Note: Black Friday and Cyber Monday are over, so check out the best credit cards for holiday shopping.
The 2020 holiday season is shaping up to be unusual to say the least, but one thing that remains constant is exchanging gifts with family and friends. But you might not find yourself rushing to your nearest mall to do your shopping this year.
According to Morning Consult's 2020 holiday shopping survey, 47% of consumers will be primarily shopping online this year, 27% will do in-person shopping and the remaining 31% will do a combo of the two. And even though the economy has been tough recently, 49% of holiday shoppers are likely to spend the same amount on gifts this year as they did in 2019.
Still, nearly four in 10 (39%) consumers plan to cut back on their holiday spending. Even if you're not stressing about your holiday shopping budget, it can be good to have a plan for how you're going to pay at checkout. Using the right credit card is key to earning generous rewards and exclusive discounts.
To make your holiday shopping experience less stressful and more affordable, we rounded up eight credit cards that can help you save at popular online marketplaces like Amazon, Target and Walmart, plus department stores and other retailers.
5% cash back on two categories you choose quarterly (on your first $2,000 in combined eligible net purchases each quarter, then 1%); 2% cash back on one everyday category; 1% cash back on everything else
$200 after you spend $500 within the first 90 days of account opening
0% APR for the first 12 billing cycles on balance transfers
13.99% to 23.99% variable*
3%, minimum $5
2% to 3%
Who's this for? Holiday shoppers who like do most of their buying at department stores will want to check out the U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card. The card offers 5% cash back on two categories you choose quarterly (on your first $2,000 in combined eligible net purchases each quarter, then 1%); 2% cash back on one everyday category; 1% cash back on everything else.
You can choose to make department stores a 5% bonus category, which includes Bloomingdale's and Macy's. And for your second 5% bonus category, you can opt for select clothing stores, which includes GAP and Old Navy.
You also get 2% cash back on one everyday category, such as grocery stores or gas stations, and 1% cash back on all other purchases. Cardholders can update their preferences every quarter, so you can change categories based on your needs.
This card also comes with no annual fee and a generous welcome bonus of $200 after you spend $500 within the first 90 days of account opening, which is like earning 30% cash back.
You can also enjoy no interest on balance transfers for 12 billing cycles (after 13.99% to 23.99% variable APR), so if you need to pay off high interest debt, this may be the card for you.
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.
Dollar-for-dollar match of all cash back earned the first year
0% for 14 months on purchases
11.99% - 22.99% Variable
3% intro balance transfer fee, up to 5% fee on future balance transfers (see terms)*
Good / Excellent
Who's this for? If you do most of your shopping online at retailers like Amazon.com, Target.com and Walmart.com, you'll want to consider the Discover it® Cash Back. Cardholders earn 5% cash back in various categories each quarter after they activate bonus categories (on up to $1,500 in purchases, then 1%). Plus, unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases automatically.
The Discover cash-back calendar for the rest of 2020 includes Amazon.com, Target.com and Walmart.com as bonus categories.
This card has no annual fee and a unique welcome bonus where new card members in the first year only have all the cash back they've earned at the end of their first year automatically matched by Discover.
It also offers a competitive introductory 0% APR for the first 14 months on purchases (after, 11.99% to 22.99% variable APR).
4% cash back on eligible gas for the first $7,000 per year (then 1%); 3% cash back on restaurants and eligible travel purchases; 2% cash back on all other purchases from Costco and Costco.com; 1% cash back on all other purchases
No current offer
$0, Costco membership required
N/A for purchases and balance transfers
15.24% variable on purchases and balance transfers
Either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater
Who's this for? Loyal fans of Costco may want to open a Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi to use when holiday shopping this year. Cardholders enjoy many perks, such as a robust rewards program and no fees charged on purchases made abroad.
You can earn 4% cash back on eligible purchases at Costco gas stations for the first $7,000 per year, then 1% (ideal for those road-tripping it this holiday season); 3% cash back on restaurants and eligible travel purchases; 2% cash back on all eligible purchases from Costco and Costco.com; 1% cash back on all other purchases.
There is no annual fee, but a Costco membership is required, which starts at $60 for Gold Star and Business levels, then doubles in price to $120 for Gold Star Executive and Business Executive members.
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
Who's this for? If you plan on shopping at a variety of stores this holiday season, a flat-rate cash-back card can be a simple way to earn competitive cash-back rewards on everything you buy. The Citi® Double Cash Card is a straightforward card that continues to offer one of the best flat-rate cash-back programs since it launched in 2014. Cardholders earn 2% cash back on all purchases — 1% when you make a purchase and an additional 1% when you pay your credit card bill.
There is no limit to the amount of cash back you can earn and you don't have to worry about activating bonus categories. Cash back can be redeemed for a statement credit or direct deposit.
This card is also a good choice for debt consolidation. There's a 0% APR for the first 18 months on balance transfers (then 13.99% to 23.99% variable APR). Just make sure you transfer balances within four months from account opening. There is a 3% balance transfer fee (minimum $5), which can be outweighed by the amount you save on interest. (See more on how to make the most of a balance transfer.)
