In a world where one can buy just about anything on the web, “online shopping” is basically synonymous with “shopping” — minus the whole rigmarole of leaving the house, hitting the stores, and carting your purchases back home.
Despite online retail’s explosive growth of late, the universe of credit cards best suited to online shopping remains distinct from the universe of credit cards best suited to brick-and-mortar retail.
Sure, some overlap exists, including among the cards on this list, but certain credit cards really shine in cyberspace.
The best credit cards for online shopping include a mix of retailer-specific cards and cash-back credit cards with flexible rewards programs that translate well to digital reality. Some also have enticing 0% APR promotions.
Many excel on popular retail holidays, making our lists of the best credit cards to use on Amazon Prime Day and Black Friday or Cyber Monday.
If there’s a great deal of online shopping in your future, these credit cards can help you make the most of your spending dollars.
Methodology: How We Select the Best Credit Cards for Online Shopping
We evaluated dozens of credit cards while building this list, weighing several key criteria along the way. The cards that made the final cut scored well on most or all of them.
Scope of Online Shopping Bonus Categories or Rewards Tiers
It really matters how broad the card’s online shopping category or tier is.
A category or tier that encompasses all online purchases is better than one limited to certain types of online purchases or online purchases with certain retailers only. This is why the Amex Blue Cash Everyday Card ranks higher than the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card. The Amazon card has a higher return on Amazon purchases — 5% — but Blue Cash Everyday pays 3% cash back on all online purchases regardless of retailer, up to the first $6,000 spent each year.
Overall Return on Online Spending
This is the bottom-line return the card delivers on online spending.
It’s higher for cards that have special bonus categories or rewards tiers covering all online purchases, or at least those defined as “online” by the credit card issuer. For example, the Blue Cash Everyday Card from American Express earns 3% cash back on the first $6,000 in online retail purchases each year.
The online spending return is also relatively high for general-purpose cards with above-average flat-rate cash-back rates. We define “above-average” here as 2% cash back or higher. The Citi Double Cash Card is a good example of a 2% flat-rate card that works well for people who spend a lot online.
0% Intro APR Promotions
This is an important criteria because it can temporarily save you a lot of money on online purchases.
While you should avoid carrying a balance on your credit card, sometimes you have to make purchases you can’t afford to pay off in a single month. A 0% intro APR promotion helps you avoid interest on those purchases as long as you pay them off by the end of the promotional period.
Several cards on this list have long 0% intro APR promotional periods on purchases and balance transfers. Purchase promotions directly reduce or eliminate interest on purchases made with the card, while balance transfer promotions can reduce the cost of purchases made previously with another credit card.
Perks & Benefits for Online Shoppers
Some credit cards come with perks like memberships and discounts that can reduce the cost of buying stuff online or simplify the online shopping experience. A notable example is Amex’s Shoprunner benefit, which offers free two-day shipping and free returns with more than 100 participating retailers.
These perks’ value usually depends on how many online purchases you make or how much you spend on them over time. They can also be easier or more difficult to take advantage of, depending on how they’re set up. So we don’t weigh them as heavily as credit card rewards or introductory 0% APR promotions.
No one likes credit card fees, but sometimes, you have to spend money (like an annual fee) to make money (with credit card rewards). Though it’s rarely the deciding factor in whether to rank a card, we do prefer credit cards with low or no annual fees, and we consider them when ordering lists.
Online Shopping Credit Card FAQs
The world of online shopping credit cards is not as simple as it first appears. Cut through the confusion with these common questions and answers.
What Counts as Online Shopping?
It depends on the credit card issuer’s policy and how each retailer classifies transactions made online.
Before applying for an online shopping credit card, check to see how the issuer defines “online shopping.” For example, Amex requires online shopping transactions to be made online and coded as an Internet transaction. It excludes purchases ordered online but paid in a physical store, plus online purchases of travel, entertainment, and groceries.
Is It Better to Use a Retailer Credit Card or General-Purpose Credit Card When Shopping Online?
It depends on where you do most of your online shopping. If Amazon or another major retailer accounts for most of your digital purchases, then a retail credit card is fine. Otherwise, go with a general-purpose credit card that either has a high flat rewards rate or a special online shopping rewards category.
Can You Get an Online Shopping Credit Card With Bad Credit?
You can use just about any credit card to make online purchases, including a credit card meant for people with bad credit. But the best online shopping credit cards require good to excellent credit, meaning a minimum FICO score of 700 to 720. That’s the case for every card on this list, for better or worse.
Are Online Shopping Perks Worth the Annual Fee?
If their value is open-ended and you shop often enough to extract more each year than the annual fee, then yes.
For example, if you use your $139 Amazon Prime membership for free shipping and nothing else, you have to offset at least $139 in shipping charges per year. Unfortunately, that’s easier than it sounds.
Each of these credit cards boasts above-average rewards and potentially valuable cardholder perks. Any of these Visa, Mastercard, or American Express products would be a fine addition to your online shopping arsenal.
Before you apply, consider your chosen card’s strengths and weaknesses against those of the other contenders and check that your credit score is strong enough to justify a formal credit card application. In a world where anyone with a credit card can buy just about anything online, credit card issuers tend to be choosy.