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It’s that time of year again when your inbox floods with announcements for in-store holiday deals and online sales, preparing you for some of the biggest shopping days of the year – Black Friday and Cyber Monday. The three-week period between Thanksgiving and Dec. 15 is the most popular time for holiday shopping, according to CompareCards.com’s 2018 Early Holiday Shopping survey.
While this time of year is known for fantastic discounts and door-buster deals, you can still rack up high expenses. Our survey found that 37% of credit card holders anticipated spending more than the previous year.
However much you spend on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, using a credit card to make your purchases can earn you rewards or even give you access to special financing.
We’ve rounded up the best credit cards to use to earn cash back and rewards on your holiday shopping at Amazon, department stores, wholesale clubs and more, as well as cards that can help you finance purchases over time interest-free.
In this post:
- Best for Amazon.com purchases
- Best for department stores
- Best for general shopping
- Best for wholesale clubs
- Best for supermarkets
- Best 0% intro APR offers
- The bottom line
Best for Amazon: Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card
Amazon.com has a seemingly endless selection of products, making it a great destination for your Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping. The Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card lets you earn 5% back at Amazon.com and Whole Foods Market, 2% back at restaurants, gas stations and drugstores, 1% back on all other purchases.
While this card has a $0 annual fee, it does require a Prime membership, costing $119 for the standard annual plan and $59 for the student annual plan. That said, the new cardmember bonus, which gives you a $70 Amazon.com Gift Card instantly upon credit card approval, can help offset the Prime membership fee.
Amazon also offers is a version of this card that doesn’t require a Prime membership. The Amazon Rewards Visa Signature Card lets cardholders earn 3% back at Amazon.com and Whole Foods Market, 2% back at restaurants, gas stations and drugstores, 1% back on all other purchases.
Overall, the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card is a no-brainer for Prime members, since it offers a higher rewards rate on Amazon.com purchases and comes with a $0 annual card fee.
Runner-up: Discover it® Cash Back
0% for 14 months on purchases and Balance Transfers, then 11.99% - 22.99% Variable.
Earn 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. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases – automatically. *
Get a dollar-for-dollar match of all the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically*
- INTRO OFFER: 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. Just a dollar-for-dollar match.
- Earn 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.
- Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - automatically.
- Redeem cash back any amount, any time. Rewards never expire.
- Use your rewards at Amazon.com checkout.
- Get an alert if we find your Social Security number on any of thousands of Dark Web sites.* Activate for free.
- No annual fee.
- See Rates & Fees
See additional details for Discover it® Cash Back
The Discover it® Cash Back lets you Earn 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. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases – automatically. During the fourth quarter of 2020, cardholders can earn the bonus rate at Amazon.com, Target.com and Walmart.com — just in time for holiday shopping.
If you max out the spend threshold by charging $1,500 with those merchants during the months of October, November and December, you’ll earn $75 cash back at the end of the year. Be sure to activate to earn the 5% cash back up to the quarterly maximum.
Check out Discover’s 2020 cash back calendar.
Best for department stores: Chase Freedom®
Similar to the Discover it® Cash Back, the Chase Freedom® card offers bonus cash back in categories that rotate quarterly. Earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate. Enjoy new 5% categories every 3 months. Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases.
From October through December 2019, Chase Freedom® cardholders could earn the higher bonus rate at department stores and on purchases made using PayPal and Chase Pay. If you maxed out the $1,500 spend cap by purchasing holiday gifts from department stores during the fourth quarter of 2019, you could have earned $75 back.
See which department stores were eligible for the 5% bonus:
- Bealls Florida
- Bergdorf Goodman
- Boscov’s Department Store
- Boston Store
- Lord + Taylor
- Neiman Marcus
- Nordstrom, Nordstrom Rack
- Peebles Department Store
- Saks Fifth Ave, Saks Off 5th
- Stage Stores
- Stein Mart
- Von Maur
We’re hoping department stores return in the fourth quarter as bonus categories for 2020. Keep up to date with the card’s 2020 cash back calendar.
Best for general shopping: Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer
If you plan to take advantage of Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales at a variety of stores, you could consider a flat-rate cashback card that earns the same amount of cash back regardless of where you shop.
The Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer is our top choice for a flat-rate cashback card, since you earn 2% cash back on purchases: 1% when you buy plus 1% as you pay. Plus, there are no spending caps or bonus categories to keep track of.
If you have other credit cards that offer bonus rewards in specific categories, you can use those cards on those purchases, and the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer on everything else.
Best for wholesale clubs: Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi or Sam's Club® Mastercard®
In addition to offering discounts on TVs and other electronics, wholesale clubs are a great place to stock up on items for entertaining guests during the holiday season. Major wholesale clubs like Costco and Sam’s Club offer their own co-branded credit cards for members to use and earn rewards.
The Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi, for example, offers 4% cash back on eligible gas for the first $7,000 per year and then 1% thereafter, 3% on restaurants & travel, 2% at Costco & Costco.com, 1% on all other purchases.
4% cash back on eligible gas for the first $7,000 per year and then 1% thereafter, 3% on restaurants & travel, 2% at Costco & Costco.com, 1% on all other purchases
0% fee for transactions while traveling abroad
$0 annual fee
- Discover one of Citi's best cash back rewards cards designed exclusively for Costco members
- 4% cash back on eligible gas for the first $7,000 per year and then 1% thereafter
- 3% cash back on restaurants and eligible travel purchases
- 2% cash back on all other purchases from Costco and Costco.com
- 1% cash back on all other purchases
- No annual fee with your paid Costco membership and enjoy no foreign transaction fees on purchases
- Receive an annual credit card reward certificate, which is redeemable for cash or merchandise at U.S. Costco warehouses, including Puerto Rico
- The standard variable APR for Citi Flex Plan is 15.24%. Citi Flex Plan offers are made available at Citi's discretion.
See additional details for Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi
The Sam's Club® Mastercard®, on the other hand, offers 5% cash back on gas (on first $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%), 3% on dining and travel, and 1% on other purchases (maximum of $5,000 in cash back rewards in a calendar year).
Neither of these cards charge an annual fee, but you will be required to purchase a membership to the wholesale club.
Best for supermarkets: Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express or Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express
If you plan to host guests over the Thanksgiving holiday this year, you may want to consider a credit card that offers a generous amount of cash back on groceries. The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express provides the highest rewards rate on U.S. supermarket spending with 6% Cash Back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1%). 6% Cash Back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions and 1% Cash Back on other purchases.. But keep in mind that the card comes with a $95 annual fee.
$250 statement credit after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new Card within the first 3 months.*
6% Cash Back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1%). 6% Cash Back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions and 1% Cash Back on other purchases.
1% back on other purchases*
- Earn a $250 statement credit after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new Card within the first 3 months.
- 6% Cash Back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1%).
- 6% Cash Back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions.
- 3% Cash Back at U.S. gas stations and on transit (including taxis/rideshare, parking, tolls, trains, buses and more). 1% Cash Back on other purchases.
- Low intro APR: 0% for 12 months on purchases from the date of account opening, then a variable rate, currently 13.99% to 23.99%.
- Plan It® gives the option to select purchases of $100 or more to split up into monthly payments with a fixed fee and no interest.
- Cash Back is received in the form of Reward Dollars that can be redeemed as a statement credit.
- $95 Annual Fee.
- Terms Apply.
- See Rates & Fees
See additional details for Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express
There is a $0-annual-fee version of the card — the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express. However, the card offers half the cash back rate on U.S. supermarket purchases with 3% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%). 2% cash back at U.S. gas stations and at select U.S. department stores. 1% cash back on other purchases. Note, because superstores and warehouse clubs are not considered U.S. supermarkets, those purchases will earn the 1% cashback rate.
To see rates & fees for Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express please click here.
Cards with the best 0% intro offers on purchases
Holiday shopping can get expensive, and many people fall into debt as a result going over budget for everyone on their list. The best way to avoid debt, including incurring high interest charges on revolving balances, is to pay your credit card balance in full each month. However, you can avoid interest charges for a certain period of time by using a credit card that offers a 0% introductory period for new purchases. These cards can help you finance new purchases interest-free for as long as 18 months.
For example, the Wells Fargo Platinum card offers an introductory APR on purchases of 0% for 18 months, then a purchase APR of 15.49%-24.99% (Variable).
About two months before your 0% intro period ends, you should check to see if you’re on track to pay off your debt before the end of the intro period. If you are, great — you’re all set!
But, if you still have lingering debt that you don’t think will be paid off in full before the end of the intro period, you should consider a balance transfer credit card. A balance transfer is when you transfer debt from one card to another card offering a 0% intro period for balance transfers. This can provide you with more time to pay off your debt. For example, the Citi Simplicity® Card - No Late Fees Ever offers an introductory APR of 0% for 18 months on Balance Transfers, then a regular APR of 14.74% - 24.74% (Variable).
Keep in mind that balances can’t be transferred between cards from the same bank and you may incur a balance transfer fee — but the fee will most likely be minor compared to the amount you’ll save on interest. There are, however, cards available with no balance transfer fees.
The bottom line
If you want to get a jump-start on holiday shopping, Black Friday and Cyber Monday are great times to do so. In addition to purchasing gifts on sale, you can often buy electronics, clothing and many other items at deeply-discounted prices. By signing up for the right credit card, you can also receive cash back those purchases – which can help further offset the prices.
The information related to Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card, Amazon Rewards Visa Signature Card, Citi Simplicity® Card - No Late Fees Ever and Chase Freedom® has been independently collected by CompareCards and have not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card prior to publication.