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Best credit cards for online shopping

As our shopping habits go increasingly digital, make sure you are using the credit card that maximizes your rewards and provides the protections and features only the best credit cards can offer.
Brooklyn Lowery, CardRatings Senior Manager Last Updated, October 8, 2021

If we've learned anything from the COVID-19 pandemic, it's all the tips and tricks for having everything possible delivered directly to your door rather than venturing out to the stores to buy it. Even before the pandemic, online shopping had begun dominating the retail landscape, but that trend certainly accelerated beginning in mid-March 2020.

But are you using the best credit card for online shopping? It's possible that the card you use when you check out at the grocery store isn't the best one for grocery delivery, or that you could be rewarded specifically for "online shopping."

TOP ONLINE SHOPPING CREDIT CARD OFFERS

Maybe you want a simple card to break out every time you make an online purchase – whether you're paying a utility bill or buying toilet paper; or maybe you're open to having several cards you use strategically to max out your rewards depending on the type of purchase you're making. Whatever your goal, we have options for you. So settle back on your sofa, and let's get you set up to make all that online shopping really rewarding.

BEST FOR SIMPLICITY

5
About Our Ratings

Why We Like It: The Citi® Double Cash Card - 18 month BT offer effectively offers you 2% cash back on all your purchases (1% when you buy, 1% when you pay your balance), so that means that everytime you head online to shop or pay a bill or book a trip, you'll be racking up cash back. (Citi is a CardRatings advertiser). Plus, you can save money with 18 monthes introductory 0% APR on balance transfers (then, 13.99% – 23.99% (Variable)).

The Bonus:There's no traditional bonus, but the intro 0% APR on balance transfers for 18 months could certainly comein handy and you could think of it as a kind of bonus. After the intro, the APR becomes 13.99% – 23.99% (Variable)). There's a balance transfer fee of 3% of each balance transfer; $5 minimum..

The Rewards: Earn 1% when you make your purchse and 1% cash back as you pay your balance, for an effective 2% cash back on every purchases (just be sure you're paying at least the minimum amount due each month, on time, to earn your rewards).

The Annual Fee: $0

Credit Needed: Excellent, Good

PROS:

  • This card incentivizes paying off your balace, which is a great reminder to pay your balance each month.
  • Even cards that offer bonuses on online spending sometimes limit that to retail only or particular merchants; with this card, you'll earn top rewards whether you're paying an medical bill or buying a new pair of blue jeans.
  • There's no annual fee and a lot of simplicity here to make this card valuable.

CONS:

  • Remember that the intro 0% APR period doesn't apply to purchases.
  • Two percent total cash back is perfectly respectable, but it's also not the best out there. If you're willing to employ multiple cards and some strategy, you can earn substantially more on your online purchases using cards tailored to particular purchases.
  • If you're online shopping includes purchases from foreign merchants in foreign currencies, you'll be disappointed to find this card charges foreign transaction fees.

Read our full Citi® Double Cash Card - 18 month BT offer review.

Current Scores Past Scores
Overall Score 88.2 88.3
Rewards Program Satisfaction 8.7 8.9
Customer Service 8.9 8.6
Website/App Usability 8.7 8.5
Likelihood of Continuing to Use 9.4 9.2
Recommend to a Friend/Colleague 8.7 8.9

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

BEST FOR ONLINE GROCERY SHOPPING

5
About Our Ratings

Why We Like It: Chase Ultimate Rewards® points are highly useful credit cards rewards currency, especially if you're dreaming of travel. A recent update to the rewards structure allows you to earn extra points specifically on your online grocery purchases AND this card generally has a solid signup bonus. What's not to like?

The Bonus: New cardholders earn 60,000 bonus points when you spend $4,000 on your new card in the first three months. That's worth $750 in travel when you redeem through the Ultimate Rewards® portal.

The Rewards: Earn 5x points on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®; 3X points on dining out, select streaming services and online grocery store purchases (excluding Target, Walmart and wholesale clubs); 2x points on all other travel; and 1x point per $1 spent on other purchases.

The Annual Fee: $95

Credit Needed: Excellent, Good

PROS:

  • Online grocery store purchases earn 3x points per $1 spent and that applies to any grocery store that allows for online shopping (excluding Target, Walmart and wholesale clubs). That means you don't have to go through a third-party like Instacart to capitalize here. Just shop online with your regular store and avoid the upcharge of a grocery shopping service.
  • Your points are worth 25% more when you redeem them for travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards® portal. Since you're a regular online shopper, that portal should be right up your alley.
  • This card is known for offering pretty stellar trip interruption/cancellation insurance at no additional cost. It's an unusual – and potentially money-saving – feature for a card with this low an annual fee.

