There are only 77 days left until Christmas. That might sound like a long way away but travel, parties, presents and food can all add up.
So the time is right to start thinking about how you are going to pay for the cost of the festive season. If you want to spread the cost, get rewarded for your spending and enjoy extra protection, then a credit card is the best way to pay.
We've taken a look at the very best credit cards to use for your Christmas spending.
0% purchase credit cards
If you haven't set aside some cash to help cope with the cost of Christmas a 0% purchase credit card is a great tool to have in your wallet.
These cards don't charge any interest on purchases for a set period, allowing you to pay off your debt in more manageable chunks.
The table below shows the longest lasting 0% cards on offer right now.
|Credit card||0% period for purchases||Representative APR|
|Halifax Purchase Credit Card||20 months||18.9%|
|Tesco Bank Clubcard for Purchases||19 months||18.9%|
|M&S Bank credit card||19 months||18.9%|
|Clydesdale Bank Gold MasterCard||19 months||18.9%|
|Yorkshire Bank Gold MasterCard||19 months||18.9%|
|Lloyds Bank 19-Month Platinum||19 months||18.9%|
|Bank of Scotland 19-Month Purchase||19 months||18.9%|
|Santander Credit Card for Purchases||18 months||18.9%|
|Santander 123 Credit Card||18 months||16.5%|
|Sainsbury's Bank Nectar Purchase Credit Card||18 months||18.9%|
|Tesco Bank Purchase card with 1,000 Clubcard Points||17 months||18.9%|
As you can see Halifax is offering the longest-lasting deal with 20 months to clear what you spend over the festive period before interest kicks in.
However, while the length of the 0% period is important it's worth investigating what other benefits a 0% purchase card has, as sacrificing a month or two could get you a better offer overall.
The Tesco Bank Clubcard for Purchases for example offers one month less than the best deal, but allows you to earn Clubcard points as you shop. And its 17-month card offers 1,000 bonus Clubcard points as soon as you start using it. And the M&S Bank card offers M&S points on your spending as well as a year and a half with no interest to pay.
Elsewhere the Santander 123 Credit Card offers 18 months interest-free, which again isn't market leading but the card also enables you to earn up to 3% cashback on certain spends.
Compare 0% purchase credit cards
Cashback credit cards
With a cashback credit card you get a percentage of what you spend back in the form of cashback.
The best fee-free card going is the American Express Platinum Cashback Everyday Credit Card. It pays 5% cashback on purchases up to £2,000 in the first three months, capped at £100. Thereafter you can earn tiered rates of between 0.5% and 1.25%. Cashback is paid on the anniversary of the account opening. The representative APR is 19.9%.
Alternatively there's the American Express Platinum Cashback Credit Card which again pays 5% in the first three months, but on purchases up to £2,500 capped at £125. Thereafter a 1.25% rate applies on all spending, though this doubles in your anniversary month with the card. Cashback is paid on the anniversary of the account opening. This card attracts an annual fee of £25 and the representative APR is 18.7%.
If you want cashback sooner and the flexibility of a 0% period on purchases then you should go for the Santander 123 credit card. It offers tiered levels of cashback on certain spends each month as well as 18 months interest-free on purchases. You'll get 1% back on supermarket spending, 2% in department stores and 3% on petrol or train fares. The card attracts a £24 annual fee, but you can get it fee free for a year if you have a Santander 123 current account. The representative APR is 16.5%.
Cashback credit cards tend to be reserved for those with good credit ratings, but if yours doesn't hit the mark you could try the Capital One Classic Extra Credit Card, which allows you to earn 0.5% on all purchases with no annual fee. However, you'll want to make sure you can repay what you spend each month as the representative APR is 34.94%.
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Compare cashback credit cards
Reward credit cards
Reward credit cards allow you to boost or build up points as you spend which convert into all manner of treats.
If you collect Clubcard points, all of Tesco Bank's credit cards offer the chance to earn five Clubcard points for every £4 spent in stores and one point for every £4 spent elsewhere, including its 19-Month 0% Purchase Credit Card.
But for a real boost there's the Tesco Bank 17-Month Purchase Card, which offers a shorter 17 months interest-free spending but pays out 1,000 Clubcard points (equivalent to £10) when you make a purchase within the first two months of taking out the credit card. This is in addition to the ongoing rate.
For those that collect Nectar points, Sainsbury's Bank offers two Nectar points for every £1 spent in stores and fuel or one Nectar point for every £5 spent elsewhere on all of its cards including the Sainsbury's Bank 18-Month Nectar Purchase Credit Card.
Or there's the American Express Nectar Credit Card which offers a whopping 20,000 bonus Nectar points when you spend £2,000 in the first three months with the card. You can collect four points for every £1 spent at Nectar partners and one point for every £1 spent elsewhere. The card attracts a £25 annual fee, but you can get it fee free for a year. The representative APR is 25%.
If you want a wide range of reward options and a very generous introductory bonus, you could opt for the American Express Preferred Rewards Gold charge card. This is currently offering 20,000 bonus Membership Reward points when you spend £2,000 or more in the first three months you have the card. You can exchange those points for a £100 gift card from the likes of M&S, Boots and House of Fraser, or a flight to Europe where you just pay the taxes and charges on top. This is a charge card, not a credit card, so you will need to pay the balance off in full each month. And it is free for the first year, but costs £125 a year after, so make sure you cancel it if you don't want to pay the fee.
Those that would prefer to build up Avios for flights and holidays can use the British Airways American Express Credit Card to collect one Avios for every £1 spent. At the moment you can get 3,000 bonus Avios when you spend £500 within the first three months. The representative APR is 15.9%.
Alternatively you could go for the Lloyds Bank Avios Credit Account, which comes with two cards to earn points. The American Express card allows you to collect 1.25 Avios for every £1 spent (doubled in the first six months) while the MasterCard earns 1.25 Avios for every £5 spent. The account also comes with 13 months interest free on purchases and balance transfers, no foreign transaction fees and a flight upgrade voucher when spending reaches £7,000 in a year. The representative APR is 22.7%.
If you collect Virgin's Flying Club Miles the Virgin Atlantic White Credit Card can boost your balance. It also comes with two cards on the same account. With the American Express card you earn one Flying Club Mile for every £1 spent while you get one Flying Club Mile for every £2 spent on the Visa card. At the moment you can get 3,000 bonus miles with your first card purchase within 90 days of opening the account. You'll get another 7,000 bonus miles if you manage to spend £1,000 before 31st October 2014. The representative APR is 17.9%.
Compare reward credit cards
Play your cards right
Watch out for reward and cashback cards that don't come with a 0% purchase period. With these cards you should aim to pay back your bill in full each month to avoid interest eating into your cashback or rewards.
With cards that do come with a 0% introductory period make sure you have a plan on how to repay what you spend before the interest kicks in.
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