As we gear up for the most wonderful time of the year, the holiday season comes with cheer, festivities, and a whirlwind of shopping decisions. With consumers expected to spend significantly more this year than the last, navigating the landscape of holiday shopping requires shoppers to take a more “strategic” approach.
According to the National Retail Federation, the projected increase in holiday spending has surged, with people planning to outdo their buying from 2022 with a 3-4% increase that could skyrocket sales to be as high as $966.6 billion!
As the stakes get higher, it’s crucial to arm yourself with the right tools, and choosing the best credit card can be a game-changer. In this guide, we’ll unveil the top credit cards designed to elevate your holiday shopping experience, offering rewards, savings, and financial peace of mind during this joyous but sometimes wallet-stressing season.
What to look for in a credit card for holiday shopping?
Choosing the right credit card can be a game-changer as you gear up for some holiday shopping. But what is the “right” credit card? Here are a few factors to consider:
1. Rewards. Look for a card that aligns with your spending habits, offering cash back, points, or miles that cater to your preferences – whether it’s travel, groceries, or other perks.
2. The 0% APR introductory offers. These promotional offers waive your interest charges for a certain amount of time. Some cards will have 0% APR available only for new cardholders, but double-check your current cards first, as these offers can pop up occasionally around the holiday season when buying is at an all-time high.
3. A $0 annual fee. If you do not need lots of “perks” with their card, look for a $0 annual fee card, as paying a yearly fee for things you don’t use or need is just throwing money away. However, if you want a robust suite of rewards, benefits, and protections, it might be worth shelling out a yearly fee (but again, only if you’ll use the benefits!)
4. Purchase protection. A good credit card should have your back in case of damaged or stolen purchases, giving you peace of mind during the hectic holiday season.
The best cards for holiday shopping
Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card
Rewards rate: Unlimited 2% cash rewards on purchases.
Intro APR: 0% intro APR on Purchases for 15 months and 0% intro APR on Balance Transfers 15 months from account opening on qualifying balance transfers.
Regular APR: 20.24%, 25.24%, or 29.99% variable
Signup bonus: Earn a $200 cash rewards bonus after spending $500 in purchases in the first 3 months.
Verdict: The Wells Fargo Active Cash Card is undeniably enticing as a go-to holiday card with its generous 2% cash back on every purchase, allowing you to stretch that gift-buying budget a little further. Plus, unlike other cards, there’s no requirement for opting into rotating categories or earning varying rewards rates based on where you shop. With this card, you can solely concentrate on selecting the perfect gifts for your loved ones.
Apply now: Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card
Learn more: Wells Fargo Active Cash® Review
Citi® Double Cash Card
Rewards rate: 2% cash back on purchases, including 1% cash back for every dollar spent + 1% cash back for every dollar paid off.
Intro APR: 0% intro APR on balance transfers for 18 months
Regular APR: 19.24%-29.24% Variable
Signup bonus: N/A
Verdict: The Double Cash card takes a unique approach to rewards by offering cardholders not only 1% on all purchases but another 1% for all purchases paid off, making it a great card for not only the holidays but for reducing debt, too.
Apply now: Citi® Double Cash Card
Learn more: Citi Double Cash Review
Chase Freedom Flex℠
Rewards rate: 5% cash back in quarterly bonus categories on up to $1,500 in combined spending each quarter. 5% cash back on travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. 3% cash back on dining, including takeout and delivery services. 3% cash back on drugstore purchases. 1% cash back on all other purchases.
Intro APR: 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months.
Regular APR: 20.49%-29.24%, variable
Signup bonus: Earn a $200 bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.
Verdict: With an abundance of bonus categories, this card ensures that you can fully capitalize on your holiday cash-back potential. Along with the fixed bonus categories for travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards, dining, and drugstore purchases, you also have the flexibility to activate rotating bonus categories like Walmart and PayPal, both are particularly popular during the holiday season.
Apply now: Chase Freedom Flex
Learn more: Chase Freedom Flex Review
Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express
Rewards rate: 6% Cash Back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1%),6% Cash Back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions, 3% Cash Back at U.S. gas stations and on transit (including taxis/rideshare, parking, tolls, trains, buses and more). 1% Cash Back on other purchases.
Intro APR: 0% intro APR for 12 months on purchases and balance transfers.
Regular APR: 19.24%-29.99% variable
Signup bonus: Earn a $250 statement credit after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card within the first 6 months.
Verdict: If much of your holiday budget goes to groceries and travel, the Blue Cash Preferred card should be a mainstay in your wallet. It’s one of the most generous cashback cards that doesn’t require updating your spending categories making this a no-fuss, easy-to-use card, though it does carry a $6k cap on groceries.
Discover it® Cash Back
Rewards rate: 5% back in rotating quarterly categories on up to $1,500 in purchases each quarter, 1% back on all other purchases.
Intro APR: 0% intro APR for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers.
Regular APR: 17.24%-28.24% variable
Signup bonus: Unlimited Cashback Match – only from Discover. Discover will automatically match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year!
Verdict: The Discover it Cash Back card is one of the few $0 annual fee cards that offers a whopping 5% cash back on the categories you shop at the most. However, it’s spending cap and manual category activation means you’ll need to be a little strategic with your use of the card. That said, its 0% APR intro and signup bonus make it well worth the extra thought.