CONS:

  • You have an annual fee to consider. It's reasonable for the value offered, but you still need to be sure you're getting enough value from the card to more than offset it.
  • That signup bonus is lucrative, but it requires you to spend $4,000 in the first three months to earn it. Make sure you can meet that threshold or you'll miss out on that awesome opportunity.

Read our full Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card review.

Current Scores Past Scores
Overall Score 82.3 84.4
Rewards Program Satisfaction 8.3 8.3
Customer Service 8.4 8.7
Website/App Usability 8.2 8.1
Likelihood of Continuing to Use 8.7 9.0
Recommend to a Friend/Colleague 7.8 8.4

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

BEST CREDIT CARD FOR PRICE PROTECTION

5
About Our Ratings

Why We Like It: It is demoralizing to make a purchase only to see that item go on sale or for the price to drop a few weeks or months later. This card helps save you that disappointment by offering price protection through Paribus, a service that automatically monitors your online purchases from numerous retailers and works to get you money back if a price drops. You don't technically have to pay with a credit card to take advntage of this service, but

The Bonus: Enjoy a one-time bonus of 60,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within three months from account opening, equal to $600 in travel.

The Rewards: Earn an unlimited two miles per $1 on every purchase, every day.

The Annual Fee: $95

Credit Needed: Excellent, Good

PROS:

  • Redeem your miles for statement credit to cover eligible travel purchases or transfer them to one of several hotel or airline loyalty programs.
  • Since we're talking about the best cards for online shopping, it's worth noting that you can redeem your miles for purchases via Amazon.com.
  • In addition to the Paribus price protection on your online purchases, Capital One also offers Wikibuy to help find the best prices when shopping online. (Note, neither Paribus or Wikibuy require you to have a Capital One card in order to utilize the services.)

CONS:

  • This card does charge an annual fee, so you'll need to ensure it's a good fit and that you can more than offset that fee with the rewards you earn.

Read our full Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card review.

Current Scores Past Scores
Overall Score 81.6 84.4
Rewards Program Satisfaction 7.9 8.2
Customer Service 8.3 8.4
Website/App Usability 8.5 8.4
Likelihood of Continuing to Use 8.8 9.1
Recommend to a Friend/Colleague 8.1 8.6

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

BEST FOR PURCHASE PROTECTION

5
About Our Ratings

Why We Like It: The American Express® Gold Card offers excellent rewards on purchases with U.S. supermarkets, plus excellent purchase protection, covering eligible purchases against accidental damage or if they're lost or stolen within 90 days of purchase. There's also an extra year added to the manufacturer's warranty of five years or less (terms apply; American Express is a CardRatings advertiser).

The Bonus: Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after spending $4,000 on new purchases within six months of account opening.

The Rewards: Earn four Membership Rewards® points per $1 spent at restaurants including takeout and delivery; four points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per year in purchases, then one point); three points per $1 on flights booked directly with airlines or through amextravel.com; and one Membership Rewards® point per $1 on all other eligible purchases. 

The Annual Fee: $250

Credit Needed: Good, Excellent

PROS:

  • A shopper's dream: AmEx will extend the original manufacturer's warranty up to one additional years on U.S. warranties of five years or less, provided, of course, that you've made the purchase with an eligible card.
  • You'll also get purchase protection. If you anything you buy with your card is broken, stolen or damaged within the first 90 days, it'll be replaced, up to $10,000 per item and $50,000 per calendar year.
  • There are no foreign transaction fees, which makes traveling internationally – or shopping with overseas merchants in a foreign currency – cheaper.

CONS:

  • The annual fee is a bit higher than average. Just make sure you'll more than offset the fee with the rewards you earn; it likely won't be difficult to do.
  • Unlike typical credit cards, this card allows you to carry a balance for certain charges, but not all. That could be a good thing, though; if you use the card right, you won't pay interest. But it's helpful to know and possibly a bummer for anybody who wants to take a little more time than a month to pay the card back.

Read our full review of the American Express® Gold Card.

