Charging on your credit cards excessively during the holidays is a surefire way to have a debt hangover when the New Year rolls around.
So no matter how much you want to take part in holiday festivities and door-buster sales, it’s obviously a bad idea to engage in unbridled spending using the plastic in your wallet.
What you may not know, however, is that some credit cards are better to use than others while you’re out shopping or making online purchases during the holiday season.
In fact, even after the holidays, some credit cards are wiser to have than others – especially if you already know you won’t be able to pay your credit card balances in full when the statement arrives in January.
So if you’ll be shopping away on Black Friday, Cyber Monday and even beyond Christmas, check out the following five consumer-friendly credit cards.
They’ll help you better manage your finances, regulate your spending, and minimize debt – not just during the holidays, but also well into 2013.
1. Best Rewards Credit Card for Holiday Spending
The Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card gives you 2 miles for each $1 you spend. That goes for everything: the toys you’ll buy for your kids, the stocking stuffers and gifts you purchase for friends and co-workers, and even the airline and hotel spending you’ll do if you’re traveling to visit family for the holidays.
You also get a one-time bonus of 10,000 miles once you spend $1,000 on purchases within the first 3 months of having the Venture Rewards card.
Best of all, Capital One ups the ante and really sweetens their rewards deals when the holidays are here.
This year, Capital One is tossing in additional rewards of up to 15 bonus miles per dollar spent when you shop through its online shopping portal, Perk Central, and buy from hundreds of retailers, including Macy’s, GameStop and more.
“Credit card issuers are still using generous rewards and bonus offers to attract attention to their card,” says Bill Hardekopf, CEO of LowCards.com.
“If you pay off your balance each month, this shopping season is a great time to earn extra rewards,” Hardekopf adds. “But if you can’t afford to pay off your balance in January, forget about rewards and use cash or the credit card with the lowest rate.”
2. Best Credit Card for the Lowest Rate Possible: 0%
Most credit cards charge you interest if you don’t immediately pay off your balance. But not the Citi Diamond Preferred Card, which makes it a great option if you’re seeking a card that imposes no finance charges on your holiday purchases – even well after the holidays have come and gone.
This Citi Diamond Preferred Card boasts the lowest rate possible – an enticing 0% rate on new purchases for 18 months, plus it doesn’t have an annual fee.
That 0% rate will save you considerable bucks whether you’re going to make big-ticket purchases – like a flat-screen TV or a new computer – or you plan to buy lots of less expensive merchandise that will add up to hundreds or even thousands of dollars on your credit cards in the next few months.
“If you don’t foresee being able to foot the entire bill within the month, you might want to apply for a card that won’t start charging you interest for a while,” says Odysseas Papadimitriou, CEO of CardHub.com, “because the last thing you want is for your gift-giving tab to be inflated by a high interest rate that prevents you from swiftly getting out of your holiday debt.”
Clearly, there’s no better interest rate than 0% – and that’s what makes the Citi Diamond Preferred Card so appealing.
3. Best Credit Card for Balance Transfers and Reducing Debt
Even if you do make holiday purchases on a credit card that charges interest, or you can’t immediately pay your holiday credit card bills in full, all isn’t lost.
You can still save money and reduce credit card finance charges after your holiday bills arrive in the mail.
The key is to find an excellent credit card that will allow you to do a free or low-cost balance transfer – preferably a card with no interest, and one that gives you a generous amount of time to pay off your debt.
Fortunately, the Chase Slate Card is a stellar choice that meets all these requirements.
The Chase Slate Card offers 0% on balance transfers for 15 months, doesn’t charge any initial balance transfer fee, and it has no an annual fee.
Typically a 0% deal alone is a nice offer. But the lack of a balance transfer fee – which usually runs 3% – is another great incentive with the Chase Slate Card because it will definitely save you money over many other credit card offerings you might receive post holidays.
For instance, assume you have $5,000 on your credit cards after the holidays and you want to do a balance transfer to another, lower rate card. Even if you found one with 0%, like the Slate card, you’d likely still tack another $150 onto your balance because most other credit card issuers charge about 3% as a balance transfer fee.
“The Slate Card is the best balance transfer credit card on the market in light of its long 0% intro period and lack of fees, which combined may provide savings of more than $1,000,” says Papadimitriou.
“An interesting strategy that some consumers might want to try this holiday season,” he adds, “is to use one of the best rewards cards for holiday spending and then transfer their debt to the Slate Card. This would enable you to effectively garner the best possible rewards on the market as well as the best possible 0% balance transfer deal.”
The Chase Slate Card has one final bonus you can tap: Blueprint.
Blueprint is a set of free financial management features from Chase. Blueprint lets you do everything from monitoring your spending to strategically paying down your balances in a way that you decide, as quickly as possible – all while shelling out the least amount of interest on your credit card.
4. Best Credit Card for Staying Under Your Credit Limit
Are you the kind of shopper who manages your credit and debt wisely, doesn’t go over your credit limit, and pays your bills on time? If so, congratulations.
But did you also know that you could get rewarded for your good credit behavior?
While some holiday shoppers will wind up being embarrassed at the checkout line and having their credit cards rejected for going over their credit limits, if you’re responsible and restrained in your use of credit, you can get nice financial perks with the Citi Forward Card.
The Citi Forward Card slashes 2% from your purchase APR if you stay under your credit limit, and if you promptly pay your bill for three consecutive billing periods.
Here’s how it works: each quarter that you pay on time and don’t exceed your credit limit, Citi cuts 0.25% off your rate. You can do that eight times, which is how you can ultimately get the 2% reduction in your purchase APR.
The bottom line with the Citi Forward Card is that it gives you an incentive and rewards you for making good financial choices and smart credit moves.
5. Best Credit Card for Cash Back Bonuses
Discover is known for its generous cash back bonuses, and the company’s deals get even more lucrative during the holidays.
With a Discover card, from October 1 through December 31, you can earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in department store and online purchases by signing up for this bonus either online or over the telephone.
Additionally, from November 1 through January 10, 2013, the Discover shopping portal, ShopDiscover, connects you with more than 70 retailers and merchants where you can earn additional 5% to 20% cash back bonuses on your purchases.
So let’s say you love to shop for books, electronics on other items on Amazon.com.
Discover card members will receive another 5% cash back bonus on all Amazon items purchased up to $1,500. You also get free one-day shipping to any location in the continental United States.
Want a new Mac laptop or an iPad? Well, you can get another 5% cash back at Apple.com through ShopDiscover.
Don’t Forget the Fine Print
To apply for any of the credit cards mentioned above, learn more about them, or to compare credit card offers, check out the credit card reviews and information at CreditCards.com.
As always, before you apply for any new card or take advantage of any credit card promotion, make sure you fully read the fine print and understand all the terms and conditions involved.
For instance, that $0 balance transfer fee offering on the Chase Slate Card applies only during the first 60 days after you open the card; subsequent to that, the regular 3% balance transfer fee applies.
When used properly, credit cards can be a great convenience, and a financial tool that helps you get what you want while still keeping your budget in check.
But the last thing you want this holiday season is to take advantage of a credit card “deal” that turns out – much later – to be a bust.