How to Choose the Best Credit Card for Holiday Shopping

Rachel Morey
October 31, 2017
Holiday Shopping Credit Cards

For many people, the winter holiday season means extra spending. Gifts, celebratory meals, hosting parties, and travel expenses add up quickly. A report released by Magnify Money states that for consumers who add debt during the holidays, the average amount is $950. Over half of Americans charge holiday expenses to a credit card. Nearly 30% used store cards for purchases.

Choosing the right credit card for holiday shopping is important to maximize rewards and minimize long-term debt accumulation. Shoppers with excellent credit who plan to carry a balance should consider a card with a long 0% APR introductory offer. The Citi Simplicity Card offers 21 months at 0% APR and no late fees ever. The Citi Diamond Preferred Card also offers 21 months with 0% APR. With this card, there are also City Easy Deal points awarded with each card purchase. They are redeemable for rewards like gift cards and travel tickets.

The Chase Freedom card offers a 5% cash back rate up to $1,500 on bonus categories and 1% cash back on every other purchase. There’s no annual fee with this card. It’s a solid option for people who plan to pay off their balance every month.

Getting approved for credit cards with the best cash back and rewards programs often requires good or excellent credit. There are some rewards programs available for consumers with lower scores, however. For credit scores in the high 600s, the Discover it Miles card offers a good rewards program without an annual fee. Cardholders get 1.5 miles for every dollar spent with the card. New card members get their rewards doubled at the end of their first year.

One of the best options for cash back rewards for consumers with credit scores in the high 600 range is the Chase Freedom credit card. There’s a 5% cash back reward on up to $1,500 in purchases in rotating quarterly categories.

There is one solid option for people with poor credit scores who would like a cash back card with a reputable company. The secured card from Discover it® offers 2% cash back at restaurants and gas stations and 1% cash back on all other purchases. At the end of the first year, the cash back doubles automatically. There’s no annual fee. Discover evaluates card holders during their eighth month with the company to determine if they are eligible for a refund of the security deposit.

When searching for a rewards card for average or poor credit, pay close attention to the interest rate if you plan to carry a balance. Annual fees may cancel out any potential rewards, as well. As with all credit cards, when building or repairing credit, it’s important to keep overall credit utilization below 30% of the total credit limit. The best way to do this is to simply pay off the balance before the due date each month.

Store cards, which sometimes have lower qualifications standards and tempting introductory offers, also charge interest rates above 20%. Recently, Comenity Bank changed their terms of service so that interest begins accruing on the same day the card holder makes a purchase with the card. This makes it nearly impossible to avoid paying interest on purchases.

Comenity Bank manages in-store credit cards for many companies, including Younkers, Buckle, Victoria’s Secret, Pottery Barn, Children’s Place, and J. Crew. Their list of store cards includes 163 brands. Using credit cards to finance holiday shopping is a common practice. With some careful decision making, it’s possible to avoid expensive annual fees and interest charges while collecting valuable bonuses.

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