The holiday season is upon us, and Americans plan on spending an average of $1,048 on gifts, food, decorations and more, according to research from the National Retail Federation. That's a good chunk of money, and if you use the right credit card to make all these purchases, you could also earn some significant rewards.
The best credit cards can earn you at least 2X rewards on all you holiday shopping. For example, the Citi® Double Cash Card earns an effective 2% cash back: 1% on all purchases and an additional 1% after you pay your credit card bill. This can earn you roughly $21 in rewards on holiday shopping, assuming you spend $1,048 and you pay off your balance at the end of your billing cycle.
Below, CNBC Select breaks down the best ways to make the most of using your credit card this holiday season.
If you're looking for a credit card to earn rewards with this holiday season, there are hundreds of options. The best credit card for you depends on what type of holiday shopping you plan on doing — there's no one size fits all card. We've listed some questions below to help you decide which credit card is the best choice for your upcoming spending.
If you already have a hoard of credit card rewards — whether it's cash back, points or miles — now can be a good time to use them for all your holiday purchases. Rewards can be redeemed in a variety of ways, from gift cards to travel.
The value of cash back, points or miles varies based on how you redeem them, but we've outlined four common redemption options below so you can choose the best one(s) for your needs.
Gift cards are one of the simplest redemption options. And that can be a smart way to use your rewards in part because gift cards are the number-one wish list request for nearly six in ten (59%) consumers, according to the National Retail Federation's annual holiday survey.
Card issuers typically set minimum redemption amounts for gift cards, usually at least $25. Many rewards portals allow you to get gift cards for major department stores, such as Macy's and Bloomingdale's; electronics stores such as Best Buy; restaurants such as The Cheesecake Factory; and more.
Statement credit redemptions can be a good choice since it can reduce the overall cost of your bill. Just remember that when you redeem your rewards or cash back for a statement credit, you're still required to make the minimum payment. Beware that statement credit redemptions are the best choice for cash-back credit cards but not necessarily rewards credit cards. You'll typically only get a 70% value with rewards card points or miles that are redeemed for statement credits versus cash-back cards, which offer a 100% value.
Travel is a good redemption choice, especially if you have certain travel cards that offer bonus value on points redeemed through the card issuer's portal. The Chase Sapphire Reserve® offers 50% more value on points redeemed for travel on Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 50,000 points are worth $750 toward airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruise reservations when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. This is a great way to maximize the value of your rewards.
Merchandise is generally not the best choice for rewards redemptions since it often takes more points or miles to cover the cost of an item than buying it in stores or online. It can be more cost effective to redeem rewards for a gift card, then use that gift card to purchase the merchandise. Or you can apply rewards as a statement credit after making the purchase.
Information about the Chase Sapphire Reserve® and PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature® Card has been collected independently by CNBC and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of the cards prior to publication.