Best credit cards for holiday spending

Don't let all the tinsel, turkey and travel get the best of you – choose the best credit card for your holiday shopping, spending and staying out of debt.
Best credit cards of 2022
author Brooklyn Lowery
Terms apply; see the online credit card application for full terms and conditions of offers and rewards.
20+ years
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5,000+ cardholders
polled about their cards
243 reviews
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List of Winners

The holiday season, from Thanksgiving right on through the new year, is a season of giving, receiving, spending and – if you aren't careful – debt. Be sure to maximize your savings by earning rewards on gifts, entertainment purchases and holiday travel deals; plus, you just may be able to buy yourself some extra time to pay off a balance without racking up exorbitant interest charges with these credit card offers from our partners.

Even with all the gifts to buy and travel to book and food – so much food – to shop for, holiday budgeting doesn't have to be difficult. While we can't get you out of that work party or trip to your in-laws, we can help you to stretch each dollar you spend a little bit further. And, if you play your cards right (pun intended), you might even have a few points or miles accumulated from all of that holiday spending to reward yourself with at the end of the season (think, quiet tropical vacation).

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CardName discontinued    Winner

EditorRating
 
foreign_fee AnnualFees
Why We Like It: The CardName is a great option if you would prefer to put your cash-back program on autopilot and do away with rotating categories, spending caps and annual fees (Citi is a CardRatings advertiser). Perfect if you aren't quite sure where this holiday season will direct your purchasing. Unlike some reward cards that operate on a system that offers rotating categories that give a little more back on spending with specific department stores or websites during the holiday season (but exclude other practical expenditures), Citi® keeps it easy with what could amount to 2% cash back on all your purchases (earn 1% when you make a purchase and an additional 1% when you pay off your balance). Furthermore, this card could also have been listed under our "Best 0% intro period cards for handling holiday debt" as it offers an 18 month introductory offer of no interest on balance transfers (then, RegAPR).
Rewards
2% cash back Earn 1% cash back when you buy and another 1% back when you pay for those purchases as long as you make your minimum payment due on time.
Annual Fee
AnnualFees
Regular APR
RegAPR
Credit Score
CreditScoreNeeded

The Bonus: When it comes to holiday spending, the intro 0% APR on balance transfers for 18 months could be just what you need. After the intro, the APR becomes RegAPR). Remember to account for the balance transfer fee: BalanceTransferFees

The Rewards: One percent cash back on purchases and 1% cash back as you pay for those purchases (just be sure you're paying at least the minimum amount due each month, on time, to earn your rewards).

The Annual Fee: AnnualFees

Credit Needed: CreditScoreNeeded

PROS:

  • By offering 1% cash back on purchases and 1% cash back on purchase payments, the this card offers an incentive to pay off holiday bills more quickly.
  • If you need to transfer a balance, as a new cardholder, you won't pay any interest for 18 months so long as you make timely payments (after 18 months, the APR goes to RegAPR).
  • This card is a good option to get unlimited cash back (and at a healthy rate) without any annual fee.

CONS:

  • Although there is an 18-month 0% intro APR on balance transfers, that offer doesn't apply to purchases.
  • While the 2% total cash back offered by this card is good, you could get more by selecting a card such as CardNamediscontinued, which, among other rewards, offers 5% cash back on quarterly categories (up to $1,500 spent in the categories) when you activate. Of course, that also requires you to be more strategic with when and where you use which credit card.
  • You may want to use another card if you are traveling abroad over the holiday season. This card charges a foreign transaction fee and doesn't come with travel perks such as trip interruption insurance.

Read our full CardName.

Current Scores Past Scores (avg.)
Overall Score 82.2 88.2
Rewards Program Satisfaction 8.2 8.8
Customer Service 8.0 8.8
Website/App Usability 8.2 8.6
Likelihood of Continuing to Use 8.5 9.2
Recommend to a Friend/Colleague 8.3 8.8

*Scores above reflect the results of surveys with actual cardholders. Full methodology below.

CardName discontinued    Winner

EditorRating
 
foreign_fee AnnualFees
Why We Like It: The holidays are a great time to take advantage of bonus welcome offers for new cardholders. CardName offers a welcome bonus opportunity worth up to $300 cash back (details below). The ongoing rewards rate of at least 1.5% cash back on all your purchases is solid and your rewards here can be combined with those earned with other Ultimate Rewards earning cards. Plus, there are rewards categories that offer much more.
Welcome Bonus
up to $300 Earn an extra 1.5% cash back on all your purchases during the first year your account is open (up to $20,000 spent)
Annual Fee
AnnualFees
Regular APR
RegAPR
Credit Score
CreditScoreNeeded

The Bonus: New cardholders earn an extra 1.5% cash back on purchases during the first year (up to $20,000 spent), for a bonus worth up to $300 cash back..

