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A lot of men have told me that Mother’s Day terrifies them. Being a curious writer, when someone admits being terrified, I always ask for details.

The story is always the same. They don’t want to make a mistake and buy the wrong thing. One hapless guy told me he’d given his wife cash. Well, you can guess how that went. It was the total lack of thought and imagination that did him in.

Relax, guys. Here are some thoughtful ideas—putting your credit cards rewards to use—that will put a smile on the face of the special lady in your life. And just as importantly, keep you out of the dog house.

Up, Up and Away

If you have an American Express Gold Card, use your Membership Rewards points to take her on a hot air balloon ride. Do it at sunset and throw in a glass of champagne. You’ll need 30,000 points to make this experience a reality. The only problem is trying to top this next year.

The AmEx Gold Card is a charge card, not a credit card, so be prepared to pay the bill off every month. Also note that while membership has its rewards, it also has its costs. The annual fee is $125, but it’s waived for the first year.

If you don’t have an American Express card, think about applying for the elite version of the Gold Card, the American Express Premier Rewards Gold Card. You get a great sign-up bonus: 35,000 points if you spend $2,000 within the first three months. It’s a little late to get the bonus before May 13, but you can think about wowing her with the flight of her lifetime next year. This card has a hefty $175 annual fee, but it’s waived for the first year.

Bonus tip: If you have trouble getting her on a plane or if she gets dizzy at the top of an escalator, don’t try this one. American Express offers a truck load of other “experiences” that don’t involve leaving the ground.

Walk on the Wild Side

Sorry, guys, I’m not talking about sexy lingerie. Check out Xperience Days for a gift she won’t soon forget. Go whitewater rafting on the Ocoee River in Tennessee or give her a chance to get behind the wheel of a NASCAR stock car on the Chicagoland Speedway.

You can sort activities by metro area. Prices vary widely, depending on what activity you choose. Pay for it with a rewards credit card and get points or miles for being so incredibly thoughtful.

Bonus tip: If you can’t get her on a roller coaster, then she’s probably not the type who enjoys screaming while trying to have fun. Pick an experience with a lower scream factor, but that’s still fun, such as a day with a personal shopper or a wine tasting tour.

Run Away from Home

This is a great idea for the mom who’s up to her eyeballs in diapers and PTA meetings. You can whisk her away for just a weekend, if that’s all you can manage.

A great card for travel rewards is the Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card. If you spend $4,000 within the first three months, you get 50,000 bonus points, which is worth $625 toward travel rewards. You can also redeem points for cash back, gift cards, experiences, and more. Book your trip through Chase’s online booking tool and get two points per $1 spent on travel. You can choose any airline, too.

Chase’s Ultimate Rewards program also offers a unique “travel auction.” You can bid your rewards points (minimum 1,000) for travel packages, such as three nights in Vegas, a weekend in New York City, a seven-day cruise to Alaska, and more.

If you want to go crazy and jet off to Italy (my personal choice), you won’t even have to pay foreign transaction fees with this card.

Bonus tip: If the thought of choosing a location gives you hives, then just simply ask her where she’d love to go. Really, it doesn’t have to be a surprise. Get her involved in the planning so she can tell you what would set her heart ablaze.

Simple, Cheap, and Romantic

These three things are not mutually exclusive. If it’s not a good year for your finances, then be realistic about what your choices are. No woman wants to end up in debt so she can have a luxurious gift. Really, don’t fret because you can still do something thoughtful.

Dinner and a movie may sound dull, but it’s the perfect date night if a few special touches are splashed in here and there. With the Chase Freedom Visa $100 Bonus Cash Back + 0% Intro APR, you get 5 percent cash back on groceries and movie theaters from now through June 30, 2012. Use the card to save money on groceries, and if money’s really tight, pick up her favorite candy bar, too. You can surprise her with it during the movie and you won’t have to pay $6 for it.

Also, instead of having flowers delivered, buy a bouquet at the floral department in the grocery store. Put them in a vase at home and have them waiting for her at the dinner table. Have the kids help you cook and serve the dinner. Arrange for a sitter if your kids are still young so the two of you can go to the movies.

Bonus tip: If she picks a chick flick for the movie, which is highly probable, pretend to be enthused. If she wants to discuss the characters after the movie, then yes, you have to listen attentively (and look happy about it, too). Mind-numbing libations are optional.

At publishing time, the American Express Gold Card, American Express Premier Rewards Gold Card, Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card and Chase Freedom Visa $100 Bonus Cash Back + 0% Intro APR are offered through Credit.com product pages and Credit.com is compensated if our users apply for and ultimately sign up for these cards. However, this relationship does not result in any preferential editorial treatment.

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