Luckily, credit card issuers are following in the tradition of retailers, offering their best promotions and sales during the holidays. Many top retailers are in on the action too, with their store-affiliated credit cards. So as long as plastic hasn’t left too many lumps of coal in your credit report, make sure to consider the following list of the Best Credit Cards for Holiday Shopping (some of which originate from CardHub advertising partners), as they have the potential to spread a lot of holiday cheer.
Those who aren’t in the market for a new card should also take note that credit card companies are offering a number of holiday promotions for existing cardholders. You can check them out, along with CardHub's 7 Tips for Saving on Holiday Shopping, below the following card selections.
Best for Lowering Your Holiday Spending Tab with an Initial Rewards Bonus
This card’s 40,000-point initial bonus is the market’s most valuable, worth $500 when redeemed for airfare or $400 in gift cards. Cardholders also earn 3 points per $1 spent on gas, 2 points per $1 on dining and entertainment and 1 point per $1 on everything else. There is no annual fee during the first year ($95 thereafter).
This card yields 40,000 bonus points when you spend $4,000 during the first three months. That’s equal to $500 in travel (when redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards) or a $400 statement credit. By using this card for holiday spending, you’ll be able to either replenish your bank account in the New Year or subsidize travel over spring break or summer vacation. There is no annual fee during the first year ($95 thereafter).
Best Ongoing Rewards to Benefit During the Holidays & Beyond
This card provides the equivalent of 2% cash back across all purchases – the highest base cash back rate among consumer cards – by giving you 1% cash back when you make a purchase and another 1% cash back when you pay your bill. It does not charge an annual fee.
Blue Cash Preferred offers 6% cash back at supermarkets (up to $6,000 per year), 3% at gas stations, 3% at department stores, and 1% on everything else. The $150 initial bonus that it provides cardholders who spend at least $1,000 during the first three months also serves to cancel out at least the first year’s $75 annual fee. This card enables you to save on all of your shopping and automobile gas not only during the holidays when these costs might be inflated, but throughout the rest of the year as well.
Spending at least $3,000 during the first three months that you have this card will trigger a 40,000-mile rewards bonus, which can be redeemed for a $400 statement credit applicable to any travel-related expense. This card, which begins charging a $59 annual fee the second year you have it, also offers the miles-equivalent of 2% cash back across all purchases.
Spending $3,000 or more during the first 90 days that you have this card will score you a 40,000-mile rewards bonus, which can be redeemed for a $400 statement credit applicable to any travel-related expense. This card also provides the miles-equivalent of 2% cash back across all purchases. While it charges a slightly higher annual fee beginning in the second year than the Capital One Venture Card ($89 vs. $59), cardholders also get 5% of the miles they redeem for a travel statement credit back upon using them. As a result, this card offers 2.1% cash back on all travel expense.
Best for Avoiding Interest on Holiday Purchases
You will not be assessed interest on the balances you incur with this card for the first 21 months you have it, provided that you submit at least the required minimum payment by the due date each month. It does not charge an annual fee, but a regular rate between 11.99% and 21.99% will kick in at the end of the 21-month intro period. Using this card in conjunction with a credit card calculator can help you avoid hundreds of dollars in interest as you pay down what you spend during the holiday season. Just make sure not to use it as an excuse to overspend.
Best for Lowering the Cost of Existing Debt & Buying Yourself Some Holiday Shopping Breathing Room
Slate offers a 0% intro rate on balance transfers for 15 months and doesn’t charge a balance transfer fee (for transfers made during the first 60 days) or an annual fee. As a result, it has the potential to save the average household with credit card debt more than $900 in fees and interest, according to CardHub’s credit card calculator, assuming they can pay off their roughly $7,400 balance over 24 months.
Best Store Credit Cards – Initial Bonus
New applicants for this card will be rewarded with a 20% discount on their first purchase after account approval, with no cap on savings in contrast to most other department store credit cards. Customers will also get a separate 15% discount coupon when their card arrives in the mail. Being a Kohl’s cardmember entitles you to several other special discounts offered throughout the year as well. There is no annual fee.
This card offers a 15% initial discount: on the day of account opening for in-store applicants or on any purchase made within the first 90 days of account opening for those who apply online. It also offers the equivalent of 8% cash back on Toys R Us purchases, given that you receive 2 points per $1 and 125 points are worth $5. There is no annual fee.
Best Store Credit Cards – Ongoing Bonus
The Gap Store Card offers a 15% discount the day you are approved for an account, in addition to a $10 gift card after you register your e-mail address and sign up for electronic statements. You’ll also earn ongoing rewards at a rate of 5 points per $1 spent at Gap, Banana Republic, Old Navy, Piperlime and Athleta – the equivalent of 5% cash back. There is no annual fee.
This card offers shoppers the opportunity to save 5% on all Target purchases, whether they are made online or in the store. It has no annual fee and extends your return-window by 30 days.
This card offers online shoppers the opportunity to save 5% on all Amazon.com purchases, in addition to providing a $10 gift card after account approval. The Amazon.com Card does not have an annual fee.
