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Best Credit Cards for Holiday Shopping in 2020

Best Credit Cards for Holiday Shopping in 2020

*Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any credit card issuer. This site may be compensated through a credit card issuer partnership.

This article was last updated Dec 30, 2019. Terms and conditions may have changed. For the most accurate information, please consult the issuer website.

Whether your holiday plans include hosting a large family dinner, taking a trip to visit friends or relatives or purchasing gifts for everyone you know, choosing the right credit card can help fund those activities. Depending on which card you choose, you have the potential to earn rewards on groceries and travel, or even finance big ticket items interest free for more than a year.

We’ll break down several credit cards to help you determine which card would be the most helpful based on your plans this holiday season.

In this article:

Best for hosting holiday guests

Whether you’re planning to organize Thanksgiving dinner or host family and friends over Christmas, a card that offers that offers a generous amount of cash back on groceries, like the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express, would help put some cash back in your wallet.

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

  • $250 statement credit after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new Card within the first 3 months.*

  • NEW 6% Cash Back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions & 3% Cash Back on transit including taxis/rideshare, parking, tolls, trains, buses and more.

  • 1% back on other purchases*

Highlights
  • Earn a $250 statement credit after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new Card within the first 3 months.
  • NEW 6% Cash Back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions.
  • NEW 3% Cash Back on transit including taxis/rideshare, parking, tolls, trains, buses and more.
  • 6% Cash Back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1%). 3% Cash Back at U.S. gas stations. 1% Cash Back on other purchases.
  • Over 3 million more places in the U.S. started accepting American Express® Cards in 2017 and 2018.
  • Low intro APR: 0% for 12 months on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable rate, currently 14.49% to 25.49%
  • $95 annual fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees

See additional details for Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

More Info

The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express offers NEW 6% Cash Back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions & 3% Cash Back on transit including taxis/rideshare, parking, tolls, trains, buses and more. Earn 6% Cash Back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1%). 3% Cash Back at U.S. gas stations. 1% Cash Back on other purchases.

What to look out for. You can only earn the higher cashback rate on the first $6,000 spent at U.S. supermarkets each calendar year. However, because the spend cap resets in January, you shouldn’t have to worry about surpassing that amount on holiday food this year.

If you do max out the spend cap, you’ll earn $360 cash back at U.S. supermarkets per year.

Best for purchasing gifts

There are several credit cards that offer rewards on department store and online purchases. These allow you to earn cash back and points on a variety of gift purchases, including clothing, perfume, electronics, tools and more.

Chase Freedom®

  • Earn a $150 Bonus after spending $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.

  • 0% Intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months

  • 16.49% - 25.24% Variable

Highlights
  • Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening
  • Earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate. Enjoy new 5% categories each quarter!
  • Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - it's automatic
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 16.49 - 25.24%.
  • 3% intro balance transfer fee when you transfer a balance during the first 60 days your account is open, with a minimum of $5.
  • No annual fee
  • Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open and there is no minimum to redeem for cash back.
  • Free credit score, updated weekly with Credit Journey?

See additional details for Chase Freedom®

More Info

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 Oct. 1 through Dec. 31, 2019, Chase Freedom® cardholders earned the higher cashback rate at department stores and on purchases made using PayPal or Chase Pay. The department store category included Bloomingdale’s, Dillard’s, Kohl’s, Macy’s, Neiman Marcus, AliExpress and much more. Since Chase Freedom® does not release its full cashback calendar in January, but rather throughout the year, it remains to be seen if the same third quarter categories will return in 2020. Check out our calendar of Chase Freedom® category announcements for 2020 as they are announced.

What to look out for. Because the Chase Freedom® card changes bonus categories each quarter, you will not have the opportunity to earn the higher cashback rate at department stores after the fourth quarter of 2019. Additionally, the following merchants are not included in the department store category: Walmart, Target, Kmart, TJ Maxx (and other discount stores), electronics stores, general merchandise and variety stores, as well as gift cards purchased at locations other than the department stores found here.

Discover it® Cash Back

  • Get a dollar-for-dollar match of all the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically*

  • Earn 5% cash back at different places each quarter up to the quarterly maximum, when you activate*

  • Any amount, any time. Cash back rewards never expire*

Highlights
  • INTRO OFFER: Discover will match ALL the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically. There's no signing up. And no limit to how much is matched.
  • Earn 5% cash back at different places each quarter like gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, Amazon.com and more up to the quarterly maximum, each time 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

More Info

The Discover it® Cash Back card offers 5% cash back at different places each quarter like gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, Amazon.com and more up to the quarterly maximum, each time you activate, 1% unlimited cash back on all other purchases - automatically.

If you plan to purchase gifts or holiday decor from Amazon.com, Target.com and Walmart.com, you can come out on top with the Discover it® Cash Back card during the fourth quarter of 2020. Cardholders can earn the cashback rate on up to $1,500 in purchases at those locations from Oct. 1 through Dec. 2020, upon activation.

