Last-Minute Rewards Cards to Snag for Holiday Spending

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With the holiday shopping season ready to wreak havoc on your budget, it’s only natural to look for new or different ways to save. Chances are, you’re gearing up for Black Friday and Cyber Monday while simultaneously watching out for special promotions and last-minute deals. By the time all is said and done, we can only hope that most of us will check off our holiday wish lists without going too far over budget.

Still, there’s a limit to how much you can save with doorbusters and Black Friday deals. If you’re looking for some less obvious ways to save that you can stack on top of sales and promotions, it can pay to consider which rewards cards offer the most bang for your buck.

This year especially, a handful of cards are offering stellar deals that can pair nicely with where you plan to do your holiday shopping. Here are a few cards you should definitely sign up for now – before shopping season hits high gear.

The Simple Dollar’s Best Rewards Cards for Holiday Spending:

Discover it® Cash Back

While the Discover it® Cash Back is a solid cash-back card you can use in any season, this year’s holiday bonus categories can help you rack up more rewards than usual. But first, let’s talk about how this card works.

Once you sign up, you’ll earn a flat 5% cash back at different places each quarter like gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, Amazon.com and more up to the quarterly maximum each time you activate, plus, 1% unlimited cash back automatically on all other purchases. The kicker is, Discover has promised to match the rewards you earn during your first 12 months.

Obviously, it helps that the Discover it® Cash Back doesn’t charge an annual fee. You also get a free FICO® score on your monthly statement and U.S.-based customer service.

On the redemption side, cashing in points with this card is a piece of cake. Not only can you redeem points for statement credits that will erase holiday purchases, but you can redeem for gift cards and some merchandise, too.

Here are some more details to consider before you sign up:

Discover it® Cash Back


Highlights
Card Highlights Provided by Discover:
  • INTRO OFFER: Discover will match ALL the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically. There's no signing up. And no limit to how much is matched.
  • Earn 5% cash back at different places each quarter like gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, Amazon.com and more up to the quarterly maximum, each time you activate.
  • Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - automatically.
  • Redeem cash back any amount, any time. Rewards never expire.
  • Use your rewards at Amazon.com checkout.
  • Get an alert if we find your Social Security number on any of thousands of Dark Web sites.* Activate for free.
  • No annual fee.

Chase Freedom®

Depending on your shopping habits, the Chase Freedom® is another card that might help you rack up more rewards this holiday season. This card works similarly to the Discover it® in that it offers 5% back on your first $1,500 in categories that rotate every quarter, plus 1% back on all other purchases.

In the first quarter of 2018, the Chase Freedom® is doling out 5% back on internet, cable, and phone purchases, along with Apple Pay, Android Pay, Samsung Pay, and Chase Pay. Obviously, this might be huge if you plan to do your holiday shopping using one of these apps, or if you have a big cell phone bill.

In addition to offering a different set of bonus categories from the Discover it®, the Chase Freedom® offers an array of cardmember benefits as well. Once you sign up, you’ll get perks like purchase protection, extended warranties, auto rental collision damage waiver, roadside assistance, trip cancellation/interruption insurance, lost luggage reimbursement, and travel accident insurance.

Also keep in mind that, if you have a premier Chase travel card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, you can transfer your points to that account, and redeem them as more valuable Ultimate Rewards Points.

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

Last but not least, don’t forget about the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express – especially if you expect to host a big holiday dinner. This card doles out an amazing 6% back on your first $6,000 spent at U.S. supermarkets each year (and 1% thereafter), 6% cash back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions, 3% back at U.S. gas stations and on transit, and 1% back on all other purchases.

If you expect to prepare a feast — or to pick up gift cards for the holidays at your local grocery store — this card could help you earn a huge rate of return. That doesn’t even include the fact that many grocery stores also have gas rewards programs you can pair with this offer.

This card does charge a $95 annual fee (See Rates & Fees), but it offers a large welcome bonus that offsets the fee in the first year. Not only that, but if you do spend $6,000 at U.S. supermarkets throughout your first year — what amounts to a pretty average $500 a month on groceries — you would earn $360 in rewards for those purchases alone.

On the redemption side, you can redeem your points for statement credits, gift cards, or merchandise.

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

Partner Offer

Highlights
  • Earn a $250 statement credit after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new Card within the first 3 months.
  • New 6% Cash Back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions.
  • New 3% Cash Back on transit including taxis/rideshare, parking, tolls, trains, buses and more.
  • 6% Cash Back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1%). 3% Cash Back at U.S. gas stations. 1% Cash Back on other purchases.
  • Over 3 million more places in the U.S. started accepting American Express® Cards in 2017 and 2018.
  • Low intro APR: 0% for 12 months on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable rate, currently 14.49% to 25.49%
  • $95 annual fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees

The Bottom Line

Before you hit the stores hot and heavy this holiday season, make sure you’re using a rewards card that can work in your favor. By signing up for one on this list, you can easily earn at least 5% back on some of your holiday gifts.

At the same time, it’s crucial to make sure you can afford to pay your holiday gifts off as soon as you charge them. With most rewards cards carrying an average APR of around 15%, pursuing rewards while simultaneously carrying a balance is a losing proposition. Remember, the best holiday shopping season is one where you emerge debt-free.

Holly Johnson is an award-winning personal finance writer and the author of Zero Down Your Debt. Johnson shares her obsession with frugality, budgeting, and travel at ClubThrifty.com.

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Which rewards cards are you using for holiday shopping this year? Why? Please share in the comments below!

For rates and fees of the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express, please click here.

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