The Rewards: Earn 5% cash back on travel purchased through the Ultimate Rewards® portal, 3% cash back at restaurants and drugstores and 1.5% cash back on all other eligible purchases. Cash back accumulates as Chase Ultimate Rewards®, so the rewards can technically be redeemed for cash back, travel and more.

Annual Fee: AnnualFees

Credit Needed: CreditScoreNeeded

PROS:

  • No matter where you shop this holiday season, you'll earn at least 1.5% cash back. That's not bad for everything from gag gifts to New Year's Eve dresses.
  • Dining out more this holiday season than cooking at home? You're sure to appreciate 3% cash back at restaurants (including takeout!).
  • You also get 0% intro APR for purchases and balance transfers for 15 months after account opening (then, RegAPR), which can help you to save money on interest payments.

CONS:

  • There are a lot of categories to keep up with here. Sure, you'll earn at least 1.5% cash back on all your purchases, but if you're someone who really likes to think about the card they're using, this one will certainly add a lot of thinking to the mix..
  • There are foreign transaction fees to consider, so it's best to have another card option for your trips abroad.

Read our full CardName.

Current Scores Past Scores (avg.)
Overall Score 83.4 84.5
Rewards Program Satisfaction 8.3 8.4
Customer Service 8.4 8.6
Website/App Usability 8.3 8.4
Likelihood of Continuing to Use 8.3 9.0
Recommend to a Friend/Colleague 8.0 8.1

*Scores above reflect the results of surveys with actual cardholders. Full methodology below.

CardName discontinued    Winner

EditorRating
 
foreign_fee AnnualFees
Why We Like It: The CardName is a favorite with CardRatings editors because of its high rewards rate and easy-to-redeem points structure. The real kicker with this card, however, is the bonus opportunities. Right now, new card members can earn 60,000 points after spending $4,000 within the first three months. Those points are worth up to $750 in travel when redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards. This card really can't be beat if you're a regular traveler or even just someone who eats at restaurants on a fairly regular basis and, let's be honest, who has time to cook during a busy holiday season.
Welcome Bonus
60,000 points Earn 60,000 bonus points – worth up to $750 when redeemed for travel through Ultimate Rewards – after you spend $4,000 in the first three months
Annual Fee
AnnualFees
Regular APR
RegAPR
Credit Score
CreditScoreNeeded

The Bonus: Earn a bonus of 60,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening.

The Rewards: Earn five points per $1 on travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards®; three points per $1 on dining (including eligible delivery and takeout), select streaming services and on online grocery store purchases (excluding Target, Walmart and wholesale clubs); two points per $1 on travel; and one point per $1 on all of your other purchases. That's three points in addition to the two points you already earn on travel.

The Annual Fee: AnnualFees

Credit Needed: CreditScoreNeeded

PROS:

  • If you plan to travel this holiday season, the 60,000 bonus points offered by the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card can be redeemed for up to $750 worth of travel through the Chase portal (or more if you want to look for the best deals and transfer your points to one of a number of travel loyalty partners).
  • The card also has extensive travel perks, including bonus rewards on travel and dining, baggage delay insurance, trip cancellation/interruption insurance and the option to transfer points to other travel loyalty programs.
  • Gifts purchased with this card may be protected by its extended warranty and purchase protection benefits.

CONS:

  • There is a AnnualFees annual fee which is reasonable for a travel rewards credit card but may be off-putting to some.
  • The extra rewards earning categories are nice, but the base earning is just one point per $1 spent on most things. If you really want to maximize points earning, you'll want to combine this card with one or two others in the Ultimate Rewards family – here's what we're talking about
  • If you want to earn the 60,000 bonus points, you'll need to spend $4,000 within three months of opening your account, which is a not insignificant amount to spend in three months time.

Read our full CardName.

Current Scores Past Scores (avg.)
Overall Score 75.9 83.4
Rewards Program Satisfaction 7.5 8.3
Customer Service 7.9 8.5
Website/App Usability 7.7 8.1
Likelihood of Continuing to Use 8.2 8.9
Recommend to a Friend/Colleague 7.1 8.1

*Scores above reflect the results of surveys with actual cardholders. Full methodology below.

