Best credit cards for the holidays, according to pros
We asked smart shopping experts and pros to recommend the best credit cards for maximizing…
If you blinked and summer turned into November, you’re not alone: The holidays are just weeks away (!!). And with inflation sitting near 40-year highs, life’s been a bit more expensive for Americans this year. So we asked smart shopping experts and credit card pros to recommend the best credit cards for maximizing savings this coming season. Just remember that credit card rewards are rarely worth it, unless you pay your bill in full and on time.
Best if you want an easy sign-up bonus, and simple cash back rewards:
Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards
The Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards card offers new cardholders a $200 cash bonus when you spend $500 on purchases within three months of opening the account. “Using this card for all your holiday purchases and toward other daily essentials means you will hit that spending minimum quickly,” says money-saving expert Andrea Woroch.
Putting that bonus to work can help tick a few gifts off your list. “It’s like getting a few gifts for free!” Woroch adds. You also get 1.5% unlimited cashback on purchases and no annual fee with the Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards card.
Best for the holiday spender who’s also planning to travel and dine out:
Chase Freedom Unlimited
“Chase Freedom Unlimited has a nice bonus offer, giving you 6.5% back on travel booked through the Chase Ultimate Rewards program, 4.5% on drugstores and dining and 3% back everywhere else on up to $20,000 in the first year,” Woroch says. Plus, there’s no annual fee.
So, if you open this card ahead of the holidays, the Chase Freedom Unlimited will give you 3% on holiday purchases. Plus, the card offers an 0% intro APR for purchases during the first 15 months, “giving you more time to pay off those gifts and other seasonal expenses.” After that, the APR will rise though, so be sure to pay off any purchases in the 0% window.
Best for simple cash back:
Bread Cashback American Express®
Holiday spending isn’t just limited to retail stores — think about all those meals, travel, gas and more you’ll buy — so a card that gives you cash back on almost everything you buy can be a great bet for holiday shoppers, says Woroch. Smart shopping expert Trae Bodge agrees. “Some credit cards offer cashback and points on specific categories, but many consumers find this confusing,” Bodge says. “I like a simple cashback card.”
Both Woroch and smart shopping expert Trae Bodge recommend the Bread Cashback American Express® card. The card offers: 2% cash back on all purchases with no rewards caps, opt-ins or rotating categories to deal with. It also has no annual fee. Terms apply.
Terms apply to American Express benefits and offers. Enrollment may be required for select American Express benefits and offers. Visit americanexpress.com to learn more.
Best retail cards
If there’s ever a prime time to use a retail card, the holidays may be it, depending on where you plan to shop. Still, it’s important to use them smartly. “If you shop regularly with one retailer, it can be to your benefit to use that retailer’s credit card,” Bodge says. “APRs for these cards tend to be high, so pay them off in full if you can. After all, if the aim is to make the most of the card’s benefits, carrying a balance can essentially negate those benefits.” Some retail cards are better than others, too — and here are the ones our pros recommend.
Best for the Costco shopper who wants gas and restaurant rewards too:
Costco Anywhere Visa
Offering 4% cashback on eligible gas and EV charging purchases, 3% cashback on restaurants and eligible travel purchaes, 2% cashback on Costco purchases and 1% on everything else, the Costco Anywhere Visa can help you save well beyond the holidays — and on more than just gifts.
Plus, if you’re not sure what to get for that picky relative, the wholesale retailer offers you a nice loophole. “Costco has one of the best return policies in retail, so that should provide more confidence to shop for both gifts and holiday cooking as well,” says Julie Ramhold, consumer analyst with DealNews.com.
Best for the frequent Amazon shopper who also wants dining and gas rewards:
Amazon Rewards Prime Visa Signature
“Honestly, the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card is probably the best store credit card on the market today. If you shop at Amazon regularly — and we all do — it’s really hard to beat a card that gives you 5% back at Amazon plus 2% on dining and gas,” says Matt Schulz, chief credit analyst at LendingTree.
You also receive a $100 Amazon gift card for opening the account. “That can really help you stretch your holiday shopping budget, and you get to use it instantly once you’re approved.”
Best for the Target shopper looking for extended returns:
“If you enjoy shopping at Target, the RedCard is a must, honestly,” Ramhold says. It’s available in both credit and debit formats with both offering cardholders 5% cashback on all in-store and online purchases at Target. “Plus there’s no annual fee and free 2-day shipping on a ton of items, and you’ll receive exclusive offers and special items,” Ramhold adds. “Cardholders also have a longer return window which is handy for holiday shopping as that means you have longer to return items that you may change your mind about.”
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