Some credit cards are better than others when it comes to the holidays. Here is our selection of the best credit cards for holiday shopping.
The holiday gift-buying season can be a great time to net cash back rewards on purchases you’re already planning to make. So long as you stick to a budget, you’ll come out on top when you choose a great cash back rewards credit card for your holiday shopping. While we track the best overall cash back cards, here we focus especially on cards ideal for holiday shopping.
What to Look For
What should you look for when choosing a new credit card for gift buying? We’re going to look at cash back rewards cards, since they have the most flexible, easy-to-use rewards. But choosing a travel rewards card could also serve you well, especially if you’re planning a vacation in 2016.
The goal, though, is to get the maximum amount of rewards possible on gifts you’re already planning to buy. In other words, even if a store credit card has great cash back rewards, it won’t do you any good unless you can pick up at least some of your gifts from that store.
Also, while we recommend budgeting for the holiday season well before you begin shopping, a good credit card can help if you’re going to come up short. Some of the cards we’ve highlighted here feature 0% introductory APRs. So if you need to spend a bit more than you’ve got banked, you’ll have at least a couple of months to pay back your purchase before you incur any fees.
Other things to consider include protections offered by a particular credit card. For instance, some cards offer return protection, refunding a purchase even if the retailer won’t take your return. Others offer purchase protection, which will cover replacement costs if the gift is stolen or damaged. If you’re planning any large purchases of electronics, big toys, or other warrantied items, look for a card that offers a warranty extension. Of course, these offers are all detailed and complex. So, if you’re choosing a card for one of these considerations, make sure to read the fine print.
Best Cards to Use
With those parameters in mind, here are the top 6 best cash back credit cards to use this holiday season:
1. Chase Freedom
The Chase Freedom is our top pick for holiday shopping. It offers 0% introductory APR on purchases for 15 months. Chase Freedom offers 5% cash back on categories that rotate quarterly. Typically, Chase typically offers 5% cash back categories in the 4th quarter on shopping on Amazon.com. Plus, you can earn a $150 cash-back bonus when you spend $500 on purchases within three months of opening this card. Note that this is a recent increase from a $100 bonus that the Chase Freedom card offered in the past.
Other benefits of the Chase Freedom card include purchase protection, which offers up to $500 per claim to cover purchases from damage or theft for 120 after purchase. It also offers extended warranty protection on eligible warranties of three years or less. With these additional protections, and the broad bonus categories through the end of the year, this is a great option for those who plan to do most of their shopping online.
2. Discover it® Cash Back
The Discover it® Cash Back cash back card isn’t the best everyday rewards card, since it has a relatively low 1% cash back on everyday purchases. However, it features 5% cash back in categories that rotate quarterly. In October to December 2015, the cash back bonus category is great for gift buyers. The bonus is included for purchases at Amazon.com, department stores, and clothing stores.
Plus, new cardholders of the Discover it® Cash Back will earn double cash back for the first year’s worth of purchases. The cash back will hit your account automatically at the end of the year, so this could be a great option for “saving” on holiday purchases in 2016. Other benefits include the ability to freeze your card through a mobile app if you notice any suspicious activity and the $0 fraud liability. You’ll also get extended warranties, price protection, and purchase protection on purchases made with this card.
3. Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express
For excellent cash back benefits, check out the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express. This card offers 6% cash back year-round on up to $6,000 in purchases at supermarkets. Think you can’t buy Christmas gifts at a supermarket? Think again! Many supermarkets carry gifts during the holiday season, and they nearly all carry gift cards. You can give the gift cards as a gift, or purchase and use them to buy physical gifts at a 6% discount.
If that 6% cash back isn’t enough to convince you, you can get 3% at U.S. gas stations. It also offers 1% cash back on all other purchases. Plus, when you spent $1,000 in purchases within three months of opening your account, you’ll get a $250 statement credit. They’ve also added a few new bonus categories; 6% cash back on select US streaming services (like Netflix, Hulu and others) and 3% cash back on ground transportation.
Besides all this, the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express offers a 0% introductory APR on purchases and balance transfers for 12 months. It also offers extended warranty benefits for warranties of five years or less, purchase protection for 90 days from the date of purchase, and return protection for up to $1,000 per calendar year.
4. U.S. Bank Cash+ Visa Signature Card
The U.S. Bank Cash+ Visa Signature Card offers 5% cash back on the first $2,000 of combined purchases in any two categories that you choose quarterly. It also offers 2% cash back on one everyday category – like gas or groceries – and 1% cash back on everything else. With no limit on the total cash back you can earn, this is a great everyday use card. And if you’re smart about setting those two bonus categories, you can save some serious money this holiday season.
This card also offers $0 fraud liability, active account monitoring to detect potential fraud, and mobile account alerts.
5. Amazon.com Rewards Visa Card
When it comes to earning great rewards for holiday shopping, you may want to think outside the box. The Amazon.com Rewards Visa Card from Chase offers great rewards if you’re planning to do most of your shopping on Cyber Monday – or otherwise online through Amazon.com.
The card offers 3% cash back on all Amazon.com purchases, 2% cash back at gas stations, restaurants, and drugstores, and 1% cash back on all other purchases. Plus, when you sign up now, you’ll get an instant $80 credited to your Amazon.com account upon approval.
One benefit of the Amazon.com Visa card is that you don’t have to sign up for rotating bonus categories. If you’re an Amazon junkie, just pick up this card around the holidays. You can use the $80 bonus to buy yourself or someone you love a little extra something.
6. Target REDcard
One interesting thing about the Target REDcard is that it comes in two flavors: debit and credit. The debit card hooks up to your existing checking account and automatically debits purchases from the account. So you aren’t worrying about overextending yourself on credit, but you’ll still earn rewards. The credit card operates like a traditional store credit card with rewards.
Rather than getting cash back in the traditional sense, the Target REDcard debit card offers a 5% discount on any purchase from Target. That can add up to big savings throughout the year, especially if you plan to do lots of your holiday shopping at a Target superstore. Other benefits include free shipping online, additional savings for pharmaceuticals, and an additional 30 days to make returns. This fee-free debit card also gives 1% of your purchase amount to the K-12 school of your choice.
The Target Visa Credit Card offers the same basic benefits, and a few more. It allows you to make purchases elsewhere, and offers a handy bill pay service, if you’re looking for that sort of thing.
Get the Most from Your Card Over the Holidays
When it comes to holiday shopping with a credit card, you can earn some serious cash back. The average American spent around $730 on holiday gifts, food, and other purchases in 2013. If you spend that in a 5% cash back category with one of the above cards, you’ll net $37 in savings. Of course, your real goal when spreading holiday cheer is to spend smart and stick to your budget!Topics: Credit Cards