The best credit cards for holiday purchases
Editor’s note: This is a recurring post, regularly updated with new information.
During the holiday shopping season, you may have a long list of presents to buy for your family and friends. Since you’re reading The Points Guy, I certainly hope that you’re giving careful consideration to which credit cards earn you the best rewards and protections for these purchases.
Today, I want to go through my list of the top cards to use when you buy gifts during the holiday season.
It’s important to note that this list is not exhaustive but instead takes a look at a variety of cards that may appeal to numerous readers out there. Everyone has their own criteria for deciding which card is best for holiday shopping, so be sure to crunch the numbers based on your own unique situation.
That said, here are our top picks for your gift purchases during the holiday season.
Best credit cards for holiday purchases
- Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card: Best for flexible rewards.
- Chase Freedom Flex: Best for rotating rewards.
- Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature: Best for Amazon purchases.
- American Express® Gold Card: Best for purchase protection.
- Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card: Best for cash back on online shopping.
- Citi® Double Cash Card (see rates and fees): Best for simplicity.
The information for the Amazon Prime Visa Signature card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
The Capital One Venture Rewards is a great option for those who want to earn flexible rewards without worrying about different spending category bonuses. The Venture Rewards accrues 2 miles per dollar spent on all eligible purchases — ensuring that you earn bonus points no matter if you’re buying stocking stuffers or perusing the Cyber Monday deals.
There’s also flexibility in how you redeem those miles you earn. You can use your miles to “pay” yourself back for travel booked in the past 90 days. Or, you can transfer your miles to over 15-plus airline and hotel loyalty programs to book new travel. You can also redeem miles for gift cards or statement credits for eligible purchases, although your best option is to transfer them to airline or hotel partners.
Related: How to use your Capital One miles for maximum value
Chase Freedom Flex
Whether you’re more of a traditional brick-and-mortar shopper or prefer buying online, you’ll enjoy 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in new bonus categories each quarter you activate with the Chase Freedom Flex.
While 5% cash back sounds great, experienced points and miles hobbyists know that the Chase Freedom Flex is not just a cash-back card. When it’s paired with a premium Chase card that earns full Ultimate Rewards points — such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card or the Chase Sapphire Reserve — that cash back can be converted to much more valuable Ultimate Rewards points, which you can transfer to partners including United Airlines and Hyatt.
TPG values Ultimate Rewards points for travel at 2 cents apiece, so that’s why combining the Freedom Flex (or Chase Freedom Unlimited) with the Sapphire Reserve and the Ink Business Preferred Credit Card creates a formidable points-earning machine.
If you don’t carry this card already, Chase Freedom Flex is offering new cardholders a $200 cash-back bonus after you spend $500 in the first three months with the card.
Related: 5 ways to maximize the new Chase Freedom Flex promotion to earn up to 19,500 bonus points this quarter
Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature
If you’re a regular Amazon shopper, the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature is the card for you, with no annual fee (though it requires an Amazon Prime membership at $139 a year).
With Black Friday and Cyber Monday coming, you want a card that gives you the biggest bang for your holiday shopping buck. The Amazon Prime Visa offers 5% cash back on all Amazon and Whole Foods purchases, 2% on restaurants, gas stations and drugstore purchases and 1% back on everything else.
If you don’t have the card already, new applicants will get a $150 Amazon gift card instantly upon approval, helping you lower the cost of your holiday shopping expenses from the get-go.
Related: Best credit cards for Amazon purchases
American Express® Gold Card
Without a question, the Amex Gold is one of the best cards for foodies. With a 4-point-per-dollar earning rate at U.S. supermarkets (up to $25,000 spent per calendar year, then 1 point per dollar) and restaurants worldwide, 3 points per dollar on flights booked directly or through Amex Travel and 1 point per dollar on all other eligible purchases, this card can provide some lucrative earnings for everyday purchases.
While the earning rate for non-bonus purchases just yields 1 point per dollar, you may want to consider paying with the Amex Gold this holiday season for its strong purchase protection policy. Eligible items will come with up to $10,000 in coverage for theft, damage or loss within the first 90 days of purchase.* That’s considerable, especially if you’re buying big-ticket items this holiday season like electronics or furniture.
The Amex Gold also comes with an extended warranty, which prolongs a U.S. manufacturer’s warranty by an additional year on eligible warranties of three years or less.*
You’ll never know when you need to rely on these protections, but they can be quite valuable and may be worth sacrificing the bonus points you’d earn from the other cards on this list.
Related: Use these cards to maximize large purchases
*Eligibility and benefit levels vary by card. Terms, conditions and limitations apply. Visit americanexpress.com/benefitsguide for details. Policies are underwritten by AMEX Assurance Company.
Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card
If you have the ability to park a significant amount of your investments and savings at Bank of America or Merrill, the Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card is a great option for holiday purchases.
While the card comes with reasonable (though not earth-shattering) earning rates of 2 points per dollar spent on travel and dining and 1.5 points per dollar spent on all purchases (which can be redeemed at the rate of 1 cent per point), the real value of this card comes when you can make it to either the Platinum or Platinum Honors award tiers in Bank of America’s separate Preferred Rewards banking program. By doing so, the everyday earning rate on this card can jump all the way to 2.625 points for every dollar spent, making it a terrific choice for holiday gifts.
The Bank of America Premium Rewards card is currently offering a sign-up bonus of 50,000 points if you make at least $3,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening. Additionally, the card comes with an up to $100 statement credit towards TSA PreCheck, Global Entry and an annual up to $100 statement credit towards airline incidentals — all for a $95 annual fee.
Related: 5 reasons to get the Bank of America Premium Rewards credit card
Citi® Double Cash Card
The final card on my list earns a spot in part for its simplicity. The Citi Double Cash Card (see rates and fees) offers a flat 1% back on every purchase plus another 1% back as you pay your bill (up to a 2% total return).
While this return rate on everyday purchases doesn’t compare to the potential returns highlighted above, this is automatic, and it results in cold, hard cash in your account. For many shoppers, a no-annual-fee card like this fits the bill.
Holiday purchases can also be an excellent way to meet the minimum spending requirement on a new credit card, as long as you do it responsibly. There are a lot of great welcome offers to consider. We have curated a list of the latest bonuses here, so check it out to see if there are any you might want to work toward this holiday season.
Plus, some of your current credit cards may offer a calendar-year bonus or additional benefits for spending a certain amount of money on the card, so if you’re closing in on any of those, it might make sense to concentrate your holiday spending on them.
In addition to ensuring that you’re using the right credit cards, it’s critical that you go through an online shopping portal to maximize your earnings. The best thing about online shopping portals is that you don’t have to use a specific card for the purchases.
My favorite site for deciding which portal to use is CashBackMonitor, as it will compare the earning rates for a given merchant across a variety of different shopping portals. I also like to download the browser extension of my preferred shopping portal so that I never forget to activate the extra earnings.
There are many ways to make the most of your purchases during the holiday season. However, every points and miles enthusiast has his or her own way of figuring out the best card to swipe at checkout, so you may have a card that earns more desirable rewards or will help you hit a calendar year threshold bonus.
Remember that many online purchases can become even more lucrative by going through an online shopping portal, which will give you additional points or miles (or cash back) just for clicking through the site.
Official application link: Capital One Venture.
Official application link: Chase Freedom Flex.
Official application link: American Express Gold.
Official application link: Bank of America Premium Rewards Card.
Official application link: Citi Double Cash Card.
Additional reporting by Ryan Wilcox, Stella Shon and Benét J. Wilson.