September kicks off a season of spending that begins with outfitting your college freshman’s dorm room and finishes with flying them home for winter break.
Thankfully, there are lots of ways your credit cards can reward you as you price out Thanksgiving plane tickets, shop for Labor Day bargains and coat yourself in head-to-waist body paint before heading to a football game.
Here are our credit card tips for September.
Get ready for some football
Football fans’ weekends are officially spoken for through early 2020. But even if football isn’t your thing, there’s no denying the multitude of eating opportunities that game-watching gatherings present: the tailgates, the house parties, the cookouts. And whether your preference is homemade spinach artichoke dip or a soft pretzel at your favorite watering hole, there are credit cards that will reward you with cash back even if your favorite team breaks your heart this year.Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express. You’ll earn 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 in purchases per year (then 1%), plus 6% back on select U.S. streaming services like Sling TV, which offers ESPN with some of its subscription packages. The card’s annual fee is $0 intro for the first year, then $95, but if you spend around $1,584 per year in these two categories alone, you’ll offset the cost entirely. Terms apply.
If you prefer to keep the festivities (and the resulting hours of cleanup) outside of your home, bring a card that earns extra cash back at bars and restaurants. The Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card earns 4% cash back at restaurants and bars, plus that same 4% cash-back rate on tickets to professional sporting events. The annual fee is $95. You can also opt for the card’s $0-annual-fee counterpart, the Capital One® SavorOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card, which earns 3% cash back on the same spending categories.
The most important part of any celebratory outing is when you get home safely. Earn 3% cash back on taxis and ridesharing services with the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express. The Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card, which charges a $0 annual fee, also earns 3 points per dollar spent on rideshares. Terms apply. If you snagged the newly launched Apple Card, you’ll earn 3% back on Uber rides if you use the card through Apple Pay.
Turn holiday travel into a rewards-earning opportunity
The one-two punch of expensive flights and crowded airports will surely rob you of your sense of holiday cheer — and that’s before you even begin the annual campaign to convince your great-uncle that “digital marketing strategist” is a real job.
Take comfort in the fact that you’re not alone. NerdWallet’s 2018 Holiday Travel Report found that last year, half of Americans planned to spend money on flights and hotels for the holiday season, and those who intended to use a credit card to make bookings planned to charge nearly $1,500 on average. If your holiday travels leave no room in the budget for any other vacations, there’s a way to make that spending work harder for you: Sign up for a travel rewards credit card now, so it’ll arrive just in time to book flights. According to 2018 research from the travel booking site Hopper, ticket prices were lowest around the end of September, and prices will begin to rise after Halloween.
The flights, hotel stays, rental cars and holiday gifts you’ll spend money on between now and the end of the year can earn you a sizable sign-up bonus that will shave a few hundred dollars off a future trip. Plus, these cards generally earn a higher rewards rate on travel expenses, so your holiday bookings will earn extra points on top of the sign-up bonus.
Save big, even after Labor Day
Seasonal sales are ideal times to get a discount on a major purchase. Even if you were out of town during Labor Day weekend, you won’t miss out on promotions that continue for a few extra days.
Best Buy, for example, is offering 40% off on select appliances through Sept. 11, 2019. Avoid high-interest debt with a card that offers a 0% introductory APR period, like the U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card. Pay an intro 0% intro APR for 20 billing cycles on purchases and balance transfers, and then the ongoing APR of 13.99% - 23.99% Variable APR. Just be sure you can pay down the entire balance before that interest-free period ends.