Apply now: Discover it® Cash Back Credit Card
Learn more: Discover It Cash Back Review
Chase Freedom Unlimited®
Rewards rate: 5% on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3% on drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery services, and 1.5% on all other purchases.
Intro APR: 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months
Regular APR: 20.49%-29.24% variable
Signup bonus: $200 Cash Back After You Spend $500 On Purchases In The First 3 Months From Account Opening.
Verdict: The Chase Freedom Unlimited® Visa card stands out as a fantastic credit card option for holiday shopping aficionados. Offering an impressive cashback structure with unlimited 1.5% back on all purchases, it ensures consistent rewards across a variety of holiday spending categories.
Apply now: Chase Freedom Unlimited®
Learn more: Chase Freedom Unlimited® Review
Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card
Rewards rate: 5% cash back at Amazon.com and Whole Foods Market. 2% cash back at restaurants and gas stations. 2% cash back on local transit and commuting (including rideshare). 1% cash back on all other purchases.
Intro APR: N/A
Regular APR: 19.49%-27.49% variable
Signup bonus: Get a $100 Amazon Gift Card (or more) instantly upon approval exclusively for Prime members.
Verdict: If you’re planning to do a significant chunk of your shopping on Amazon (and really, who isn’t?), the Prime Rewards Visa from Amazon lets you stretch your holiday budget a little further with a generous 5% cash back. Plus, the 5% cash back at Whole Foods and 2% back at restaurants and gas stations make this a great everyday card for your holiday party adventures.
Apply now: Amazon Prime Visa
Learn more: Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Review
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Rewards rate: Earn unlimited 2X miles on every purchase, every day + Earn 5X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel.
Intro APR: N/A
Regular APR: 21.24%-29.24% variable
Signup bonus: Enjoy a one-time bonus of 75,000 miles once you spend $4,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel.
Verdict: If you’re someone who wants to leverage their holiday shopping for discounted travel, the Venture Rewards card is for you. Since Capital One’s miles don’t expire (as long as the card is active) and a simple 2x miles per purchase, there’s no limit to how low your travel costs can go.
Apply now: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Bank of America Cash Rewards Credit Card
Rewards rate: Earn 3% cash back in the category of your choice, automatic 2% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs (up to $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club quarterly purchases), and unlimited 1% on all other purchases.
Intro APR: 0% intro APR on Purchases for 15 billing cycles and 0% intro APR on Balance Transfers for 15 billing cycles for any balance transfers made in the first 60 days.
Regular APR: 18.24%-28.24% variable
Signup bonus: $200 online cash rewards bonus after you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening.
Verdict: With its flexible cashback options, cardholders can earn rewards faster than ever in categories like online shopping, dining, travel, and newly expanded categories like EV charging/gas stations, online shopping, and streaming services. Additionally, its welcome bonus and no annual fee make it a budget-friendly companion for maximizing savings during the holiday shopping spree.
Costco Anywhere Visa Card by Citi
Rewards rate: 4% cash back on eligible gas and EV charging purchases for the first $7,000 per year and then 1% thereafter, 3% cash back on restaurants and eligible travel purchases, 2% cash back on all other purchases from Costco and Costco.com, and 1% cash back on all other purchases.
Intro APR: N/A
Regular APR: 20.49% variable
Signup bonus: N/A
Verdict: Available exclusively to Costco members, the Costco Anywhere Visa is a powerful card that can reward you for your ginormous bulk holiday purchases at Costco (seriously, why do we buy so much?!) and give a little extra cashback on popular holiday excursions like restaurants and travel. As a pro tip: Use the Anywhere Visa while filling up at a Costco gas station to maximize their members-only discounts and 4% cash back.
Apply now: Costco Anywhere Visa Card by Citi
Learn more: Costco Anywhere Visa Card by Citi Review
Rewards rate: 5% discount on all eligible Target purchases. Plus exclusive offers, gifts, and early access to promotions. Free standard shipping (and free two-day shipping on qualifying items), and 30 days of extra time to return purchases.
Intro APR: N/A
Regular APR: 29.95% variable
Signup bonus: N/A
Verdict: If you are a frequent shopper at Target and have a long list of gifts to buy, the Target REDcard Credit Card is the perfect choice for you. With this card, not only can you benefit from a consistent 5% discount on your purchases, but you can also enjoy additional advantages such as extended return periods, which are particularly convenient during the gift-buying season. As a tip: Sign up for Target’s marketing emails to get an additional 10% off on your cardholder anniversary every year.
Apply now: Target RedCard Credit Card
Tips for using credit cards for holiday shopping
To ensure that your credit card doesn’t feel the post-holiday blues, here are some tips for using it wisely.
1. Set a realistic budget – knowing your spending limits is your best defense against the allure of those seasonal deals.
2. Keep an eye out for special promotions or rewards your credit card company offers, maximizing the benefits of your holiday spending.
3. Resist the impulse to overspend, prioritize needs over wants, and consider creating a list to stay focused.
4. Remember your credit utilization and pay attention to due dates to avoid unnecessary interest charges.
5. If you have multiple cards, check out their rewards and cash-back offers before going out. You might find you have a better, but rarely used, card that could give your holiday spending a little extra “oomph.”
By taking a thoughtful, strategic approach, your credit card collection can be a handy tool for making the holidays memorable without breaking the bank.
Whether it’s cashback, points, or special holiday promotions, these cards are more than just plastic or metal – they’re your passport to a season of savings and joy. Happy holidays and happy shopping!