How Getting a Rewards Credit Card Now Can Help You Save in the Holiday Season

Much as you probably don’t want to think about it right now while summer is coming to a close and stores are full of back to school products and promotions, the holidays are on the horizon. The ways people tackle holiday shopping vary, from those who pick things up all year long as they stumble across them to the people who breathlessly flock to local shopping malls the night before to try and do it all last minute.

Whatever your current strategy, you’d probably love to find a way to cut down on holiday-related costs, and one idea you might not have thought about is using a rewards credit card to help you save. Whether you’d like to earn cash back that can be applied to your gift purchases during the holiday season or want to stockpile travel miles to help cover the cost of your flight home for the holidays, using a rewards credit card for everyday purchases now can help make your holiday dreams a reality.


How can using a rewards credit card now help me save later?

Rewards credit cards do just what the name implies by rewarding owners with incentives in the form of cash or points (or miles) which can be redeemed for cash, certain products, air miles and other physical goods. You earn cash back or points simply by using your credit card and paying off the balance each month. Choosing a rewards credit card can be tricky, but the key is to find a card that will earn you the maximum rewards value based on your spending habits. For example, if you are constantly taking road trips or simply drive a lot, a credit card that offers a high rewards percentage on gas purchases would be a smart choice, while families that spend a lot at grocery stores every month will want to look for a card that will reward them for those purchases. Most rewards credit cards let you stockpile your points for redemption on your terms, which means if you start spending and earning now, by the time the holidays arrive and you start shopping, you should have a decent bonus to work with. And if you opt for a travel rewards credit card, using your earned miles or points when you book a flight or hotel stay will help take some of the hassle out of your holiday season.

With so many credit cards on the market, it can be hard to determine which credit cards will earn you enough rewards that you can reap the benefits by the holiday season. Here are some of our top picks for cash back and travel rewards credit cards.


Top picks for cash back cards

Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express

When it comes to cash back, you can’t get much more bang out of your buck than with the Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express (a NextAdvisor advertiser), which earns users a stunning 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (up to $6,000 in purchases annually, then it’s 1%), unlimited 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations and select department stores as well as 1% cash back on all other purchases. As an added bonus, when you spend $1,000 in purchases during your first 3 months of card ownership, you’ll get $200 back in the form of statement credit. That’s $200 you can use to reimburse your holiday shopping! Additionally, you can save on interest fees for the next year with a 12-month 0% intro APR on both purchases and balance transfers (a balance transfer fee of 3% of each transfer does apply, $5 min), which is good to keep in mind if you wind up making a big-ticket purchase now or during the holidays. The Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express does have a $95 annual fee, but depending on your spending habits, the card may still be worth it. Looking for similar perks without the annual fee? The Blue Cash Everyday Card from American Express earns 3% cash back at U.S. grocery stores (up to $6,000 annually, then 1% on all remaining purchases), unlimited 2% at U.S. gas stations and select U.S. department stores and unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases. This card also offers a generous intro bonus and a 15-month 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers (with a 3% balance transfer fee, $5 min).

Chase Freedom 

Another solid choice for significant cash back is Chase Freedom, which lets you earn 5% cash back on categories that rotate on a quarterly basis (up to $1,500 in combined purchases each quarter, then it’s 1%) and 1% cash back on all other purchases. If you’re a regular shopper at Walmart or department stores, you’ll earn 5% cash back when you shop there through the end of 2017, and Chase Freedom makes it easy to redeem your cash back rewards as a statement credit, a direct deposit to your bank account or have them transferred to Amazon.com in a 1:1 ratio to pay for all or part of your purchase — great news for people who prefer to do their holiday shopping from the comfort of their own home. On top of all this, you get a lengthy 15-month 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers plus a $150 cash back bonus when you spend $500 on purchases within the first 3 months your account is open. There is no annual fee for this card, and your rewards never expire, so you can keep earning and saving until you’re ready to use them. If you’d prefer not to deal with rotating categories, the Chase Freedom Unlimited simplifies things with a 1.5% cash back offer on all purchases, no matter what. However, if your goal is to have a rewards card that will help you save money for the holidays, you’d be better off with one that earns you 5%.

Discover 

Don’t have stellar credit but still want a card that will let earn travel rewards? The Discover it Miles credit card accepts applicants with average credit or better and lets you earn 1.5 miles for every $1 spent. If you’re using this card for your everyday purchases, which will add up over time, this card is a great choice for you, and consistent use from now until the holidays will definitely make a difference if you want to redeem miles for that trip to Grandma’s. Every 100 miles you earn can be redeemed for $1, and you can choose between redeeming them for a statement credit toward travel purchases and having them redeemed directly into your bank account. A huge bonus comes at the end of your first year, when Discover will automatically match all the miles you earned in the past 12 months — meaning if you earned 50,000 miles, you’ll automatically get an extra 50,000 for a total of 100,000 miles earned in your first year. Other perks of this credit card include no annual fee or foreign transaction fees, an automatic credit of up to $30/year for your in-flight Wi-Fi fees and a 0% intro APR on your purchases for 14 months.

Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard

Another great option for a travel rewards card is the Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard, which lets you earn 2 miles per $1 spent on all purchases without any categories or restrictions to worry about. Redeeming your miles is a cinch — simply book your travel with the airline of your choice, then redeem your miles for a statement credit, or redeem your miles for a statement credit toward any other kind of travel. Miles you earn with your Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard can also be redeemed for gift cards and merchandise. You even get a 5% bonus when you redeem your miles to save for the next time. New cardholders can also earn a generous 40,000 bonus miles — worth $400 in travel — after spending $3,000 on purchases within the first 90 days of card membership. Chip-and-pin technology plus no foreign transaction fees make this the perfect choice for travel abroad, and the $89 annual fee is waived the first year.

Holiday Giveaway Month - December:
You can be the winner of the $100 AMEX card or you can get it in your PayPal wallet. Enter to win below:

$100 American Express Gift Card

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