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How Credit Cards Can Help You Save Big on Back-to-School Shopping

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The back-to-school season is fast approaching—and with it comes all those related expenses, like school supplies, electronics, clothes, and shoes. This year, Americans with children in elementary school through high school plan to spend an average of $685 per household on back-to-school goods, according to the National Retail Federation.

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If you don't want your kids' school spending to overwhelm your budget, strategize now about which credit cards to use in order to save the most money and get the most rewards. This is a good time to consider applying for a card that will help you save on your back-to-school spending—and you'll have it in time for holiday shopping, as well.

Look for Cash Back Opportunities

When you're spending upwards of hundreds of dollars, earning cash back on those purchases just makes good sense—as long as you pay your balance off in full each month. If you're looking for a cash back card to trim some of your back-to-school expenses, consider the following options:

Citi® Double Cash Card

Annual Fee: None
APR: 15.24% to 25.24% variable, depending on your creditworthiness

This is an excellent, straightforward cash back card to keep in your wallet for all kinds of purchases, not just back-to-school ones. You earn 1% back on every purchase you make, and once you pay off the balance, you earn another 1% back, for a total rewards rate of 2%.

There is no cap on the amount of rewards you can earn, and there's no annual fee. You generally need good credit to be approved for the card. You can also take advantage of Cit's price protection feature in case something you buy goes on sale soon after your purchase. See our detailed article on the Citi Double Cash Card here.

Capital One Quicksilver Rewards

Annual Fee: None
APR: 14.74% to 24.74% variable, depending on your creditworthiness

If you're looking for a flat-rate cash back card but you have fair credit, this card is a good option. You earn 1.5% back on every purchase you make, and there's no cap on how much you can earn. Spend $500 on the card within the first three months of opening the account and get $150 back—enough to significantly slash your back-to-school bills.

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Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card

Annual Fee: None
APR: 14.99% to 24.99% variable, depending on your creditworthiness

If you do a lot of your back-to-school shopping at wholesale clubs, this card earns you 2% cash back on those purchases (as well as at grocery stores). You'll earn 3% back on gas purchases, and 1% back on everything else.

You can also boost your rewards if you have a checking or savings account with Bank of America—you'll get a 10% customer bonus by redeeming your cash back into your BoA bank account. Get $150 cash back after you spend $500 on the card within the first 90 days of opening the account.

Take Advantage of Sign-Up Bonuses

There are plenty of credit cards offering hefty sign-up bonuses worth hundreds of dollars right now, as long as you meet the minimum spend requirement. Check out these cards to put a big dent in your back-to-school spending via cashback bonus.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Annual Fee: $95, waived the first year
APR: 17.74% to 24.74% variable, depending on your creditworthiness

Spend $4,000 on this card within the first three months of opening the account and you'll earn 50,000 bonus points. That's worth $625 in travel if you redeem through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal or $500 in cash back statement credits. You also earn 2 points per $1 spent on travel and dining purchases and 1 point per $1 spent on everything else.

Venture® from Capital One®

Annual Fee: $95, waived the first year
APR: 14.74% to 24.74% variable, depending on your creditworthiness

Spend $3,000 on this card within the first three months of opening the account, and you'll get 50,000 bonus miles. That's worth $500 in statement credits on travel purchases (which range from hotels, airfare, taxis and even public transportation). You earn 2 miles for every $1 spent on all purchases, and there's no cap on what you can earn.

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Check Out Retail Credit Cards

If you do your back-to-school shopping at specific retailers, you may want to consider their co-branded credit cards to maximize your savings and rewards. Some offer discounts if you use their store credit cards, while others earn you significant cash back.

To be sure, there are drawbacks with retail credit cards—like higher interest rates and the ability to drag down your credit scores if you apply for too many or use too much credit. For more information, check out: 10 Things to Know Before You Get a Retail Card.

Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature

Annual Fee: None
APR: 15.74% to 23.74% variable, depending on your creditworthiness

If you prefer to avoid the crowds and do your back-to-school shopping online, check out one of Amazon's own credit cards. Amazon Prime members can take advantage of the no-fee Prime Rewards Visa Signature card, which earns unlimited 5% back on all Amazon and Whole Foods purchases, 2% back at restaurants, gas stations and drug stores, and 1% back on everything else. If you're not a Prime member, check out the regular Amazon Rewards Visa Signature Card, which offers the same terms, except for 3% back at Amazon and whole Foods instead of 5%.

Target REDcard

Annual Fee: None
APR: 24.40% variable

Target shoppers can get a lot of value from the Target REDcard, which offers a 5% discount on all Target and Target.com purchases. You also have access to free 2-day shipping from Target.com, and an extra 30 days to make returns on Target purchases. Cardholders also get early access to select sales and promotional offers.

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Score Discounts and Rewards Through Online Shopping Portals

Your credit card may offer an online shopping portal that gives you the chance to earn bigger rewards and discounts. This does require you to think in advance before you make a purchase—you'll have to check your shopping portal to see if you can earn extra rewards, but it's worth it if you have the time.

For example, Discover cardholders should check out the card's Discover Deals section for online discounts and extra rewards opportunities. A sampling of current Discover offers includes 5% cash back on Apple.com purchases, 5% cash back on Gap.com purchases and $15 off $75 purchases at FootLocker.com. To take advantage of the deals, you simply log into your Discover account throughout the Discover Deals portal and click on the website you want to shop at. You must pay with your Discover card.

Other credit cards offering bonus malls include the Chase Ultimate Rewards bonus mall, Wells Fargo Earn More Mall, and the Barclaycard RewardsBoost.


Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are author's alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, or other company, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. All information, including rates and fees, are accurate as of the date of publication.
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