Current Scores Past Scores
Overall Score 88.9 84.6
Rewards Program Satisfaction 8.8 8.3
Customer Service 9.1 8.7
Website/App Usability 8.9 8.2
Likelihood of Continuing to Use 9.2 8.8
Recommend to a Friend/Colleague 8.7 8.4

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

BEST CREDIT CARDS FOR ONLINE DEPARTMENT STORE SHOPPING

5
About Our Ratings

Why We Like It: The Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express offers a no-annual-fee option for excellent rewards at U.S. supermarkets, U.S. gas stations and select U.S. department stores. Obviously, it's the department stores and maybe the supermarket rewards that put that card on the our best cards for online shopping list.

The Bonus: Earn a $200 statement credit after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new card within the first six months.

The Rewards: Earn 3% cash back at U.S. supermarkets, up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1%); earn 2% back at U.S. gas stations and at select U.S. department stores; and earn 1% back on your other eligible purchases. Your cash back accumulates as Reward Dollars that can be redeemed for statement credit.

The Annual Fee: $0.

Credit Needed: Good, Excellent

PROS:

  • If you're an avid online shopper, or you enjoy donning your mask and going to department stores – the 2% cash back rewards specifically for those purchases could be lucrative.
  • As introductions go, this one's memorable. You'll enjoy an intro 0% APR period lasting 15 months on purchases (then,13.99% - 23.99% Variable).
  • There are no spending caps in the 2% or 1% cash back category, so shop to your heart's content and know you're racking up cash back.

CONS:

  • The rewards for U.S. supermarket purchases are capped annually at $6,000, and then the rewards rate drops to 1%. If you think you'll spend far more, and the way grocery prices are, you well may, you might want to find a rewards card without the caps.
  • Thinking of traveling abroad? Keep the foreign transaction fee in mind: 2.7% of each transaction after conversion to US dollars.

Read our full Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express review.

Current Scores Past Scores
Overall Score 86.3 Did not survey
Rewards Program Satisfaction 8.5 n/a
Customer Service 8.8 n/a
Website/App Usability 8.6 n/a
Likelihood of Continuing to Use 9.3 n/a
Recommend to a Friend/Colleague 8.6 n/a

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

BEST FOR OVERALL ONLINE SHOPPING

5
About Our Ratings

Why We Like It: There are certainly seasons when you probably do more online shopping than other times, which is why the ability to select "online shopping" as your top earning cateogry one month, but then "travel" or "dining" the next month is so valuale. Furthermore, earning 3% cash back in your choice category means that anywhere you shop online will earn you that top cash back (note that this is for retail establishments and things like medical bills, education/tuition payments and some other non-retail payments do not qualify as "online shopping").

The Bonus:  Earn a $200 online cash bonus after spending $1,000 on purchases within the first 90 days of card membership.

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

The Annual Fee: $0

Credit Needed: Excellent/Good

PROS:

  • Appealing rewards bonus for online shop-a-holics: You'll receive $200 online cash rewards bonus after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first three months of opening the account.
  • This card is a top card for online shopping because it gives you the option to select "online shopping" as your highest earning category, but there are other options too. And, as an online shopper, we know you appreciate options.
  • We're always happy when there is no annual fee.
  • The rewards categories are already lucrative, but Preferred Rewards clients stand to earn even more: If you're just a Gold tier member (that's the lowest tier), you could be earning 3.75% back on your online purchases (up to the cap).

CONS:

  • Sure you can earn 3% on your online shopping purchases, but the $2,500 quarterly combined spending caps in your choice category/grocery/wholesale club purchases are a bit of a downer. We'd rather see no spending caps or a higher spending cap.
  • The Preferred Rewards client tiers are certainly nice, but the bar to become a Preferred Rewards client is fairly high – it starts with an average three months balance of $20,000 across all your eligible accounts.

Read our full review of the Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards credit card.

Current Scores Past Scores
Overall Score 88.1 84.1
Rewards Program Satisfaction 8.9 8.5
Customer Service 8.9 8.4
Website/App Usability 8.8 8.4
Likelihood of Continuing to Use 9.2 8.8
Recommend to a Friend/Colleague 8.5 8.2

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

BEST CREDIT CARD FOR OFFICE SUPPLIES

5
About Our Ratings

Why We Like It: The no-annual-fee Ink Business Cash® Credit Card means your business can earn up to 5% cash back on purchases of office supplies, including if you shop via your favorite office supply store's website.

