Are you planning to spend a lot on holiday gifts this year? You’re definitely not alone.
Whether that portion of your spending is for Black Friday bargains or the rest of the holiday season, it’s important to realize that you can get a little something in return if you pay with rewards or travel credit cards instead of debits or cash. That’s because credit card rewards give you an average reward of 1 to 3 percent for every dollar you spend, you can pocket and keep it “free” if you pay the balance in full each month and never pay interest on your purchases.
Before rushing to check the shopping list for this year’s holiday, you should choose a credit card with new rewards first. But, which card should you get? That depends on the type of reward you want to earn and the other perks of the cardholder that you may be looking for.
The best credit cards to accumulate rewards
The best credit cards to shop for this year’s holiday season are those that will leave you with some rewards to spend long after the holidays are over. Here are some of the most popular cards and deals for this year’s shopping festival season and more.
The Chase Freedom gets you started with a $150 bonus when you sign up and spend $500 within three months of opening the account, but that’s not all. You’ll also get a 5 percent refund for spending up to $1,500 in rotating categories each quarter (then 1 percent) and 1 percent back for all other purchases — and all of which don’t charge an annual fee. Note that the final 5% category for this year includes department stores and purchases made with Chase Pay or PayPal through the end of December. On the conversion side of the equation, you can change it to a point to travel, gift cards, merchandise, experiences and more at a rate of one percent per point.
The benefits of cardholders who make sense during the holidays include purchase protection against damage or theft and an extended warranty. You’re also eligible for an interest-free term for 15-month purchases and balance transfers (followed by an APR that can vary from 16.74 to 25.49 percent), meaning you can use your card as an interest-free holiday loan as long as you pay off your balance within that time frame.
Discover it® Refund
Discover it® Cash Back also offers a 5 percent refund for amounts up to $1,500 spent per quarter in post-activation bonus turnaround categories (then 1 percent) along with a 1 percent refund for everything else you buy. Discover will also match all the rewards you earn after the first 12 months, and this card has no annual fee. Through the shopping season later this year, this card will give you 5% when making purchases on Amazon.com and Walmart.com, along with purchases made at Target.com.
You can redeem your rewards for statement credits, gift cards, and merchandise. As an added bonus, this card gives you a first interest-free period on purchases and balance transfers for 14 months, followed by APR that can vary from 11.99 to 22.99 percent. This card also comes with a free FICO score that you can access to your monthly statement each month.
Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express
If you’re planning to shop on vacation at supermarkets this year, check out American Express’ Blue Cash Preferred® Card. This card gives you 6 percent of the amount up to $6,000 spent in U.S. supermarkets each year (then 1 percent), along with a 6 percent refund for select U.S. streaming services. You’ll also get a 3% refund on transportation including gas stations in the U.S., carpooling services, parking, tolls, and more, and a 1% refund for all other purchases.
This card has an annual fee of $95, but you can earn back $250 when spending $1,000 within three months of opening the account. You’re also eligible for the first interest-free period on purchases and balance transfers for 12 months, followed by variable APR between 12.99 and 23.99 percent.
Please also note that this card comes with return protection that can help you return eligible items when the store doesn’t receive them back.
Citi® Double Cash Card
Also, check out the Citi® Double Cash Card if you don’t already have one. This card gives you 2 percent refund for everything you buy – 1 percent when you make a purchase and another 1 percent when you pay off.
You can redeem your rewards for statement credits to reduce your holiday spending bills or pay for something you want. This card also has no annual fee.
Best store and retail store cards
While general rewards and cashback credit cards can get you through this holiday season, don’t forget that some retailers offer lucrative store cards that allow you to accumulate points or make significant savings on a purchase. Below are some to consider.
Kohl’s credit card
Kohl’s credit card isn’t a rewards credit card, but it makes you eligible for regular discounts of up to 30%. Kohl’s also offers its own Yes2You Rewards program, which you can combine with these savings to reduce your vacation spending bills. This program gives you 1 point for every dollar you spend.
Kohl’s credit card doesn’t have a sign-up bonus, but you’ll get a 35% discount on your first purchase when you sign up. This card also has no annual fee.
Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card
The Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card allows you to earn the optimal rewards for making a purchase on Amazon.com without paying annual fees or foreign transaction fees. Once registered, you’ll earn 5% back on purchases on Amazon.com and Whole Foods, a 2% refund at restaurants, gas stations, and pharmacies, and a 1% refund for everything else.
You can redeem your rewards for anything you can buy on the Amazon.com. This card also comes with purchase protection, an extended warranty for eligible items, insurance that waives damage caused by a collision when renting a car, and some other perks of the cardholder.
Capital One Walmart Rewards Credit Card
Capital One Walmart Rewards credit cards can be great for you if you shop a lot at Walmart during the holidays. This card gives you a 5% refund in Walmart stores when you use Walmart Pay to pay your bills for the first 12 months (unlimited 2% refund on in-store purchases later). You’ll also get a 5% return on purchases on Walmart.com including grocery delivery, 2% refunds at Walmart stores and Walmart and Murphy USA Fuel Stations, and 1% refunds for everything else.
This card also has no annual fees and you can redeem your rewards for statement credits, gift cards, travel and more.
How to optimize spending during the holidays
Using a refundable credit card or rewards can help you accumulate points when spending on your vacation, but don’t forget the ways you can maximize your income. Below are some strategies to consider.
Sign up for a new card to earn big rewards: First, don’t forget that the holidays are the ideal time to sign up for a new card that offers big sign-up rewards. Many cards allow you to earn 50,000 points or more when you sign up and spend a few thousand dollars in the first few months, and your holiday or vacation spending bills may be what you need to get to that threshold.
Use a combination of credit cards to maximize bonus rewards: Also, remember to maximize any credit card combinations you have, primarily by using the cards for their respective bonus categories. For example, if you have a number of different rewards cards that offer reward points in different categories like dining, grocery stores, and department stores, make sure you’re using the right cards to make bonus purchases so you get more rewards.
Click through the shopping portal each time to buy something online: Finally, don’t forget to use the shopping portal when you buy gifts online. Major card issuers like Chase have their own portals, but so do most major airlines. You can earn an extra 1 to 10 points or miles for every dollar you spend through the portal, and all you have to do is “click through” before shopping.
Mistakes to avoid.
Rewards can certainly be tempting, but don’t forget the golden rule of credit card rewards. To benefit from the pursuit of rewards, you must pay your balance in full each month and never pay interest on your purchases.
Unfortunately, the convenience of credit cards can make it difficult to avoid debt. Here are some pitfalls to watch out for when you try rewards for the first time:
Don’t overspend to earn more rewards: You can easily spend more knowing your reward depends on it. Make sure you only use credit cards that reward planned purchases and never spend more than you want just to recoup an extra 1 percent to 3 percent.
Avoid chasing multiple sign-up rewards at once: Subscription rewards can be lucrative, but they can also create a trap. Make sure you can meet the minimum spending requirements with regular bills and expenses before signing up for a new card. Avoid overdoing yourself by trying to pursue multiple sign-up rewards at once.
Don’t sign up for too many new cards: Finally, don’t sign up for too many new credit cards at once. Doing so can help you earn more points, but you can temporarily reduce your credit score if you abuse it. Also keep in mind that the more tags means the more detailed information to follow up on, and you can easily end up with too many good things.