This article was updated on June 25, 2018.

Even if you shop for bargains on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, holiday gifts can be budget busting. But those who are smart about how they make their purchases can collect large cash-back rewards from credit cards, effectively getting a discount on everything they buy at online stores.

Here's how to cash in on your purchases with some of the best credit cards on the market. 

Credit Card

Main Feature

Discover it® Cash Back

5% cash back at Target and Amazon when activated, with all rewards earned in the first year matched (doubled) for qualifying cardholders.*

Chase Freedom®

5% cash-back bonus at Wal-Mart and select department stores.*

Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card

Flat 1.5% cash back plus a new cardholder bonus of $150 after spending $500 in the first 3 months of rewards membership enrollment date.

Source: Card issuers. 5% bonus cash-back is capped at $1,500 of spending each quarter you activate.

1. For Target and Amazon

For Target and Amazon shoppers, the Discover it® Cash Back definitely takes the top spot. This card offers 5% cash back for qualifying cardholders who enroll in the bonus category and spend up to $1,500 at Target and Amazon through December 31, 2017. It also pays out 1% cash back on all other spending.

That's just the start. Qualifying new cardholders get cash back doubled in the first year after account opening via the match bonus. Thus, cardholders who spend $1,500 at Amazon or during the holiday season would receive a $75 bonus plus a $75 cash-back match, on top.

Those who continue to use the card for its rotating bonus categories through four quarterly bonuses can collect even more. It may not be the best card for quick earning potential, but the card's bonus categories have historically included purchases most people make anyway -- gas, wholesale clubs, home improvement stores, and restaurants, among others.

Woman holding card while laying on the floor shopping on a laptop

A credit card can be a great tool for saving on online purchases this holiday season. Image source: Getty Images.

2. For Wal-Mart and department-store shoppers

The Chase Freedom® card is paying big cash-back rewards to those who shop at Wal-Mart and a long list of department stores this holiday season. Beyond that, the card offers an ordinary cash-back reward of 1% on all spending, with a 5% rotating bonus category (cardholders must activate each quarter) that changes once per quarter.

This year, the rotating bonus category for the holiday season includes Wal-Mart, JCPenney, Kohl's, Macy's, Nordstrom and Nordstrom Rack, Belk, and many more. Cardholders enjoy 5% bonus cash back on up to $1,500 of combined quarterly spending in the category, after which the card rewards at the standard 1% rate. Notably, Wal-Mart branded gas-station purchases are included, though Sam's Club stores are named as an exclusion, an important detail for some cardholders.

3. For everything else -- or just everything, period

We may be saving the best for last with this one. The Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card is a solid pick for new cardholders who want a flat cash-back program (flat 1.5% on all spending), plus a lucrative new cardholder bonus. Qualifying cardholders receive a $150 new cardholder bonus after spending $500 in the first three months after their rewards membership enrollment date.

The card also offers a reasonable 0% intro APR period for nine billing cycles on purchases and balance transfers. Rewards don't expire and can be redeemed in any amount at any time. The no-minimum redemption policy is a favorite of ours because even smaller spenders will be able to redeem rewards frequently. In comparison, other cash-back and travel cards have minimum redemption thresholds that rise as high as $100.

Other cards that offer attractive new cardholder bonuses are shown in the table below.

Credit card New Cardholder Bonus Minimum Spending Requirement
Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card $150 cash bonus $500 in the first 90 days from account opening
Chase Freedom Unlimited® $150 cash bonus $500 in the first three months from account opening

Source: Card issuers.

Realistically, if you're going to open a new credit card this holiday season, one with a new cardholder bonus is likely the best pick, since it will accelerate what you earn on your shopping this season. Between the three cards mentioned in this section, there is $450 of sign-up bonus value available for qualifying cardholders. Besides, most people spend more during the last few months of the year, making it a good time to start chipping away at a minimum spending requirement to get a bonus.