|Credit Card||Best For||Annual Fee||Credit Needed|
|Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express||Overall||$0 intro 1st yr, $95 after||Good|
|Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card||Cash Back||$0||Good|
|Capital One Savor Cash Rewards Credit Card||Initial Bonus||$95||Good|
|Wells Fargo Reflect® Card||Intro APR||$0||Good|
|Amazon.com Credit Card||Online Shopping||$0||Good|
|Target Credit Card||One-Stop Shopping||$0||Fair|
|Capital One Spark Cash Plus||Parents with a Small Business||$150||Excellent|
|Petal® 2 Visa® Credit Card||No Credit||$0||Limited History|
Back-to-School Savings Tips
Shopping during sales and paying with the right credit card are two important ways to save on back-to-school shopping. But they aren’t the only ones. Here are some more tips for starting the school year with an “A” in personal finance:
- Stick to a Budget – It’s hard to avoid overspending if you don’t have both a shopping list and a budget. So before heading to the store, make a list of what you need and do a quick search to see how much each item costs. This will help you make an overall back-to-school budget and decide how to allocate the funds. And that will give you a sense of whether you can afford to splurge on certain items as well as make it easier to avoid impulse buys.
- Comparison Shop – It’s easier than ever to shop around for the best deals. So it’s worth doing, at least for big-ticket items. Similarly, don’t rule out shopping online for fear of shipping charges. More and more retailers are offering free shipping options. And you may enjoy the added benefit of shopping tax-free without being limited to a few-day window.
- Avoid Trends – Buying the “latest” goods — from the computers to clothing styles — is a great way to overspend. Saving is the name of the game at back-to-school time, so concentrate on things that were “hot” — last year. Such items will have cheaper starting prices and are more likely to be on sale as well. All you’ll need to do is convince your children that vintage is cool.
- Don’t Go Overboard on Electronics – Kids these days have access to more types of electronics than ever before, and it’s easy for a young person to convince themselves that they need each of these toys. They may even try to convince you that they’ll use the computers, tablets, smart watches, and even video games to learn rather than for games and social media. Your job is to bring some discipline to the back-to-school process. Some popular electronics do have academic applications, but make sure not to acquiesce to every request. Perhaps choose to give your child one of the things they have their eye on, but maybe for their birthday or the holidays, rather than giving them instant gratification.
- Make One Trip – Buying everything you need for the new school year in one fell swoop will help reduce the stress and time involved in the process. Doing so will also help you take full advantage of sales tax holidays as well as the one-time discounts that many store cards offer. Keep in mind that we mean you should make only one trip to a physical store. Shopping online is more accessible and can be used to supplement anything you may forget.
- Buy in Bulk – Looking way ahead can pay extra big dividends. So what school supplies will your child need throughout the whole year? Buying more now will likely get you better prices overall, considering that back-to-school sales don’t last all year.
- Save for College – Why not use back-to-school season as an annual reminder to contribute money to your child’s college fund and evaluate your saving progress? After all, it’s the best gift you could give your child, both educationally and economically speaking. For a complete breakdown of the best ways to save for college, check out our Guide to College Savings Funds.
Methodology for Selecting the Best Back-to-School Credit Cards
To identify the best back-to-school credit cards for parents each year, WalletHub’s editors compare more than 1,500 credit card offers based on their rewards, fees, APRs, initial bonuses, approval requirements and overall suitability for back-to-school season. In particular, we focus on cards with benefits conducive to saving on school supplies, clothing, electronics, and other key purchase categories. The qualifying cards with the lowest two-year cost are ultimately selected.
How Two-Year Cost Is Calculated
Two-year cost is used to approximate the monetary value of cards for better comparison and is calculated by combining annual and monthly membership fees over two years, adding any one-time fees or other fees (like balance transfer fees), adding any interest costs, and subtracting rewards. Negative amounts indicate savings. When fees or other terms are presented as a range, we use the midpoint for scoring purposes.
Only certain bonuses and credits have been taken into account. For example, credits and bonuses awarded for spending or redeeming rewards through a company portal with non-co-branded cards have not been taken into account. These portals often have relatively high prices and limit customers’ options. Similarly, bonuses and credits related to spending with specific merchants using a non-co-branded card have not been taken into account (for example if Card A offered credits with DoorDash, this would not be included because it is hard to assess how many cardholders would be using this benefit or if they would take full advantage of it).
Cardholder Spending Profiles
Given that different users have different goals and are likely to use their credit cards differently, we identified three spending profiles that are representative of different users’ financial priorities and behaviors: average consumer, average consumer with less-than-good credit, and average business. For each, we have defined monthly spending by category, as well as the average balance, balance transfer amount, amount spent on large purchases and average monthly payment. Monthly spending is based on Bureau of Labor Statistics data for consumers and PEX data for businesses.