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I’m Getting Ready for the Holiday Season – Which Credit Card Should I Apply For?

Oct. 3, 2014
Credit Cards
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This page includes information about one or more products not currently available on NerdWallet.

  • Chase Freedom®
  • Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard®

As a result, offers described on this page may be out of date. See our best credit cards page for updated offers.

» This card is no longer available

The Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard® has been removed from the market. See our best travel credit cards roundup for other options.


The holiday season is right around the corner, and it never hurts to get prepared early. Making your shopping and travel plans well in advance could save you big bucks.

Case in point: Applying for the right credit card now could result in serious rewards earning that you can leverage into purchasing gifts, trips to visit family and more. Looking for a few suggestions? Here are some of the Nerds’ top picks:

If you’re a big department store shopper: Chase Freedom®

The Chase Freedom® is a great card to carry any time of year, but it will come in especially handy during the winter gift-buying season. With this card, you’ll earn 5% cash back in rotating quarterly bonus categories, up to $1,500 spent per quarter. You’ll also earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases. Here are the current categories:

Chase Freedom® bonus rewards categories for 2020
Q1 (Jan. 1 - March 31)• Gas stations.
• Select streaming services.
• Internet, cable and phone services.
Q2 (April 1 - June 30)• Grocery stores.
• Gym memberships and fitness clubs.
• Select streaming services.
Q3 (July 1 – Sept. 30)•
• Whole Foods Market.
Q4 (Oct. 1 – Dec. 31)TBD (In 2019, department stores, PayPal and Chase Pay.).

Remember, the Chase Freedom® charges an annual fee of $0 and will get you started with a small signup bonus: Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening. That’s a nice little cash boost you can use to buy more gifts for loved ones if you’d like, or maybe even a little treat for yourself.

MORE>> How to Pick the Best Credit Card for You: 4 Easy Steps

If you’re a big online shopper: Discover it® Cash Back

Another great card for holiday shopping is the Discover it® Cash Back, especially if you prefer the convenience of making your gift purchases online as opposed to elbowing your way through crowded malls. With this card, you’ll earn 5% cash back in quarterly rotating bonus categories (up to $1,500 spent per quarter, activation required) and 1% cash back on all other purchases. Here are the current categories:

Discover bonus rewards categories for 2020
Q1 (Jan. 1 – March 31)• Grocery stores.
• CVS.
• Walgreens.
Q2 (April 1 – June 30)• Gas stations.
• Uber and Lyft.
• Wholesale clubs.
June only: Home Depot
Q3 (July 1 – Sept. 30)• Restaurants.
• PayPal.
Q4 (Oct. 1 – Dec. 31)•

Also, if you plan on taking longer than a month to pay off your holiday gifts, the Discover it® Cash Back will give you 0% intro APR for 14 months on purchases and balance transfers, and then the ongoing APR of 11.99% - 22.99% Variable APR. That’s a long time at 0%, so you don’t have to worry about racking up interest on your holiday spending.

Finally, it’s worth mentioning that the Discover it® Cash Back provides all these great features with an annual fee of $0.

If you’re going to be doing a lot of traveling for the holidays: Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard®

For many folks, the holidays mean traveling a little farther than over the river and through the woods. If you’ll be hitting the skies, rails or seas to celebrate the season with family, getting a good travel credit card like the Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard® is a smart idea.

With this card, you’ll earn 2 miles for every dollar you spend. Since each mile is worth $.01, you’re getting a rewards rate of 2%. However, you get 5% of your miles back every time you redeem, which effectively drives the rewards rate up to 2.1%. That’s pretty generous, given that the industry standard is only 1%.

When it comes time to redeem rewards, you have the flexibility to go online and book your travel as you normally would, then pay yourself back with your miles in the form of a statement credit. Whether you’ll be flying cross-country to see relatives for Thanksgiving or going on a cruise to celebrate the New Year, the miles earned with your Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard® can help foot the bill.

Plus, you’ll start off with a killer signup bonus: Enjoy 70,000 bonus miles after spending $5,000 on purchases in the first 90 days. This could go a long way toward helping pay for your holiday travel if you complete the spending requirement quickly. Remember, the Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard® does charge an annual fee of $0 for the first year, then $89. But since this card will go far in helping you visit loved ones far and wide this holiday season, we think that’s a small price to pay!

Holiday shopper image via Shutterstock