The best credit cards for holiday shopping of 2021

The best credit cards for holiday shopping of 2021

With the holidays well on their way and the shopping season in full swing, you’re probably looking for ways to save money and maximize your spending. It always makes sense to shop around for the best holiday sales and deals, but how you pay for your purchases can also make a huge difference.

With the right rewards credit card, you’ll earn cash back or travel points for each dollar you spend. And many credit cards offer valuable consumer protections that can help you save money and protect you against loss or damage.

Read more: The best credit cards for Black Friday and Cyber Monday

Finally, holiday shopping can make earning a welcome bonus on a new credit card easy. Welcome bonuses reward new cardholders with a sum of points, miles, or cash back after they meet a minimum spending requirement, generally in the first three months from opening a card. And there are some great credit card welcome bonuses available now, letting you earn 100,000 points or miles or even more.

So before you hit the stores or start browsing the web, it pays to figure out if you have the right card for your needs.

Regular APR

14.99% – 24.74% Variable

Credit Score

Good to Excellent

Featured Reward

$200 after spending $500 on purchases in the first three months from account opening

Intro APR

0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for the first 15 months

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  • Pros & Cons
  • Details

  • Pros
    • No annual fee
    • Generous bonus cash-back categories
    • Great welcome bonus
    Cons
    • Booking through Ultimate Rewards portal can restrict outside earning potential
    • Varying percentages and rotating calendar categories require extra attention
    • 3% foreign transaction fees
    • Earn a $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.
    • 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate. Enjoy new 5% categories each quarter!
    • 3% cash back on dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery services
    • 3% cash back on drugstore purchases
    • 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, and 1% on all other purchases.
    • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases, then a variable APR of 14.99% – 24.74%.
    • No annual fee.


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    Not only is the Chase Freedom Flex a good cash-back card for regular spending, but it’s also a great card if you want to earn travel points. You can use your holiday expenses to knock out the minimum spending requirement to earn $200 after spending $500 on purchases in the first three months from account opening. 

    The Chase Freedom Flex offers 5% rotating bonus categories that change every quarter. From October to December 2021, the bonus categories are Walmart and PayPal. Once you activate the bonus, you’ll earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined spending (then 1%).

    In addition, Chase Freedom Flex cardholders can take advantage of a holiday promotion. You can earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in your top spending category (from a list) through December 31. Eligible categories include travel (including transit), dining, home improvement stores, select


    streaming

     services, select live entertainment, gas stations, drugstores, fitness clubs, and grocery stores (not including Walmart or Target purchases).

    Read more: You can now earn 5% cash back in your top eligible spending category with the Chase Freedom Flex through the end of December

    You can combine the rotating PayPal bonus category with your top eligible category from the list. Chase will allow cardholders to stack these offers and earn 9% back on these purchases (4% from the PayPal rotating category bonus, 4% from the top-spend category bonus, and 1% that you’d normally earn with the card). 

    While you’re more limited in how you can use your rewards if you only have the Freedom Flex, if you also have a card that earns Chase Ultimate Rewards points, like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, you can combine your Chase rewards across accounts and transfer rewards from the Chase Freedom Flex to Chase’s airline and hotel partners or redeem them through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal. These options get you more value than the standard 1 cent per point with cash-back cards. 

    Regular APR

    14.24% to 22.24% Variable

    Featured Reward

    $200 Amazon gift card instantly upon approval

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  • Pros & Cons
  • Details

  • Pros
    • 5% cash back at Amazon and Whole Foods is hard to beat
    • Earns 2% cash back on other popular categories (restaurants, gas stations, drugstores)
    • No annual fee (though you have to be an Amazon Prime member)
    Cons
    • Other cards offer higher cash-back rates on non-Amazon purchases
    • 5% Back at Amazon.com and Whole Foods Market with an eligible Prime membership*
    • 2% Back at restaurants, gas stations, and drugstores
    • 1% Back on all other purchases
    • No annual credit card fee
    • No foreign transaction fees


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    Amazon Prime members who plan to spend a lot at Amazon, Whole Foods, or both this season should consider the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card right now. Through November 30, 2021, it’s offering an elevated welcome bonus of a $200 Amazon gift card instantly upon approval.

    Amazon Prime members also earn 5% back on Amazon and Whole Foods purchases (with a Prime Membership and your card is loaded to your eligible Amazon account; otherwise earn 3% back on these purchases), 2% back at restaurants, gas stations, and drugstores, and 1% back on all other purchases.