What to look out for. Like the Chase Freedom® card, the Discover it® Cash Back limits the 5% cashback rate to the first $1,500 per quarter. However, if you max out the spending cap each quarter, you have the potential to earn $300 cash back per year. Additionally, keep in mind that the earning categories change each quarter.

Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card - $200 Cash Rewards Offer

  • 0% Introductory APR on purchases for 15 billing cycles

  • 0% Intro APR for 15 billing cycles for any balance transfers made in the first 60 days

  • 15.49% - 25.49% Variable APR on purchases and balance transfers

Highlights
  • No annual fee
  • $200 online cash rewards bonus after you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening
  • Earn 3% cash back in the category of your choice, 2% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs (up to $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club quarterly purchases) and unlimited 1% on all other purchases
  • 0% Introductory APR for 15 billing cycles for purchases, and for any balance transfers made in the first 60 days. After the intro APR offer ends, 15.49% - 25.49% Variable APR will apply. A 3% fee (min $10) applies to all balance transfers
  • No expiration on rewards
  • If you're a Preferred Rewards member, you can earn 25% - 75% more cash back on every purchase

See additional details for Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card - $200 Cash Rewards Offer

More Info

If you make the majority of your gift purchases online, you can come out on top with the Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card - $200 Cash Rewards Offer. The card currently offers 3% and 2% cash back on the first $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club purchases each quarter, 1% on all other purchases.

The “choice” category includes online shopping and mobile app purchases from a variety of merchants, such as Amazon.com, Etsy.com, Apple.com, Groupon.com, Walmart.com, Ticketmaster.com, Target.com, Nike.com, Dickssportinggoods.com and more.

What to look out for. You can only earn the higher cashback rates on your choice category, grocery store and wholesale club purchases on the first $2,500 in combined purchases each quarter. That said, if you max out the spending cap by making $2,500 in choice category purchases each quarter, you can earn $300 cash back on those purchases in one year.

Best for holiday travel

If you’re traveling home for the holidays or planning a vacation, you should consider a card that offers a generous rewards rate on gas or travel purchases.

Road trip: Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi

  • 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

  • 0% fee for transactions while traveling abroad

  • $0 annual fee

Highlights
  • 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 16.74%. Citi Flex Plan offers are made available at Citi's discretion.

See additional details for Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi

More Info

If you’re planning an upcoming road trip, the Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi offers one of the highest cashback rates on gas currently available. Cardholders earn 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.

If you max out the 4% cashback rate by spending $7,000 in a year on gas purchases, you’ll earn $280 cash back on those purchases in a year.

What to look out for. If you purchase gas from superstores, supermarkets, convenience stores or warehouse clubs other than Costco – or, if you purchase fuel for non-automobile purposes — you will not earn the cashback rate.

That said, you can earn the 3% cashback rate on a broad range of travel purchases, including airfare, hotels, car rentals, travel agencies, cruise lines and Costco Travel purchases.

Air travel: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

  • 60,000 bonus points

  • 2X points on travel and dining

  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs

Highlights
  • Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 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, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel
  • No delivery fees for a minimum of one year on qualifying food purchases with a DashPass subscription from DoorDash -over a $100 value. Activate with your Chase Sapphire card by December 31, 2021.
  • Earn 5X points on Lyft rides through March 2022. That’s 3X points in addition to the 2X points you already earn on travel.

See additional details for Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

More Info

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card offers a valuable sign-up bonus that can be used toward travel to visit family or take a vacation over the holidays. Cardholders earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. When you redeem those rewards for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards, they’ll be worth $750. Plus, the card offers 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases worldwide.

Additionally, Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card members can transfer points at a rate of 1:1 to 10 airline travel partners and three hotel travel partners.

What to look out for. The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card charges an annual fee of $95. However, the value of the sign-up bonus more than makes up for that cost during the first year of card membership.

Best for financing large purchases

We recommend paying your credit card balance in full each month. However, if you find yourself making a large purchase(s) that you want to pay it off over time, you should choose a card that offers a 0% introductory APR for an extended period of time, like the BankAmericard® credit card or the Citi Rewards+℠ Card.

BankAmericard® credit card

  • 0% Intro APR for 18 billing cycles for any balance transfers made in the first 60 days

  • 0% Introductory APR on purchases for 18 billing cycles

  • 14.49% - 24.49% Variable APR on purchases and balance transfers

Highlights
  • 0% Introductory APR for 18 billing cycles for purchases, and for any balance transfers made in the first 60 days. After the intro APR offer ends, 14.49% - 24.49% Variable APR will apply. A 3% fee (min $10) applies to all balance transfers
  • No annual fee
  • No penalty APR. Paying late won't automatically raise your interest rate (APR). Other account pricing and terms apply
  • Access your FICO® Score for free within Online Banking or your Mobile Banking app

See additional details for BankAmericard® credit card

More Info

With the BankAmericard® credit card, you won’t be charged interest on purchases for well over a year. The card offers a 0% Introductory APR on purchases for 18 billing cycles, then a 14.49% - 24.49% Variable APR.

