The Ultimate Guide to Credit Cards
Tuesday, December 7, 2021

How to Choose a Credit Card For Holiday Spending

How To Choose A Credit Card For Holiday Spending

credit card advice

Marcie Geffner
By: Marcie Geffner
Posted: November 11, 2021
Advertiser Disclosure

For many families, the annual year-end holiday season is synonymous with the year-end spending season. Whether you’re buying groceries for holiday meals, gifts for family or friends, or new clothes for holiday celebrations, the costs can take a big bite out of your budget. And not only in November and December, but also well into the new year.

Using the right credit cards can help cushion the blow to your budget. You’ll get more time to pay for your holiday purchases, possibly with 0% interest. And, you may also get signup bonuses, cash back, shopping points, airline miles, hotel stays, and a variety of other valuable card benefits.

Even with all those perks, choosing specific cards to use this time of year may still present a puzzle. To solve it, start by identifying your top priorities: 

  • Do you need extra cash, shopping points, or travel rewards? 
  • Is a low or 0% annual percentage rate (APR) important because you plan to carry a balance? 
  • Do you want certain card benefits, like rental car coverage, cellphone protection, purchase price protection, extended warranties, or free checked bags on your favorite airline?

Once you’ve identified your priorities, you’re ready to shop for cards that will help you get what you’re looking for.

Holiday Spending Cards With Big Signup Bonuses

New card signup bonuses can be worth hundreds of dollars in cash back, travel rewards, or other benefits. A large cash back signup bonus can be welcome when you get your card statement with your holiday spending on it. 

If you cannot use a travel signup bonus now, you can save those airline miles or hotel stays for next year’s holiday travel. 

To get a signup bonus, you’ll have to apply for a card with a signup bonus, be approved, and meet the requirements for the bonus. Typically, these requirements involve using your new card for a minimum amount of spending in the first few months after you receive your card. 

For example, a bonus may require you to spend $3,000 or more in purchases within the first three months after you’re approved for a new card. That may be easier to do with holiday spending on the calendar. A higher minimum spending requirement should generally get you a more valuable bonus.

One card with a hefty signup bonus that we regularly recommend is the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card:

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card Review

at Chase’ssecure website

BEST OVERALL RATING

★★★★★

4.7

OVERALL RATING

4.7/5.0
  • Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That’s $750 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
  • Enjoy new benefits such as a $50 annual Ultimate Rewards Hotel Credit, 5X points on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3X points on dining and 2X points on all other travel purchases, plus more.
  • 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.
  • With Pay Yourself Back℠, your points are worth 25% more during the current offer when you redeem them for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories
  • Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on eligible orders over $12 for a minimum of one year with DashPass, DoorDash’s subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
15.99% – 22.99% Variable
$95
Good/Excellent

If you’re looking for a cash bonus from a card with no annual fee, check out the Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card:

BEST OVERALL RATING

★★★★★

4.8

OVERALL RATING

4.8/5.0
  • One-time $200 cash bonus after you spend $500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening
  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day
  • No rotating categories or sign-ups needed to earn cash rewards; plus, cash back won’t expire for the life of the account and there’s no limit to how much you can earn
  • 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months; 14.99%-24.99% variable APR after that
  • $0 annual fee and no foreign transaction fees
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 15 months
0% for 15 months
14.99% – 24.99% (Variable)
$0
Excellent, Good

Cards with big signup bonuses may or may not have attractive APRs or other perks you’ve prioritized, so it’s important to read the card description and disclosures as well as the bonus offer before you apply. If you like the terms and love the bonus, you may be able to get approved and start using your new card almost immediately.

When you shop for signup bonus cards, you may want to think about the types of cards you don’t already have.

For example, if you’ve accumulated multiple travel cards, you may want to add a cash back card. If most of your existing credit cards have cash back rewards, you may want to add a travel card with an airline miles or points signup bonus. There are also great business cards with signup bonuses.

