The 7 Best Credit Cards for Holiday Shopping (2023)

We dive into our database of hundreds of credit card offers to bring you the best credit cards for holiday shopping.

The holiday gift-buying season is more than just a magical season. It can also be a great time to build up your stash of cashback rewards.

As long as you stick to a holiday budget (and pay off your statement balance in full), the right cashback rewards credit card can be lucrative. You don’t need to spend extra, either. By optimizing which cards you use for which purchases, you can maximize your rewards on the things you’re already buying anyway.

Best Cards to Use During the Holidays

Here are our top 7 cashback credit cards to use this holiday season.

1. Chase Freedom Unlimited®—Editor's Choice

Best Overall Card for Holiday Shopping

Why it made our list

The Chase Freedom Unlimited® earns the top spot for the holidays (and just about any other cashback needs) for one key reason. Earn an extra 1.5% on everything you buy (on up to $20,000 spent in the first year) — worth up to $300 cash back. That's 6.5% on travel purchased through Chase Travel, 4.5% on dining and drugstores, and 3% on all other purchases. Add to that no annual fee, and this card is arguably one of the best cash back cards for any purpose.

What could be better

The extra cash back is for the first year only. Next year holiday shopping will still earn 1.5%, but not the 3% you'd get the first 12 months. There are some cards that pay higher base rates, but they don't offer the elevated cash back rewards this card does. If the elevated cashback categories aren't relevant to you, this card is not a good match.

Rewards:

1.5% cash back
On all other eligible purchases
Earn 1.5% cash back on all other purchases
3% cash back
Drugstores
Earn 3% on drugstore purchases
3% cash back
Dining
Earn 3% cash back on dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery services
5% cash back
Travel
After your first year or $20,000 spent, enjoy 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Travel

Signup Bonus: Earn an extra 1.5% on everything you buy (on up to $20,000 spent in the first year) — worth up to $300 cash back. That's 6.5% on travel purchased through Chase Travel, 4.5% on dining and drugstores, and 3% on all other purchases.

APR: 0% intro APR for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers, and then an ongoing rate of 20.49% - 29.24%% variable APR.

Annual Fee: $0

Additional benefits include zero liability protection, purchase protection, and extended warranty protection. These benefits are ideal for gift purchases. Travelers will receive trip cancellation/interruption insurance and emergency assistance. Plus, the card comes with fraud monitoring and identity restoration along with free credit score reports.

More: Read our review of the Chase Freedom Unlimited®

2. Chase Freedom Flex(SM)

Best For Holiday Shopping at Wholesale Clubs

Why it made our list

The Chase Freedom Flex(SM) made our list because of its rotating bonus categories. In the fourth quarter of 2023, you'll earn 5% cash back on combined purchases of $1,500 on transactions through PayPal, at wholesale clubs and select charities. This makes it an ideal card for shopping at Costco or Sam's Club.

What could be better

The one downside is that you have to activate the quarterly categories to qualify for the 5% cash back. In addition, the categories change from year to year, and there is a $1,500 quarterly spending cap on the 5% rewards. On the bright side, the card comes with additional bonus cash back categories they don't have any spending limits..

Rewards:

1% cash back
On all other eligible purchases
1% cash back on all other purchases
3% cash back
Drugstores
3% cash back on drugstore purchases
3% cash back
Dining
3% cash back on dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery services
5% cash back
Rotating Categories
5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate
5% cash back
Travel
5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards

Welcome Offer: Earn a $200 bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening Plus, earn 5% cash back on combined gas station and grocery store purchases (excluding Target and Walmart) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year.

APR: 0% intro APR for 15 on purchases and balance transfers, and then an ongoing rate of 20.49%–29.24%% variable APR.

Annual Fee: $0

More: Read our review of the Chase Freedom Flex(SM).

3. U.S. Bank Cash+® Visa Signature® Card

Best For Electronics and Department Stores

Why it made our list

The U.S. Bank Cash+® Visa Signature® Card offers 5% cash back on your first $2,000 in combined eligible purchases each quarter on the two categories you choose. What makes this ideal for holiday shopping is that two of those categories are department stores and electronic stores.

