Home > Credit Cards > How to Tell a Holiday Credit Card Offer Is Legit

Comments 0 Comments

[UPDATE: Some offers mentioned below have expired and/or are no longer available on our site. You can view the current offers from our partners in our credit card marketplace. DISCLOSURE: Cards from our partners are mentioned below.]

Holiday shopping is now in full swing. If you have yet to get started, well, then you better get moving. But before you do, make sure you are taking the best credit card with you to do all your shopping. It’s a safe bet that you have received at least a few credit card solicitations over the past few weeks. Some of them are probably offering you a high signup bonus or even bonus reward points for shopping at certain retailers. But how do you know what credit card is actually going to be the best for you long-term? Here are a few things to consider if you’re trying to determine if a holiday credit card offer is worthwhile.

1. How Do You Shop & What Are Your Goals?

The very first thing that you need to do is construct a plan for all your holiday shopping. Will you be visiting several different stores, or will you try and do all your shopping in one place? Every year Amazon.com tends to be one of the more popular places for holiday shopping. This is probably why there are a few cards that are offering a bonus for shopping on Amazon.com. The Discover It (see full review here) is offering 5% cash back on purchases (up to $1,500 per quarter) from Amazon.com through the end of the year.

What if you are going to do a lot of your shopping at Target? Target doesn’t fall into a bonus category for many credit cards, so it might be best to look into its store card, the Target REDcard, which offers 5% off each time you shop in its stores or on its website (some restrictions apply.)

Bottomline: Before you jump on an attractive credit card offer, make sure it’s going to be a card that will offer value not only as you holiday shop, but in the future as well. There’s no point in adding hard inquiry to your credit report if you’re only going to use the card for a few purchases and then let it sit unused in your wallet. (You can see if your credit can handle an inquiry by viewing your free credit report summary, updated every 14 days, on Credit.com.)

2. How Good Is the Signup Bonus?

Credit card issuers promote signup bonuses for a reason: It’s the first thing that most people look at when considering a new card. The signup bonus that you receive could help offset a nice chunk of your holiday budget. For example, the Chase Freedom (see full review here) offers a $150 bonus if you spend $500 within the first three months. If you’re after travel rewards and not cash back, you could consider the Chase Sapphire Reserve, which will give you 100,000 Chase Ultimate Reward points ($1,500 value if you redeem through the bank’s travel portal) after you spend $4,000 in your first three months.

Speaking of that $4,000, it’s a good idea to make sure the initial spend requirements on the card you choose fit within your budget. The last thing you want to do is expand your budget, and possibly go into debt, just to get a signup bonus.

3. Is the Issuer Offering a Teaser Rate?

Are you planning to make a large purchase for someone special? Maybe you’re buying a gold watch for your husband or your wife. Using a card with an introductory 0% annual percentage rate (APR) can help give you extra time to pay off that purchase interest-free. For instance, the Chase Freedom Unlimited (see full review here) gives new cardholders 15 months of 0% interest on purchases. (After that, your APR will be a 16.49% - 25.24% Variable , depending on your creditworthiness.) Just make sure you have a plan in place so that your big holiday purchase is paid off by the time the introductory period is over. Adding interest will just increase the overall cost of the item and devalue any rewards that you might earn.

4. What’s the Go-To APR?

You’ll also want to check what a card’s go-to APR will be in general and/or after any introductory period expires, particularly if you’re known to carry a balance. Keep in mind, too, rewards credit cards work best when you pay your bills off in full every month. Again, otherwise, you’ll just lose your rewards to that interest.

5. Is There an Annual Fee & Can You Afford it?

One of the biggest considerations that you should have when picking a credit card for holiday shopping is the annual fee. Unless you find a card that can really offer a lot of future value, you should try and find a card that will give you everything you need without that charge. Alternately, many reward cards will at least waive the annual fee for the first year, which will give you 12 months to decide if a particular card is worth keeping in your wallet.

Note: It’s important to remember that interest rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products frequently change. As a result, rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products cited in these articles may have changed since the date of publication. Please be sure to verify current rates, fees and terms with credit card issuers, banks or other financial institutions directly.