The Bonus: Earn a $750 cash back bonus after spending $7,500 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.

The Rewards: Earn 5% cash back on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases each account year at office supply stores (including purchases via the store's website, and things like computers, printers and more) and on phone, internet and cable services. Earn 2% cash back on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases yearly at gas stations and restaurants; and earn an unlimited 1% cash back on your other purchases.

The Annual Fee: $0; add additional employee cards at no cost.

Credit Needed: Excellent, Good

PROS:

  • It's a great card for buying office supplies online (or offline, or anything you buy for your business) and your cash back accumulates as Chase Ultimate Rewards® points, a highly valued travel rewards currency.
  • There's no annual fee to worry about offsetting.
  • Buy something you need to take your business to the next level and enjoy a intro 0% APR for the first 12 months on purchases (then, 13.24% - 19.24% Variable)).

CONS:

  • Foreign transaction fees make this card not a great choice if your business travel takes you abroad or if you frequently buy items online from merchants in a foreign currency.
  • That $25,000 cap on combined spending to earn the top rewards is a bit low. If your business, for instance, needs to replace a number of computers or other electronics, you'll quickly eat through that cap.

Read our full Ink Business Cash® Credit Card review.

Current Scores Past Scores
Overall Score 77.1 83.2
Rewards Program Satisfaction 7.7 8.1
Customer Service 7.7 8.5
Website/App Usability 7.7 8.5
Likelihood of Continuing to Use 7.9 8.7
Recommend to a Friend/Colleague 7.8 8.3

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

BEST BONUS OPPORTUNITY

5
About Our Ratings

Why We Like It: Besides this card offering 5% back on up to $1,500 spent in quarterly rotating categories (quarterly activation required), it also offers you a non-traditional welcome bonus opportunity that is as lucrative as you're able to make it.

  • INTRO OFFER: Unlimited Cashback Match - only from Discover. Discover will automatically match all the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year! There's no minimum spending or maximum rewards. You could turn $150 cash back into $300.
  • Earn 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places each quarter like Amazon.com, grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations and when you pay using PayPal, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate.
  • Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - automatically.
  • Redeem cash back in any amount, any time. Rewards never expire.
  • Use your rewards at Amazon.com checkout.
  • #1 Most Trusted Credit Card according to Investor's Business Daily.
  • No annual fee.
  • Discover is accepted nationwide by 99% of the places that take credit cards.
See More

PROS:

  • The possibility of a VERY lucrative welcome bonus opportunity really can't be stated enough. Discover will MATCH the cash back you earn during your first year as a cardholder.
  • There's no annual fee to offset, so all the rewards you earn when you shop online, or offline, are yours to keep.
  • Straight cash back is nice, but, keeping with the online shopping theme, know that you can redeem your rewards directly for purchases at Amazon.com.

CONS:

  • If you're not a fan of keeping track of categories and quarters, you may want another card. Remember, too, that you'll need to activate each quarter to earn the 5% on rotating categories up to the quarterly maximum. It's easy to do via your account online, but is another thing to remember.
  • Discover, while regularly expanding its network, is not as widely accepted as Visa, Mastercard or even American Express. It's worth keeping in mind, particularly if you live or travel off the beaten path.

Read our full Discover it® Cash Back review.

Current Scores Past Scores
Overall Score 87.7 88.7
Rewards Program Satisfaction 8.8 8.8
Customer Service 8.8 8.9
Website/App Usability 8.6 8.7
Likelihood of Continuing to Use 9.2 9.3
Recommend to a Friend/Colleague 8.6 8.8

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

BEST CREDIT CARD FOR EVERYDAY AMAZON PURCHASES

Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card

(This card is not currently available on CardRatings)

5
About Our Ratings

Why We Like It: If you're shopping online, there's a pretty good chance you find yourself at Amazon.com sometimes. If you're there A LOT, well, a card that rewards that loyalty could be an excellent addition to your wallet. Sure other cards sometimes offer top rewards for your Amazon and/or Whole Foods purchases, but this one offers those top rewards all the time as well as some additional perks for your loyalty.

The Bonus: Cardholders receive a $150 Amazon gift card immediately upon approval, so there's no minimum spend to worry about.

The Rewards: Earn 5% back on purchases with Amazon.com or through Whole Foods Market; 2% back at restaurants, gas stations and drugstores; and 1% back on all your other purchases. Rewards can be redeemed for Amazon purchases, for statement credit or for a direct deposit to an eligible checking or savings account.

