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Updated April 7, 2014

Study: Best Credit Cards for Online Shopping

Black Friday and beyond: Get cash back for your online shopping

To attract new customers, many credit cards offer special deals specifically for online shopping - and you could easily earn cash back and rewards just for buying things you’d be buying anyway.

Why not give to yourself while you’re giving to others? All you need to do is make sure you’re armed with the right credit cards before you start filling up your online shopping cart.

We’ve done the hard work by zeroing in on the new offers that will give you the best payback. Of course, this money-saving idea assumes you’ll pay off your balance when it comes due, otherwise the late fees and interest charges negate the sweet perks.

Here were the guidelines we used in our study: Taking into account nationwide averages, we measured the perks of various cards based on an average American consumer (for the purposes of this article, we’ll call him Jake). Jake spends $700 shopping online from Thanksgiving through December, of which 10% is through Amazon.com and the rest is through various online retailers (that’s fairly typical behavior for an American consumer).

Below are the credit cards that came out best for an online holiday shopper like Jake:

Chase Freedom

Chase Freedom comes in with Jake pocketing $107 by the time he's done. Assuming Jake was new to using the Chase Freedom card and he used only that card for all of his online shopping, he would earn:

  • $100 from Chase’s bonus offer since he’s a first-time cardmember and spent over $500 within the first three months of opening his account.

  • $7.00 from the 1% cash back on the $700 Jake spent.

Chase Freedom
Apply for Chase Freedom
  • Earn a $100 Bonus after you make $500 in purchases in your first 3 months from account opening
  • Earn a $25 Bonus after you add your first authorized user and make a purchase within this same 3-month period
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers. After the intro period, a variable APR of 13.99%-22.99%.
  • 5% Cash Back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases between April 1 and June 30, 2014 at restaurants and Lowe's® home improvement stores
  • You'll enjoy new 5% categories every 3 months like gas stations, restaurants and Amazon.com. It's free and easy to activate your bonus each quarter!
  • Unlimited 1% Cash Back on all other purchases
  • No annual fee and rewards never expire
Intro APR for PurchasesIntro APR for Balance TransferRegular APRAnnual Fee
0% for 15 months
0% for 15 months
13.99% - 22.99% (Variable)
$0

Citi Dividend Platinum Select Visa

Citi Dividend Platinum Select Visa comes in with Jake earning $107. If Jake solely used his new Citi Dividend card for his $700 online shopping spree, he would receive:

  • $100 from the bonus cash back after spending over $500 in purchases within the first three months of opening his account.

  • $7 from the 1% cash back on his $700 online shopping spree.

Citi Dividend Platinum Select Visa Card
Apply for Citi Dividend Platinum Select Visa Card
  • Earn $100 cash back after $500 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 5% cash back every quarter in must-have categories. Right now, on purchases at The Home Depot®, home furnishing and home and garden stores from 4/1/14 through 6/30/14.
  • Enrollment each quarter is quick and easy
  • Earn 1% cash back on all other purchases.
  • The total cash back earned with the card is $300 per calendar year, excluding the $100 cash back with this offer. See Citi Dividend Card Reward Program Information.
  • 0% Intro APR on Purchases and Balance Transfers for 12 months. After that, the APR will be 12.99%-22.99% variable based on your creditworthiness*
  • No Annual Fee*
  • Click Apply Now to see pricing details
Introductory Bonus Cash BackCash Back RewardsBonus Cash BackCar Rental InsuranceExtended WarrantyPurchase ProtectionBaggage InsuranceTravel Accident Insurance$0 Fraud Liability Identity Theft Assistance
Intro APR for PurchasesIntro APR for Balance TransferRegular APRAnnual Fee
0%* for 12 months*
0%* for 12 months*
12.99% - 22.99%* (Variable)
$0*


For all the cards mentioned with 5% cash back categories, consumers must manually enroll in the 5% bonus spending categories, which change each quarter, but the process is quick and easy. All of the cards limit the amount of spending that can fall into the 5% bucket (earn up to $75 per quarter for Discover It and Chase Freedom and earn up to $300 per calendar year for Citi Dividend Platinum Select.)

Honorable Mentions

For shoppers with an existing balance, take a look at the Discover It.

