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Top credit cards for holiday shopping 2021
From stocking stuffers to big electronic purchases, the holiday season can really put a dent in your wallet. Our team surveyed hundreds of credit cards across both ValuePenguin and top issuer sites to put together a little gift for our readers — a list of credit cards that’ll get you the most bang for your buck as you begin your holiday shopping.
We looked at cards from three major categories:
- Rewards credit cards can help you pay for your family's Christmas vacation or allow you to head home for the holidays for free.
- Cashback cards can earn you money back on every purchase, which you can put towards other holiday spending.
- Low interest credit cards can help you manage your spending during the holidays to avoid falling into debt.
While choosing the best credit card for your holiday spending will depend on your specific needs and preferences, our list can guide you towards making the best choice for your wallet.
Compare best credit cards for holiday shopping 2021
|Discover it® Cash Back||See terms||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.||5% cash back at different places each quarter up to the quarterly maximum when you activate, 1% unlimited cash back on all other purchases - automatically||Read Review|
Best credit card for holiday shopping
Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards credit card
$200 online cash rewards bonus after you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening
Verdict: Earn hefty cashback rewards in a category of your choosing, including online shopping
The Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards credit card is an all around outstanding credit card for holiday shopping, and for everyday purchases beyond the holidays. Cardholders can earn 3% cash back in the category of your choice, 2% cash back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs (for the first $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club quarterly purchases), 1% cash back on all other purchases.
With the ability to earn 3% cash back on online shopping, your options for holiday spending can be exceedingly rewarding. You also have the opportunity to change your 3% earning category, so once the holidays are done, you might consider switching to gas, dining, travel or another category where you tend to spend frequently day-to-day.
- High earning rate in relevant spending categories
- Solid sign-up bonus
- Cash rewards don't expire
- $0 annual fee
- Earning potential is capped
Best for cash back
Discover it® Cash Back
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.
Verdict: A top card for earning cash back on holiday spending, though acceptance is more limited
The Discover it® Cash Back is our choice for the best cashback card for the holidays. 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 at different places each quarter 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 to March), gas stations, select streaming services and wholesale clubs (April to June), restaurants and PayPal (July to September) and — notably — Amazon.com, Target.com and Walmart.com (October to December). This card can be extremely rewarding for shoppers who frequent these large retailers during the holidays.
- Offers high rate of cash back in relevant categories
- Great cashback offer at the end of your first year
- No traditional sign-up bonus
- Discover isn't as widely accepted as other cards
Best for sign-up bonus
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
- Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
- Enjoy new benefits such as a $50 annual Ultimate Rewards Hotel Credit, 5X points on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3X points on dining and 2X points on all other travel purchases, plus more.
- Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel.
- With Pay Yourself Back℠, 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.
Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
Verdict: A great choice for a large sign-up bonus and valuable travel rewards
While technically a travel card, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card has one of the best sign-up bonuses in the business. New cardholders are eligible to receive the following offer: Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
The best way to redeem your points for the most value is through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal. You can use your points to fly the whole family to Mexico — or book yourself a solo stay at a luxury hotel in Aspen. When it comes to booking your holiday vacation, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card sign-up bonus is here to help.
- Flexible travel rewards
- Strong sign-up bonus
- $0 foreign transaction fees
- Includes travel protections and benefits
- $95 annual fee
- Not as useful for infrequent travelers
Best for travel rewards
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
- 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 a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
- Earn 5X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel, where you'll get our best prices on thousands of trip options
- Use your miles to get reimbursed for any travel purchase—or redeem by booking a trip through Capital One Travel
- Transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
- No foreign transaction fees
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
Verdict: An excellent option for travelers looking to get away during the holidays
Another top card that can help mitigate the costs of a big holiday trip is the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card. The Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card offers a stellar sign-up bonus for new members: 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 sign-up bonus alone can go a long way toward paying for a warm-weather escape during the cold winter months, or booking an epic ski vacation in the mountains. The card also allows you to earn unlimited 2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day, which you can use for all types of travel purchases, transfer to a partner airline or hotel program or redeem directly at Amazon.com.