Here are the other categories that are eligible for 5% cashback:

  • TV, Internet & Streaming Services
  • Fast Food
  • Cell Phone Providers
  • Department Stores
  • Home Utilities
  • Select Clothing Stores
  • Electronics Stores
  • Sporting Goods Stores
  • Movie Theaters
  • Gyms/Fitness Centers
  • Furniture Stores
  • Ground Transportation

What could be better

Once you move beyond the elevated reward categories, you're stuck at the 1% rewards level. For this reason, we'd never make this our only card. It's best paired with a 2% cash back card. In addition, the 5% cash back at department stores is capped at $2,000 per quarter.

Rewards:

1% cash back
On all other eligible purchases
1% cash back on all other purchases
2% cash back
Rotating Categories
2% cash back on one everyday category, like Gas Stations and EV Charging Stations, Grocery Stores or Restaurants
5% cash back
Rotating Categories
5% cash back on your first $2,000 in combined eligible purchases each quarter on two categories you choose
5% cash back
Airfare
5% cash back on prepaid air booked directly in the Rewards Center
5% cash back
Hotels
5% cash back on prepaid hotels booked directly in the Rewards Center
5% cash back
Rental Cars
5% cash back on prepaid car reservations booked directly in the Rewards Center

Signup Bonus: $200 bonus after spending $1,000 in eligible purchases within the first 120 days of account opening.

Annual Fee: $0

APR: 0% intro APR for 15 billing cycles. and for 15 billing cycles., and then an ongoing rate of 19.49% - 29.74%% variable APR.

More: Read our review of the U.S. Bank Cash+® Visa Signature® Card

4. Prime Visa

Best For Amazon Purchases

Why it made our list

The Prime Visa offers 5% cash back for Prime Members on Amazon purchases (3% cash back if you aren't a Prime member). You get the same cash back at Amazon Fresh and Whole Foods. So if you shop within the Amazon ecosystem, this is the card to use (and the card we've used for years).

As an added perk, the card offers excellent cash back in other categories, such as travel, gas, restaurants and transit.

What could be better

Not much, to be honest. There is no annual fee, although you do have to have a Prime membership to get the highest cash back rewards. And if a purchase doesn't fall within one of the bonus categories, the cash back is just 1%.

Rewards:

1% cash back
On all other eligible purchases
Earn unlimited 1% back on all other purchases.
2% cash back
Dining
Earn unlimited 2% back at restaurants.
2% cash back
Gas
Earn unlimited 2% back at gas stations.
2% cash back
Transit
Earn unlimited 2% back on local transit and commuting (including rideshare).
5% cash back
Select Categories
Earn unlimited 5% back at Amazon.com, Amazon Fresh, Whole Foods Market with an eligible Prime membership.
5% cash back
Travel
Earn unlimited 5% back on Chase Travel purchases with an eligible Prime membership.
10% cash back
Select Categories
Eligible Prime cardmembers earn 10% back or more on a rotating selection of items and categories on Amazon.com.

Signup Bonus: Get a $100 Amazon Gift Card instantly upon approval exclusively for Prime members

Annual Fee: $0

APR: 0% intro APR for N/A and for N/A, and then an ongoing rate of 19.49% - 27.49%% variable APR.

More: Read our review of the Prime Visa

5. Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards Secured Credit Card

Best For Online Purchases

Why it made our list

The Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards Secured Credit Card offers 3% cash back in a category of your choice. One of the categories is online shopping, which makes the card ideal for Christmas and other holiday gifts.

You can also increase the cash back by as much as 75% if you are a Preferred Rewards member. The Gold tier gets a 25% bonus, the Platinum tier 50%, and the Platinum Honors tier 75%. At the top rate, online purchases can earn 5.25%.

What could be better

The standard cash back tier is just 1%. That's common for cards like this that offer higher rewards in select categories. But it also means that you may want to pair this card with one that earns at least 2% cash back on all purchases.

Rewards:

1% cash back
On all other eligible purchases
Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases
2% cash back
U.S. supermarkets
Earn 2% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs
3% cash back
Select Categories
3% cash back in the category of your choice: gas, online shopping, dining, travel, drug stores, or home improvement/furnishings

Signup Bonus:

Annual Fee: $0

APR: 28.24%% variable APR.

More: Read our review of the Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards Secured Credit Card

6. Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card

Best For 2% Cash Back On All Gifts

Why it made our list

The Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card is ideal for holiday shopping if you want a flat 2% cash back on all purchases. Many use a 2% cash back card as their only card. It gives them excellent rewards and the simplicity of using just one credit card.

