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November is synonymous with Thanksgiving and holiday shopping, so the Nerds’ credit card tips this month focus on finding you the best cards to use for groceries, gas and Black Friday. Let’s go!
Cash-back cards for seasonal spending
The average cost of a typical Thanksgiving spread for 10 in 2015 was $50.11, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation. If your family and friends stay for the weekend, your food bill will run even higher. To help manage the budget, turn to a credit card that pays bonus cash back on supermarket purchases.
The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express is our favorite cash-back card for shopping in U.S. supermarkets. It pays 6% cash back on up to $6,000 a year in spending at U.S. supermarkets (then 1%). The annual fee has a $0 intro for the first year, then $95. You recoup the annual fee if you spend more than $31 per week at U.S. supermarkets. Additionally, this card gives you 3% back at U.S. gas stations and on transit, so it's worth keeping in reach all through the holidays.
Don't care for the annual fee? Check out the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express, which has a fee of $0 but offers lower rewards rates of 3% at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000 per year in purchases) and 2% at U.S. gas stations.
Buying food for an army at Sam's Club or Costco? The Chase Freedom® offers 5% cash back in categories that change each quarter. Through the end of 2016, those categories include wholesale clubs. If you have supersize costs, you can save some money by shopping at the supersize stores. The Discover it® Cash Back also has 5% bonus categories, which through the end of 2016 include Sam’s Club, Amazon.com and department stores. With both of these cards, the 5% is good on up to $1,500 per quarter in category spending (after that, you get 1%), and you have to activate the bonus categories online.
Another option is the Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards credit card. You get 3% cash back on the category of your choice (this includes gas, online shopping, dining, travel, drug stores or home improvement/furnishings) and 2% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs, on up to $2,500 in combined spending every quarter, and 1% cash back on all other purchases. You can update your choice category for future purchases once each calendar month, or do nothing and it stays the same. The annual fee is $0.
Gas up your Thanksgiving travel
Thanksgiving weekend means food, football and travel. In 2015, AAA predicted nearly 47 million Americans would travel 50 miles or more for the holiday. Even though the price of a gallon of gas is low, you'll still want to get the most for your travel dollars. Use a rewards credit card that earns a bonus for gas purchases. Here are some of the Nerds’ favorites:
For Costco members, the Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi earns 4% cash back on eligible gas purchases up to $7,000 per year and 1% thereafter; 3% cash back at restaurants and travel; 2% at Costco and Costco.com; and 1% on all other purchases.
Arm yourself for Black Friday shopping
NerdWallet's Shopping team has Black Friday covered for you, from where to find the best deals to which cards to use when you’re shopping. We’re tracking Black Friday ads for all the major stores and online shopping sites, and the information will be updated regularly.
Before you hit the stores, check out the best free apps to help you plan your shopping. For example, Shopular keeps you up-to-date on sales in popular stores, and it shows coupons for nearby stores.
The Nerds also looked at dozens of credit cards to help you take advantage of bonus categories and cash-back offers for the types of shopping you’ll be doing for the holidays. See our best holiday shopping cards here.
The more you plan for holiday spending, the more you'll save, so start planning today.