Issuer Promotions for Existing Cardholders
A number of credit card companies are also offering interesting holiday specials to existing cardholders. We reached out to the largest issuers about their particular promotions and an edited version of their responses can be found below.
Shop with Membership Rewards® Points this Holiday Season:
- Membership Rewards enrolled Card Members will get a Best Buy® e-Gift Card after using points to make a purchase of $50 or more from Best Buy through www.membershiprewards.com/shopping. E-Gift Card values vary based on purchase price and range from $15-$300. Visit www.membershiprewards.com/shopping to shop with Membership Rewards points for popular products from Best Buy.
- Platinum & Centurion Card Members can shop with Membership Rewards points for Once in a Lifetime experiential rewards and curated products from premier brands, including Ferragamo, Bose and David Yurman. We've collected an array of exciting items to treat everyone on your list—including you. Rewards are available through December 31, 2015. Shop now at www.membershiprewards.com/dreambig.
Capital One's Giving Site: During the holidays customers can use their rewards to make donations to charities via our Giving Site at www.capitalone.com/give. What’s really unique about our Giving Site is that 100 percent of the donation is delivered to the charity since Capital One covers the transaction costs for every donation. Also note that all donations including the ones made with your rewards via Capital One's Giving Site are tax deductible. However, we advise our customers to always check in with their tax advisor as well.
From October 1, 2015 through December 31, 2015, Chase Freedom cardholders earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases at Amazon.com, Zappos.com. audible.com, and diapers.com. With the Chase Amazon.com Rewards Visa Card, cardmembers receive 3% cashback at Amazon.com, 2% cashback at restaurants, gas stations and drugstores and 1% cashback on all other purchases.
Citi Price Rewind offers Citi credit cardmembers a way to save time and money – and an end to the age-old holiday dilemma of whether to buy now or wait until the price drops. Simply purchase an eligible item with your Citi card and register on citi.com/pricerewind. Citi will search for 60 days after purchase for a lower price. If a lower price is found, Citi will email the cardmember to notify them and the cardmember must submit their receipt and a claim. After the claim is approved – they will get a statement credit for the difference in price up to $300 per item and $1,200 per year.
- Cardmembers can sign up to earn a 5% Cashback Bonus on up to $1,500 on combined purchases at Amazon.com, department stores and clothing stores made between Oct. 1 and Dec. 31, 2015. Signing up is quick and easy, simply call 1-800-DISCOVER (347-2683) or log onto the online Account Center at Discover.com.
- This holiday season, over 65 merchants on Discover Deals will provide special offers for our holiday promotion.
With a Wells Fargo Rewards Credit Card, customers can earn rewards on virtually all purchases. They can shop at many of their favorite retailers and earn up to 10 times bonus rewards on purchases they make through the Earn More Mall, where customers can choose from thousands of participating local, national, online, and in-store retailers, including Brookstone.com, Shoebuy.com and zales.com.
Want even more ways to save? Check out the following tips for making this holiday season a happy one for both gift recipients and your wallet.
7 Tips for Saving on Holiday Shopping
- Budget Strategically: Make a list of everyone you need to buy gifts for, what you want to get them, and roughly what each item will cost. Then figure out how much you can afford to spend. If the two lists don’t match up, you’ll have to prioritize and come up with alternative ideas for some of your most expensive or unnecessary planned-buys. Using a credit card calculator will help you determine how long it will take to pay off what you purchase as well as how much interest you stand to incur.
- Shop Around & Set Alerts: We all know that comparing costs among retailers is an easy way to identify savings opportunities. You can make this process easier by setting news alerts for deals at your favorite stores or on particular items that you plan to buy.
- Limit Your Number of Transactions: From taxes to credit card processing to shipping fees, certain ancillary charges will accompany each individual purchase that you make. Planning out what you want to buy and determining how much you can get in one fell swoop can therefore enable you to maximize savings even more.
- Give Gift Now, Buy Later: A gift can be amazing without necessarily being tangible. So, if you plan on giving someone tickets to an event that’s a long way off, athletic gear for a season that’s months away, a vacation, etc., it might be worth wrapping up a representative trinket or presenting the gift in a festive card and then waiting to buy until prices fall from holiday peaks.
- Buy Gift Cards at a Discount: Gift cards are again the most requested type of holiday gift, according to the National Retail Federation. The ability that exists to save more than 20% on cards from popular retailers like Ann Taylor, H&M, and more therefore has the potential to pay big-time dividends.
- Take Advantage of Credit Card Savings: Via lucrative initial rewards bonuses, 0% financing deals, and various other discounts, credit cards offer a number of different ways to save during the holiday season.
- Avoid Deferred Interest Plans: Make sure to carefully read the fine print of any retailer-affiliated credit card that offers a 0% introductory rate. Many of these deals, according to CardHub’s Deferred Interest Study, have a clause that allows the issuer to retroactively apply interest to your entire purchase amount if you don’t pay off your balance in full by the end of the introductory period.