It seems like big box stores start leaking their Black Friday sale flyers around the same time they discount leftover Halloween candy. That gives you a few weeks to work out a strategy for financing your holiday purchases. These four rewards credit cards offer special deals and promotions that can help you stretch your budget, eliminate interest payments and even score you exclusive access to unique holiday experiences.
The brand that helped invent the cash-back credit card brings its A game for this holiday season, offering a 5-percent rebate on your first $1,500 in department store and online purchases between now and the end of the year. If you'd rather not race through store aisles at 5 o'clock in the morning, Discover will even treat you to free next-day shipping on select items at Amazon.com. Choose your gifts from merchants listed at ShopDiscover.com and you can bank bonus rebates of up to 15 percent.
If you're a first-time Discover Card member, you could qualify for one of the season's strongest signup offers. The Discover More Card offers six months of purchases at 0 percent, followed by a competitive everyday annual percentage rate. You can also transfer a balance at no interest with no finance charges for up to 18 months, paying just a 3-percent upfront balance transfer fee.
Through the end of the year, Chase Freedom cardholders can earn up to 5-percent cash back on qualifying purchases from airlines, hotels, Best Buy or Kohl's. However, a separate promotion with Kohl's lets Chase cardholders earn 10 percent of their purchases back as Ultimate Rewards credits when shopping through the Ultimate Rewards website. Chase will let you stack both rebates for a total of 15-percent cash back on your first $1,500 spent at any of Kohl's popular retail locations.
Even though you can redeem Ultimate Rewards points for cash rebates, many Chase cardmembers have discovered that they can squeeze even more value from their rewards balances. In addition to special deals on dining and travel, Chase now offers members exclusive experiences at the Radio City Christmas Spectacular or the Sundance Film Festival.
Wells Fargo Cash Back Visa
Retail banks haven't always offered the strongest rewards cards over the past few years, but heated competition has inspired some familiar names to launch some unusual holiday promotions. For instance, signing up for a new Wells Fargo Cash Back Visa will earn you a 0-percent APR and a 3-percent rebate on all gas, grocery and drugstore purchases for six months. Your everyday purchases earn 1-percent cash back, even after the promotion ends.
Because your holiday gift list requires you to travel beyond the corner convenience store, Wells Fargo and Visa have teamed up for a series of special merchant offers that can save you even more money. Retailers such as Urban Outfitters, Macy's and Banana Republic will waive shipping on qualifying orders during this season's promotional period. Although the go-to rate on this low introductory rate card can lean toward the high side, you'll have the benefit of face-to-face customer service at any of Wells Fargo's branches nationwide.
Capital One Cash
Although Capital One hasn't yet announced any extra rebates or signup bonuses for the holiday season, the bank has beefed up offerings through its Perk Central shopping portal. Unlike most other credit card issuers' online shopping malls, Perk Central now includes a selection of in-store bonuses. Some of the season's best deals have included instant cash back rebates of up to 10 percent at merchants like Banana Republic and Foot Locker.
Capital One's online rewards tracking system makes it easy for you to cash in on your bonuses, even within the same statement cycle as your qualifying purchases. A new "purchase eliminator" tool lets you pluck an item from your statement and pay it off instantly with your accrued rebate credit. In addition to a 1-percent cash rebate, you'll earn an extra 50-percent rebate bonus when you keep your account in good standing for a year.
As with all rewards credit cards, all four of these accounts come with APRs somewhat higher than those of their no-frills counterparts. Paying the full amount each billing cycle will prevent your rewards and savings from being eaten up by interest charges. If you're budgeting wisely and spending within your means, your cash rebates and instant discounts should more than make up for any annual fees. Review each card's list of promotional partners, because a card with a lower overall rebate may offer a deeper discount at one of your favorite stores. Finally, remember to maximize your rewards by using your new card for many of your routine purchases, like grocery bills and utility payments. Every penny you save lets you spread even more joy this holiday season.
This piece originally appeared on www.CardRatings.com: "Deck the Malls: The 4 Best Credit Cards for Holdiay Shopping."