Christmas is but a few weeks away, and, more important, Black Friday fast approaches to kick off the official holiday-shopping season.
If web-hosting platform Cloudways is right, the average American household will be spending $1,226 on Christmas gifts – a sum of money that will go a long way toward helping you meet the credit-card spend requirements necessary to earn cash-back bonus points or bonus miles that can help you land free airfare or hotel rooms for your next vacation (which, as winter descends, you are undoubtedly already considering).
All of that raises a great question to contemplate right now:
What are the best credit card bonus offers at the moment to secure a substantial amount of cash back or lots of air airline miles and points?
Well, we have that answer…
How Much Will You Really Spend?
Cloudways is just one of the firms guessing at, gauging and calculating how much Americans will spend this Christmas.
Consulting firm Deloitte estimates consumers spent more than $1,500 on Christmas last year, while LendEDU, an online financial products marketplace, claims the number is just over $600. (I’ve been inside malls, I’ve seen the packed SUVs; I think LendEDU is much too light in its estimations … but oh well).
The point is that you’re about to launch into the yearly Christmas spending frenzy, so let’s maximize your accumulation of credit-card bonus offers.
Best Credit Cards for Your Christmas Spending
What we’re looking for are the credit cards offering the best sign up bonuses right now, which upcoming your Christmas spending will help you meet.
AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard
This is, perhaps, the best bonus offer on the market today in terms of cost required to obtain it.
With the AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard you can pick up 60,000 American Airlines AAdvantage miles just by using the card once in the first three months. There is no spending threshold. So, even you buy your dad a bad tie from the $5.99 markdown rack, you’re going to get 60,000 miles on American Airlines.
And given that American Airlines awards start at just 12,500 miles for a one-way trip inside the contiguous US, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central America, 60,000 is easily a couple of free trips.
Along with those bonus miles, you will also get a Companion Certificate that allows you to buy a domestic economic ticket for a companion for just $99. (And assuming you spend $20,000 a year on the card, you will get another Companion Certificate every year on your card anniversary.)
So, including the $99 annual fee for the card, you’re basically spending $200 plus 25,000 of your bonus miles, for round-trip airfare anywhere inside the contiguous US for your and a companion. That’s not a bad gift to give yourself for Christmas.
As for the everyday benefits for the card: 2x miles on every dollar spent on American Airlines, and 1x on everything else; an annual $25 statement credit for buying in-flight WiFi when flying American; and a 25% discount (in the form of statement credit) when buying in-flight food and beverages on American.
All in … an excellent card for picking up potentially several free flights on American Airline, and for the cost of basically buying RedBull so that you have the wings to fly through your holiday shopping.
Chase Sapphire Preferred
Chase Sapphire Preferred is currently offering 60,000 bonus points when you spend $4,000 over the first three months you own the card. Depending on whether you’re in the $1,200 or $1,500 camp, your Christmas spending will get you between 30% and 36% of the way to your bonus spend (I’ve included including the $95 annual fee for the card).
If you redeem those bonus miles for travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards Travel portal, you get a 25% bonus, meaning your 60,000 miles are worth the equivalent of $750. Given that most miles are valued at one cent, you’re really getting a 75,000 mile signup bonus.
Along with the bonus, you’ll earn 2x miles on every $1 spent on dining an travel, and 1x on everything else.
Capital One Venture Rewards
Capital One Venture Rewards is just a small step down. You will pick up 50,000 bonus miles when you spend just $3,000 in the first three months. So you’re Christmas spending could cover 40% to 50% of your bonus-spend requirement.
You can redeem those miles for flights, hotels, cruises and more. And if you’re a traveler, this is a pretty nice card to grab. Because along with the bonus miles you’ll also get a $100 statement credit to pay for your Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application.
Going forward, you will earn an unlimited two miles on every dollar spent. You will pay a $95 annual fee, though that’s waived in the first year.
United Explorer Biz Card
If you need a business card, or you’re a United Airlines fan, the United Explorer Business Card is a great opportunity to snag 50,000 bonus miles after spending $5,000 in three months (and, well, if you go absolutely nuts on your spending and lay down $25,000 in the first six months, you’ll pick up another 50,000 bonus miles, for a grand total of 100,000 miles).
I’ll assume you won’t go crazy on spending and say that the initial 50,000 bonus miles will get you all over the U.S. and beyond. United runs “featured awards” constantly, with one-way economy flights as low at 11,500 miles. At the moment, Newark to Cancun, for instance, is 17,500 + $35.
Beyond the bonus miles, you will get your first bag checked on for free on United flights, prior boarding, and two United Club passes every year on the anniversary of your card. On a daily basis, you’ll get two miles for every $1 spent on United Airlines, office supplies, gas stations and restaurants. And one mile everything else.
The fee is $95 a year.
Marriott Bonvoy Boundless
Maybe you don’t care about air miles so much, but you would love some hotel points so that you might book a room some place swank or cool. Then the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless is a good option.
Marriott will dump 75,000 bonus points into your account after you spend $3,000. During off-peak periods, Marriott rooms start at just 5,000 points per night. So 75,000 bonus points potentially goes pretty far, depending on where you want to stay.
Every year, this card will give you a free night at a Marriott Bonvoy hotel with a redemption value of up to 35,000 points. You will receive complimentary elite silver status in the Marriott Bonvoy program, which, while certainly not spectacular, does come with certain benefits.
On everyday spending, you will earn 6x points for every $1 spent at a Marriott Bonvoy hotel, and 2x on everything else.
The annual fee is $95 a year.
Hilton Honors American Express
If you are a Hilton fan instead, then take a look at the Hilton Honors American Express card.
With this card, you’ll earn 95,000 points after spending just $1,000 .. so your Christmas spending will likely earn you the bonus quickly.
Hilton has a bit of a funky “Points Explorer” tool that will tell you how far your points will go based on how many points and how much additional money you’re willing to spend. But basically you can earn a hotel night starting at 5,000 points plus a few dollars. So 95,000 bonus points could stretch fairly far.
You also get complimentary silver status in the Hilton Honors program, which, like Marriott Bonvoy, isn’t necessarily fabulous, but it does have some perks.
Daily, you get 7x points for every $1 spent on eligible Hilton purchases, 5x at U.S. restaurants, supermarkets and gas stations. And 3x on everything else.
All of this for no annual fee.
Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards
If all you really want is a bit of cash back to help you cover the costs of Christmas, then the card you want is the Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards.
You’ll earn $150 cash back bonus once you spend just $500. That’s like shopping for Christmas presents with a 30% off coupon. Not a bad deal.
There’s no annual fee, and with the rest of your Christmas purchases you will get 1.5% cash back on every item you buy. So spend $1,500 and you will get the $150 bonus cash back as well as another $22.50 cash back from your spending, meaning your overall Xmas financial load would shrink to less than $1,000.
The Wrap Up
Given application processing and shipping times, now is when you want to apply for a new credit card to use for your Christmas spending – assuming you’re looking for a way to treat yourself even as you’re shopping for everyone else.
Choose the right card, and you can have a nice chunk of money flow back into your pocket … of you can earn enough frequent-flyer miles or hotel points to begin planning a Spring getaway.