The Best Back-to-School Credit Cards for Parents
Last update: Jul 25, 2013
It seems like the back-to-school talk starts earlier and earlier every year, but take this not as an unnecessary reminder that fun in the sun and time with the kids will inevitably yield to homework and report cards and instead as an opportunity to score big savings, cross some stuff off the ole to-do list, and truly relax for the rest of the break.
One of the primary reasons to tackle back-to-school shopping now is that a number of states are having so-called sales tax holidays as early as August 2, allowing you to buy a certain dollar amount worth of goods in particular categories without paying taxes and therefore save up to 7% on your school supplies.
The savings don't stop there either. As you may know, it's become a common practice for credit card companies to offer people with excellent credit hundreds of dollars (not exaggerating!) in initial rewards bonuses either just for signing up or spending a specified amount during the first 1-3 months that they have a card. These lucrative sign-up perks made their appearance after the Great Recession impressed upon banks the importance of having a customer base that unfailingly pays their monthly bills in full. According to CardHub's Q2 2013 Credit Card Landscape Report, cash back initial bonuses are now 32.89% more valuable than last year and points/miles bonuses are worth 14.79% more. With the average household expected to spend roughly $635 on school supplies this year, according to the National Retail Federation, getting paid to open a credit card will certainly come in handy.
No one would blame you for being hesitant to open a credit card just for its initial bonus, though. If you feel that way, you can still save by opening a card that offers great ongoing rewards. This is especially true for those of you who are small business owners, as you can take advantage of the lucrative rewards that small business credit cards offer on office supplies to save during back-to-school season. Just because a credit card has the "small business" designation doesn't mean that you can’t use it for personal expenses, especially since you're personally liable for card use anyway.
But which card to choose?
We at CardHub compared more than 1,000 credit card offers in order to answer that very question. What resulted is the following list of the best credit cards for back-to-school shopping, which includes cards with great initial bonuses as well as those with exemplary ongoing rewards, as you'll see below.
Initial BonusThis card offers 40,000 bonus points – redeemable for $400 in cash – for spending $3,000 during the first three months and does not charge an annual fee during the first year ($95 thereafter).
Ongoing RewardsThis store card will enable you to save 5% on every purchase made at the superstore and extends your window for returns by 30 days. There is no annual fee.
All-AroundThis card will give you 6% cash back at supermarkets, 3% at department stores and gas stations, and 1% everywhere else as well as a $150 initial bonus when you spend $1,000 within the first three months. It has a $75 annual fee.
All-AroundNot only does this card offer a $100 initial rewards bonus for spending $500 during the first three months as well as 0% financing for the first 15 months, but it will also give you 5% cash back on up to $1,500 spent at Kohl's, gas stations, and theme parks through September 30. The types of expenses eligible for 5% cash back rotate on a quarterly basis, but all purchases earn at least 1% cash back and there is no annual fee.
All-AroundThis new offer from Capital One gives you 1.5% cash back across all purchases, a $100 rewards bonus for spending at least $500 within the first three months, and 0% financing through next August. It does not have an annual fee. If you do not have the excellent credit required to qualify for this card, Capital One also offers a fair-credit version, which still offers the 1.5% cash back across all purchases, but unfortunately has a $39 annual fee, a shorter 0% intro period, and no initial rewards bonus.
All-Around for Business OwnersThis card rewards small business owners with 5% cash back on up to $12,000 spent at office supply stores and telecommunications providers, 3% cash back on up to $12,000 spent at gas stations, and 1% on everything else. It does not charge an annual fee.
All-Around for Business OwnersThis Chase business credit card offers 5% cash back on the first $25,000 that you spend on office supplies and telecommunications services each year, 2% on the first $25,000 spent at gas stations and restaurants, and 1% on everything else. You'll also get a $200 rewards bonus for spending at least $3,000 during the first three months and don't have to worry about paying an annual fee.