The Annual Fee: There isn't an annual fee for the card, but you do need to be an Amazon Prime Rewards member, which comes with a $119 per year membership fee.

Credit Needed: Good/Excellent

PROS:

  • There's no better card out there to always, every time earn 5% back on your Amazon and Whole Foods Market purchases. There are other cards that offer that amount during certain quarterly bonuses, but if this is your primary online shopping destination, this card is tough to beat.
  • You could even use this card when traveling internationally. There's no foreign transaction fee.
  • Amazon often runs additional promotions and discounts for cardholders, such as extra percentages off your purchases on Prime Day.

CONS:

  • Technically, there's no annual fee, but you have to be an Amazon Prime member to apply for the card, and so that's essentially an annual fee ($119 annually; $59 for students). But if you're an Amazon devotee, you probably don't care.
  • There's no introductory low or 0% APR period.

Read our full Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card review.

We have not polled this card yet, but would love to hear your thoughts on it if you are a cardholder. Comment below or email us at editor@cardratings.com to share more about your experience.

IS IT SAFE TO SHOP ONLINE?

Security and protecting your identity are top of mind for many people these days, as they should be. An increasingly digital world provides so many opportunities for your identity and your money to be compromised. Luckily, an increasingly digital world also means that there are many ways – and new ones all the time – to keep yourself safe.

Credit cards offer protections that shopping with cash, checks or debit cards cannot. Some of those protections are regulation related, like rules around how a bank has to handle the fraud if your credit card is stolen, while others are strictly practical, as in there's no replacing it if you lose or have stolen a wallet-full of cash.

In general, shopping online with a credit card is among the most secure ways you can interact in the seemingly endless world of online retail. Many issuers these days are even offering temporary card numbers specifically for your online purchases so that you don't have to ever put your permanent account number into a website. Plus, online payment services such as PayPal, mean that you can enter your payment information once and not have the need to even take your card out of the safety of your wallet in order to make a purchase in the future.

All that being said, there are some steps you should take to ensure that your credit card and personal information remain safe when you shop online:

1. Shop from reputable websites only. Know the brand you're buying from. If you've never seen the website before, spend a few minutes Googling for reviews or reports to the Better Business Bureau about the site. It's very difficult for a site to remain review-free on the web; if other people have had trouble with the site, you're almost guaranteed to find out that information with a quick internet search. You may still decide to go ahead with your purchase, but you'll be fully informed when you do.

2. Consider carefully to whom you hand your card for making an online purchase. Maybe you expected your roommate to use your card just once to buy that one pair of shoes and then pay you back. But many retailers offer you the option of saving your payment information to an account in order to make future purchases simpler. If your friend did that, they essentially have access to your account whenever they want... even if you and your roommate have a falling out.

3.  Never give your info over the phone if someone calls you. If you place an order online and soon after receive a phone call telling you they need your credit card info again in order to complete your purchase, be leery. If that's true, you can hang up and call the company back yourself. That way you know who you've called and you can verify whether they need your info. This is a good lesson whether shopping online or not – never give out personal information to a stranger who calls you on the phone, no matter what they tell you they need it for.

4. Take advantage of the safety features built into your card. If your card offers you the option of paying with a temporary card number or any other features to make your purchase more secure, take them up on it! You have nothing to lose by using these safety features and potentially a lot to gain by avoiding fraud and identity theft.

5. Make sure your desktop, laptop, device, phone and so on are protected. That might mean antivirus software. That might also mean making sure you have a secure Wi-Fi connection. In other words, follow all of the rules we know we should. Make your passwords to website complicated. Don't type "password1234" and think you're taking precautions from cyberhackers.

6. Go to a retailer's website yourself - don't go through a link from an email. Granted, maybe you know that the email is from a trusted brand, but it's still safer to go directly to the website. Plenty of con artists will make emails look like they're from a reputable store, and if you're not paying attention, you could end up shopping at Bad Guys R Us instead of Toys R Us.

7. Pay using a digital wallet. If you use something like Apple Pay or Google Pay, that can help protect you. That's because those digital wallets won't actually give your credit card number to the retailer. Some credit cards offer virtual account numbers. Capital One, for instance, does something like that with their automated assistant Eno, which invents merchant-specific virtual card numbers that are linked to your Capital One credit card account.