- Generous sign-up bonus
- Solid rewards rate on all purchases
- Flexible redemption options
- $95 annual fee
Best for 0% intro APR
Citi Simplicity® Card
- No Late Fees, No Penalty Rate, and No Annual Fee... Ever
- 0% Intro APR for 21 months on balance transfers from date of first transfer and 0% Intro APR for 12 months on purchases from date of account opening. 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 5% 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
Verdict: A smart credit card for shoppers who need extra time paying off their balance during the holidays
The most notable feature of the Citi Simplicity® Card is its leniency towards late payments. It doesn't charge any late fees, annual fees or penalty rates, a rare benefit that can help holiday shoppers spend with some peace of mind.
The card also comes with an intro APR of 0% for 21 months on Balance Transfers and 0% for 12 months on Purchases. After that, the APR will be 14.74% - 24.74% (Variable). That's great news for consumers who could use a bit of wiggle room during the gift-giving season to make payments without incurring additional interest.
- $0 annual fee
- Long 0% intro APR offer on balance transfers and purchases
- No late fees
- No rewards
Best for balance transfer
Wells Fargo Active Cash℠ Card
Earn a $200 cash rewards bonus after spending $1,000 in purchases in the first 3 months
- New! Earn a $200 cash rewards bonus after spending $1,000 in purchases in the first 3 months
- Earn unlimited 2% cash rewards on purchases
- 0% intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and qualifying balance transfers, then a 14.99% to 24.99% variable APR; balance transfers made within 120 days qualify for the intro rate and fee of 3% then a BT fee of up to 5%, min: $5
- $0 annual fee
- No category restrictions or sign ups and cash rewards don’t expire as long as your account remains open
- Enjoy a premium collection of benefits at a selection of the world's most intriguing and prestigious hotel properties with Visa Signature Concierge
- Get up to $600 protection on your cell phone (subject to $25 deductible) against covered damage or theft when you pay your monthly cellular telephone bill with your Wells Fargo Active Cash℠ Card
- Select “Apply Now” to learn more about the product features, terms and conditions
Verdict: A reliable cashback card and a top balance transfer credit card
The Wells Fargo Active Cash℠ Card is one of the top cashback cards on the market. It allows consumers to Earn unlimited 2% cash rewards on purchases with no rewards category limitations or quarterly activations and $0 annual fee.
But the best part of this card is that it also offers a 0% intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and 0% intro APR for 15 months from account opening on qualifying balance transfers. After that your variable APR will be 14.99%-24.99% (Variable). Balance transfers made within 120 days from account opening qualify for the intro rate and fee. This can be a huge benefit for shoppers during the holiday season, as gifts, holiday dinners and vacations can quickly add up. The Wells Fargo Active Cash℠ Card can be a great option for those looking to moderate debt during this expensive time of year.
- Excellent balance transfer offer
- Solid earning rate
- Valuable rewards
- $0 annual fee
- High sign-up bonus: Earn a $200 cash rewards bonus after spending $1,000 in purchases in the first 3 months
- No bonus categories
Best prepaid holiday credit card
American Express Serve® Cash Back
Verdict: The American Express Serve® Cash Back card makes budgeting your holiday spending easy
Using a prepaid credit card like the American Express Serve® Cash Back card is a unique way to keep yourself on a manageable budget during the holidays. Similar to a debit card, you can preload your card and use those funds as you please.
The best part about the American Express Serve® Cash Back card is that it allows cardholders to earn cash back on their purchases. You'll earn 1% cash back when you spend money in stores or online
- Offers cashback rewards on spending
- Allows users to prepay their card
- Use your card to withdraw cash without a checking account
- Includes Amex protections and insurance
- You can only spend the amount you've prepaid the card for
Best for retail
Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card
Get a $100 Amazon Gift Card instantly upon approval.
