Sometimes the gift with the biggest “wow” factor can’t be placed neatly into a box. Experiences may be intangible but they have lasting impact — a big difference from many physical presents.

Data collected from a Groupon survey found people receive an average of three totally forgettable gifts every holiday season. With an experience, memories will remain with the lucky recipient for years, if not forever.

The best way to give an experiential present can be with a credit card. Depending on the card you use, it can get the person into unique events, buy individualized messages or help you rack up maximum rewards when you make the purchase.

If it will be a major charge, the purchase price can be enough for you to the minimum spend to score a new card’s sign-up bonus, thus giving you extra money or points to use for someone else on your list or to offset the initial cost.

Here are seven experiences credit cards can help you deliver this holiday season:

Broadway shows

Seats to the most sought-after shows, from Hamilton to Frozen, will make a Broadway aficionado swoon with delight. Tickets can be hard to get, though, so if you need to buy from a third-party company, look no further than a card that will reward you heavily when you buy the tickets from a reseller.

For example, Capital One SavorOne Card will give you 8 percent cash-back when you use it on Capital One Entertainment purchases. Therefore, if your amazing gift is two front-row center tickets with a $400 price tag, you will get $32 back when you use that card. Another option is to use any Visa Signature Rewards card. With it you can score discounts on pricey Broadway tickets, bringing the cost down to a reasonable level.


Your kids are desperate to see The Weekend perform while your mother-in-law would like nothing better than to hear Harry Connick Jr. croon. Since these are hot tickets, they can sell out fast. To jump to the front of the line, look for a credit card that can help you guarantee that the tickets will be available for purchase when you want them. The Citi Premier® Card, for instance, gives you access to the Citi Entertainment program, giving you as the cardholder pre-sale ticket access.

Sporting events

Professional sports are popular, so tickets to a game would be a fabulous present. Although you can just give people seats at a sporting event, you can make the day magnificent with the right credit card.

If the person on your list is a football fan, you may want to use the NFL Extra Points Visa® Credit Card. With it you will have exclusive access to such experiences as meet-and-greet events with star players and early entry on game days. A touchdown present for sure!

And if you have a Capital One card with the Capital One Entertainment benefit, you can score special access to Major League Baseball games and the NCAA’s Men’s and Women’s Final Four, as well as Capital One-sponsored games (like the College World Series) and even the ESPY Awards.

A celebrity greeting

Maybe your best friend is a huge Real Housewives of New York fan. If so, she may be thrilled to learn that cast-mate Sonja Morgan has a special message for her. There are hundreds of celebrities on the website Cameo, from musicians to comedians, and you can pay for one to make a personalized video for plenty of people on your list. Many of these videos can be purchased for less than $50, too, so if you’re new to credit and only have a starter card with a small credit line, you can still make it happen.

Fine dining

Is there a restaurant someone you love has been dying to try, but getting a reservation is virtually impossible? If you have The Platinum Card® from American Express, prepare to be the hero. It gives you special access to some of the world’s finest restaurants. Via the Global Dining Collection benefit, you can secure a table at Michelin-starred restaurants run by the most celebrated chefs in the world.

You may also be presented with free starters, complimentary champagne, and curated menus. Just dial the number on the back of your card to connect with the concierge who will book the reservations and make the arrangements for your special someone.

A day at the museum

If you don’t have much money to spend this year, you are not alone. Inflation has stretched many consumers’ budgets thin. That doesn’t mean you can’t give an impressive gift that is also an experience.

Consider using any Bank of America card for a wonderful day out. Whether you have a credit or debit card, all come with the Museum on Us program. Just present your card and a valid photo ID and you will have free admission to over 225 “cultural institutions” all over the United States during the first weekend of each month. Because you will have to take that person as your guest, prepare for an enriching outing together.

The trip of a lifetime

Finally, maybe you want to go full-out extravagant for someone very important to you. You want to give them a vacation, complete with airline tickets, hotel reservations and a rental car. Such a trip can cost thousands, so now may be the perfect time to open a travel credit card that offers a large welcome bonus to offset the cost.

For example, the Chase Sapphire Reserve® will give you 60,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months of opening the account. If you transfer those points to a Chase travel partner, they can be worth 2 cents per point – making the bonus valued at $1,200. This card also comes with dining credits and other perks well above the $550 annual fee.

How to gift an experience

Because experiential gifts are not tangible, you may want to present them in a particularly festive way. For example:

  • Describe what you will give in a card with a special message about why you are giving it.
  • Print out information about the gift and place it in a beautiful box.
  • Take a photo of what the gift entails, roll it into a scroll, and secure it with a ribbon.
  • Purchase something very inexpensive, wrap it, and include a note about the “real” gift.
  • Hang multiple clues about the gift on the tree, inside ornaments, for the recipient to find.

Keep your own experience positive

As you can see, you can use your credit card to make a wide variety of people on your holiday shopping list very happy this holiday season. But make sure the money you spend with that card doesn’t come back to bite you in the new year. Before you charge an experiential gift, make sure you can afford to repay the balance in full by the time the bill comes in — or, at least, within a couple of months — to minimize finance fees.