Best credit cards for holiday shopping
November 2, 2011
By: Curtis Arnold
If you think you'll need some help from your credit cards this holiday season, you're not alone. FedEx predicts a 10 percent increase in year-over-year shipments this holiday season, signaling a boom in online bargain hunting.
But you probably won't give up shopping at your favorite retail stores, either. American retailers will hire nearly half a million seasonal workers to help with this year's gift-giving crush, according to the National Retail Federation. In all, the NRF estimates that we'll spend 2.8 percent more on our holiday gifts, travel, and meals this year compared to last year.
This article features six credit card offers that can stretch your holiday budget in different ways depending on your financial needs:
Best credit card for Thanksgiving & Black Friday
Blue Cash Preferred from American Express offers some of the industry's best cash back rewards all year long for eligible purchases. A hefty 6 percent cash back on groceries at U.S. stand-alone supermarkets will come in extra handy when covering the costs of lavish holiday dinners. The first $6,000 of purchases at U.S. stand-alone supermarkets in a calendar year qualifies for 6 percent cash back; 1 percent thereafter. If you manage to shake off your food coma in time for Black Friday shopping deals, you'll enjoy a 3 percent cash back rebate at select major department stores. Terms and Restrictions Apply.
American Express saves its best rewards credit cards for consumers with excellent credit, but if you don't make the cut, you may qualify for something nearly as good the Blue Cash Everyday Card from American Express Which offers the following cash back for eligible purchases 3 percent cash back at U.S. stand-alone supermarkets, 2 percent cash back on gasoline at U.S. stand-alone gas stations and select major department stores, 1 percent cash back on other purchases. The first $6,000 of purchases at U.S. stand-alone supermarkets in a calendar year qualifies for 3% cash back; 1% thereafter. And no annual fee. Terms and Restrictions Apply.
Need to spread holiday purchases through the New Year?
Citi® Dividend Platinum Select® Visa® Card - $100 Cash Back wants to lighten your holiday debt with a $100 signup bonus after you spend $500 in your first three months with the card. Enroll at no additional cost each quarter for new categories that earn additional cash back from Citi. The cash back reward caps at $300 per calendar year. In addition, Citi's offer can save you even more money by offering zero percent interest for 12 months on purchases and balance transfers.
Best credit card for holiday dining and giving
Chase Freedom® Visa has extended its own $100 signup bonus, you can earn $100 Bonus Cash Back after you make $500 in purchases in your first 3 months of cardmembership. In addition offering its own quarterly 5 percent cash back reward promotion subject to enrollment and quarterly spend caps. Chase Freedom's rebate program lets you earn extra rewards on up to $1,500 in purchases on rotating categories.
Best credit card for holiday travel
PenFed Premium Travel Rewards American Express® Card has already become one of the most sought-after credit cards for frequent overseas travelers. Originally developed for military personnel and their families, this privately issued American Express card can help you achieve your dream of a memorable vacation abroad. Unlike many of the best airline credit cards, this PenFed credit card doesn't charge currency conversion or foreign transaction fees.
Even if your travel plans keep you inside the 50 states, the PenFed Premium Travel Rewards American Express card offers 5 times the usual bonus points for all airfare purchases. You don't even have to be in the military to join PenFed. A one-time donation to an affiliated nonprofit organization will make you eligible to become a member in this fast-growing credit union. American Express researchers report that three in 10 Americans will travel this year, making a rewards credit card essential to combat rising airfares and gas prices.
Best credit card for buying business gifts
Capital One Spark Cash Business Credit Card has started showing up in mailboxes, just in time for corporate gifting. Capital One's new small business credit card offers a simple 2 percent cash back rebate on all purchases, plus a signup bonus of up to $100 if you meet certain spending requirements. If you've been looking for a way to keep your personal expenses separate from your business reimbursements, Spark can keep your purchase history straight while offering you an unlimited stream of automatic statement credits. Issue extra Capital One credit cards for your employees, and you'll earn rebates on all of their purchases, as well.
Compare credit cards
Remember to compare credit cards carefully before applying. This time of year, retail stores want to encourage new account signups at checkout. If you make too many new applications, you can put a temporary ding in your credit report that can disqualify you from the best credit card deals…not to mention potentially leaving you with a debt hangover after the celebrations are over.
About the Author
Curtis Arnold, a nationally recognized consumer educator and advocate, has been educating consumers about credit cards since 1998. New! Curtis is the author of 'How You Can Profit from Credit Cards: Using Credit to Improve Your Financial Life and Bottom Line' (FT Press, 2008). He is also the co-author of the upcoming Complete Idiot's Guide to Person-to-Person Lending (Alpha Books/Pengiun Group USA, April 2009), a contribitor to The Ultimate Allowance (InnerWealth Publishing, 2008) and is extensively featured in 42 RulesTM for Driving Success With Books (Super Star Press, January 2009).