Still, the bottom line is - if you're doing online shopping with your credit cards, as long as you're at a reputable website, you really are in safe hands. Credit card companies know that if somebody manages to steal your credit card information, their brand reputation may suffer. They've had a lot of practice foiling cybercriminals and have a lot of incentive to make sure your money and personal identification information stays safe.

HOW TO CHOOSE A CREDIT CARD FOR ONLINE SHOPPING

Pay attention to all the details and think about the card beyond just how you'll use it to shop online.

  • Is there an annual fee that is attached with the credit card? An annual fee isn't likely to be a big deal to you if you're a serious shopper and will be getting a lot of rewards that will completely offset the fee, but if you're more of an occasional credit card user, it may be smarter to find a credit card without one.
  • Is there an intro 0% APR period? If you're making a big purchase online and want a few extra months to pay it off, consider whether opening a card with an intro APR offer could benefit you.
  • Are the rewards something you'll use? If it's a travel rewards card, but you never travel, then you probably should check out a different card.
  • Will you qualify for the card? Most of the best rewards cards are for people with good to excellent credit. If that's not you, don't waste a hard pull on your credit applying for the card. Instead, choose a card that aligns with your existing credit score and then work to bring it up so you can apply for a better card in the future.
And, importantly, choosing the best credit card for online shopping also depends on where you like to shop. For instance - and, yes, we know that a mouse with a pea-size brain could figure this out - if you love to shop at Amazon.com, getting an Amazon-branded credit card, like the Amazon Business Prime American Express Card could be a good idea.

The main thing is that you want to look for a credit card that will offer you cash back or rewards points. Anything you can do to easily save some money while spending money is generally a good idea.

If you aren't exclusively an Amazon shopper, there are plenty of other credit cards that offer generous rewards for shopping, whether it's online or off.

CAN YOU GET INSTANT APPROVAL FOR A CREDIT CARD FOR ONLINE SHOPPING?

Often, yes. In the old days of credit cards, like when there was no internet, you'd get approved for a credit card and would wait by the mailbox for that card to come in the mail, so you could then make a phone call and get it activated and start using it.

Now?

More often than not (but not always), you can get approved instantly, but that doesn't necessarily mean you'll be able to use the card immediately. In most cases, you'll still have to wait for the card to arrive in the mail before you can start using it. There are a couple of exceptions:

  • Some American Express cards offer instant card number access upon appoval.
  • If you're applying for a branded card with the retailer you're shopping online with, you'll likely be able to use the card right away for the purchase you're trying to make. In fact, that's how many store/retail cards draw you in: They offer a discount off that day's purchase when you apply for, are approved and use the card for the purchase right then and there. Be care with store cards as they are narrowly focused and, often, you can get a better deal and better, more flexible rewards with a standard bank credit card.

Still, you really don't want to make the ability to immediately shop online your main reason for getting a credit card, of course. You should be looking at all the angles, including whether you can truly afford the purchase you're looking to make or is the instant credit card approval necssary for you to buy it. 

In other words, you want to get the credit card that's best for you in the long run and one that you know you'll be responsible with.

TIPS FOR STACKING UP SAVINGS AND REWARDS WITH ONLINE SHOPPING

Start with a rewards credit card and from there look for special rebates through your bank, extra savings when you shop proprietary portals, bonus programs with a given retailer and more. There are so many ways you can save money online, it's dizzying. Take a look at this list of strategies you may want to try.

Obviously, we'll mention a rewards credit card at the start. One percent off anything is nice, but if you can get, say, 3% or 5% off a product right from the get-go, that's real money you're saving.

But if you use a rewards credit card and try some of these strategies as well, you really will start to feel like you're making out like a bandit. So when you use your credit card, also try the following…

Shop through a website that offers cash back. Browse sites like Rakuten or RetailMeNot.com, so that you're getting cash back from the websites you want to shop in addition to earning rewards on the credit card you're using

Shop with your bank's proprietary shopping portal. It's also worth noting that most major banks' credit cards have shopping portals, like Capital One with its CapitalOneShopping.com website. You load it onto your desktop, device or phone, and it'll look for discounts and coupons anywhere you shop online. Sometimes these portals offer you bonus rewards when you click through the bank's site to get to your retailer of choice, like earning 5% back on your GAP purchase instead of just the 1% your credit card would normally offer. Other times they offer a percentage of cash-back, normally applied as a statement credit or deposit to your account, when you use your card with a particular retailer either online or in-person. The bottom line is there are lots of ways you can boost your rewards earning or save money when shopping with a credit card online or otherwise.

