Amazon is kick-starting this year's holiday shopping season early with its two-day Prime Day sale event on Oct. 13 and Oct. 14.
Prime Day is normally held in the summer, but due to the coronavirus pandemic, the company pushed it back to October this year.
You have to be an Amazon Prime member to take advantage of Prime Day deals. If you're not already a member, it's free to join for 30 days, after which it's $12.99 per month or $119 per year.
Shoppers with an active Prime subscription can access bargains equivalent to what you could expect during Black Friday — except more than one month early. If you're planning to take advantage of Prime Day this year, consider using a credit card with rewards or cash back to capitalize on your savings even more.
CNBC Select crunched the numbers to find out which cards provides the biggest benefit for Prime Day shoppers. With just two weeks to Prime Day, now's the time to apply.
Here are the best cards for Amazon shopping this Prime Day.
5% cash back at Amazon.com and Whole Foods Market; 2% back at restaurants, gas stations and drugstores; 1% back on all other purchases
$100 Amazon.com gift card upon approval
$0 (but Prime membership is required)
14.24% to 22.24% variable
5%, $5 minimum
The Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card, offered through Chase, rewards users with the highest unlimited cash-back rate of the Amazon branded credit cards. You get a robust 5% cash back for all purchases made at both Amazon.com and Whole Foods.
In addition, you can get 2% cash back on purchases made at restaurants, gas stations and drugstores. All other purchases earn 1% cash back.
If you've been waiting for a reason to sign up for the $119 Amazon Prime membership, this card might be the deciding factor: New cardholders can get a $100 Amazon.com gift card that helps to offset the $119 annual membership. Unlike other welcome bonuses that require a minimum spend to cash in, this $100 gift card is yours instantly upon approval.
5% back on Amazon.com
$10 Amazon gift card upon approval
Pay no interest on all Amazon purchases of $150 or more if the entire purchase amount is paid in full within 6, 12 or 24 months
The Amazon Prime Store Card, available to those with a Prime membership, earns you 5% back on Amazon.com purchases but, unlike the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card and Amazon Rewards Visa Signature Card, you do not earn cash back at Whole Foods, restaurants, gas stations, drugstores or any other purchase.
However, there's an added benefit to this card, if you're looking for ways to pay for your holiday shopping over time: Cardholders have the option to forgo 5% cash back on their Amazon purchase over $150 in exchange for the ability to pay for their purchases over six, 12 or 24 months with 0% interest.
You need to be careful with this card: In order to avoid interest charges, you must make equal payments on time and in the full amount each month. If you don't pay off the full amount by the end of your promotional period, you will have to pay deferred interest.
For example, say you purchase a new laptop for $700, you could split the payments up over 12 months, at roughly $59 per month. But if you take advantage of the financing, you wouldn't receive the 5% cash-back reward (worth $35) on that $700 purchase.
If you do decide to take advantage of the interest-free financing, make sure you have a plan to pay off the balance in full before the promotional period ends so you don't get whacked with high interest charges, thereby undoing any savings you enjoyed shopping during the Prime Day event.
3% cash back at Amazon.com and Whole Foods Market; 2% back at restaurants, gas stations and drugstores; 1% back on all other purchases
$50 Amazon.com gift card upon approval
14.24% to 22.24% variable
5%, $5 minimum
If you don't have an Amazon Prime membership but still frequently use the website to shop, another option is the Amazon Rewards Visa Signature Card. To take advantage of Prime Day deals, sign up for a free 30-day trial membership and consider applying for the Amazon Rewards Visa Signature card, which doesn't require you to have a Prime membership.
This credit card offers 3% back at Amazon and Whole Foods, along with 2% back at restaurants, gas stations and drugstores and 1% on all other purchases, so you can earn plenty of rewards even if you're not an everyday Amazon shopper.
New cardholders get a $50 Amazon gift card once their application is approved. There's also no foreign transaction fees and a few travel benefits, including travel accident insurance, auto rental collision damage waiver and lost luggage reimbursement.
If you later decide to become a Prime member, you'll be upgraded to the Prime version of this card, but you won't qualify for the $100 Amazon gift card welcome bonus.
5X points on Lyft rides through March 2022, 2X points on travel and dining worldwide, 1X points on all other purchases
80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening — worth up to $1,000 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
15.99% to 22.99% variable on purchases and balance transfers
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater
If you want to stick with a premium credit card that earns you rewards on all spending (not just Amazon and Whole Foods), and you love to travel, consider the Chase Sapphire Preferred® card.