CardName discontinued    Winner

EditorRating
 
foreign_fee AnnualFees
Why We Like It: When Bank of America announced the opportunity to choose a top-earning category for your rewards, we took notice. When we saw that "online shopping" was one of the options, we got excited. Hello, avoiding holiday mall traffic AND earning awesome cash back when you do it.
Welcome Bonus
$200 online cash bonus Earn 60,000 bonus points – worth up to $750 when redeemed for travel through Ultimate Rewards – after you spend $4,000 in the first three months
Annual Fee
AnnualFees
Regular APR
RegAPR
Credit Score
CreditScoreNeeded

The Bonus: Earn a $200 online cash bonus after you use your card to make at least $1,000 in purchases within the first 90 days of card membership.

The Rewards: Earn 3% cash back in a category of your choice from among the following: gas (the default category), online shopping, dining, travel, drug stores or home improvement/furnishings. Earn 2% cash back on grocery store and wholesale club purchases (3% and 2% back is on the first combined $2,500 spending in your choice category/grocery/wholesale club purchases each quarter, then 1%). Earn 1% on all your other purchases. Bank of America Preferred Rewards clients can earn 25%-75% more cash back on each purchase depending on your tier (Preferred Rewards tiers are based on average three-month balances across eligible accounts).

Annual Fee: AnnualFees

Credit Needed: CreditScoreNeeded

PROS:

  • Earning 3% cash back in any category on a no-annual-fee card is a decent rate, but when you can choose the category in which you earn that, it's even better.
  • The "online shopping" category is extremely broad. It means that everything from Amazon purchases to holiday party dresses could earn you 3% cash back (up to the $2,500 quarterly cap, obviously).
  • Take advantage of a 0% intro APR for 18 billing cycles on purchases as well as on balance transfers made in the first 60 days (After the intro offer ends, RegAPR will apply)

CONS:

  • You can only change your 3% category once per calendar month, so this card does require some planning to truly maximize your cash-back earning.
  • Since you earn 3% and 2% on the choice category/grocery store/wholesale club purchases only up to $2,500 spent quarterly, it makes sense to ONLY use this card for your 3% spending as that means you'll earn more. That's great, but again, requires some planning and strategy.

Read our full CardName.

Current Scores Past Scores (avg.)
Overall Score 78.2 86.1
Rewards Program Satisfaction 7.8 8.7
Customer Service 7.9 8.6
Website/App Usability 7.9 8.6
Likelihood of Continuing to Use 7.9 9.0
Recommend to a Friend/Colleague 7.7 8.3

*Scores above reflect the results of surveys with actual cardholders. Full methodology below.

CardName discontinued    Winner

EditorRating
 
foreign_fee AnnualFees
Why We Like It: The CardName is positioned to be the card of choice for regular supermarket shoppers – earn 6% back on up to $6,000 spent annually at U.S. supermarkets (then 1%). That should make all the shopping for Thanksgiving dinner and holiday cookies a bit easier to swallow (yes, pun intended). You'll also earn bonus cash back in a number of other categories (details below) that could make your holiday shopping a bit less stressful. American Express is a CardRatings advertiser
Welcome Bonus
$250 statement credit Earn $250 statement credit after you spend $3,000 on your card within six months of account opening
Annual Fee
AnnualFees
Regular APR
RegAPR
Credit Score
CreditScoreNeeded

The Bonus:Earn a $250 statement credit after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new card within the first six months.

The Rewards: Earn 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets, up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1% after that) and on select U.S. streaming subscriptions; 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations and on transit such as taxis, parking, tolls, train fares and more; and 1% on other purchases.

The Annual Fee: AnnualFees

Credit Needed: CreditScoreNeeded

PROS:

  • The card offers an intro 0% APR on purchases for the first 12 months, which can give you give time to pay off holiday purchases without accruing any interest charges. After the intro period, a RegAPR APR applies.
  • Online shoppers may find they save on shipping thanks to the complimentary ShopRunner membership that comes with this card. It offers free 2-day shipping at more than 100 online stores. (Enrollment required.)

CONS:

  • While this card offers 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets, don't assume you can stock up on gifts from Target and Walmart and get this higher cash back amount. These retailers aren't considered supermarkets by American Express so you'll only get 1% cash back for purchases made there.
  • This card charges a AnnualFees Maxing out your spending in the 6% supermarket category alone will net you $360, so more than enough to offset the fee. Still, just make sure the card isn't costing you money – you should ALWAYS be able to offset an annual fee with your rewards, perks and features.
  • If you're traveling overseas for the holidays, be aware you'll pay foreign transaction fees on purchases made in foreign currency.

