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Plan a last-minute Mother’s Day without credit chaos

By , CardRatings contributor
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In case you haven’t been paying attention, Mother’s Day is this Sunday. Haven’t bought or planned anything yet? Using a credit card is a great way to pay for a (last-minute) Mother's Day gift. But while you're focused on choosing the perfect gift with just hours to spare, you might be setting yourself up for a credit card disaster. Here are a few things to keep in mind to make sure Mother's Day goes smoothly, both this weekend and for years to come.

1. Know your credit card limits.

You've just had a lovely brunch with Mom. But now the waiter comes to your table to tell you that your card's been declined. Sure, your mom's not the boss of you anymore, but no one wants to get that "Mom" look that says, "Are you in debt up to your eyeballs?" Reaching your limit should never be a surprise to you, but make extra sure it won't happen at brunch with your mom.

2. Ask her what she wants.

Many of us have decided that when it comes to pleasing Mom, surprises are overrated. If you're taking her out to a fancy restaurant, ask her where she'd love to go for her special day. If you take her to a place she doesn't like, you've got the expense on your credit card and you have to pay the bill even though your mom isn't happy. If you must make it a surprise to feel like you've done a good job, make it a non-food purchase and focus on something that's returnable. And, no, a blender is a not a good idea.

3. Know what your rewards card covers.

If you're depending on a rewards credit card to help you pay for dinner or a gift, make sure you're familiar with the terms and conditions in your disclosure statements. Credit cards with reward features are a wonderful thing, but if you don't use them properly, you'll end up with a credit card bill that's higher than what you were comfortable spending.

4. Give her a prepaid card.

In case you're not sure, by Mom standards, a prepaid card is a fairly impersonal gift. Here's how you sweeten the deal: Tell her that you'll go with her to spend it. Then accompany her wherever she wants to go, whether it's to a restaurant or to buy azaleas at the gardening store. And, yes, if she buys the azaleas and asks you to plant them, you have to say yes.

5. Save money on traditional gifts.

Are you on a tight budget? No need to go into credit card debt. Give her flowers and chocolates at a reduced rate. Check to see if your reward credit card offers additional points or cash back for purchases from certain businesses such as florists, jewelers or chocolatiers.

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