Best credit cards to use for Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping
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It’s that time of year again! Two of the most popular days for holiday shopping during the year are Black Friday and Cyber Monday. In recent years, retailers have expanded sales beyond just these two dates, which gives you even more opportunities to grab great deals as holiday gifts (including gifts to yourself).
When you are taking advantage of various limited-time deals, be sure that you’re maximizing your points and mileage earnings on these purchases. Today, I’m walking through the best credit cards to use on your Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping sprees, as well as a few tips to earn even more on every purchase.
(No longer open to new applicants)
Annual fee: $0
Rewards rate: Earn 5% back on up to $1,500 in quarterly rotating categories (fourth quarter 2019 categories are department stores, PayPal and Chase Pay).
My top card pick for 2019 Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping is the Chase Freedom. Throughout the fourth quarter, you’ll earn 5% back at department stores and on purchases made with PayPal and Chase Pay. Department stores are a common and popular in-store and online shopping category for holiday shopping, which automatically makes this a top card to use. But the ability to use Chase Pay and PayPal to earn that 5% means you should be able to maximize purchases at a wide range of retailers, including a lot of online shopping sites which have PayPal as a payment option. Just make sure you have your Chase Freedom has your primary method of payment in your PayPal account. Mobile wallets like Chase Pay are accepted at a sizeable number of brick-and-mortar retailers, too.
Plus, if you also have an Ultimate Rewards card such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, that 5% back turns into 5x Ultimate Rewards points, which doubles the value of your rewards.
APPLY HERE: Chase Freedom
Discover it Cash Back
Annual fee: $0
Rewards rate: Enroll every quarter to earn 5% back on up to $1,500 spent on purchases in quarterly rotating categories (fourth quarter 2019 categories are Walmart.com, Target and Amazon).
Another rotating category rewards card is the Discover it Cash Back, which is great option for Black Friday and Cyber Monday — especially for online specials. Walmart.com, Target and Amazon — the three massive retailers earning 5% back this quarter (after enrollment and on up to $1,500 spent on purchases per quarter) — 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: $95
Rewards rate: Earn 2x miles on every purchase.
The Venture earns 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. Capital One miles can be redeemed as a statement for travel purchases or through one of their transfer partners.
APPLY HERE: Capital One Venture
Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card from American express
Annual fee: $95, waived the first year
Rewards rate: 1.5x on every purchase when you make more than 30 transactions in a billing period; 3x at U.S. supermarkets (up to $6,00 per year); 2x at U.S. gas stations.
The Amex EveryDay® Preferred doesn’t have a set bonus category that applies to Black Friday or Cyber Monday shopping, but it does come with a benefit that can help you still earn rewards on holiday shopping. When you use your card more than 30 times in a billing period, you earn 50% extra rewards across all of the purchases made during that time. So even though department stores, superstores like Target and other common Black Friday and Cyber Monday retailers don’t earn automatic bonus rewards, you can still earn 1.5% back on that spending. Plus, the Amex EveryDay Preferred earns valuable Membership Rewards points worth 2 cents each. That’s a 3% return when you use your card more than 30 times in a billing period.
The information for the Amex EveryDay Preferred 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.
Annual fee: $0
Rewards rate: Earn 2% back on every purchase — 1% when you buy and 1% when you pay your bill.
The last card on my list earns a spot for its simplicity; the Citi® Double Cash Card offers a flat 1% back on every purchases plus another 1% back when you pay your bill. While that return on everyday purchases doesn’t compare to the potential returns highlighted on some of the cards above, this is automatic and results in cold, hard cash in your pocket. With seemingly constant devaluations in the world of loyalty programs and the complexity of booking award tickets, many shoppers may simply want some money back on purchases.
You can now also convert your cash back into ThankYou rewards, which further increases the value of the rewards earned with this card.
APPLY HERE: Citi Double Cash Card
Tips to further maximize purchases
Utilize Amex Offers
If you have an Amex card, leverage their fantastic program for maximizing your earnings: Amex Offers. Any American Express-issued card is eligible, and the program offers discounts or bonus points on purchases at select merchants. The offers are targeted but can be quite lucrative, and many are applicable to both in-store (Black Friday) and online (Cyber Monday) purchases.
To see what offers are available to you, log in to your Amex account and scroll down to the Amex Offers & Benefits section. You’ll see a half-dozen options initially, but then click “View All” to expand the entire list. When you find an offer you want, click “Add to Card” to activate it. Remember to check all of your American Express cards, from The Platinum Card® from American Express to the Amex EveryDay Preferred Card from American Express, as you’ll often find deals specific to each one.
Amex Offers can make a card that doesn’t typically offer bonus rewards at certain stores (think your Amex Platinum or the American Express® Gold Card) worth using while you shop. For example, my Amex Gold currently has offers for a number of retailers like eBags, bareMinerals, Soma and J. Crew — 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. Many of these even offer regular bonuses for reaching certain thresholds of spending. I typically start at a shopping portal aggregator 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, and since Amex Offers are generally issued by American Express directly (rather than via a promo code), you should also be able to stack those discounts or bonuses.
For example, let’s say you want to hit up Macy’s Cyber Monday sale to grab a last-minute dress for the 2019 TPG Awards and a few holiday gifts for friends and family members. You can use your Chase Freedom to earn 5% back (or 5x if you also hold an Ultimate Rewards card) on department store purchases including Macy’s. Let’s say there’s also a Chase Offer (Chase’s version of the Amex Offers program) 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 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 do have an Ultimate Rewards card, that actually ends up being $80 in earned rewards for a 32% return on spending.
Using Black Friday/Cyber Monday to hit welcome bonus spending requirements
If you just applied for a new card with a welcome bonus spending requirement, holiday shopping is 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 Aspire Card from American Express. That card has a 150,000-point welcome bonus, 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 bonuses (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.
The information for the Hilton Aspire Amex 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.
Black Friday and Cyber Monday represent enormous shopping days here in the U.S., making them excellent opportunities to rack up rewards going into the holiday season. Whether you prefer to brave the stores 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 image by Heidi Sandstrom via Unsplash.
Additional reporting by Nick Ewen.
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