Image: AleksandarNakic

Comments on articles and responses to those comments are not provided or commissioned by a bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by a bank advertiser. It is not a bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

Please note that our comments are moderated, so it may take a little time before you see them on the page. Thanks for your patience.

Credit.com receives compensation for the financial products and services advertised on this site if our users apply for and sign up for any of them.

Hello, Reader!

Thanks for checking out Credit.com. We hope you find the site and the journalism we produce useful. We wanted to take some time to tell you a bit about ourselves.

Our People

The Credit.com editorial team is staffed by a team of editors and reporters, each with many years of financial reporting experience. We’ve worked for places like the New York Times, American Banker, Frontline, TheStreet.com, Business Insider, ABC News, NBC News, CNBC and many others. We also employ a few freelancers and more than 50 contributors (these are typically subject matter experts from the worlds of finance, academia, politics, business and elsewhere).

Our Reporting

We take great pains to ensure that the articles, video and graphics you see on Credit.com are thoroughly reported and fact-checked. Each story is read by two separate editors, and we adhere to the highest editorial standards. We’re not perfect, however, and if you see something that you think is wrong, please email us at editorial team [at] credit [dot] com,

The Credit.com editorial team is committed to providing our readers and viewers with sound, well-reported and understandable information designed to inform and empower. We won’t tell you what to do. We will, however, do our best to explain the consequences of various actions, thereby arming you with the information you need to make decisions that are in your best interests. We also write about things relating to money and finance we think are interesting and want to share.

In addition to appearing on Credit.com, our articles are syndicated to dozens of other news sites. We have more than 100 partners, including MSN, ABC News, CBS News, Yahoo, Marketwatch, Scripps, Money Magazine and many others. This network operates similarly to the Associated Press or Reuters, except we focus almost exclusively on issues relating to personal finance. These are not advertorial or paid placements, rather we provide these articles to our partners in most cases for free. These relationships create more awareness of Credit.com in general and they result in more traffic to us as well.

Our Business Model

Credit.com’s journalism is largely supported by an e-commerce business model. Rather than rely on revenue from display ad impressions, Credit.com maintains a financial marketplace separate from its editorial pages. When someone navigates to those pages, and applies for a credit card, for example, Credit.com will get paid what is essentially a finder’s fee if that person ends up getting the card. That doesn’t mean, however, that our editorial decisions are informed by the products available in our marketplace. The editorial team chooses what to write about and how to write about it independently of the decisions and priorities of the business side of the company. In fact, we maintain a strict and important firewall between the editorial and business departments. Our mission as journalists is to serve the reader, not the advertiser. In that sense, we are no different from any other news organization that is supported by ad revenue.

Visitors to Credit.com are also able to register for a free Credit.com account, which gives them access to a tool called The Credit Report Card. This tool provides users with two free credit scores and a breakdown of the information in their Experian credit report, updated twice monthly. Again, this tool is entirely free, and we mention that frequently in our articles, because we think that it’s a good thing for users to have access to data like this. Separate from its educational value, there is also a business angle to the Credit Report Card. Registered users can be matched with products and services for which they are most likely to qualify. In other words, if you register and you find that your credit is less than stellar, Credit.com won’t recommend a high-end platinum credit card that requires an excellent credit score You’d likely get rejected, and that’s no good for you or Credit.com. You’d be no closer to getting a product you need, there’d be a wasted inquiry on your credit report, and Credit.com wouldn’t get paid. These are essentially what are commonly referred to as "targeted ads" in the world of the Internet. Despite all of this, however, even if you never apply for any product, the Credit Report Card will remain free, and none of this will impact how the editorial team reports on credit and credit scores.

Your Stories

Lastly, much of what we do is informed by our own experiences as well as the experiences of our readers. We want to tell your stories if you’re interested in sharing them. Please email us at story ideas [at] credit [dot] com with ideas or visit us on Facebook or Twitter.

Thanks for stopping by.

- The Credit.com Editorial Team