Eliminate Back-to-School Spending Stress with the Right Rewards Card

by John Kiernan on August 26, 2011

Help for College StudentsIf you looked at your child’s back-to-school checklist and wondered how in the world you’d pay for everything on it, don’t worry, you’re not alone. About one out of every five Americans feels stressed about back-to-school shopping this year, according to a survey conducted by Chase, and 25% plan to spend less on school supplies this year than they did last year. What’s more, 34% of people intend to save on back-to-school shopping by re-using old supplies, while 26% plan to clip coupons and 25% say they’ll shop at discount stores. Those are all great ideas, which can lead to big savings. But why not throw the right rewards credit card into the mix and save up to another 6%?

As we all know, rewards credit cards often offer particularly high rewards on particular spending categories. And since the Island Approach to spending advocates having a few different rewards credit cards that complement each other and help you save on your biggest expenses, both your credit card arsenal and your back-to-school budget could benefit from the addition of a card with particularly attractive grocery and department store rewards or a card offering rewards at a mega-store where you can buy practically everything or a card that helps you save on office supplies.

Best Back-to-School Rewards Cards
After examining over 800 credit card offers, here are our picks for the grocery/department store category:

Blue Cash Preferred from American Express:

  • 6% cash back at supermarkets
  • 3% at department stores
  • $100 extra cash back bonus after you spend $500 spent in the first 60 days
  • $75 bonus for every fellow parent you refer
  • $75 annual fee

Citi ThankYou Preferred Card

  • 5 points per $1 spent at drugstores and supermarkets for 12 months
  • $50 gift card after you spend $300 in the first three months
  • No annual fee.

Best Back-to-School Store Card
Store cards work just like rewards credit cards, except they can only be used to make purchases at a specific store chain. Given this lack of flexibility, it’s important to get a card tied to a store with a national presence where you can not only buy school supplies and clothes for your child, but make the rest of your everyday purchases as well. Our pick in this category is:

Target REDcard

  • 5% cash back Target purchases
  • You can also sign up for the Target Take Charge of Education and donate 1% of your Target purchases to the K-12 school of your choice
  • No annual fee

Best Back-to-School Business Credit Cards
Business credit cards provide the best rewards on office supplies, as you might assume. So if you’re a small business owner, you have a unique advantage in cost-effectively setting your child up for academic success. We determined the following small business credit cards to be the best for achieving this purpose:

New Ink Cash Business Card

  • 5% cash back on office supply purchases up to $25,000 annually
  • $150 cash back bonus after first purchase
  • $100 bonus after spending $5,000 in first three months
  • No annual fee.

American Express SimplyCash Business Credit Card

  • 5% cash back on the first $12,000 you spend on office supplies each year
  • No annual fee

Ultimately, no matter which card you choose, back-to-school shopping is going to be a whole lot cheaper. So all of us who are feeling some stress about back-to-school shopping expenses can relax because it’s going to be a breeze.

[Disclosure: Some of the links within this article point to CardHub.com, which is owned by the same parent company as Wallet Blog.]

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