Opening a new card can be a great strategy, but only if you can afford it and budget appropriately, Patel says.
"If you acquire a card, you should definitely utilize that card, and continue to pay that card off, in order to reap a positive credit well-being," Patel says. That includes keeping your credit utilization — the ratio between your total balance across your credit cards and your total credit limit — under 30 percent.
If you're looking to pick up rewards points, the Chase Sapphire Preferred offers a 50,000 bonus points (about $625 toward travel) if you spend $4,000 within the first three months of opening the card. Chase waives the annual fee for the first year, after which it's $95 annually.
Another way to leverage a credit card during the holiday shopping is to monitor rotating rewards categories on cash-back cards. After a survey of the field, CNBC Make It picked the Chase Freedom card as the best card for holiday shopping at department stores. From October through December, the Chase card offers 5 percent back on spending at stores such as Costco, J.C. Penney, Nordstrom and Macy's.
In general, no matter what card you choose, Patel says it's important to budget appropriately so you're not staring down an unmanageable credit card bill come January. "Be mindful that you've got to pay off those cards in quick succession," Patel says.
The best credit cards for holiday shopping
Like this story? Subscribe to CNBC Make It on YouTube!