August is typically the steamiest month of the year in the U.S., and the Nerds have some cool credit card tips to help you weather the temperatures and make the most of your plastic.
Take advantage of back-to-school offers
As summer winds down, the reality of going back to school hits kids hard — and back-to-school shopping hits parental wallets hard. The National Retail Federation projects back-to-school and back-to-college spending will top $83 billion this year. "Families with children in elementary through high school plan to spend an average $687.72 each," the group says.
But you might get some relief — in the form of discounts or bonus points — if you shop your credit card issuer's online bonus mall. And Chase Ultimate Rewards®, Wells Fargo Go Far Rewards and Barclaycard RewardsBoost, for example, all feature special sections for back-to-school shopping. Here are some of the deals we’ve seen lately:
Chase Ultimate Rewards®: 6 points per dollar spent at Dell Home; 4 points per dollar spent at Staples.com
Wells Fargo Go Far Rewards: 6 bonus points per dollar spent at Bed Bath & Beyond's website; 5 bonus points per dollar spent at JCPenney.com
Barclaycard RewardsBoost: 3 points per dollar spent at The Container Store; 6 points per dollar spent at Under Armour
Say goodbye to cash
Last month, Visa made news by encouraging owners of small food-service businesses to go cashless. If you also need some encouragement to go cashless when you dine out, here are two cards that offer robust restaurant rewards:
The Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi has a $0 annual fee, but requires a $60 Costco annual membership; the annual fee for the Chase Sapphire Reserve® is $550.
See our best credit cards page for other outstanding offers.
Apply for a hotel card
Even if you've already planned or taken your summer vacation, consider getting a hotel credit card for your future travels. According to NerdWallet’s 2016 Travel Credit Card Study, August is the best time to apply for a hotel credit card. Our research shows that issuers made the most bonus offers during this month.
Look to the sky!
A total solar eclipse will be visible across a wide swath of the U.S. on Aug. 21. NASA's website covers every aspect of the event, including a map that shows the percentage of the eclipse you can expect to see based on your location.
Some lucky people — from the Oregon coast, across the Plains and Midwest, to Charleston, South Carolina — will be in the path of "totality," meaning they'll get the best view. If you want to join them, you could try to book a hotel somewhere within that eclipse path, earning you bonus travel or hotel points while also allowing you to witness one of nature's most awesome sights. But act fast: Hotels are booking up quickly for the event.
If the hotel you're eyeing is full, ask the representative to check nearby properties, which might not be as fancy but will still offer you a good view. You might also have better luck avoiding big cities and searching smaller towns located along the path of totality.
Wherever you view the event, you'll want to purchase eclipse glasses and follow safe viewing guidelines.
Information related to the Chase Sapphire Reserve® has been collected by NerdWallet and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card.
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Ellen Cannon is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: [email protected] Twitter: @ellencannon.