Credit Cards

The 7 Best Credit Cards for Holiday Shopping

Editor's Note

You can trust the integrity of our balanced, independent financial advice. We may, however, receive compensation from the issuers of some products mentioned in this article. Opinions are the author's alone. This content has not been provided by, reviewed, approved or endorsed by any advertiser, unless otherwise noted below.

The holiday gift-buying season is more than just a magical season it can also be a great time to build up your stash of cashback rewards.

As long as you stick to a holiday budget(and pay off your statement balance in full), the right cashback rewards credit card can be very lucrative. You don’t need to spend extra, either; by optimizing which cards you use for which purchases, you can maximize your rewards on the things you’re already buying anyway.

What to Look For

So, what are the best features to look for when it comes to the ideal gift-buying credit card?

The first, and most valuable, is that the card earns great rewards. Specifically, you may want to opt for a card that offers cash back, versus choosing a travel rewards card. That’s because cashback rewards are typically more versatile and easier to redeem.

Of course, this depends on how you plan to spend your rewards. Travel miles could also serve you well, especially if you’re planning a vacation in the next year.

The end 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 retail credit card offers great rewards, it won’t do you any good unless you can or were planning to pick up some of your gifts from that store already. If you have to force yourself to spend money on additional items or at stores you wouldn’t otherwise patronize, you’re losing in the end.

Other Perks

Besides cash back, there are a few other reasons you may choose one credit card over another this holiday season.

No-Interest Shopping: While we recommend budgeting for the holiday season well before you even begin shopping, a good credit card can help if you’re still going to come up short. Some of the cards we will highlight here feature 0% introductory APRs.

So if you need to spend a bit more than you’ve got banked, or you have an unexpected expense that wrecks your Christmas budget, you’re safe. You’ll have at least a couple of months to pay back those purchases before you incur any finance charges.

Purchase Protection: Other benefits to consider include protections offered by a particular credit card issuer.

For instance, some cards offer return protection, crediting you back for a purchase even if the retailer won’t accept 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 extended warranty protection. In many cases, this gives you the opportunity to double the manufacturer’s included warranty for no additional expense, up to a few extra years.

Of course, these offers are all detailed, complex, and unique to each card product. So if you’re choosing a specific card for one of these benefits, make sure to read the fine print.

Best Cards to Use

With those parameters in mind, here are our top 7 cashback credit cards to use this holiday season.

1. Chase Freedom Unlimited

The Chase Freedom Unlimited is our top pick for holiday shopping. It offers:

  • An introductory 0% APR on purchases for 15 months (after the intro rate expires, the APR becomes 15.24% - 23.99% Variable)
  • 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • 3% cash back on dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery services
  • 3% cash back on drugstore purchases
  • Unlimited 1.5% cash back on all other purchases
  • $200 bonus when you spend $500 on purchases within three months of opening this card

Additional benefits include zero liability protection, purchase protection, and extended warranty protection. Travelers will receive trip cancellation/interruption insurance and emergency assistance. Plus, the card comes with fraud monitoring and identity restoration along with free credit score reports.

Learn More About the Chase Freedom Unlimited

2. Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express

For excellent cashback benefits, check out the Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express. This card is great all year long, offering:

  • 6% cash back year-round on up to $6,000 in purchases at U.S. supermarkets (Think you can’t buy Christmas gifts at a supermarket? Think again! Many supermarkets carry gifts during the holiday season, and 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. Plus, this will come in handy when buying groceries for that special family meal.) Terms Apply.
  • Earn 6% cash back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions (like Netflix, Hulu, and others)
  • 3% at U.S. gas stations and on transit (perfect for those long drives to visit family)
  • 1% cash back on all other purchases
  • A $300 bonus when you spend $3,000 in purchases within six months of opening your account

Besides all this, the Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express 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.

Learn More About the Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express

3. Chase Freedom Flex

We love the Chase Freedom Unlimited card so much the Chase Freedom Flex makes it to the list, too. It’s similar to the Unlimited:

  • An introductory 0% APR on purchases for 15 months. The ongoing APR is 15.24% - 23.99% Variable.
  • 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • 5% on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate (includes Walmart and PayPal for the 4th quarter).
  • 1% on all other purchases
  • $200 bonus when you spend $500 on purchases within three months of opening this card

You’ll receive all the same extras, with the addition of cell phone protection and more benefits through Mastercard. These include free ShopRunner membership that comes with 2-day shipping and free return shipping with more than 100 retailers.

Mastercard exclusives also include a $10 Lyft credit once a month with every 5 rides and a 5% cash rewards credit on Boxed orders.

4. Discover it Cash Back

The Discover it Cash Back cashback credit 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 on categories that rotate quarterly and typically includes Amazon.com right around the holidays.

The Discover it Cash Back card offers:

  • No annual fee
  • An introductory 0% APR on purchases and balance transfers for the first 14 months
  • Cashback Match, which doubles your earned rewards for the whole first year (those 5% categories, including your holiday Amazon purchases, are suddenly earning 10% back!)
  • Free FICO Credit Score

Other benefits include the ability to freeze your card through a mobile app if you notice any suspicious activity and $0 fraud liability. There are free Social Security Number alerts if your number is spotted on the Dark Web. You’ll also get extended warranties, return protection, and purchase protection on items bought with this card.

5. U.S. Bank Cash+ Visa Signature Card

The U.S. Bank Cash+ Visa Signature Card offers cardholders a choice regarding their cash back. Youll get:

  • A $200 bonus after you apply online and spend $500 online in the first 90 days
  • An introductory 0% APR on balance transfers for 12 billing cycles
  • 5% cash back on the first $2,000 of combined purchases in any two categories that you choose quarterly
  • 2% cash back on one everyday category, like gas, groceries or restaurants
  • 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 earn some serious rewards this holiday season.

This card also offers $0 fraud liability, active account monitoring to detect potential fraud, and mobile account alerts. Oh, and no annual fee!

6. Amazon.com Rewards Visa Card

When it comes to earning great rewards for holiday shopping, you may want to think outside the box especially if you buy from Amazon.

The Amazon.com Rewards Visa Signature Card offers great rewards such as:

  • 3% cash back on all Amazon.com and Whole Foods purchases
  • 2% cash back at gas stations, restaurants, and drugstores
  • 1% cash back on all other purchases

One benefit of the Amazon.com Visa card is that you don’t have to sign up for rotating bonus categories, as with some of the other cards.

Additionally, there is no annual fee and no foreign transaction fee, and you’ll enjoy travel and emergency assistance, lost luggage reimbursement, baggage delay insurance, travel accident insurance, roadside assistance, auto insurance collision damage, purchase protection, and extended warranty protection.

If you’re an Amazon junkie, especially for gifts, this is the perfect card to pick up this time of year.

7. Target REDcard

One interesting thing about the Target REDcard is that it comes in two flavors: debit or credit. Both are known as REDcards and come with the same perks.

The debit card hooks up to your existing checking account and it automatically debits purchases from the account. So you don’t need to worry 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. Oh, and both options are fee-free.

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 if you know how to maximize your spending.

The average American is expected to spend around $1000 on holiday gifts, food, and other related purchases this year. By strategically spending with one or more of these rewards credit cards, you could earn some serious rewards. In fact, with 5% cash back categories you’d net $50 in rewards.

This year, you can spread holiday cheer while also spending smart and sticking to your budget!


Recommended Stories