5X miles on hotel and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel℠, 2X miles per dollar on every other purchase
60,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 on purchases within 3 months of account opening
N/A for purchases and balance transfers
17.24% to 24.49% variable on purchases and balance transfers
3% for promotional APR offers; none for balances transferred at regular APR
Who's this for? If you want to take advantage of travel deals, now is a good time to sign up for a travel credit card. The Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card offers the best rewards rate on select hotel purchases: Earn 10X miles per $1 spent on thousands of hotel bookings on hotels.com/venture through January 2020 (so if you spend $500 on the site, you earn 5,000 miles). If you're looking to take a trip before the end of the year, this is a great way to maximize the amount of miles you can earn.
This card also earns 5X miles on hotel and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel℠ and 2X miles per dollar spent on all other spending, which is a great flat rate. While Venture does come with a $95 annual fee, it's low compared to some other rewards cards, with some annual fees up to $550.
In addition to rewards, every four years cardholders receive a credit for a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application, up to $100. If you travel often, this is a great perk that can save you time and money.
This card charges no foreign transaction fees and comes with a bunch of additional travel perks, such as travel accident insurance, 24-hour travel assistance services and an auto rental collision damage waiver.
4% cash back on dining and entertainment, 2% at grocery stores and 1% on all other purchases
Earn a one-time $300 cash bonus once you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first three months from account opening
0% for the first 12 months on purchases; N/A on balance transfers
15.99% to 24.99% variable
3% for promotional APR offers; none for balances transferred at regular APR
Who's this for? If you prefer to give the gift of experiences, an entertainment rewards card can provide valuable rewards in this category. Sports fans, movie buffs and adventure seekers will all find a common reason to like the Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card: unlimited 4% cash back on entertainment purchases. Compared to other rewards cards, this is the highest unlimited rewards rate on entertainment spending, whether you're buying movie tickets, taking a family trip to the zoo or spending the evening bowling with friends.
Through January 2022, cardholders who buy tickets through Vivid Seats, a ticket resale site, can take advantage of 8% cash back.
Cardholders can also benefit from exclusive access to entertainment events, such as the iHeartRadio Music Festival and the Capital One JamFest.
Beyond entertainment perks, there's also 4% cash back on dining, 2% at grocery stores and 1% on all other purchases. Plus, you can enjoy foodie-centric perks, such as exclusive access to premium reservations with OpenTable.
This card does come with a $95 annual fee, but it can be offset by the cash back you earn.
Earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate (then 1%), 5% cash back on travel booked through the Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3% cash back on dining and at drug stores, 1% cash back on all other purchases
$200 cash back after you spend $500 on purchases in your first three months from account opening
0% for the first 15 months on purchases
14.99% to 23.74% variable
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater
Who's this for? The Chase Freedom Flex℠ has one of the best welcome bonuses around: Earn $200 cash back after you spend $500 on purchases in your first three months from account opening. That's like earning 40% back.
This card can help you maximize cash back in a variety of rotating categories. Cardholders earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate (then 1%) and 1% cash back on all other purchases. The cash-back calendar changes every quarter and currently includes: Wholesale clubs*, cable, internet, and phone services and select streaming services**(activate now through March 14). Learn more about how Chase classifies bonus category purchases.
In addition to rotating rewards, you can earn 5% cash back on travel booked through the Chase Ultimate Rewards® portal, 3% cash back on dining and at drug stores and 1% cash back on all other purchases.
Beyond rewards, you can take advantage of no annual fee and a competitive no-interest period for the first 15 months from account opening on purchases (then 14.99% to 23.74% variable APR).
The Freedom card also provides cell phone protection and select partner benefits, such as 5% cash back on Lyft purchases through March 2022 and complimentary three months of DashPass, plus 50% off for the next nine months when you activate by December 31, 2021. This perk provides you with free delivery on DoorDash orders over $12 and lower service fees.
**Eligible streaming services include: Disney+, Hulu, ESPN+, Netflix, Sling, Vudu, Fubo TV, Apple Music, SiriusXM, Pandora, Spotify and YouTube TV.
2X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1X), 1X Membership Rewards® points per dollar spent on all other purchases
Earn 10,000 Membership Rewards® points after you make $1,000 in purchases in your first 3 months
0% for the first 15 months on purchases, N/A for balance transfers
12.99% to 23.99% variable
Who's this for? If you want to maximize savings with an interest-free financing period, consider a card that has no interest for over a year, such as the Amex EveryDay® Credit Card. You can benefit from no interest for the first 15 months on purchases (then 12.99% to 23.99% variable APR). This is a longer-than-average intro period, providing extra time for you to pay off gifts and other new purchases when you make sizeable, monthly payments toward your balance.
This card also has no annual fee and a strong rewards program: Earn 2X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1X) and 1X Membership Rewards® points per dollar spent on all other purchases. And when you make 20 or more purchases in a billing period you receive 20% extra points.
Cardholders can also take advantage of premium Amex perks, including discounts at select merchants via Amex Offers, car rental loss and damage insurance, free two-day shipping at select online retailers with ShopRunner and cell phone protection.
To determine which cards offer the best value for shoppers during Black Friday or Cyber Monday, CNBC Select analyzed 234 of the most popular credit cards available in the U.S. We compared each card on a range of features, including rewards, 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. We also considered additional perks, the application process and how easy it is for the consumer to redeem points.
We also estimated 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. 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.
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 points/miles for a typical maximum value of 1 cent per point or mile. (Extreme optimizers might be able to achieve more value.)
For rates and fees of the Discover it® Cash Back, click here.