Verdict: A rewarding card for Amazon Prime members who prefer to earn in cash back
Nearly everything is available on Amazon these days, so what better credit card than the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card to reward you for your holiday spending? This card lets cardholders earn 5% back at Amazon.com and Whole Foods Market with an eligible Prime membership, 2% back at restaurants, gas stations and drugstores and 1% back on all other purchases. Amazon Prime members can earn 10% back or more on select products. Limited time offer. See terms.
The card has a $0 annual fee and $0 foreign transaction fees, and you'll Get a $100 Amazon Gift Card instantly upon approval. For Amazon Prime members, this card can be incredibly rewarding, especially during the holidays. You'll also earn cash back on everyday categories with this card, which you can then put towards holiday spending.
- $0 annual fee
- $0 foreign transaction fees
- Great for Amazon Prime members
- Can only earn 5% cash back if you're a Prime member
Best for entertainment
Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card
Earn a one-time $300 cash bonus once you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening
Verdict: A highly rewarding card for everyday spending and entertainment purchases
For holiday shoppers looking to give the gift of entertainment, the Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card is a great option. Get your loved ones tickets to a sporting event, play or amusement park, all while earning unlimited cash back. This card allows cardmembers to Earn unlimited 4% cash back on dining, entertainment & popular streaming services, plus 3% at grocery stores and 1% on other purchases.
For those shoppers who plan ahead, you can take advantage of the sign-up bonus to give you a bit of extra cash for holiday spending as well: Earn a one-time $300 cash bonus once you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening.
- Generous sign-up bonus
- High cash back rewards rate
- 0% foreign transaction fees
- $95 annual fee
Best for electronics
My Best Buy® Visa® Card
Verdict: A great choice for shoppers who want to earn and spend rewards exclusively at Best Buy
The My Best Buy® Visa® Card allows cardmembers to redeem their rewards for Best Buy purchases. If you plan to do some electronics shopping this holiday season, this credit card can end up saving you big bucks at Best Buy. This card allows you to earn 5% back in rewards and 6% back in rewards for Elite Plus Cardmembers at Best Buy. 3% back in rewards on gas purchases. 2% back in rewards on dining and grocery purchases. 1% back in rewards on everyday purchases
This card also offers flexible financing options for purchases starting at $299, so this card may not be a bad idea if you could use a little buffer when paying off your holiday electronics expenses.
- Offers financing
- High rewards rate
- Rewards are only redeemable at Best Buy
Types of holiday shopping credit cards
There are three types of credit cards that tend to be the most useful for holiday spending: cash back, rewards and low-interest credit cards. Each of these uniquely benefits shoppers both throughout the year and during the holidays specifically.
Cashback credit cards
Cashback credit cards are perhaps the best of the three options when it comes to holiday spending. Certain cards offer higher rates of cash back for spending in particular categories, while others offer the same amount across all purchases. Either way, you can plan to earn cash back as you buy your holiday gifts, or use the cash back earned from your everyday shopping to put toward holiday expenses. Overall, cashback cards are a great way to make money while you spend it.
Rewards credit cards
Rewards credit cards are most valuable when used to make travel purchases during the holidays. The high sign-up bonuses that often come with these cards can be used to book a free flight home for Christmas or to take your family on a holiday vacation. Many rewards cards allow you to earn points in everyday spending categories, so you'll be earning points towards your holiday trip every time you spend.
Low-interest credit cards
Low interest credit cards include 0% purchase APR cards and 0% balance transfer cards. As a rule, we always urge consumers to spend wisely and pay off their monthly balance in full and on time to avoid late fees, penalty APRs and negative impact on credit histories. However, credit cards with low balance transfer and/or purchase rates and more lenient late payment policies can certainly come in handy from time to time. These cards can be especially helpful during the holidays when buying presents can increase debt, and overwhelming tasks during the holiday season can push making on-time payments to the back of one's mind.