Holiday Spending Cards With Great Rewards Programs

A rewards card can be especially valuable during the holiday spending season. Savvy card users may be familiar with the main categories of rewards cards: cash back for purchases, shopping points for goods and services at discount prices, and travel perks like airline miles and hotel stays. 

For cash back rewards, check out the Chase Freedom Unlimited®:

Chase Freedom Unlimited® Review

at Chase’ssecure website

BEST OVERALL RATING

★★★★★

4.8

OVERALL RATING

4.8/5.0
  • $200 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.
  • 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (not including Target® or Walmart® purchases) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year.
  • 3% cash back on dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery services
  • 3% cash back on drugstore purchases
  • 5% on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Unlimited 1.5% cash back on all other purchases
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% Intro APR on Purchases 15 months
0% Intro APR on Balance Transfers 15 months
14.99% – 24.74% Variable
$0
Good/Excellent

For point rewards, we again recommend the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card:

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card Review

at Chase’ssecure website

BEST OVERALL RATING

★★★★★

4.7

OVERALL RATING

4.7/5.0
  • Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That’s $750 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
  • Enjoy new benefits such as a $50 annual Ultimate Rewards Hotel Credit, 5X points on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3X points on dining and 2X points on all other travel purchases, plus more.
  • 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.
  • With Pay Yourself Back℠, your points are worth 25% more during the current offer when you redeem them for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories
  • Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on eligible orders over $12 for a minimum of one year with DashPass, DoorDash’s subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
15.99% – 22.99% Variable
$95
Good/Excellent

And for air miles, you can’t go wrong with the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card (or the Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card if you don’t want to pay an annual fee):

BEST OVERALL RATING

★★★★★

4.8

OVERALL RATING

4.8/5.0
  • Enjoy a one-time bonus of 60,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $600 in travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on every purchase, every day
  • Miles won’t expire for the life of the account and there’s no limit to how many you can earn
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Earn 5X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel, where you’ll get our best prices on thousands of trip options
  • Use your miles to get reimbursed for any travel purchase—or redeem by booking a trip through Capital One Travel
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
15.99% – 23.99% (Variable)
$95
Excellent, Good

If you haven’t been capturing these rewards all year, you can still take advantage of them during the holiday spending season.

Those types of rewards cards aren’t the only options. Rewards cards for other categories, including restaurants and dining or gasoline fill-ups, are also available. And some specialty rewards cards give you point-of-sale discounts at certain retail, big-box, and online stores. 

With these cards, the reward comes immediately when you use the card for the first time rather than later when you receive your statement. These immediate discounts may be especially welcome during the holiday shopping season.

If you own a business or have a side hustle, you may want to get a business card for your business-related holiday purchases, such as cards, gifts, or restaurant meals to thank your clients or customers for their business. You can also use a business card for your holiday advertising expenses to promote your seasonal products or services.

Holiday Spending Cards With Low or 0% APRs

If you’re planning to carry a balance before, during, or after the holidays, cards with low or 0% APRs for purchases or balance transfers may be a higher priority for you than signup bonuses or rewards programs. 

Depending on the size of your balance and how long you carry it, a 0% APR could save you more in interest charges than you’d earn from bonuses or rewards.

Cards with 0% APRs for purchases have an initial promotional period during which you don’t have to pay interest for new purchases with that card — even if you don’t pay your full balance every month. This benefit could help you pay off your balance sooner since your interest cost will be lower or even zero.

