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The best credit cards for holiday shopping:
- Chase Freedom Flex℠: Up to 5% back in certain categories, including PayPal, up to $1,500 once activated (then 1%)
- Discover it® Cash Back: 5% cash back up to $1,500 in select categories, plus double your cash back at the end of your first cardmember year
- Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express: 6% back on the first $6,000 spent at US supermarkets each year (then 1% back)
- Citi® Double Cash Card: 2% back on all purchases — 1% when you make a purchase and another 1% when you pay it off
- Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card: 3% back in a category of your choosing (gas, online shopping, dining, travel, drug stores, or home improvement or furnishings) and 2% back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs on a combined $2,500 in spending each quarter; 1% back on other purchases
- The Platinum Card® from American Express: Only 1 point per dollar, but if offers purchase protection so it's a good option for expensive items.
With the holidays well on their way and your time left to shop slowly dwindling, you're probably looking for ways to save money and maximize your spending. It always makes sense to shop around for the best holiday sales and deals, but how you pay for your purchases can also make a huge difference.
With the right rewards credit card, you'll earn cash back or travel points for each dollar you spend. And many credit cards offer valuable consumer protections that can help you save money and protect you against loss or damage.
Finally, holiday shopping can make earning a welcome bonus on a new credit card easy. Welcome bonuses reward new cardholders with a sum of points, miles, or cash back after they meet a minimum spending requirement, generally in the first three months from opening a card. And there are some great credit card welcome bonuses available now, letting you earn as much as 100,000 points or miles.
So before you hit the stores or start browsing the web, it pays to figure out if you have the right card for your needs
We're focused here on the rewards and perks that come with each card. These cards won't be worth it if you're paying interest or late fees. When using a credit card, it's important to pay your balance in full each month, make payments on time, and only spend what you can afford to pay.
Best credit cards for holiday spending
Get up to 5% cash back at PayPal and Walmart:
Chase Freedom Flex℠
13.99% – 23.99% variable
0% for 15 billing cycles
- No annual fee
- Broad 2% and 3% cash-back categories
- 2% and 3% cash-back categories capped at $2,500 in combined purchases each quarter
You'll earn 3% back in a category of your choosing with the BoFa Cash Rewards card, which can include online shopping and drug stores — both good options for holiday shopping. Also make sure you spend at least $1,000 within the first 90 days so you'll earn the $200 cash bonus.
What to look for in a credit card for holiday purchases
All the credit cards for holiday shopping below are good ones, but the best one for you offers the right type of rewards and a selection of perks you can use. Here's everything you should look for if you're searching for a new credit card:
Purchase protection and extended warranty
Make sure to check whether your credit card comes with consumer protections like purchase protection and extended warranties. Where purchase protection can replace or repair an item that is damaged or stolen within a specific length of time (usually up to 90 days), extended warranties can add an additional year of warranty protection or more on big ticket items that come with a manufacturer's warranty.
Cards at every price point offer purchase protection and extended warranty — from the Platinum Card with a $550 annual fee to the no-annual-fee Chase Freedom Flex — though the more premium cards usually have higher caps for reimbursement.
A high rewards rate
Make sure to look at cards that offer the most rewards in categories you can use this year. Cards that offer bonus points for department store purchases and grocery store purchases often work best for the holiday season.
Not all purchases will be eligible for bonus rewards, and in those cases you'll want a card that earns more than 1% back on non-bonus spending. The Citi® Double Cash Card (up to 2% back — 1% when you buy and 1% when you pay) and the Chase Freedom Unlimited® (1.5% back on non-bonus purchases) are good options in this situation.
Welcome bonus: Cards that offer a sign-up bonus will leave you with a more generous rewards haul after the holiday season is over — making this period before the holidays an ideal time to apply and maximize your spending. Just make sure you can comfortably meet the minimum spending requirement in time. Check out our roundup of the best credit card welcome offers available now to see if anything catches your eye.
0% APR offers: Also check which cards give 0% APR on purchases for a limited time if you think you may need to carry a balance for a period — though we never recommend carrying a balance if you can at all avoid it, and you'll want to pay off your balance before the introductory period ends to avoid steep interest charges. The Chase Freedom Flex, for example, boasts 0% APR on purchases for 15 months, followed by a variable APR of 14.99% – 23.74%.
How to maximize your holiday purchases this year
Picking up a new credit card can help you earn a big bonus and more rewards on all your holiday shopping this year, but there are more ways to maximize your spending. Consider these tips:
Maximize shopping portals: If you plan to do most of your holiday shopping online, take the time to figure out which online shopping portals you can use. If you have a Chase credit card, for example, you can click through the Chase portal to earn 1 to 10 additional points per dollar spent at stores like Macys.com, Walmart.com, and BestBuy.com. Most airlines also offer their own shopping portals as well, and all that's required to double up on rewards is logging in to your account and clicking through a portal before you shop.
Check for bonus offers: Also see if you can utilize additional offers like Chase Offers or Amex Offers. Both work similarly, letting you get cash back for some purchases or, with Amex, earn more rewards at select retailers when you take advantage. With Amex Offers, for example, you can frequently get $10 to $50 back when you spend money at specific online stores or stay in a participating brand of hotels within a limited timeframe.
Take advantage of bonus categories: Make sure you're maximizing any bonus categories your card offers, including ones that offer 5% back in rotating categories. These bonus points can add up in a hurry and leave you with a lot more rewards after the holidays have passed.
Pick up a card that offers more than 1% on non-bonus purchases: Finally, make sure you have at least one card that gives you more than 1% for holiday purchases you can't earn bonus points on. The Citi® Double Cash Card is always a good option since you earn 2% back for each dollar you spend — 1% when you make a purchase and another 1% when you pay it off. Best of all, this card comes with no annual fee.
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