How do you make the most of your credit card during the holidays?
Regardless of which credit card you choose, it's essential to make the most of your card's features during the holiday season.
- Take advantage of free shipping. Some American Express credit cards come with a complimentary ShopRunner subscription, which offers free two-day shipping, free returns and other member benefits — this can be exceedingly useful during the holidays.
- Choose a card that offers bonus points on shopping. The Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards credit card, for example, offers 3% cash back in the category of your choice, including online shopping. Be sure to focus your spending during the holiday months on your cash back or rewards categories that earn the most.
- Keep an eye out for special offers. Be sure to check your card for ongoing deals and take advantage of the offers to get the most bang for your buck during the holidays. For example, some American Express and Chase cards offer discounts at particular restaurants and stores.
- Use your rewards to fund your holiday shopping and travel. You can use your credit card rewards toward holiday travel or gift purchases. As long as you don't overspend on your cards, this tactic can help you to save considerably.
Tip: Set a budget for your holiday credit card spending and use your credit card deals and rewards to stick to it. Make sure to pay off your balance on time and in full every month to avoid accruing debt.
Which holiday shopping credit card is best for me?
The best holiday shopping credit card for you will depend on your personal spending habits and preferences. Ultimately, you may be best off combining two or more credit cards to ensure you're getting your best deal.
Best credit cards for holiday shopping 2021
- Best credit card for holiday shopping: Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards credit card
- Best for cash back: Discover it® Cash Back
- Best for sign-up bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
- Best for 0% APR: Citi Simplicity® Card
- Best for travel rewards: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
- Best for balance transfer: Wells Fargo Active Cash℠ Card
- Best prepaid holiday credit card: American Express Serve® Cash Back
- Best for retail: Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card
- Best for entertainment: Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card
- Best for electronics: My Best Buy® Visa® Card
Credit cards and holiday shopping FAQs
Is it best to book a holiday with a credit card?
Yes, we recommend booking your holiday vacation with a credit card as you can earn rewards on your purchases — which can end up saving you money. Make sure to only book a trip on your credit card if you're confident you can pay off your balance in full and on time each month to avoid accruing debt.
What is the best way to pay for a holiday, credit or debit card?
The best way to pay for a holiday is with a credit card, as you can earn rewards on your purchases which can help you cut costs on your trip. If you're too tempted to overspend when booking a trip on your credit card, we recommend using your debit card instead to avoid going into debt.
How do you manage holiday spending?
The best way to manage holiday spending is by making a budget and sticking to it. Using a credit card is a great way to keep track of your spending and take advantage of special deals and offers to help you cut costs. Rewards credit cards can also help you book flights and hotel stays for free, which can lighten the load of your holiday spending.
How do I make a holiday budget?
Make a holiday budget by setting aside a certain amount of money you're comfortable spending on holiday-only purchases. Think about everything that goes into celebrating the holidays, such as cooking a big dinner, buying gifts and planning your winter getaway. Once you have an idea of how much you need, write that number down and try to only spend within your limits.
The information related to Discover it® Cash Back, Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards credit card, American Express Serve® Cash Back, Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card, Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card and My Best Buy® Visa® Card has been independently collected by ValuePenguin and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card prior to publication. Terms apply to American Express credit card offers. See americanexpress.com for more information.
To make choosing the right credit card for holiday shopping easier, we've compiled this list from hundreds of cards across the ValuePenguin and major card issuers' databases.
Our recommendations are based on the additional value these cards offer. In this case, we looked specifically at cashback, rewards and low interest credit cards to select those that offer consumers the most value in their particular category. For example, in choosing the best balance transfer card, we analyzed cards with the longest 0% intro APR on balance transfers, and no annual or additional fees. For other categories, we analyzed the value of things like the cashback rate on relevant holiday spending categories, rewards value, cost of card ownership, additional perks and more.
Our choices are not influenced by our advertisers. Learn more on how we calculate rewards.