Search for promo codes online. It's easy to have your rewards credit card and think, "Great. I'm saving money, and I'm done," but don't forget the promo codes. When you're ordering food especially, restaurants often seem to have promo codes - but so do many specialty online stores. It's a worth a try. A quick Google search may turn something up.

Remember coupons. You know, old-fashioned coupons. You don't have to just clip them out of the newspapers, though. There are also plenty of coupon websites, like Coupons.com or TheKrazyCouponLady.com that can help you save money when you shop online or in-person.

Look for deals. It's also an old-fashioned shopping strategy but one that should never go out of style. Bargain hunt. As we said, "It's easy to get that rewards credit card and figure you've done your part to save," but the goal should be - find the lowest price, and then get it even lower with your rewards credit card. You don't want to get a rewards credit card and suddenly stop shopping strategically. So look for the best sales and discounts - and utilize technology if you can. For instance, CamelCamelCamel.com is a price tracking website that focuses on finding the best Amazon deals. You pair the CamelCamelCamel website with an Amazon-branded credit card, and you really could save a ton of money. Other tracking price websites to look at include PriceGrabber.com and Google Shopping.

Use more than one rewards credit card. This, too, is important to remember. You may have one credit card that offers you the most rewards with groceries and gas - and then have another card that offers you the most rewards with department stores. If you have two or three or more credit cards that offer rewards in a variety of categories, you may be able to maximize your savings. Just remember, of course, to always pay back everything in full every month. It does you no good to spend a lot of time maximizing your savings, only to waste it by paying additional interest.

WHAT CREDIT CARD FEATURES ARE BEST FOR ONLINE SHOPPING?

It really depends on your point of view. Features you love may be hated by other cardholders. That said, if you love to shop online, you may want to look at a card with the following perks. (And we should say that while we're discussing online shopping, these features often work plenty fine for shopping inside stores, too.)

Flexibility. Some credit cards will offer you a list of categories, and you can pick which ones you want the most cash back. So if you want to pick "department stores" and "clothing stores," you can do that, and suddenly you're getting 5% cash back for those purchases and less cash back on everything else. That can be a good way to get more bang for your buck if you're often using a department store or shopping for clothes.

Non-flexibility. Some people really prefer just a straight rewards without a lot of strategy - no thinking about categories or having to remember where you need to shop to get the most savings. So you may prefer a credit card that offers the same amount of rewards for everything - and then do your online shopping that way.

An online branded store card. Amazon has a lot of credit cards, like, for instance, the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card. If you do a lot of online shopping on Amazon, or with any particular online store, getting a card exclusive to a favorite retail brand can make a lot of sense. BUT, in general, a non-branded card is going to offer you the best flexibility and bang for your buck. Don't apply for a store card just to save 20% on that day's purchase. It's likely not worth the hard credit pull.

Look for a generous welcome offer. First of all, take this advice with a little grain of salt. All welcome offers end - they give you a serious chunk of rewards, and then the welcome offer is done. So you need to find a credit card, whether for online shopping or everyday living, that you're going to really like in the long run. That said, if you find a credit card that offers, say, $200 cash back when you spend $500, you could use that money for a pretty decent online shopping spree.

CAN I GET A CREDIT CARD FOR ONLINE SHOPPING WITH BAD CREDIT?

Yes, you can. In fact, there are quite a few credit cards designed for people with bad credit. That said, the credit cards designed for people with bad credit tend to not come with a lot of perks in the way that credit cards for people with excellent credit scores do. For instance, while some credit cards for people with bad credit have rewards, many are secured credit cards, which require you to put down a refundable deposit before you can establish a line of credit and use the credit card.

Still, if you want to do online shopping, or any shopping, and you have bad credit, you can definitely find credit cards to apply to. Use that card responsibly when you're shopping online or in-person and you should see your credit score improve over time. That improved score could open the door to even better cards in your future.


Survey Methodology: CardRatings commissioned Op4G in September and October 2020 to conduct surveys among 1,746 cardholders nationwide. CardRatings website analytics from Jan. 1, 2020-Aug. 31, 2020 were used to determine a selection of the most popular cards and additional cards were added 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.

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: American Express® Gold Card (See Rates and Fees; terms apply); Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express (See Rates and Fees; terms apply)

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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