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Are You a Teacher? Be Sure to Put Your Classroom Expenses on Your Credit Card

Sept. 17, 2014
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Teaching may be the noblest profession, and it certainly can be expensive. With school budgets shrinking, many teachers are forced to pay for their supplies out of their own pockets.

If you’re one of them, there’s good reason to put all the glue sticks and loose leaf paper you’re buying on your credit card. Not sure why? Take a look at the details below.

It’s official: Teachers spend a bundle on their classrooms

If you’re a teacher who spends a few hundred dollars per school year on supplies for your classroom, you’re not alone. According to an August 2014 article in Forbes, U.S. teachers spent an average of $513 each during the 2013-2014 school year on books, supplies, instructional materials and professional development.

What’s more, Marketplace reported in 2013 that 99.5% of teachers are spending at least some of their own money on outfitting their classrooms or providing for their students’ instructional needs. All this goes to show that teaching doesn’t just take a big heart — it takes a big wallet, too.

>>More: How to Maximize Credit Card Rewards When Shopping

Why classroom spending should go on your credit card

Spending your own money on classroom supplies may be a fact of life if you’re a teacher, but how you pay for all that stuff is up to you. Although you could use cash or debit, the Nerds recommend that you use a credit card – for a couple of reasons.

For one thing, even though the $250 Educator Expense Deduction expired in 2013, your principal might be willing to reimburse you for some of the items you’ve purchased. Keeping receipts is crucial, but your credit card statement could serve as a good backup if one of them goes missing.

Also, using a credit card will provide you with some pretty great rewards on all those classroom expenses. If you spend the average $513 on school supplies this year with a card that earns 5% cash back at certain popular retailers (it’s not impossible – see below), you’ll score $25.65 in rewards. That’s enough for a couple of takeout meals when you’re too busy with grading papers to cook dinner.

Good credit cards for teachers

So now that it’s clear that using a credit card for your classroom spending is a smart idea, which one should you choose? Luckily, the Nerds have a few suggestions:

If you buy most of your stuff at Amazon: Sallie Mae MasterCard

These days many of us are buying the bulk of our household items and reading material through Amazon – if this sounds familiar, the Sallie Mae MasterCard is a good card to consider.

With it, you’ll earn 5% cash back on up to $750 spent per month at bookstores (Amazon counts as a bookstore!), 5% cash back on up to $250 spent per month at gas stations, 5% cash back on up to $250 spent per month on groceries, and 1% cash back on all other purchases. Since you’re probably buying a lot of books, this card offers a lot of value.

When it comes time to redeem, you can use your rewards to pay down your Sallie Mae student loan, get cash back into your Upromise account or simply request a statement credit.

And know this: You get all these great perks and the $0.

If you do a lot of driving to and from school: Chase Freedom®

Unlike other professionals, many teachers don’t drive home at the end of the day and stay at home. It’s common to head back to school in the evenings for plays, parent night, and sporting events. If your teaching gig keeps you behind the wheel, the Chase Freedom® might be for you.

With the Chase Freedom®, you’ll earn 5% cash back in rotating quarterly bonus categories, up to $1,500 in combined spending per quarter. Plus, you’ll earn an unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases. Historically, the Chase Freedom® has featured gas stations as a 5% category at least one quarter a year.

Also, the Chase Freedom® has an annual fee of $0, and starts you off with a pretty nice signup bonus: Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.

If you want to earn big rewards on a much-deserved night out: Citi ThankYou® Preferred Card

Teaching can be draining, so going out to a happy hour or a movie at the end of the week is usually in order. If you’re looking for a card that will reward you for a much-deserved night out, the Citi ThankYou® Preferred Card is just the ticket.

This card earns 2 ThankYou points per dollar spent on entertainment and dining out, and 1 ThankYou point per dollar spent on all other purchases. You can redeem your ThankYou points for travel rewards, gift cards, merchandise and more. The Nerds recommend using them for a gift card to reward yourself with another little treat, but we suppose you could cash in your rewards for a gift card to a retailer that sells classroom supplies.

No matter which way you cut the cake, this a great card for a teacher in need of a little fun!

Teacher in her classroom image via Shutterstock