    Read more: Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature credit card review

    This is a Visa Signature card, so it offers solid benefits including extended warranty, purchase protection, and car rental insurance, and there’s no annual fee for Prime members.

    Regular APR

    11.99% – 22.99% Variable

    Intro APR

    0% intro APR for 14 months on purchases and balance transfers

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  • Pros & Cons
  • Details

  • Pros
    • Earns 5% cash back at Amazon.com, Walmart.com and Target.com on up to $1,500 in purchases after enrollment from October to December 31, 2021, then 1%
    • Discover will match your cash back at the end of your first account year
    • No annual fee
    Cons
    • Cap on how much bonus cash back you can earn each quarter
    • If the quarterly categories aren’t convenient for you, you can earn more cash back with a different card
    • 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 in any amount, any time. Rewards never expire.
    • Use your rewards at Amazon.com checkout.
    • #1 Most Trusted Credit Card according to Investor’s Business Daily.
    • No annual fee.
    • Discover is accepted nationwide by 99% of the places that take credit cards.
    • Click “Apply Now” to see rewards, FICO® Credit Score terms, Cashback Match™ details & other information.


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    The Discover it® Cash Back offers 5% cash back in rotating quarterly bonus categories when you activate, on up to $1,500 in combined spending (then 1%). You’ll also earn 1% back everywhere else (from October to December 31, 2021, you can earn 5% cash back at Amazon.com, Walmart.com and Target.com on up to $1,500 in purchases after enrollment, then 1%).

    This quarter’s categories are all popular retailers for holiday purchases, so it should be easy to make the most of this bonus if you’re buying gifts or celebration supplies.

    Read more: Discover it Cash Back credit card review

    If you’re a new cardholder, Discover will match all the rewards you’ve earned after the first 12 months, effectively earning you 10% back on these purchases. 

    Annual Fee

    $0 intro for the first year, then $95

    Regular APR

    13.99% to 23.99% variable APR

    Featured Reward

    $300 statement credit after spending $3,000 in purchases on your new card within the first 6 months

    Intro APR

    0% intro APR on purchases for 12 months from account opening

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  • Pros & Cons
  • Details

  • Pros
    • Generous bonus rewards, especially at U.S. supermarkets
    • One of a small handful of credit cards that offer bonus rewards on select streaming services
    • Intro APR offer
    Cons
    • Unlike many other cash-back cards, it charges an annual fee
    • If you spend more than $6,000 at US supermarkets each year, you’ll want to use another card once you reach that cap
    • Earn a $300 statement credit after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card within the first 6 months.
    • $0 intro annual fee for the first year, then $95.
    • Buy Now, Pay Later: Enjoy $0 intro plan fees when you use Plan It® to split up large purchases into monthly installments. Pay $0 plan fees on plans created during the first 12 months after account opening. Plans created after that will have a monthly plan fee up to 1.33% of each purchase amount moved into a plan based on the plan duration, the APR that would otherwise apply to the purchase, and other factors.
    • Low intro APR: 0% for 12 months on purchases from the date of account opening, then a variable rate, 13.99% to 23.99%
    • 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.
    • Cash Back is received in the form of Reward Dollars that can be redeemed as a statement credit.
    • Terms Apply.


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    Whether you plan to do a lot of entertaining or enjoy picking up food-themed gifts, the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express is a solid choice if you prefer cash back. You’ll earn 6% back on up to $6,000 at U.S. supermarkets each year (then 1%).

    Read more: Amex Blue Cash Preferred card review

    The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express currently offers a welcome bonus of $300 statement credit after spending $3,000 in purchases on your new card within the first 6 months. Cardholders also earn 6% cash back on select U.S. streaming services, 3% back on U.S. gas stations and transit, and 1% back on all other eligible purchases (cash back is earned in the form of Rewards Dollars). 

    Regular APR

    13.99% – 23.99% Variable

    2% cash back on all purchases

    Intro APR

    0% intro APR on balance transfers for 18 months

    Balance Transfer Fee

    Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater. Intro balance transfer fee within the first 4 months of account opening of either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.

