year and use it for a vacation,” said Neubauer.

You can also collect cash directly from retailers. The number of stores offering reward programs continues to grow.

Papa John’s launched its rewards program just last month. You only have to spend $125 to get $18 worth of free pizza.

“So that’s about 15% return,” Sanchez explains.

JC Penny also has a pretty good deal, where you can spend $250 and you get 10 bucks back.

Best Buy’s program is more conservative. Joe Stevens had to spend $250 dollars to earn a $5 certificate, “I just did it cause I bought a lot of movies so just ended up saving money.”

“I save $50 to $100 per year,” said Nikke Krunpe who plans to do much of her Christmas shopping at Best Buy.

How much does that help the bottom line? It helps in the end because every savings adds up and then you can come back and buy more merchandise because you get a discount.

But experts say to be careful and not to buy something you don’t need just to get the points.

Also, read the fine print on all the reward programs.

Some programs require you to buy certain items, others like the Perks Card will charge you an in-activity fee of $4.50 if you don’t use the card at least once a month.

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