Best cards to use for Black Friday shopping in 2020
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Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here – Chase Freedom Flex
Editor’s note: This is a recurring post, updated with new information and card details. This page also includes information about the Discover it Cash Back that is not currently available on The Points Guy and may be out of date.
It’s that time of year again! Black Friday shopping was somewhat of a tradition with my family when I was little. I’d get up early with my mom and aunt, we’d go “just the girls” to Target, Walmart, Dillards, Sears and every other store that was open at the crack of dawn. My mom and aunt would have lists and they would divide and conquer to get everything they needed. I was just happy to be along for the ride.
As I’ve gotten older, “Black Friday” has expanded beyond just Friday and beyond in-person shopping to online deals, too. My mom and aunt still go Black Friday shopping, but it’s definitely a different experience now. And that’s doubly true in 2020 thanks to the coronavirus pandemic.
But while Black Friday may look a little different this year, there are still plenty of ways to maximize your purchases by using the right credit cards. Here’s a rundown of a few of the best cards to use on your holiday Black Friday shopping this year.
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Chase Freedom Flex
Annual fee: $0
- Earn 5% back on up to $1,500 in quarterly rotating categories (Q4 2020 categories are Walmart and PayPal)
- 5% back on travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards
- 5% back on Lyft through March 2022
- 3% back on drugstores
- 3% back on dining
- 1% back on everything else
When to use this card:
The new Chase Freedom Flex offers 5% back on Walmart and PayPal during Q4 2020, making it perfect for any Black Friday shopping done at Walmart or online where PayPal is accepted. Walmart frequently has excellent Black Friday deals (both online and in-store), and PayPal is accepted at millions of retailers. Right now, new cardholders will also get $200 after spending $500 in the first three months (and 5% back on the first $12,000 spent on groceries in the first year — perfect for any additional grocery shopping you may be doing for the holiday season).
Plus, if you also have an Ultimate Rewards card such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, the rewards earned with the Freedom Flex can be converted into Ultimate Rewards points, which doubles the value of your earnings.
Annual fee: $95
Rewards rate: Earn 5x on hotel stays and car rentals booked through Capital One with the card, plus 2x miles on all other purchases.
When to use this card:
The Venture earns at least 2x miles on every single purchase, no matter when or where. That means you’ll be earning solid rewards both in-store and online. Better yet, TPG values Venture Miles at 1.4 cents each, so you’re really getting a 2.8% return on all expenses (valuation not provided by the issuer). Capital One miles can be redeemed as a statement credit for eligible purchases or through one of their transfer partners. The Venture is perfect for the purchases that won’t earn rewards with your other credit cards.
Annual fee: $0
Rewards rate: Enroll every quarter to earn 5% back on up to $1,500 spent on purchases in quarterly rotating categories (Q4 2020 categories are Walmart.com, Target.com, Amazon.com and BestBuy).
When to use this card:
If you’re planning on shopping online at Target, Walmart, Amazon or Best Buy, the Discover it Cash Back could be a great option for earning cash back this Black Friday. All of these retailers are famous for their holiday shopping deals, making them prime time locations for Black Friday and Cyber Monday shoppers. Better yet, Discover will match the cash back you earn at the end of your first year. So if you’re a new cardholder this holiday season, you’re effectively earning 10% back on bonus category purchases and 2% on non-bonus spending.
Annual fee: $550
Rewards rate: Earn 10x on Lyft through March 2022, 3x on groceries (up to $1,000 per month) through April 2021, 3x on dining and travel, 1x on everything else
When to use this card:
While the Chase Sapphire Reserve doesn’t earn bonus rewards at typical Black Friday stores like Walmart or Target, travelers using Black Friday to take advantage of travel deals can take advantage of the CSR’s 3x on travel. Chase defines “travel” broadly, meaning you can earn 3x rewards on a wide range of travel expenses. For example, Starting Nov. 27, Alaska offers some of its lowest Black Friday fares ever, as low as $29 one-way. With the Chase Sapphire Reserve, you can earn 3x on all of those flights.
