Holiday shopping is in full swing, and the earlier you shop this year the better. Before you starting crossing gifts off of your list, consider how you plan to pay for them. A rewards credit card is a simple and effective way to earn cash back or points on all of your gift purchases.
With the best credit cards, you can earn between 2% to 6% cash back (or 2X to 6X points) on popular gifts, as well as food to fuel your holiday festivities.
To make your holiday shopping experience a bit more affordable, check out these 10 cards that reward everything from electronics and clothing to groceries and takeout.
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
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
3% cash back on goods or services purchased directly from Apple (including Apple retail stores, the Apple online store, the App Store, iTunes, Apple Music and other Apple-owned properties) on Uber and UberEats, at Walgreens and Duane Reade stores, on the Walgreens app and on Walgreens.com, in T-Mobile stores, at Nike, at Exxon and Mobil stations and at Panera Bread, 2% cash back on Apple Pay purchases and 1% cash back on all other purchases
10.99% to 21.99% variable
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%
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
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
4X Membership Rewards® points on restaurants (including takeout and delivery) and at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X), 3X points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com, 1X points on all other purchases
60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases within the first 6 months from account opening
See Pay Over Time APR
See rates and fees
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, 3% cash back on transit including taxis/rideshare, parking, tolls, trains, buses and more and 1% cash back on other purchases
Earn a $250 statement credit after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new card within the first three months
0% for the first 12 months on purchases, N/A for balance transfers
13.99% to 23.99% variable
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
0% for the first 20 billing cycles on balance transfers and purchases
13.99% to 23.99% variable
3%, minimum $5
2% to 3%
There are hundreds of rewards credit cards available, making it tricky to settle on the right one. It's important to take some time to choose the best card for your holiday shopping needs and long-term purchases.
All of the cards on this list are great to use throughout the entire year, so make sure you look at your past purchase history as a whole before settling on one card. You may even want to consider applying for multiple cards to maximize rewards.
First, decide if you're willing to pay an annual fee for a card, since this can help narrow down choices. Rewards cards have annual fees ranging from $0 to $550, which gives you the flexibility to choose the card that makes sense for your budget. Do the math to see if an annual fee is within your budget and if it can be outweighed by the card's benefits.
Next you should figure out what type of rewards you want to earn, and if you want a simple rewards program or one that may require some work. If you want a straightforward option, consider a card like the Citi® Double Cash Card, which offers a flat cash back rate on all purchases.
If you want to maximize rewards in common spending categories, such as dining and groceries, consider bonus rewards cards that offer over 2%/2X back on certain eligible purchases and may require activation. (Learn how credit card issuers classify purchases for bonus rewards.)
Once you're familiar with the terms of your card, you can start to take full advantage of them. If you have a premium card like the American Express® Gold Card, set reminders to use the monthly $10 dining credit. Amex, Bank of America and Chase cardholders can activate various shopping discounts at apparel and dining retailers so you can earn extra rewards or statement credits.
And many of the cards mentioned above like the U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card include intro 0% APRs that allow you to pay for purchases over time, without expensive interest charges.
|Category||General shopping||Amazon.com; Target.com and Walmart.com||Apple products||Department stores||Wholesale clubs||Entertainment||Restaurants; takeout and delivery||Groceries||Welcome bonus||Intro 0% APR period|
|Credit Card||Citi® Double Cash Card||Discover it® Cash Back||Apple Card||U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card||Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi||Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card||American Express® Gold Card||Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express||Chase Freedom Flex℠||U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card|
|See below for our methodology||Learn MoreOn Citi's secure site||Learn MoreOn Discover's secure site||Learn MoreInformation about the Apple Card has been collected independently by CNBC and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of the card prior to publication.||Learn MoreInformation about the U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card has been collected independently by CNBC and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of the card prior to publication.||Learn MoreOn Citi's secure site||Learn MoreInformation about the Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card has been collected independently by CNBC and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of the card prior to publication.||Learn MoreOn the American Express secure site||Learn MoreOn the American Express secure site||Learn MoreOn Chase's secure site||Learn MoreInformation about the U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card has been collected independently by CNBC and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of the card prior to publication.|
To determine which credit cards offer the best value, CNBC Select analyzed 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.
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.
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.
For rates and fees of the Discover it® Cash Back, click here.