Save big with rewards, 0% APR, no foreign transaction fees and more.
Christmas is the season for giving. It’s also when many of us turn to plastic to pay for gifts, food and everything needed for this special time of year with family and friends.
What if you took control of your Christmas spending before it got out of hand? It’s simple to do — and it starts with knowing your options.
Which credit card should I get for Christmas shopping?
Buy now, pay later: 0% intro APR credit cards
You can save on interest with a card that offers 0% APR on your purchases for the first 12 to 15 months after you open your account.
With these cards, you get up to a year to repay your holiday spending without unnecessary interest on your purchases. At the end of your intro, any debt remaining on the card accrues interest at a higher revert rate.
Compare 0% APR credit cards
Earn rewards as you spend: Cashback and travel cards
Reward your own generosity this Christmas with cash back, points or miles on your purchases.
Cashback cards are often the simplest reward cards, offering statement credits or account deposits based on your spending. Cards offering points or miles are more complicated but potentially more powerful. Many cards offer flexible rewards for redemption toward travel perks, gift cards, merchandise, events and statement credits.
Compare rewards credit cards
Get rewarded for holiday groceries: Cards for everyday purchases
Many cards are designed to offer exceptional rewards on food and supplies you purchase at grocery stores. You can often earn up to 6% back — a tremendous bonus when you’re the one hosting the holiday party.
What’s more, these everyday cards aren’t just useful for the holiday season: They pay those same dividends over the rest of the year.
Compare credit cards for grocery shopping
Get rewarded for eating out this holiday season: Dining cards
If you plan to treat visiting friends and family to scrumptious feasts outside the home this holiday season, consider a card that rewards you for dining where you live and on the road. Look for rewards rates of 4% or more on fine dining, fast food, coffee and treats, even food trucks.
Epicureans who spend a lot eating out can earn cash back and benefits well beyond the Christmas season.
Compare credit cards for dining
Save on overseas shopping: Cards with no foreign transaction fees
Traveling out of the country for the holidays — or have somebody on your list with a taste for overseas goods? A card that waives foreign transaction fees might help you keep your Christmas costs down. These fees can equal 2% to 3% of your transaction.
Simply use your card to save on overseas spending or online at international retailers.
Compare cards with no foreign transaction fees
Shop without the frills: Cards with no annual fee
If you don’t need all the trimmings this Christmas, consider a practical card with a $0 annual fee.
Compare our top $0-annual-fee credit cards
Manage Christmas debt: Balance transfer cards
These cards are designed to help you consolidate your existing debt, offering an introductory low or 0% APR — typically for 12 to 21 months — on balances you transfer to your new account. At the end of the introductory period, your card reverts to a higher ongoing interest rate that applies to any debt you haven’t yet paid off.
How to use a credit card for Christmas shopping
Get the most out of your credit card this Christmas by taking advantage of your interest-free grace period. Nearly every credit card offers a grace period on your spending that can give you time to pay off what you owe without putting a penny toward interest.
Already have a credit card?
With most credit cards, you qualify for the grace period only if you’ve paid your statement in full the previous month. To take advantage of your grace period for holiday spending, plan to pay off any balance due on your card by November.
After that, use your card to pay for gifts, food and other holiday-related needs throughout December. Those purchases will likely qualify for your card’s interest grace period and, after your December billing cycle closes, you’ll have 20 days or more to pay off your new balance before interest accrues.
Getting a new credit card for Christmas?
If you’re applying for a new card, plan how you’ll use it for and ultimately pay off your debt.
To pay off purchases over a long low- or no-interest period, compare credit cards offering introductory APRs. If you’re confident that you can repay what you owe in the interest grace period, consider a card that offers miles, points or other rewards on your spending.
By knowing your goals, you’re better positioned to narrow down the perfect card for your needs.
How do I compare Christmas credit card offers?
Weigh key details of your credit card options to find the strongest you’re eligible for:
- Intro APRs. Many cards offer an introductory 0% APR on purchases, balance transfers or both. Note how long the intro offer lasts so that you know how long you can wait to repay your debt without interest.
- Interest rates. Confirm each card’s typical interest rates for purchases and balance transfers. These rates apply as soon as any 0% APR periods end — and could add a lot to your credit card bill if you’re carrying a balance.
- Annual fee. You can pay as low as $0 and as high as a few hundred dollars a year to use your card. Some cards reduce or waive your annual fee altogether for the first year.
- Signup bonus. Many cards offer enticing bonuses just for signing up. These extra miles, points or cash back could mean hundreds of dollars for the holidays, if you qualify. Confirm the offer requirements, as you may need to spend a set amount in the first few months before you can get your bonus.
- Earned rewards. When evaluating a rewards card, look at the cash back, points or miles you’ll earn for each dollar spent. Know about any caps on rewards or spending, and browse the provider’s site to learn when and how you can redeem your rewards.
- The extras. Complimentary travel insurance, extended warranties, airport lounge access and concierge services can help you get more value from your card. Think carefully about whether you’ll use them, and weigh them against any annual fee or other costs.
Ideas for managing holiday credit card debt
Keep the warm, fuzzy spirit of Christmas alive well into the new year with tips to staying on top of your spending and budget.
- Put away your cards. Maybe not forever, but perhaps until after you’ve paid off your cards. Avoiding additions to your balance makes it easier to avoid unnecessary interest.
- Make large payments right away. Especially helpful if you have a 0% APR period, paying off as much as you can each month reduces the balance that accrues interest after your intro rate ends.
- Find extra money. If your budget is stretched more than you’d like, look for ways to make extra bucks. Sell unused items in your home, rent out a spare room or start a side gig.
- Set goals you can reach. It can take only a month or two to land into holiday debt, but it can take longer to get out. Create a budget to schedule consistent payments that can get you back on your feet more quickly.
A new credit card can help you get through the holidays. But before you apply, consider what you’re looking for — whether that’s cash back, a low-interest intro period, no foreign transaction fees, no annual fee or other rewards.
Compare your options to narrow down the right card to guide you through the yuletide season.
Frequently asked questions
Pictures: ShutterstockBack to top