The card charges no annual fee and offers a signup bonus. It's one of the best all-around rewards credit cards available today.

What could be better

It doesn't offer any rewards above the 2% cash back. For those willing to carry more than one card, you can do better with a combination of cash back cards.

Rewards:

2% cash back
All eligible purchases
Earn unlimited 2% cash rewards on purchases

Signup Bonus: Earn a $200 cash rewards bonus after spending $500 in purchases in the first 3 months

Annual Fee: $0

APR: 0% intro APR for 15 months from account opening and for 15 months from account opening on qualifying balance transfers, and then an ongoing rate of 20.24%, 25.24% or 29.99%% variable APR.

More: Read our review of the Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card

7. Citi Custom Cash® Card

Best For Home Improvement Gifts

Why it made our list

The Citi Custom Cash® Card made our list because it offers 5% cash back at home improvement stores on up to $500 in spending per month. It's a rotating categories card with a twist (no pun intended). Citi will apply the 5% cash back each month to the eligible category in which you spent the most. There's no need to activate a category.

One of its 5% categories is home improvement stores. This makes it an ideal card for those gifts that come from Home Depot or Lowes.

What could be better

After the 5% cash back, the card drops to just 1%. As such, the card is best for those who use it for just the 5% category, and then use a different card for other purchases.

Rewards:

1% cash back
On all other eligible purchases
Earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases.
5% cash back
Select Categories
Earn 5% cash back on purchases in your top eligible spend category each billing cycle, up to the first $500 spent, 1% cash back thereafter.

Signup Bonus: Earn $200 in cash back after you spend $1500 on purchases in the first 6 months of account opening. This bonus offer will be fulfilled as 20,000 ThankYou® points, which can be redeemed for $200 cash back.

Annual Fee: $0

APR: 0% intro APR for 15 months and for 15 months, and then an ongoing rate of 19.24% - 29.24%% variable APR.

More: Read our review of the Citi Custom Cash® Card

What to Look For

So, what are the best features to look for when it comes to the ideal gift-buying credit card?

The first, and most valuable, is that the card earns great rewards. Specifically, you may want to opt for a card that offers cash back, versus choosing a travel rewards card. That’s because cashback rewards are typically more versatile and easier to redeem.

Of course, this depends on how you plan to spend your rewards. Travel miles could also serve you well, especially if you’re planning a vacation in the next year.

The end goal, though, is to get the maximum amount of rewards possible on gifts you’re already planning to buy. In other words, even if a retail credit card offers great rewards, it won’t do you any good unless you can or were planning to pick up some of your gifts from that store already. If you have to force yourself to spend money on additional items or at stores you wouldn’t otherwise patronize, you’re losing in the end.

Other Perks

Besides cash back, there are a few other reasons you may choose one credit card over another this holiday season.

No-Interest Shopping: While we recommend budgeting for the holiday season well before you even begin shopping, a good credit card can help if you’re still going to come up short. Some of the cards we will highlight here feature 0% introductory APRs.

So if you need to spend a bit more than you’ve got banked, or you have an unexpected expense that wrecks your Christmas budget, you’re safe. You’ll have at least a couple of months to pay back those purchases before you incur any finance charges.

Purchase Protection: Other benefits to consider include protections offered by a particular credit card issuer.

For instance, some cards offer return protection, crediting you back for a purchase even if the retailer won’t accept your return. Others offer purchase protection, which will cover replacement costs if the gift is stolen or damaged.

If you’re planning any large purchases of electronics, big toys, or other warranted items, look for a card that offers extended warranty protection. In many cases, this gives you the opportunity to double the manufacturer’s included warranty for no additional expense, up to a few extra years.

Of course, these offers are detailed, complex, and unique to each card product. So if you’re choosing a specific card for one of these benefits, make sure to read the fine print.

Get the Most from Your Card Over the Holidays

When it comes to holiday shopping with a credit card, you can earn some serious cash back if you know how to maximize your spending.

The average American was expected to spend more than $800 on holiday gifts last year. By strategically spending with one or more of these rewards credit cards, you could earn some serious rewards. In fact, with 5% cash back categories you’d net $50 in rewards.

This year, you can spread holiday cheer while also spending smart and sticking to your budget!