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  • Pros & Cons
  • Details

  • Pros
    • No annual fee
    • Simple earning structure without confusing bonus categories
    Cons
    • Some cards earn higher rates of cash back on rotating categories
    • No sign-up bonus
    • If you don’t have any account activity for 12 months, unredeemed rewards can expire
    • While it offers a 0% introductory APR for 18 months, that’s only on balance transfers, not purchases, so you can’t use it to fund a major expense without interest. After those 18 months, it’s a 13.99% – 23.99% (Variable) APR.
    • Earn 2% on every purchase with unlimited 1% cash back when you buy, plus an additional 1% as you pay for those purchases.
    • To earn cash back, pay at least the minimum due on time.
    • Balance Transfer Only Offer: 0% intro APR on Balance Transfers for 18 months. After that, the variable APR will be 13.99% – 23.99%, based on your creditworthiness.
    • Balance Transfers do not earn cash back. Intro APR does not apply to purchases.
    • If you transfer a balance, interest will be charged on your purchases unless you pay your entire balance (including balance transfers) by the due date each month.
    • There is an intro balance transfer fee of 3% of each transfer (minimum $5) completed within the first 4 months of account opening. After that, your fee will be 5% of each transfer (minimum $5).
    • The standard variable APR for Citi Flex Plan is 13.99% – 23.99% based on your creditworthiness. Citi Flex Plan offers are made available at Citi’s discretion.


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    If you’d rather not keep track of different bonus categories and prefer simplicity, the Citi® Double Cash Card is a great choice. You’ll earn 2% cash back (1% when you buy, and 1% when you pay) on all purchases, so it’s ideal for purchases that don’t fall into typical bonus categories too.

    Read more: Citi Double Cash credit card review

    Regular APR

    13.99% – 23.99% variable

    Featured Reward

    $200 cash rewards bonus after you spend $1,000 on purchases within 90 days of account opening

    Intro APR

    0% for 15 billing cycles

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  • Pros & Cons
  • Details

  • Pros
    • No annual fee
    • Broad 2% and 3% cash-back categories
    Cons
    • 2% and 3% cash-back categories capped at $2,500 in combined purchases each quarter
    • Earn a $200 cash rewards bonus after you spend $1,000 on purchases within 90 days of account opening
    • Earn 3% back in a category of your choosing among gas, online shopping, dining, travel, drug stores, or home improvement/furnishings, 2% back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs and 1% back on other purchases; bonus rewards in 3% and 2% categories are capped on the first $2,500 spent each quarter, after which you’ll earn 1%
    • No annual fee
    • Redeem rewards for cash back, statement credits, or a transfer to eligible Bank of America or Merrill accounts


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    The Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards Credit Card lets you pick a 3% cash-back category from their list, which includes online shopping, drug stores, home improvement and furnishings, dining, travel, and gas. Being able to customize where you earn the most rewards is a great way to maximize your holiday spending.

    Read more: Bank of America Customized Cash Rewards card review

    You’ll earn 3% cash back on up to $2,000 in combined spending with the card’s 2% cash-back categories (wholesale clubs and grocery stores) each quarter, then 1% back.

    Regular APR

    See Pay Over Time APR

    Featured Reward

    60,000 points after you spend at least $4,000 in your first 6 months of account opening

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  • Pros & Cons
  • Details

  • Pros
    • Great rewards for dining and for shopping at US supermarkets
    • Monthly statement credit for eligible dining purchases recoups some of the annual fee
    Cons
    • Underwhelming welcome bonus
    • Rose Gold is here to stay. Card Members can choose between a Gold or Rose Gold Card.
    • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months.
    • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, including takeout and delivery, and earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
    • Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
    • $120 Uber Cash on Gold: Add your Gold Card to your Uber account and each month automatically get $10 in Uber Cash for Uber Eats orders or Uber rides in the U.S., totaling up to $120 per year.
    • $120 Dining Credit: Earn up to a total of $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with the Gold Card at Grubhub, Seamless, The Cheesecake Factory, Ruth’s Chris Steak House, Boxed, and participating Shake Shack locations. This can be an annual savings of up to $120. Enrollment required.
    • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
    • Annual Fee is $250.
    • Terms Apply.


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    American Express cards are well known for their purchase protection and extended warranty benefits, and the American Express® Gold Card is one of the best. Before you buy any pricey gifts, it’s best to weigh the earning rate against the protections the card provides.

