The air is thrumming with anticipation as Thanksgiving draws nearer – but not for pumpkin pie or turkey. Instead, Americans are hungry for Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals on electronic gadgets, appliances, jewelry, and clothes. Both shoppers and retailers are preparing the final touches as they brace themselves for the biggest shopping deals of the year.
Preparing for Cyber Monday
Like most shoppers, you’re probably scanning ad after ad, comparing deals and store opening times, setting up your route and running through your holiday shopping list to make sure that you have all your bases covered; but the preparation shouldn’t stop there. Figuring out what you’re buying is just as important as deciding how you’re going to pay for it – namely, which credit cards you’re going to use for Cyber Monday. Savvy digital-based shoppers, however, know that the post-turkey day deals are the perfect opportunity to put their rewards cards to use: Qualifying for a spending bonus on a newly opened credit card, taking advantage of a rotating bonus category, or to simply earning rewards on top of the deep discounts that retailers will be doling out.
Credit Cards for Online Shopping You Probably Haven’t Considered
When it comes to maximizing your rewards from Cyber Monday spending, there are a few obvious choices that somehow always seem to be in the credit card spotlight (the Amazon Prime Visa, Discover It, Chase Freedom…you get the gist) but what if we told you there were other amazing credit cards for online shopping that were just as good and didn’t carry annual fees? No need to split a wishbone; these cards already exist! We’ve got four of the best, most underrated credit cards for online shopping that are perfect for using on Cyber Monday.
Rakuten Cash Back Visa Card
Easily one of the most lucrative-but-overlooked credit cards for online shopping, the Rakuten credit card is a cash back earning powerhouse. It offers an automatic 3% back when you shop your favorite stores through Rakuten.com, use Rakuten’s in-store offers, or book travel through their affiliates. But the ultimate cherry on top of this digital savings sundae is that this card works in conjunction with their online rebate program, making it perfect for those who like to double – or even triple – dip their credit card rewards. In case you’re not already familiar, Rakuten Rewards (formally known as Ebates) gives shoppers cash back on their purchases based on a percentage of their total checkout price. These rates can range from as little as 1% cash back to 20% or more (Why not get a little something back if you were going to buy it anyway, right?). Rakuten has over 1,700 retailers in their network (including popular spots such as Macy’s, Groupon, and Amazon), which makes it easy to score savings where you already like to shop, while the considerable bonus rates mean you might earn just as much, if not more, than shopping with those stores’ own credit cards. When it’s time to hit the virtual sales floor this Monday, you can take advantage of awesome Cyber Monday deals and earn 3% back at affiliated stores plus whatever the bonus is for the current promotion that’s running. Just when you thought this card couldn’t get any better, it also has no annual fee and no cap on earnings.
U.S. Bank Cash+
The heavyweight champion of choose-your-own-bonus-category credit cards, the U.S. Bank Cash+ Card boasts an impressive 5% cash back return and 2% back from fixed categories: grocery stores, gas stations, and restaurants. Cardholders can choose from two 5% bonus categories each quarter , on up to $2,000 worth of spending in combined categories. While you may not be able to earn 5% cash back on everyone’s gift this year, if you max out the category that’s still a $100 back in your pocket. There are a whopping twelve 5% categories to choose from, and while some of them are pretty specific (which might make it difficult to max out the $2,000 quarterly spending limit), you’ll find bonuses for niche categories you may never have thought you could earn rewards for otherwise:
- Electronic Stores
- Department Stores
- Select Clothing Stores
- Sporting Goods Stores
- Furniture Stores
- Gyms/Fitness Centers
- Movie Theaters
- Fast Food
- TV, Internet & Streaming Services
- Cell Phone Providers
- Home Utilities
- Ground Transportation
For Cyber Monday shopping we have our eyes on the 5% bonuses for electronics, department stores, furniture, and sporting goods – bonuses that rival the returns you’d get from owning a dedicated store card but with way more flexibility. Beside the fact that more options are always better to have, the U.S. Bank Cash+ card’s expansive category list means that you can definitely find a way to make this card work with your wallet regardless of what other rewards cards and bonus categories you already have covered. This card may already seem too good to be true, but brace yourselves because it gets even better: This card has no annual fee and rewards can be deposited as cash back into your U.S. Bank accounts or as a statement credit (in case you don’t currently bank with them).
Bank of America Cash Back Cards (Any)
Like the U.S. Bank Cash+ card, Bank of America cash back cards have customizable bonus categories which allow you to maximize your rewards based on your spending needs. BoA offers several card options with identical 3/2/1 choose-your-category cash back rewards structures like the Bank of America Cash Rewards and the World Wildlife Fund Card – the only real difference between each of them is the card art, although in this particular case Bank of America will donate to the nonprofit when you open the WWF credit card). Although these cards have a lower top-tier bonus rate (3%) than the U.S Bank Cash+ card, they make up for it with broader bonus categories, a higher cap on earnings ($2,500), and the ability to change categories on a monthly basis rather than quarterly. The card feature that makes it ideal for cashing in on your Cyber Monday shopping is the broad Online Shopping category. A coveted rewards category that surprisingly few cards offer, ‘online shopping’ transcends MCC codes and awards 3% back on virtually any purchases that take place online or through a mobile app, making this card a great option for those who don’t want to commit to owning a card from a specific retailer. Some examples of eligible retailers include Amazon.com, Groupon.com, and Target.com. This category only excludes online payment for services or utilities (essentially, all non-retail services).
Cash Wise Visa®
At first glance, this card seems rather ordinary: A flat rewards rate of 1.5% back on all purchases, a modest signup bonus and no annual fee. The reason why this card is such a gem isn’t because of any particular features of the card itself, but because of the strong bonus shopping offers that Wells Fargo routinely offers their cardholders through the ‘Earn More Mall’. This isn’t just a couple of one-off promos that Wells Fargo sends cardholders’ way; they have an entire affiliate shopping network with hundreds of merchants to choose from. A few offers that are routinely available are 10% bonus cash rewards from Starbucks, 5% bonus cash rewards from Kohl’s, and 2% bonus cash from Apple.com (and those are just a few of the big-name brands). This card has immense potential to yield significant returns from the place where you already shop – it just takes a few extra clicks. If you don’t mind putting in a bit of effort to unlock cash back bonuses, you’ll find this card can compete toe-to-toe with many of the best rewards cards out there.
Other Alternatives for Cyber Monday Shopping: Store Credit Cards
Store cards, also known as retail credit cards, tend to fall in one extreme or the other: You either love them or you hate them. Although they tend to offer attractive rewards rates for their wares (which are often excluded from popular rewards categories) those perks tend to be overshadowed by the cards’ infamous sky-high APRs, fine-print financing offers, and tricky rewards redemption methods. It may seem like credit cards offered by retailers are inherently a bad deal, but it’s possible to find one that actually provides long-term value beyond the signup bonus. The key to determining whether you should even consider a retail card in the first place is to first take a look at your capability of paying off your monthly balance in full. With APRs that can creep into the 30’s, carrying a balance is a huge no-no when it comes to making a store card work for you. Carrying a balance for even one month can eat into any rewards you’d accumulate over the life of the card (which, in our experience, are probably going to be modest at best). Some of our favorites include:
For an in-depth look at the credit cards from your favorite retailers, check out BestCards’ detailed retail card reviews.