Of course, the card has a number of other stellar perks, including a $300 travel credit, Doordash and Lyft benefits, amazing travel protections, Priority Pass lounge access, and more. And the points you’ll earn with this card are Ultimate Rewards Points — one of the most valuable rewards currencies out there.
Tips to further maximize purchases
Utilize Amex and Chase Offers
If you have an Amex or Chase card, leverage their fantastic programs for maximizing your earnings: Amex Offers and Chase Offers. The offers are targeted but can be quite lucrative, and many are applicable to both in-store (Black Friday) and online (Cyber Monday) purchases.
These programs can make a card that doesn’t typically offer bonus rewards at certain stores (think your Chase Sapphire Reserve or the American Express® Gold Card) worth using while you shop non-travel Black Friday deals. For example, my Amex Gold currently has offers for several retailers such as eBags, bareMinerals, and Soma — all of which are on my shopping list for either gifts or items I want for myself. I’ll be able to earn either cash back statement credits or additional Membership Rewards when I use my Amex Gold to shop. That makes it worth using on those purchases, even though I wouldn’t typically get rewards at any of those places.
Don’t forget to use shopping portals
When shopping online for online Black Friday deals or Cyber Monday, make sure you’re going through a shopping portal in addition to using a great credit card so that you’re double-dipping (or potentially even triple-dipping) on rewards. Some credit card issuers, airlines and even a few third-party sites will offer ways to earn additional points, miles or cash back rebates on every purchase. All you have to do is go through their link to shop on the sites you love. I typically start at a shopping portal aggregator such as CashBackMonitor.com to compare earning rates across these sites and then select the one that works best for me.
Note that these bonuses will be in addition to the standard earning rates on the cards above; you should also be able to stack those discounts or bonuses.
For example, let’s say you want to hit up Macy’s Black Friday sale to grab a few holiday gifts for friends and family members. You can use your Chase Freedom Flex to earn 5% back (or 5x if you also hold an Ultimate Rewards card) when you use PayPal at checkout. Let’s say there’s also a Chase Offer for Macy’s where you get 15% back on one purchase. As a cherry on top, Macy’s is currently offering 5x miles through the AAdvantage shopping portal. On a $250 purchase, here’s what your earnings look like:
- Chase Freedom Flex 5% back (or 5x): $12.50 (or 1,250 Ultimate Rewards points worth $15)
- Chase Offer 15% back: $37.50
- AAdvantage shopping portal 5x miles: 1,250 (worth $17.50)
That’s $62.50 in earned rewards or a 27% return on spending. If you have an Ultimate Rewards card, that actually ends up being $80 in earned rewards for a 32% return on spending.
Using Black Friday to hit sign-up bonus spending requirements
If you just applied for a new card with a sign-up bonus spending requirement, holiday shopping is also a good opportunity to help you hit those spending thresholds. While I definitely don’t suggest overspending what you would normally just to hit a welcome bonus, whether you have a spending requirement to hit could help determine which card to use.
Let’s say you’ve had a Capital One Venture Card for a little over a year, but you’ve just been approved for a Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card. That card has a 150,000-point welcome offer, but you need to spend $4,000 in purchases in the first three months to earn it. It’s always ideal to try and use bonus category purchases to hit welcome offers (so that you’re earning bonus rewards on top of the bonus), but that may not be feasible for this card if you don’t have any large Hilton or eligible travel purchases coming up that would earn 14x or 7x with the card.
Enter your Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping plans. Generally, I’d recommend using your Venture on those purchases to earn 2x miles (worth more than the 3x points you’d earn with the Hilton Aspire). But if your holiday shopping will be the deciding factor on whether you can hit that 150,000-point bonus, it’s more than worth it to put your Black Friday and Cyber Monday purchases on the Aspire.
Black Friday represents an enormous shopping day here in the U.S., making it an excellent opportunity to rack up rewards going into the holiday season. Whether you prefer to brave the stores (with a mask and an abundance of hand sanitizer, of course) or handle your shopping online while curled up with hot cocoa (where you’ll find me during the holiday shopping craziness) or even do both, there are many ways to make the most of your purchases this holiday season.
Featured photo by David L. Ryan/The Boston Globe via Getty Images
Additional reporting by Nick Ewen.
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- Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
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