NerdWallet’s Best Credit Card Tips for August 2018

Aug 1, 2018

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August is a transitional time, as the summer winds down and school starts back up. But you still have some chances to save money and even squeeze in a bit more relaxation before facing the onslaught of activity that a fresh school year brings.

Here are our best tips for using your credit cards as you prepare for the end of summer vacation season.

Seek back-to-school deals

Clothes, pencils, binders, laptops, dorm furnishings, paper towels — necessary supplies for students or teachers who are heading back to the classroom span all kinds of retailers. The right credit card can help.

For instance, from July 1 to Sept. 30, 2018, Chase Freedom® cardholders can earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases at Walgreens, gas stations and with Lyft, and 1% back after that. (Cardholders must activate these categories to earn the bonus.) If you have that card, consider making Walgreens your go-to store for back-to-school supplies.

Also, check your credit card’s online shopping mall. You might be able to earn bonus points at office supply stores, electronics retailers, clothing merchants, home decor and furniture stores, and more.

Finally, some states offer sales tax holidays around this time of year, so you might want to save your shopping for the appropriate dates and reap the savings.

Review your points balance, research deals

If you still have some rewards points on your credit card, or if you have some breathing room left in your summer budget, see if you can score a last-minute travel deal before you head back to the books. It doesn't have to be extravagant; a weekend getaway to a nearby city, beach or cabin in the woods can be doable.

If you’re looking to fly somewhere on the cheap, you might want to consider Las Vegas or Orlando, Florida. Recent data released by the U.S. Department of Transportation show that those two destinations have the lowest airfares in the country.

If those destinations don’t pique your interest, there are other ways to grab credit card rewards flights in peak season, such as by researching alternative airports or trying an airline with high award-seat availability.

Prep for the big merger

Speaking of travel, on Aug. 18, 2018, three major hotel loyalty programs will merge under one rewards umbrella: Marriott Rewards, Ritz-Carlton Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest.

Once this unified program goes live, certain award prices will rise, while others might drop. If you have a co-branded credit card with any of these hotel groups, evaluate your current points balance and the award chart of the relevant hotel program before Aug. 18.

Consult our guide for more information.

Consider a credit assist for your college-age kid

If you’re the parent of a (soon-to-be) college student who's under 21, consider adding your child as an authorized user on one of your credit cards, or co-signing for them to get their own credit card. A lengthy credit history is a key component of a good credit score, and if you yourself have good credit, it can benefit your child.

However, this strategy carries certain risks, so you'll also want to educate your child on best practices for maintaining a credit card, including the importance of paying bills in full and on time to avoid incurring interest or damaging your credit scores.

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