[UPDATE: Some offers mentioned below have expired and/or are no longer available on our site. You can view the current offers from our partners in our credit card marketplace. DISCLOSURE: Cards from our partners are mentioned below.]
The holiday season can be a time of joy, but it can also be a time of stress, especially when it comes to holiday shopping. But if you plan ahead, you can earn some valuable rewards while checking items off of your loved ones’ wish lists.
Because many of us will be purchasing gifts for friends and family, it may make sense to utilize a rewards credit card for certain purchases. Many rewards credit cards offer bonuses in specific categories where you do your holiday shopping like department stores and warehouse chains, and this can help offset the potential increased spending this time of year.
Of course, rewards credit cards are best-suited to people who plan to pay those holiday balances off in full at the end of the month — otherwise, you’ll just lose the bonus to your annual percentage rate (APR.) And, no matter what card you’re considering this holiday shopping season, you’ll want to read the fine print to be sure it’s right for you. Finally, it’s a good idea to check your credit before filling out that application. You typically need a good credit score to get a card with the best terms and conditions and you don’t want to incur an inquiry — which can hurt your credit — just to be denied. (You can view two of your credit scores, updated every 30 days, for free on Credit.com.)
With these caveats in mind, here are four cards to consider adding to your wallet as the holiday season swiftly approaches.
1. Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express
This card offers a strong sign-up bonus plus additional cash back at select U.S. department stores (more on that in a minute). A special offer currently allows you to spend $1,000 in purchases during your first three months as an accountholder and get $150 statement credit.
In addition, you can earn 6% cash back on up to $6,000 per year spent at U.S. supermarkets (then 1%), 3% cash back at select U.S. department stores and gas stations, and 1% cash back on other purchases. Cash back is earned in the form of reward dollars that cardholders can redeem for statement credit. This card offers a variable13.99%-24.99% APR, depending on your creditworthiness. There is a $0 intro annual fee for the first year of Card Membership, and then a $95 annual fee.
2. Chase Freedom
You can make your gift-buying pay off by earning cash back on every purchase you make with the Chase Freedom card (see full review here). In the third quarter of 2016 (October through December), you can earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined spending on the following activated bonus categories: select department stores, wholesale clubs, and drug stores. You can earn 1% cash back on all other purchases.
You also have the chance to get a $150 bonus if you spend $500 within your first 3 months of account opening so long as you’re a new cardholder and have not received this bonus within the last 24 months. For the first 15 months of opening your card, you’ll get an introductory 0% APR on both purchases and balance transfers. After that, your APR will be between 14.24% and 23.24%, based on your credit. There is no annual fee for this card.
3. Discover it Card
This is another card that offers you additional cash back on the kinds of purchases you make during the holiday season. If you sign up for the Discover it card, you can receive 5% cash back on purchases of up to $1,500 at Amazon.com, Sam’s Club and eligible department stores through December 2016. (The 5% categories revolve each quarter.) On all other purchases, you can earn 1% cash back.
A unique offer from Discover also matches new cardholders’ rewards dollar for dollar on all the cash back earned during the first 12 consecutive months of account opening. This card also offers new cardholders a 0% introductory APR for 12 months on purchases and balance transfers. After that, a 11.24% to 23.24% standard variable APR applies. There’s no annual fee for this card.
4. U.S. Bank Cash+ Visa Signature Card
If you like more control over which categories you earn cash back on, the U.S. Bank Cash+ Visa Card can be a good fit for you. Each quarter you’re allowed to choose (or change) your 5% and 2% cash-back categories, so you have more flexibility to choose the best categories for your budget. To earn 5% cash back on up to $2,000 in net spending, you select two categories from a list of options, which include charities, select clothing stores, fast food, electronics stores, and much more (categories are subject to change). Then choose one everyday category, like grocery stores, gas stations and restaurants, to earn an unlimited 2% cash back. Finally, any purchases not in your selected categories still earn 1% cash back, and you have no limit on the total cash back you earn.
This card offers 0% APR financing for the first 12 months on balances transfers made within 60 days of account opening. Your purchase APR will between 13.24% and 23.24%, depending on your credit. There is no annual fee.
At publishing time, the American Express Blue Cash Preferred, Chase Freedom and Discover it are offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com is compensated if our users apply and ultimately sign up for these cards. However, this relationship does not result in any preferential editorial treatment.
Note: It’s important to remember that interest rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products frequently change. As a result, rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products cited in these articles may have changed since the date of publication. Please be sure to verify current rates, fees and terms with credit card issuers, banks or other financial institutions directly.