    Read more: American Express Gold card review

    The American Express® Gold Card doesn’t earn bonus rewards in most popular holiday shopping categories, although it does earn 4x points at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 spent at U.S. supermarkets each year, then 1 point per dollar), 3x points on flights booked with the airline or Amex Travel, and 1 point per dollar on all other purchases.

    However, getting extra protection on your purchase can be worth more than the additional rewards you might earn with a different card. The Amex Gold Card comes with purchase protection in the event of damage, theft, or loss of an eligible new item for up to 90 days from the purchase date, up to $10,000 per covered purchase (up to $500 for natural disasters) and up to $50,000 per eligible card.

    The Amex Gold Card also adds up to one additional year to eligible US manufacturer’s warranties of five years or less.

    What to look for in a credit card for holiday purchases

    All the credit cards for holiday shopping we’ve listed are good ones, but the best one for you offers the right type of rewards and a selection of perks you can use. Here’s everything you should look for if you’re searching for a new credit card:

    Purchase protection and extended warranty

    Make sure to check whether your credit card comes with consumer benefits like purchase protection and extended warranties. Where purchase protection can replace or repair an item that is damaged or stolen within a specific length of time (usually up to 90 days), extended warranties can add an additional year of warranty protection or more on big-ticket items that come with a manufacturer’s warranty.

    Read more: Chase credit cards offer purchase protection if a new item is damaged or stolen — here’s how to file a claim

    Cards at every price point offer purchase protection and extended warranty — from The Platinum Card® from American Express
     with a $695 annual fee (See Rates) to the no-annual-fee Chase Freedom Flex — though the more premium cards usually have higher caps for reimbursement.

    A high rewards rate

    Make sure to look at cards that offer the most rewards in categories you can use this year. Cards that offer bonus points for department store purchases and grocery store purchases often work best for the holiday season.

    Not all purchases will be eligible for bonus rewards, and in those cases you’ll want a card that earns more than 1% back on non-bonus spending. The Citi® Double Cash Card (up to 2% back — 1% when you buy and 1% when you pay) and the Chase Freedom Unlimited® (1.5% back on non-bonus purchases) are good options in this situation.

    Read more: The best credit cards for online shopping

    Welcome bonus: Cards that offer a sign-up bonus will leave you with a more generous rewards haul after the holiday season is over — making this period before the holidays an ideal time to apply and maximize your spending. Just make sure you can comfortably meet the minimum spending requirement in time. Check out our roundup of the best credit card welcome offers available now to see if anything catches your eye.

    0% APR offers: Also check which cards give 0% APR on purchases for a limited time if you think you may need to carry a balance for a period — though we never recommend carrying a balance if you can at all avoid it, and you’ll want to pay off your balance before the introductory period ends to avoid steep interest charges. The Chase Freedom Flex, for example, boasts 0% APR on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months from account opening, followed by a variable APR of 14.99% – 24.74% Variable.

    Read more: The best balance transfer credit cards

    How to maximize your holiday purchases this year

    Picking up a new credit card can help you earn a big bonus and more rewards on all your holiday shopping this year, but there are more ways to maximize your spending. Consider these tips:

    Maximize shopping portals: If you plan to do most of your holiday shopping online, take the time to figure out which online shopping portals you can use. If you have a Chase credit card, for example, you can click through the Chase portal to earn 1 to 10 additional points per dollar spent at stores like Macys.com, Walmart.com, and BestBuy.com. Most airlines also offer their own shopping portals as well, and all that’s required to double up on rewards is logging in to your account and clicking through a portal before you shop.

    Check for bonus offers: Also see if you can utilize additional offers like Chase Offers or Amex Offers**. Both work similarly, letting you get cash back for some purchases or, with Amex, earn more rewards at select retailers when you take advantage. With Amex Offers, for example, you can frequently get $10 to $50 back when you spend money at specific online stores or stay in a participating brand of hotels within a limited timeframe.

    Take advantage of bonus categories: Make sure you’re maximizing any bonus categories your card offers, including ones that offer 5% back in rotating categories. These bonus points can add up in a hurry and leave you with a lot more rewards after the holidays have passed.

    Pick up a card that offers more than 1% on non-bonus purchases: Finally, make sure you have at least one card that gives you more than 1% for holiday purchases you can’t earn bonus points on. The Citi® Double Cash Card is always a good option since you earn 2% back for each dollar you spend — 1% when you make a purchase and another 1% when you pay it off. Best of all, this card comes with no annual fee.

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