If you're planning to spend big money during Prime Day, it could be a good way to help you earn Sapphire Preferred card's current elevated welcome bonus: New Sapphire Preferred cardholders can earn 80,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening. It even outpaces the Chase Sapphire Reserve®'s 50,000-point bonus and comes with a more manageable $95 annual fee.
This offer is the highest ever for the Preferred card and only running for a limited time, though the end date is unknown. It's only available to consumers who don't have any Sapphire cards (Preferred or Reserve) and haven't received a new card member bonus for either Sapphire cards in the past 48 months. (Read about the eligibility requirements.)
2% cash back: 1% on all purchases and an additional 1% after you pay your credit card bill
No current offer
0% for the first 18 months on balance transfers; N/A for purchases
13.99% - 23.99% variable on purchases and balance transfers
3%, minimum $5
The Citi® Double Cash Card is for shoppers who want to maximize their money by earning 2% cash back on all spending everywhere (not just Amazon and Whole Foods).
Here's how it works: Earn 1% cash back on purchases and 1% when you pay off your bill. That makes the card's appeal almost universal, as there's no hoops to jump through or bonus categories to keep track of.
There's also no annual fee and no limit to how much cash back you can earn. Cardholders can redeem cash back for checks or statement credits once they've earned $25 worth of cash back. If you forget to pay your card, Citi will waive your first late fee — though we don't recommend getting into the habit of this.
Although this card doesn't come with a welcome bonus, cardholders can benefit from 0% APR for the first 18 months on balance transfers (then a 13.99% to 23.99% variable APR). You have to initiate your balance transfer within 4 months of opening an account.
In addition to cash-back rewards, Citi Entertainment℠, gives cardholders first access to purchase tickets for thousands of concerts and events. The card also provides access to Citi® Identity Theft Solutions, a service that will help you if you're a victim of identity theft.
1.5% cash back on all purchases
Many of the best cash-back cards require good or excellent credit, but there are some options for people with fair/average credit that offer good cash-back rates.
One example is the Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card that gives consumers a competitive 1.5% cash back on all purchases, with no limit on the amount of cash back you can earn.
Since this card is for people with average credit score, you might not get a high credit limit right away. However, Capital One is known for giving cardmembers access to a higher credit limit after making their first five monthly payments on time.
Cash back can be redeemed at any amount, without the typical $25 minimum some other cards set.
There is a $39 annual fee for this card, but the average American can earn $289 a year in cash back by using it for everyday expenses (and $1,444 over five years). This is more than enough to offset the fee.
Plus, there are no foreign transaction fees if you use this card abroad. You can also benefit from travel accident insurance, auto rental collision damage waiver and 24-hour travel assistance services.
To determine which Amazon and premium credit cards will put the most money back in your pocket, CNBC Select evaluated 50 rewards and cash-back cards, including Amazon credit cards, offered by the biggest banks, financial companies and credit unions that allow anyone to join. We compared each card on a range of features, including cash-back rewards, annual fee, welcome bonus, introductory and standard APR, balance transfer fee and foreign transaction fees, as well as factors such as required credit and customer reviews when available.
CNBC Select teamed up with location intelligence firm Esri. The company's data development team provided the most up-to-date and comprehensive consumer spending data based on the 2019 Consumer Expenditure Surveys from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. You can read more about their methodology here.
Esri's data team created a sample annual budget of approximately $22,126 in retail spending. The budget includes six main categories: groceries ($5,174), gas ($2,218), dining out ($3,675), travel ($2,244), utilities ($4,862) and general purchases ($3,953). General purchases include items such as housekeeping supplies, clothing, personal care products, prescription drugs and vitamins, and other vehicle expenses.
CNBC Select used this budget to estimate how much the average consumer would save over the course of a year, two years and five years, assuming they would attempt to maximize their rewards potential by earning all welcome bonuses offered and using the card for all applicable purchases. All rewards total estimations are net the annual fee.
It's important to note the value of a point or mile varies from card to card and based on how you redeem them. When we calculated the estimated returns, we assumed that cardholders are redeeming cash back for a typical maximum value of 1 cent per point or mile. (Extreme optimizers might be able to achieve more value.)
Our final picks are weighted heavily toward the highest five-year returns, since it's generally wise to hold onto a credit card for years. This method also avoids giving an unfair advantage to cards with large welcome bonuses.
While the five-year estimates we've included are derived from a budget similar to the average American's spending, you may earn a higher or lower return depending on your shopping habits.