Best Credit Cards for Holiday Shopping

Best Credit Cards for Holiday Shopping

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From stocking stuffers to big electronic purchases, the holiday season can really put a dent in your wallet. Our team surveyed credit cards on ValuePenguin and top issuer sites to put together a little gift for our readers — a list of credit cards that will get you the most bang for your buck as you start doing your shopping.

Best credit cards for holiday shopping

Credit cards with bonus cash back on holiday spending

There's a set of credit cards with special bonus categories during different seasons that allow cardholders to earn 5% cash back on up to the first $1,500 in purchases each quarter. These credit cards don't charge any annual fees, so there's no incremental cost to keeping them open if you pay off your balances in full.

Winner: Discover it® Cash Back

The Discover it® Cash Back is a strong contender among the cashback bonus cards for the holidays. While the Discover card might not have the same broad appeal or reception at smaller merchants that the Chase Freedom Flex℠ enjoys, it does have an interesting offer for new cardmembers. Discover offers an Unlimited Cashback Match – only from Discover. Discover will automatically match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year! There’s no minimum spending or maximum rewards. You could turn $150 cash back into $300.

Cardholders get 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places each quarter like Amazon.com, grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations and when you pay using PayPal, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate, 1% unlimited cash back on all other purchases - automatically. For 2021, the categories include grocery stores, Walgreens and CVS (January-March), gas stations, select streaming services and wholesale clubs (April-June), restaurants and PayPal (July-September), Amazon.com, Target.com and Walmart.com (October-December).

Credit cards with the best bonuses

We include the two credit cards below because they have two of the best signing bonuses, usually worth from $400-$500. For starters, consumers need to spend at a minimum $3,000 within the first three months to earn these bonus points and miles. This might be a bit out of reach for the typical consumer, but between the list of presents, the Black Friday electronic deals, and normal household spending, the $3,000 minimum becomes a lot easier to meet.

The National Retail Foundation reported that last year, the average shopper expected to shell out about $998 on the holidays, which takes people about one third of the way to the bonus minimum. Just bear in mind that the signing bonus hits your account sometime after the spending limit has been reached. In any event, the bonuses are sizable compared with most of the other credit cards out there, and can certainly come in handy for some post-holiday travel, or a post-Christmas present for yourself.

Winner: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

  • On Chase's Secure Website

$95

15.99% - 22.99% Variable

Excellent

  • Our best offer ever! Earn 100,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,250 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
  • Earn 2X points on dining including eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out and travel. Plus, earn 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 100,000 points are worth $1,250 toward travel.
  • With Pay Yourself BackSM, your points are worth 25% more during the current offer when you redeem them for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories.
  • Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on eligible orders over $12 for a minimum of one year with DashPass, DoorDash's subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more.
  • Get up to $60 back on an eligible Peloton Digital or All-Access Membership through 12/31/2021, and get full access to their workout library through the Peloton app, including cardio, running, strength, yoga, and more. Take classes using a phone, tablet, or TV. No fitness equipment is required.

While it's technically a travel card, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card has one of the best sign-up bonuses in the business. When you apply and are subsequently approved for the card, you are eligible for the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card's sizable signing bonus: Our best offer ever! Earn 100,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,250 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

You have a few options for redeeming Ultimate Rewards points. If you're looking to exchange them for cold hard cash, the points are worth $1,000 and can be redeemed as soon as they hit your account. If you'd like to redeem your points for travel through the Ultimate Rewards travel portal, the bonus is worth more.

  • $95 annual fee
  • Our best offer ever! Earn 100,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,250 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
  • Read our full review

Runner-up: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

  • On Capital One's Secure Website

$95

17.24% - 24.49% (Variable)

Excellent/Good

  • Enjoy a one-time bonus of 60,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $600 in travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on every purchase, every day
  • Miles won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how many you can earn
  • Receive up to $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®
  • Redeem on travel—including flights, vacation rentals, car rentals and more. Plus transfer your miles to over 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • No foreign transaction fees

The Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card is one of our favorite cards on the market and its bonus won't disappoint when it comes to helping pay for any travel during or after the holiday season. Like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card is primarily a travel card and offers a similarly valuable bonus as the Chase offer: Enjoy a one-time bonus of 60,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $600 in travel.

The Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card's sign-up bonus goes a great way towards paying for a warm-weather escape during the cold winter months. There will be some patience required between getting the miles and then redeeming them, but it's the best way to maximize value out of your bonus miles. Using Venture miles for regular cash back statement credits or on non-travel purchases gets you about half of the value compared to travel expenditures.

  • $95 annual fee
  • Enjoy a one-time bonus of 60,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $600 in travel
  • Read our full review

Credit cards for balance transfer and 0% APR

As a rule, we always urge consumers to spend wisely and pay off their balance due to avoid late fees, higher penalty APRs, and negative impact on credit histories. However, we do recognize that we can benefit from credit cards with better balance transfer rates and more lenient late payment policies. This is especially important with the impending holidays when buying presents can add on more debt, or a hundred tasks for the holiday season push making payments to the back of one's mind.

Our third category of credit cards is for the consumer who tends to carry balances, has an irregular payment history or can appreciate more breathing room for making payments. There are two standouts in the balance transfer and 0% APR space that have long introductory periods of 0% APR for transfers and purchases and various no late fee or no balance transfer fee policies.

Winner: Citi Simplicity® Card

Citi Simplicity® Card

  • On Citibank's Secure Website

$0

14.74% - 24.74% (Variable)

Excellent/Good

  • No Late Fees, No Penalty Rate, and No Annual Fee... Ever
  • 0% Intro APR for 18 months on purchases from date of account opening and 0% Intro APR for 18 months on balance transfers from date of first transfer. After that the variable APR will be 14.74% - 24.74%, based on your creditworthiness. Balance transfers must be completed within 4 months of account opening.
  • There is a balance transfer fee of either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
  • The standard variable APR for Citi Flex Plan is 14.74% - 24.74%, based on your creditworthiness. Citi Flex Plan offers are made available at Citi’s discretion.
  • Stay protected with Citi® Quick Lock and $0 liability on unauthorized charges

One of the best features of the Citi Simplicity® Card is its leniency towards late payments. It doesn't charge the standard $15-$35 in late fees that most other credit cards charge, which is a rare feature that will help holiday shoppers save on the penalties that typically get tacked onto late payments. The card also comes with an intro APR of 0% for 18 months on Purchases (after which it will have a 14.74% - 24.74% (Variable) APR). That's great news for consumers who need more wiggle room during the gift-giving season to make payments without incurring additional interest expense.

  • $0 annual fee
  • No late fees
  • Intro APR of 0% for 18 months on Purchases, then 14.74% - 24.74% (Variable) APR
  • Read full review

The information related to Discover it® Cash Back has been independently collected by ValuePenguin and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card prior to publication.

These responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which ValuePenguin receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). ValuePenguin does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

How We Calculate Rewards: ValuePenguin calculates the value of rewards by estimating the dollar value of any points, miles or bonuses earned using the card less any associated annual fees. These estimates here are ValuePenguin's alone, not those of the card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer.

Example of how we calculate the rewards rates: When redeemed for travel through Ultimate Rewards, Chase Sapphire Preferred points are worth $0.0125 each. The card awards 2 points on travel and dining and 1 point on everything else. Therefore, we say the card has a 2.5% rewards rate on dining and travel (2 x $0.0125) and a 1.25% rewards rate on everything else (1 x $0.0125).