What to look out for. The BankAmericard® credit card does not offer a rewards program or sign-up bonus. So, while you can enjoy not paying interest charges on purchases for an extremely long period of time, you will not earn points or cash back on those purchases.

Citi Rewards+℠ Card

  • 0% for 15 months

  • Earn 15,000 bonus points after you spend $1,000 in purchases with your card within 3 months of account opening; redeemable for $150 in gift cards at thankyou.com

  • 14.99% - 24.99% (Variable)

Highlights
  • The Citi Rewards+℠Card - the only credit card that automatically rounds up to the nearest 10 points on every purchase - with no cap.
  • Earn 15,000 bonus points after you spend $1,000 in purchases with your card within 3 months of account opening; redeemable for $150 in gift cards at thankyou.com
  • 0% Intro APR on balance transfers and purchases for 15 months. After that, the variable APR will be 14.99% - 24.99%, based on your creditworthiness.
  • Earn 2X ThankYou® Points at Supermarkets and Gas Stations for the first $6,000 per year and then 1X Points thereafter. Plus, earn 1X Points on All Other Purchases.
  • The standard variable APR for Citi Flex Plan is 14.99% - 24.99%, based on your creditworthiness. Citi Flex Plan offers are made available at Citi's discretion.

See additional details for Citi Rewards+℠ Card

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The Citi Rewards+℠ Card offers an introductory APR on purchases of 0% for 15 months (then an APR of 14.99% - 24.99% (variable)). However, unlike the BankAmericard® credit card, the Citi Rewards+℠ Card comes with a rewards program.

Cardholders earn 2X ThankYou® Points at Supermarkets and Gas Stations for the first $6,000 per year and then 1X Points thereafter. Plus, earn 1X Points on All Other Purchases. Cardholders also earn 15,000 bonus points after you spend $1,000 in purchases with your card within 3 months of account opening; redeemable for $150 in gift cards at thankyou.com.

What to look out for. You can only earn the two-point rate on the first $6,000 spent at supermarkets and gas stations during the first year of card membership. That said, if you max out that spend cap, you can earn 12,000 points from those purchases during the first year of card membership.

Best for transferring a balance

If you end up charging a large amount on a high interest card over the holiday season on Black Friday sales, gifts, entertaining and travel, you may want to consider transferring the debt to a credit card that doesn’t charge interest on balance transfers.

Discover it® Balance Transfer

  • 0% for 18 months on balance transfers & 0% for 6 months on purchases*

  • Earn 5% cash back at different places each quarter up to the quarterly maximum, when you activate*

  • 13.49% - 24.49% Variable*

Highlights
  • INTRO OFFER: Discover will match ALL the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically. There's no signing up. And no limit to how much is matched.
  • Earn 5% cash back at different places each quarter like gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, Amazon.com and more up to the quarterly maximum, each time you activate. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - automatically.
  • Redeem cash back any amount, any time. Rewards never expire.
  • 100% U.S. based customer service.
  • Get your free Credit Scorecard with your FICO® Credit Score, number of recent inquiries and more.
  • 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® Balance Transfer

More Info

The Discover it® Balance Transfer card offers an introductory APR on balance transfers of 0% for 18 months, then an ongoing APR of 13.49% - 24.49% variable.

What to look out for. Although the Discover it® Balance Transfer card doesn’t charge interest on balance transfers for more than a year, the card does charge balance transfer fees. Cardholders pay a 3% intro balance transfer fee, up to 5% fee on future balance transfers (see terms)*.

The bottom line

Whether you plan to throw a holiday feast, visit relatives out of town or purchase gifts for the entire family, you can benefit from having the right card this holiday season. For example, if you’re planning to drive a long distance to visit friends or family, you’ll want to choose a card that offers a generous rewards rate on gas purchases, like the Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi. But if you plan to do the bulk of your gift shopping at department stores, a card that offers cash back on those purchases, like the Chase Freedom® card, could be ideal.

Or, if you’d rather earn additional rewards on every purchase – from gas and groceries to travel and dining – you should consider a flat-rate credit card, such as the Chase Freedom Unlimited® card.

  • 0% for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers

  • $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening. Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases.

  • 16.49% - 25.24% Variable

Highlights
  • Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.
  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases.
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 16.49 - 25.24%.
  • 3% intro balance transfer fee when you transfer a balance during the first 60 days your account is open, with a minimum of $5
  • No annual fee
  • No minimum to redeem for cash back
  • Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open

See additional details for Chase Freedom Unlimited®

More Info

With the Chase Freedom Unlimited® card, you won’t have the hassle of dealing with rotating bonus categories or spending caps. The $0-annual-fee card lets you earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening. Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases.


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