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Credit Cards Can Give You a Break on Back-to-School Purchases

July 3, 2018
Credit Card Basics, Credit Cards, Rewards Credit Cards
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As back-to-school season approaches, your kids may have outgrown their clothes — but they don’t have to outgrow your budget.

Last year, shoppers indicated they planned to spend an average of $688 per household on back-to-school items, according to the National Retail Federation, with the majority going toward apparel and electronics.

Here’s how credit cards can cut some of those costs.

Rewards

Reward rates vary by type of card, but a decent return for cash-back credit cards might range from 1.5% to 2% back per dollar spent to 5% back on rotating bonus categories. Those rewards can be redeemed for cash or a statement credit to offset school purchases, for example, or applied to future travel.

A credit card that earns cash back generally requires good credit. You’ll get the most value if you pay your bill in full every month, avoiding interest charges.

Sign-up bonuses

A credit card sign-up bonus can be worth hundreds of dollars if you meet the minimum spending requirement.

Classroom purchases bring Kyle Craighead and his wife, fellow teachers and bloggers at Teachers Traveling on Points, closer to meeting sign-up bonus spending requirements.

“We always try to use the rewards for maximizing travel that we wouldn’t have been able to afford,” Craighead says.

0% intro APR offers

Certain gadgets and supplies carry hefty price tags. A rewards credit card with an introductory 0% annual percentage rate can offer breathing room for large purchases.

You still have to pay monthly, but you won’t be charged interest during the promotional period.

Online shopping portals

Multiply your credit card rewards by shopping through the card’s bonus mall or a cash-back shopping site.

For example, an online portal may offer 5% cash back at a certain store. If you spent $300 with a card that also earns 2% back, you’d get $21 back.

Chonce Maddox, blogger at My Debt Epiphany, uses a cash-back card to make purchases via Ebates, a cash-back site. This year, she’ll shop for clothes and school supplies for her 8-year-old.

“I like to stack my savings and cash back and discounts as well as I can,” Maddox says. She deposits earnings into her checking account and uses them for vacations or dining.

Price protection

If your credit card offers price protection, you can be refunded the difference on a purchase if you find a lower advertised price within a designated time frame.

Some issuers are altering or ending their price protection policies later this year, though. Also, depending on the issuer, you might have to submit documents.

For Craighead, the extra legwork was worth it when iPad prices dropped two weeks after he bought one. He estimates the benefit saved him $50 to $75.

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