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.

Money360’s Best Rewards Cards for Holiday Spending:

Discover it® Cashback Match™

While the Discover it® Cashback Match™ 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, or wholesale clubs up to the quarterly maximum each time you activate, , 1% unlimited cash back automatically on all other purchases. The kicker is, Discover has promised to double the rewards you earn during your first 12 months.

Obviously, it helps that the Discover it® Cashback Match™ 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® Cashback Match™


Highlights
Card Highlights Provided by Discover:
  • Earn 5% cash back at different places each quarter like gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, Amazon.com, or wholesale clubs up to the quarterly maximum each time you activate.
  • Earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases – automatically.
  • INTRO OFFER: Discover will match ALL the cash back earned at the end of your first year, automatically.
  • Redeem cash back any amount, any time. Rewards never expire.
  • Use your rewards at Amazon.com checkout.
  • 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, 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.

As an added bonus, the Chase Freedom® offers a signup bonus after you meet a minimum spending requirement. And once you earn your rewards, you can use them in several different ways. Use them to book travel through the Chase portal, redeem them for cash-back or gift cards, or use them to shop on Amazon.com, for instance.

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.

Chase Freedom®


Highlights
  • Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening
  • Earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate
  • Enjoy new 5% categories each quarter
  • Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - it's automatic
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 16.49-25.24%. Balance transfer fee is 5% of the amount transferred, $5 minimum
  • Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open and there is no minimum to redeem for cash back.
  • Free credit score, updated weekly with Credit Journey℠
  • No annual fee

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), 3% back at U.S. gas stations and select U.S. department stores, 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, 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
  • $200 statement credit after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new Card within the first 3 months.
  • 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%) - that means spending $60 a week at U.S. supermarkets could earn over $180 back per year.
  • 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations and at select U.S. department stores, 1% back on other purchases.
  • Low intro APR: 0% for 12 months on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable rate, currently 14.49% to 25.49%.
  • Over 1.5 million more places in the U.S. started accepting American Express® Cards in 2017.
  • Cash back is received in the form of Reward Dollars that can be easily redeemed for statement credits, gift cards, and merchandise.
  • $95 annual fee.
  • Terms Apply.

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 , 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 . Johnson shares her obsession with frugality, budgeting, and travel at 

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

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