About 35 million Americans still have holiday credit card debt left over from last year, according to WalletHub's 2019 Holiday Shopping Survey.
The personal finance site projects consumers will spend as much as $1.1 trillion this holiday season.
When analyzing how consumers spend their money and which gift cards are the best buy, WalletHub identified the top cards as those offering flat-rate cash rewards and ongoing bonus rewards.
"Credit card rewards bonuses are near record highs right now, and the winter holiday season may be the only time each year that you spend up to $3,000 within a three-month period, which is required to earn many of the best bonuses," WalletHub CEO Odysseas Papadimitriou said. "In other words, if you're going to spend a lot of money anyway, an upgrade in rewards cards could save you hundreds of dollars. And if you're not going to need the best possible credit score in the next six months, the temporary dip that occurs when you open a new account shouldn't cost you. Just make sure to use the new account responsibly and not as an excuse to rack up debt."
In its 2019's Best Credit Cards for Holiday Shopping survey, WalletHub identified the top three cards out of more than 1,000 offers evaluated. The best, it says, is Capital One Savor Cash Rewards, with the reportedly best initial bonus, followed by Citi Double Cash, with the "best flat-rate cash rewards," and American Express Blue Cash Preferred, with the "best ongoing bonus rewards."
"There are several places to buy gift cards at a discount, which could allow you to give a more valuable present without changing your budget. Or, you could score a great gift card without spending any money, by redeeming unused credit card rewards," Papadimitriou adds.
It's also important to note that if consumers do choose to buy or use credit cards and gift cards, WalletHub says, they should be aware of policy changes.
Some cardholders can get refunds through Credit Card Price Protection programs if the purchase price drops shortly after the holiday period.
Cards also offer purchase protection, which can help repair or replace recent purchases that are either damaged or stolen.