This card is particularly helpful for people looking for a balance transfer deal. Discover It offers 0% intro APR on balance transfers for 18 months, after which the variable purchase APR comes into effect (currently 10.99% - 22.99%). You’ll pay a 3% fee for each balance transferred.

Discover it
Apply for Discover it
  • Fair. No annual fee. No overlimit fee. No foreign transaction fee. Pay up to midnight ET online or by phone on your due date without a fee. Plus, paying late won't raise your APR.*
  • Generous. 5% cash back at Home Improvement Stores, Furniture Stores and Bed Bath & Beyond® on up to $1,500 in purchases from April through June 2014.*
  • Human. 100% U.S.-based customer service available any time.
  • Safe. Because you're never responsible for unauthorized charges with our $0 Fraud Liability Guarantee.
  • Plus, free FICO® Credit Score on your monthly statement to help you stay on top of your credit.*
  • 0% Intro APR* on balance transfers for 18 months. Then the variable purchase APR applies, currently 10.99% - 22.99%. A fee of 3% applies for each balance transferred.
  • 0% Intro APR* on purchases for 6 months. Then the variable purchase APR applies, currently 10.99% - 22.99%.
  • *Click "Apply" to see rates, rewards, and free FICO® Credit Score terms and other information.
Cash Back RewardsBonus Cash BackNo Limits on RewardsExtended WarrantyPurchase ProtectionReturn Protection$0 Fraud Liability
Intro APR for PurchasesIntro APR for Balance TransferRegular APRAnnual Fee
0% for 6 months
0% for 18 months
10.99% - 22.99% Variable*
$0

For travelers who plan to spend over $3,000 this holiday season, take a look at the Barclaycard Arrival World MasterCard. It offers 40,000 bonus miles if you spend at least $3,000 on purchases within the first 90 days of opening your account – that's worth $400 off your next trip. Moreover, you earn 2x miles on all purchases. There is an $89 annual fee, which is waived for the first year.

Barclaycard Arrival World MasterCard - Earn 2x on All Purchases
Apply for Barclaycard Arrival World MasterCard - Earn 2x on All Purchases
  • Earn 40,000 bonus miles when you spend $3,000 or more on purchases in the first 90 days from account opening. 40,000 bonus miles equates to $400 off your next travel redemption!
  • 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for the first 12 months after account opening. After that, variable APR, currently 14.99% or 18.99%, based upon your creditworthiness
  • Earn 2X miles on all purchases
  • No mileage caps or foreign transaction fees
  • Get 10% miles back when you redeem for travel statement credits (i.e. redeem 25,000 miles for travel and get 2,500 miles back)
  • Use your card to book through any airline, hotel or discount travel engine with no blackout dates or seat restrictions
  • Easily redeem your miles for statement credits towards all or a portion of your travel purchases within the last 90 days
  • Complimentary online FICO® Score access for Arrival cardmembers
Introductory Bonus Airline RewardsAirline RewardsTravel RewardsTravel Accident InsuranceEmergency Assistance
Intro APR for PurchasesIntro APR for Balance TransferRegular APRAnnual Fee
0% for 12 months
0% for 12 months
14.99% or 18.99%* (Variable)
$89 - Waived first year

For big spenders who plan to spend thousands of dollars this holiday season, consider the Chase Sapphire Preferred. The card will give you 40,000 bonus points after you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first three months of opening your account. That alone is worth $500 toward travel rewards when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards. There is a $95 annual fee, but that is waived the first year.

Chase Sapphire Preferred Card
Apply for Chase Sapphire Preferred Card
  • Earn 40,000 bonus points when you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $500 in travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate RewardsSM.
  • Earn 5,000 additional bonus points after you add the first authorized user and make a purchase in the first 3 months from account opening.
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases
  • No foreign transaction fees, plus Chip and Signature enabled for international travel.
  • 1:1 point transfer to participating frequent travel programs at full value - that means 1,000 Ultimate Rewards points equal 1,000 partner miles/points.
  • 24/7 direct access to dedicated customer service specialists
  • Introductory Annual Fee of $0 the first year, then $95
Intro APR for PurchasesIntro APR for Balance TransferRegular APRAnnual Fee
N/AN/A
15.99% (Variable)
Introductory Annual Fee of $0 the first year, then $95

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