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Should You Use Credit or Debit This Holiday Season?

Using cards instead of cash provides greater benefits when shopping – both online and in person. Besides the safety of not carrying physical money, cards provide purchase protections hard cash can’t offer. But what type of card is best – credit or debit? Should you use your credit card, or debit card, when shopping this holiday season?

When Does Using a Credit Card Make Sense?

Choosing your credit card for holiday purchases makes the most sense in many circumstances. These include:

  • Taking advantage of 0% introductory APR
  • Meeting signup bonus spending requirements
  • Taking advantage of bonus reward categories
  • Purchase protections through the payment network
  • If you are in a financially stable position

Finance Purchases Over Time

People with financial stability stand to gain the most when using a credit card over a debit card for holiday shopping. Financial stability doesn’t mean hundreds of thousands of dollars in the bank or other luxury lifestyle elements. Instead, stability means being able to budget in advance and the freedom to use some of your disposable income for non-essential spending.

The basic rule of budgeting states that consumers should allocate half of their income to bills, groceries, gas, other essentials; 20% towards savings; and 30% towards anything else – including entertainment, services, and holiday gifts.

Credit cards are an excellent option for holiday gifts and spending because those costs can be paid off over several months. While paying the statement balance in full every month is best practice, the freedom of carrying a balance allows cardholders the opportunity to spread the costs of holiday cheer over the coming months. But keep in mind that keeping a revolving balance also incurs additional interest charges.

What Are the Benefits of Using a Credit Card for Holiday Shopping?

Many credit cards come with signup bonuses and rewards. One of the best signup bonuses that a credit card can provide is 0% intro APR on purchases.

A credit card with an interest-free introductory period allows the cardholder to make purchases and then pay down those purchases over a set period – without incurring any additional interest. Having a credit card with 0% intro APR is excellent for the holiday season – but make sure not to overdo it. That balance will be due eventually, and ignoring it can result in heavy debt.

Equally impressive with credit cards are the rewards on offer. Cards like the Discover It and Chase Freedom Flex are excellent options for purchasing gifts, decorations, and more. Both cards offer 5% cash back savings at Walmart for the rest of 2020. Discover also offers 5% back on purchases made online at Target.com and Amazon.com (in addition to Walmart.com). For its part, Chase offers 5% back at Walmart (in-store and online) and on any purchase made through PayPal.

Related Article: Chase, Discover, & ABOC 5% Cash Back Calendars 2020

Things to Consider Before Using Your Credit Card This Holiday Season

Before you pay with your credit card, consider the following questions:

  • Can you afford to repay the entire balance at the end of the billing period if needed?
  • Does the card offer special financing options?
  • Can you afford the interest payments?
  • Does the card provide the correct rewards for the purchase category?

When Does Using a Debit Card Make Sense?

Choosing your credit card over debit isn’t always a straightforward decision. So, when should you swipe your debit card and keep your credit card firmly in your wallet?

Credit cards are great when you know you can handle the additional costs of repaying the balance at the end of the month. Debit cards, on the other hand, are an excellent option when your finances are tight.

When you use debit instead of credit, you are better in control of your spending limits. After all, once your debit balance hits zero, that’s it. This finality makes shopping a much more conscientious process. This additional mental buffer can help you save money and ensure your finances remain intact after the holiday season ends.

Benefits of a Debit Card

Debit cards provide some benefits versus credit cards. These benefits include:

  • No interest charges
  • Easier to track spending
  • No fees (in most instances)

Conclusion

Credit cards and debit cards are both excellent options for making purchases and offer protection that cash doesn’t provide. Ensuring you practice financial responsibility is essential, regardless of your chosen payment method. If you must splurge this holiday season, however, it’s likely your credit card offers significantly more value than your debit card.

Related Article: BestCards’ Top Holiday Shopping Credit Cards for 2020

Featured photo by Matthew Henry / Burst
About: Cory
Cory Santos

Cory is BestCards.com's "Jack of all trades" and resident rewards expert, covering all facets of the points game – especially travel, hotels, and airlines. In addition to credit cards, Cory finds that jogging, cats, and memes are essential parts of a balanced day.