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With Black Friday behind us and Christmas just a few weeks away, time to stock up on holiday gifts is running short. No matter the length of your gift list, you should start shopping now — before the best items are picked over or you run out of holiday momentum altogether.
If your goal is saving money, sales will be plentiful up until the holiday hits. If your goal is earning cash back or scoring exceptional consumer protections, however, you should think long and hard about how you’ll pay.
Certain rewards credit cards let you earn cash back for every dollar you spend, while others offer perks like guaranteed returns, extended warranties and price protection. The key to getting the most out of these benefits is using a card that offers them.
Not done with your holiday shopping yet? Consider these exceptional credit cards for your last-minute holiday shopping spree.
Kansas City, Missouri, financial planner Clint Haynes says he recommends a straightforward approach to earning rewards whenever his clients ask. The Citi Double Cash Card makes earning rewards easy, he says, since you earn 1% cash back when you buy and another 1% back when you pay your bill. (Full Disclosure: Citibank advertises on Credit.com, but that results in no preferential editorial treatment.)
That adds up to 2% cash back for every holiday purchase you make, setting a bar many other cash back cards just can’t beat. And since this card doesn’t charge an annual fee, you can charge your holiday purchases and earn rewards without paying for the privilege (provided you pay your balance in full, of course).
Once you rack up some cash back, you can redeem it for statement credits that reduce your credit card balance.
- Pros: Earn 2% back on everything — 1% when you buy and another 1% when you pay your bill.
- Cons: No signup bonus.
- Ideal Shopper: This card is a good fit for someone who wants to earn cash back without keeping track of rotating bonus categories or spending caps.
2. Discover it
Another top rewards card perfect for last-minute holiday shopping is Discover it. With this no-fee cash back card in your wallet, you’ll earn 1% back on every purchase, plus an astounding 5% back on your first $1,500 spent in categories that rotate every quarter (but you have to remember to activate them). If that’s not enough, Discover promises to double the cash back you’ve earned after your first 12 months.
A few consumer protections offered by Discover it can make your purchases that much safer. This card’s price protection, for example, can help you save money if you don’t get the best price on certain items you buy.
Financial adviser David G. Niggel of Key Wealth Partners in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, explains how it works: “After purchasing an item, you see a flyer in the mail with the exact same item, but now it is significantly less,” he says. When that happens, you “follow your card’s procedure to report this, and they will refund you the difference.”
While every card’s price protection works differently, Discover’s benefit is fairly straightforward. “We will refund the difference up to $500 on eligible items if you find a lower price at any store within 90 days of purchase,” Discover says on their website.
- Pros: Earn up to 10% back on certain purchases when your cash back doubles after 12 months, plus exceptional consumer protections.
- Cons: You have to enroll in and monitor your 5% cash back categories (capped at $1,500 each quarter) throughout the year.
- Ideal Shopper: This card is a good fit for someone who wants to earn up to 10% back without an annual fee.
Another card that offers rewards in special categories that rotate every quarter is Chase Freedom. For instance, if you have this card, you’ll earn 5% back on your first $1,500 spent in department stores, wholesale clubs and drug stores by December 31. You’ll also earn a flat 1% back on all purchases, plus a $150 signup bonus after you use your card for $500 in purchases within the first three months.
The fact Chase Freedom doesn’t charge an annual fee is just icing on the cake, but a few added consumer protections still sweeten the deal. With this card, you’ll get the price protection we mentioned before, along with purchase protection if your items are damaged or stolen within 90 days and extended warranties on qualifying purchases.
- Pros: Earn up to 5% back on specific purchases, plus a nice signup bonus within the first three months.
- Cons: Again, you’ll have to enroll in and monitor your 5% categories (capped at $1,500 each quarter) throughout the year.
- Ideal Shopper: This card is good fit for someone who wants to earn a signup bonus on their holiday shopping this year.
Choosing the Right Card for Last-Minute Holiday Deals
Earning rewards on everything you buy is always smart, but you should strive to find the right cash back card for your needs, says San Diego financial planner Taylor Schulte.
“Rewards and discounts are great, but if a credit card is loaded with fees, it can offset the value of the perks that you signed up to receive,” he says. Beyond checking card offers for fees that might eat into your “earnings,” you should make sure your card makes sense with your goals, says Schulte.
If earning some cash back on last-minute holiday gifts is the goal, then nearly any no-fee cash back card can help. But if you hope to travel, a solid travel rewards card will likely leave you better off. And if you’re entirely unsure whether you’ll travel but want the option, a flexible rewards card might be a better bet.
Before you dive into any offer, however, you must remember the golden rule of credit card rewards. To benefit, you need to pay your balance in full and avoid interest like the plague. If you’re worried about winding up with a boatload of holiday credit card debt, you should stick to cash. Not sure where your finances stand? You can view two of your credit scores, updated every 14 days, for free on Credit.com.
At publishing time, the Citi Double Cash Card, Discover it and Chase Freedom cards are offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com is compensated if our users apply and ultimately sign up for these cards. However, these relationships do 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.