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[Update: Some offers mentioned below have expired. You can view the current offers from our partners here — Discover it and Chase Freedom. Disclosure: Cards from our partners are mentioned below.]

Back in 2005, analysts realized that the Monday after Thanksgiving had become one of the biggest online shopping days of the year. It seemed like holiday shoppers were so excited about the deals they found on Black Friday, that they continued to shop online when they returned to their offices on Monday.

As Black Friday has grown into a cultural phenomenon, Cyber Monday has continued to keep pace with sales reaching $1.5 billion in 2012. And just as Black Friday shoppers should be careful how they use their credit cards, Cyber Monday participants can do a lot to maximize their savings and increase their credit card rewards as well.

Here are five ways to save this Cyber Monday, which falls on Dec. 2 this year.

1. Use shopping portals. 

Shopping portals are websites that offer points, miles or cash back when shoppers use their links to reach merchants. Typically, these rewards portals can offer between two and 10 points or miles per dollar, or 2% to 5% cash back. Even better, these rewards are offered in addition to any credit card rewards you would normally receive.

To take advantage of these offers, you need to find the portal that offers the best rewards, register at that site and then make sure to use their links. To determine the best portal to use for a particular purchase, you can use a portal finder site such as EV Reward, CashBackMonitor or Cashback Holics.

2. Consider cards with rotating spending categories.

Some of the most popular reward credit cards feature categories of spending that qualify for 5% cash back. These categories change each quarter, but are usually focused on holiday shopping during October, November and December. Citi’s Dividend Platinum Select offers 5% cash back during this time at toy stores, department stores and Best Buy stores. The Chase Freedom card features 5% cash back this quarter at select department stores and at Amazon.com, while the Discover It card is especially suited for Cyber Monday, as it features 5% back for all online shopping. Just remember to take the time to log in and register for these bonuses, which is required to receive them.

3. Look for free shipping offers. 

One of the hallmarks of a great Cyber Monday sale is the offer of free shipping, which is offered by many major online retailers. In addition, American Express cardholders receive complimentary membership in the Shop Runner program that offers unlimited free shipping at dozens of participating websites.

4. Set limits. 

Just like with Black Friday sales at stores, online shoppers need to set limits on their spending this Cyber Monday. Those who are currently carrying credit card debt should place a higher priority on paying off their balance than making new purchases, even if heavily discounted. At the same time, those who pay their credit card bills in full every month should avoid making unnecessary purchases, no matter how large the discount is.

5. Think twice about store credit card offers.

Instead of a cashier handing you a credit card application at the cash register, the online checkout process may offer a pop up credit card application before you can complete your purchase. Thankfully, online shoppers can quickly open up a new browser window and compare the terms of these offers to others. In the end, online shoppers will want to forgo a small discount when they can receive a larger sign-up bonus, better rewards, or a lower interest rate from a competing card.

It can be both fun and convenient to score some amazing deals online during the Cyber Monday sales, but it takes a little planning to get the most from this event. By utilizing all available tactics to maximize your savings, you can complete your holiday shopping list for less than you thought.

Image: iStock

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