Even though you can redeem Ultimate Rewards points for cash rebates, many Chase cardmembers have discovered they can squeeze even more value from their rewards balances. In addition to special deals on dining and travel, Chase now offers members exclusive experiences at the Radio City Christmas Spectacular or the Sundance Film Festival.

Wells Fargo Cash Back Visa

Retail banks haven't always offered the strongest rewards cards over the past few years, but heated competition has inspired some familiar names to launch some unusual holiday promotions. For instance, signing up for a new Wells Fargo Cash Back Visa will earn you a zero percent APR and a 3 percent rebate on all gas, grocery, and drugstore purchases for six months. Your everyday purchases earn 1 percent cash back, even after the promotion ends.

Because your holiday gift list requires you to travel beyond the corner convenience store, Wells Fargo and Visa have teamed up for a series of special merchant offers that can save you even more money. Retailers such as Urban Outfitters, Macy's, and Banana Republic will waive shipping on qualifying orders during this season's promotional period. Although the go-to rate on this low introductory rate card can lean toward the high side, you'll have the benefit of face-to-face customer service at any of Wells Fargo's branches nationwide.

Capital One Cash

Although Capital One hasn't yet announced any extra rebates or signup bonuses for the holiday season, the bank has beefed up offerings through its Perk Central shopping portal. Unlike most other credit card issuers' online shopping malls, Perk Central now includes a selection of in-store bonuses. Some of the season's best deals have included instant cash back rebates of up to 10 percent at merchants like Banana Republic and Foot Locker.

Capital One's online rewards tracking system makes it easy for you to cash in on your bonuses, even within the same statement cycle as your qualifying purchases. A new "purchase eliminator" tool lets you pluck an item from your statement and pay it off instantly with your accrued rebate credit. In addition to a 1 percent cash rebate, you'll earn an extra 50 percent rebate bonus when you keep your account in good standing for a year.