One of the longest 0% APRs on purchases comes from the Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card:

Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card Review

at Citi’ssecure website

BEST OVERALL RATING

★★★★★

4.6

OVERALL RATING

4.6/5.0
  • 0% Intro APR for 18 months on purchases from date of account opening and 0% Intro APR for 18 months on balance transfers from date of first transfer. After that the variable APR will be 13.74% – 23.74%, based on your creditworthiness. Balance transfers must be completed within 4 months of account opening.
  • There is a balance transfer fee of either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater
  • Get free access to your FICO® Score online.
  • With Citi Entertainment®, get special access to purchase tickets to thousands of events, including concerts, sporting events, dining experiences and more.
  • Shop with confidence knowing that you have dependable protection benefits, including $0 Liability on Unauthorized Purchases and Citi® Identity Theft Solutions.
  • The standard variable APR for Citi Flex Plan is 13.74% – 23.74%, based on your creditworthiness. Citi Flex Plan offers are made available at Citi’s discretion.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% 18 months on Purchases and Balance Transfers
0% 18 months on Purchases and Balance Transfers
13.74% – 23.74% (Variable)
$0
Excellent, Good

Balance transfer cards let you move an existing balance from another card to this type of card and, usually, get a 0% APR for that balance for a promotional period, keeping in mind the regular APR will apply once the promotional period ends. Balance transfers may be capped and charge a fee of between 3% and 5% of the amount transferred. Some balance transfer cards come with high limits.

We recommend the Discover it® Balance Transfer card:

Discover it® Balance Transfer Review

at Discover Card’ssecure website

BEST OVERALL RATING

★★★★★

4.9

OVERALL RATING

4.9/5.0
  • 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. You could turn $150 cash back into $300.
  • 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.
  • Get your free Credit Scorecard with your FICO® Credit Score, number of recent inquiries and more.
  • No annual fee.
  • Discover is accepted nationwide by 99% of the places that take credit cards.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% Intro APR for 6 months
0% Intro APR for 18 months
11.99% – 22.99% Variable APR
$0
Good/Excellent

Cards with 0% APRs for purchases and balance transfers can give you welcome relief times two for your holiday spending until the promotional periods expire.

Cards with low or 0% APRs and 0% balance transfers may also come with other perks, so it’s smart to shop around and compare offers before you choose this type of card.

Holiday Spending Cards With Special Perks or Benefits

Signup bonuses, rewards, and 0% APRs aren’t the only card benefits that can help you during the holidays. In fact, many cards offer some of the best holiday card perks.

Here are some examples:

Extended warranties. Buying new laptops, cellphones, TVs, and other consumer electronic devices is a time-honored holiday shopping tradition. With an extended warranty benefit from your card, you may get a warranty claim period that’s double what the manufacturer offers. That could save you the cost of buying a retailer’s extended warranty and still give you extra protection against defective gear.

Purchase protection. Similar to extended warranties, purchase protection covers damage and theft of newly purchased items, including most holiday gifts.

Purchase price protection. Maybe your holiday gifts weren’t damaged or stolen, but instead, you found out you overpaid. A card with purchase price protection benefits can save the day by refunding the difference, so you get the lower price for your purchase. Not many cards offer this perk, but some do. 

Return protection. With some retailers’ short return periods and the general busyness of the holidays, you may not have time to return items you don’t want right away. Card return protection gives you more time to secure a refund for those purchases. This perk may even apply to items on sale or those you bought at last-chance clearance prices.

Travel benefits. Travel cards aren’t only about airline miles or hotel stays. These perks-a-plenty cards may also come with other benefits that can make your holiday travel more affordable and protect you from unexpected holiday travel costs. Travel insurance reimburses you for canceled trips or related fees when you book with your card and can’t travel. Luggage protection helps if your airline loses or delays your baggage. Some cards offer free checked bags that waive the fees to check luggage when you board an airplane. Some airline cards also give you priority boarding, free access to airport lounges, or seat selection and upgrades if you use your card to purchase your tickets. 

All of these benefits are subject to limits, rules, and restrictions. If you have questions, read your card agreement or call your card company for details.

The Right Credit Card Can Give You That “Happy Holidays!” Feeling

The holiday shopping season can be the merriest time of year. Using the right credit cards to buy your holiday meals, gifts, travel, and more can add to your merriment by gifting you with extra bonuses, rewards, and other perks you can use today and in the future.

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