Read our full CardName.

Current Scores Past Scores
Overall Score 74.8 86.3
Rewards Program Satisfaction 7.5 8.4
Customer Service 7.7 8.7
Website/App Usability 7.4 8.6
Likelihood of Continuing to Use 7.9 9.3
Recommend to a Friend/Colleague 7.0 8.6

*Scores above reflect the results of surveys with actual cardholders. Full methodology below.

CardName discontinued    Winner

EditorRating
 
foreign_fee AnnualFees
Why We Like It: This is not the card for "I only travel at the holidays" travelers. It comes with a substantial annual fee, but that annual fee nets you all kinds of comforts and perks that – should you find yourself in the airport during the chaotic travel season – could certainly come in handy. Plus, that extra shopping you'll likely do during the holiday season could be an excellent way to meet your minimum spend requirement and earn a nice welcome bonus.
Welcome Bonus Offer
80,000 points Earn 80,000 bonus points after spending $6,000 in purchases on your new card in the first six months
Annual Fee
AnnualFees
Regular APR
RegAPR
Credit Score
CreditScoreNeeded

The Bonus: Earn 80,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $6,000 on purchases on your new card in your first six months of card membership.

The Rewards: Earn 5X the points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel (on up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year), as well as on eligible hotels booked on amextravel.com. Earn one point per $1 spent on other purchases.

The Annual Fee: AnnualFees

Other Perks: There are a number of credits and reimbursement opportunities with this card including up to $200 annually in Uber Cash for your rides or Uber Eats orders as well as up to $200 credit for airline incidental fees annually with a pre-selected airline. The bottom line is that there are numerous opportunities to more than offset the annual fee here, if you use your card wisely and take advantage of all it has to offer (Enrollment required for select benefits).

Credit Needed: CreditScoreNeeded

PROS:

  • You won't find many cards that are more rewarding than this one. This luxury card offers a long list of benefits as well as the opportunity to earn travel rewards points.
  • Travel benefits include airport lounge access and complimentary gold status in the Hilton Honors and Marriott Bonvoy loyalty programs.
  • There's also a statement credit opportunity of up to $100 for your Global Entry or TSA Precheck membership fee (every four or 4.5 years, respectively) as well as up to $189 annually for your CLEAR membership application fee.
  • Enrollment required for select benefits.

CONS:

  • The card's AnnualFees annual fee will put it out of reach for some people. It also means that you need to do some serious budget and lifestyle searching to ensure it's the right card for your wallet.
  • While cardholders receive five points per $1 spent on airfare and hotels, you'll need to book through Amex or directly with an airline to receive them.
  • New cardholders can receive a bonus of 80,000 Membership Rewards points, but there is a relatively steep spending requirement to earn them. The welcome offer only goes to those who spend $6,000 in eligible purchases in the first six months.

Read our full CardName.

Current Scores Past Scores (avg.)
Overall Score 75.1 88
Rewards Program Satisfaction 7.5 8.7
Customer Service 7.6 8.9
Website/App Usability 7.5 8.3
Likelihood of Continuing to Use 7.8 8.9
Recommend to a Friend/Colleague 7.3 9.0

*Scores above reflect the results of surveys with actual cardholders. Full methodology below.

CardName discontinued    Winner

EditorRating
 
foreign_fee AnnualFees
Why We Like It: While cash-back rewards are always welcome, sometimes just having a bit of extra leeway when it comes to paying off holiday spending is what you want. We certainly condone responsible credit card use and spending within your means (even when it comes to holiday spending), 0% intro APR credit cards can help bridge the gap when increased spending arises during the holiday season and this card has a lengthy period for both purchases and balance transfers.
Intro 0% BT Period
21 months RegAPR APR after the intro periods ends; BalanceTransferFees
Intro 0% Purchase Period
12 months RegAPR APR after the intro periods ends
Annual Fee
AnnualFees
Credit Needed
CreditScoreNeeded

The Bonus: For a limited time, earn a $150 statement credit when you spend $500 on purchases in the first three months.

Intro APR Offer: You could also think about the money you're saving on interest as a kind of bonus. Save with an intro 21 months 0% APR on balance transfers from date of first transfer (and made within the first four months) and 12 months 0% APR on purchases from date of account opening.

Ongoing APR: RegAPR

Balance Transfer Fee: BalanceTransferFees

The Rewards: There aren't ongoing rewards to consider, but remember that awesome introductory APR is the prize.

