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The best credit cards for holiday shopping

  • Personal finance site WalletHub ranked the top cards based on rewards, cash back and zero-transfer offers.
  • The millennial favorite Chase Sapphire Preferred ranked the highest for best bonuses to offset holiday spending.
Shoppers pay for items at a Macy's store in New York.
Peter Foley | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Shoppers pay for items at a Macy's store in New York.

As the competition among credit card issuers heats up this holiday season, what you are paying with may be as important as what you are buying.

To that end, WalletHub analyzed more than 1,000 credit card offers to find the best ones based on rewards, cash back and zero-transfer offers.

The millennial favorite Chase Sapphire Preferred ranked the highest for best bonuses, according to the personal finance site. The card comes with a 50,000-point rewards bonus if you spend at least $4,000 within the first three months of opening your account and there is no annual fee for the first year.

A close second was the Citi Double, which offers 1 percent cash back on purchases and another 1 percent cash back when you pay your bill, with no annual fee.

Other top contenders included Barclaycard Arrival Plus and Citi Diamond Preferred, which offers a zero-percent introductory APR on new purchases and balance transfers for those who may need a little longer to pay off those holiday purchases.

But in general, rewards cards, which dole out points when you make purchases at airlines, gas stations and restaurants, have higher-than-average interest rates to compensate issuers for the additional perks. So the benefits of using a fancy card are quickly negated if you carry a monthly balance.

It's already shaping up to be a happy holiday — particularly for retailers — thanks to low unemployment and strong consumer sentiment driving purchases.

Holiday shopping sales are expected to grow nearly 4 percent this holiday season, according to the National Retail Federation. This is also the first year that holiday shoppers will do the majority of their spending online, easing the burden of having to brave the crowds.

To make checking items off that Christmas list even easier, most Americans aren't asking for clothes or electronics. Instead, 4 in 10 hope to unwrap gift cardsespecially from Amazon, Visa and Wal-Mart, according to WalletHub.