The Annual Fee: AnnualFees

Credit Needed: CreditScoreNeeded

PROS:

  • With no annual fee and a stellar intro 0% APR offer, this card is a winner for people looking to save on interest.
  • New cardholders enjoy a 0% intro APR for 12 months on purchases and 21 months on balance transfers, great benefits for those who need time to pay off their holiday spending. After the intro period, a RegAPR APR kicks in.
  • Cardholders receive special access to tickets and other entertainment through Citi Entertainment

CONS:

  • This card lacks the bells and whistles of other cards such as extended warranty protection and travel benefits.
  • You won't earn any rewards or cash back with this card either.

Read our full CardName.

Read our full CardName.

Current Scores Past Scores
Overall Score 73.0 80.5
Features Satisfaction 7.2 7.9
Customer Service 7.3 8.4
Website/App Usability 7.4 8.4
Likelihood of Continuing to Use 7.8 8.8
Recommend to a Friend/Colleague 7.2 7.5

*Scores above reflect the results of surveys with actual cardholders. Full methodology below.

CardName discontinued    Winner

EditorRating
 
foreign_fee AnnualFees
Why We Like It: Responsibly using a credit card is one of the quickest ways to positively impact your credit score. The key, though, is that you can't just HAVE a card – you actually need to use it and pay it off on time every month for the biggest score impact. The holiday season provides a solid opportunity to use a card and work toward that better credit score. This secured credit card could be an excellent choice as it doesn't charge and annual fee and offers the opportunity to earn rewards.
Welcome Offer
Cashback Match At the end of your first year, Discover will match all the cash back you earn during that first year as a cardholder
Annual Fee
AnnualFees
Regular APR
RegAPR
Minimum Security Deposit
$200

PROS:

  • It's rare that a secured card offers the opportunity to earn rewards, let alone the opportunity to earn a welcome bonus. This card checks both those boxes.
  • Feel free to take this card along when you travel abroad as it doesn't charge foreign transaction fees.
  • Discover will review your account starting at seven months to see whether you're eligible to transition to an unsecured card and receive your security deposit back.

CONS:

  • To establish your initial line of credit you need to provide at least a $200 security deposit. That could be a high bar to meet for some people.
  • There aren't a lot of additional bells and whistles with this card, which isn't surprising for a secured card, but is something to keep in mind.
  • The ongoing APR is quite high, so make sure you are able to pay off whatever you charge to the card every month.

Read our full CardName.

Current Scores Past Scores (avg.)
Overall Score 81.6 82.8
Features Satisfaction 7.9 8.2
Customer Service 8.2 8.3
Website/App Usability 8.3 8.3
Likelihood of Continuing to Use 8.8 8.7
Recommend to a Friend/Colleague 8.3 8.2

*Scores above reflect the results of surveys with actual cardholders. Full methodology below.

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Survey Methodology: CardRatings commissioned Op4G in September and October 2021 to conduct surveys among 1,524 cardholders nationwide. CardRatings website analytics from Jan. 1, 2021-Aug. 31, 2021 were used to determine a selection of the most popular cards and additional cards were included to add survey breadth. Responses to each of nine questions were given on a scale of 1-10 and respondents' scores were then averaged under broad topics. To determine the overall score, responses from questions 1-8 were summed and the answer to "How likely are you to recommend this card to a friend, coworker or family member?" was double weighted. "Current Scores" reflect scores from the most recent survey; "Past Scores (avg.)" are the scores averaged over each prior year the card has been surveyed. "Past Scores" indicates a card has only been surveyed in one prior year.

Ranking Methodology: CardRatings experts review the fine print, details, perks, rewards and features of hundreds of cards and compare them side-by-side with similar cards. A card that makes an excellent balance transfer card may not make a great cash-back rewards card even though it offers those rewards. While the Best of the Year list is announced annually, that list – and all other “best of” lists on CardRatings – are regularly reviewed and updated as issuers change the terms and features of each card often.

To see the rates and fees for the American Express cards featured in this post, please visit the following links: CardName (See Rates and Fees); CardName (See Rates and Fees)

Disclaimer:

The information in this article is believed to be accurate as of the date it was written. Please keep in mind that credit card offers change frequently. Therefore, we cannot guarantee the accuracy of the information in this article. Reasonable efforts are made to maintain accurate information. See the online credit card application for full terms and conditions on offers and rewards. Please verify all terms and conditions of any credit card prior to applying.

This content is not provided by any company mentioned in this article. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed here are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any such company. CardRatings.com does not review every company or every offer available on the market.

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