5 Tips to Save Money on Back to School Shopping

Updated on Aug 02, 2017

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Did the length of your kid’s back to school shopping list surprise you? It’s no wonder, back to school and college spending ranks as the second biggest shopping season for retailers after the winter holidays, according to the National Retail Federation. Don’t let back to school shopping break the bank. Here are five ways savvy parents save money getting their kids geared back up for school.

1.     Use the Right Credit Card

Using the right credit card is the first way you can save big on back to school spending. Parents spent an average of $674 on back to school shopping in 2016, according to the National Retail Federation. That makes the back to school season a smart time to apply for a new credit card. Choose a cash back credit card and you could take home a healthy cash bonus to kick off the school year in style. If you don’t want to stay-cation over spring break, there are amazing travel offers with big sign-up bonuses. If your finances are tight look for a long 0% introductory APR offer.

2.     Make a Budget and Stick to It

With the kids in tow, it can be tempting to toss more than you need into the shopping cart. Avoid impulse buys and stick to the basics on your list. For older kids, use this as an opportunity to start teaching them about money management.

3.     Take Advantage of Sales Tax Holiday

Sales tax makes everything you buy just a bit more expensive, with some states charging up to 7.5%. Starting in July, some states offer a sales tax holiday, which knocks off state tax on items such as clothing, computers, school supplies and footwear. Each state is different. As of now, Alabama is the earliest state to offer a sales tax holiday in 2017 and that starts July 21-23. It covers clothing, computers, books, and school supplies, according to freetaxweekend.com.

4.     Look Through your Closets

Before you head out to the stores, take stock of what you have in your drawers and closets. There may be unused supplies that came home at the end of last year on locker clean-out day that match this year’s list.

5.     Watch Out for Store Branded Cards

While it may be tempting to open a store branded credit card, the 5% or 10% you might save on your purchase that day could end up costing you in the long run. Store branded credit cards are notorious for interest rates almost double that of a typical bank credit card. That means if you don’t pay your balance in full even one time, the interest charges could wipe out any discount you earned at the register.

Here are CompareCard’s 8 best credit cards for back-to-school spending in 2017: 

Best for Packed Lunches and Clothes

Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express: Growing kids means big appetites. If you’ve got kids you probably spend a lot on groceries. Families can earn substantial cash-back rewards with this no-annual fee card. Earn 3% at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 in spend per year, 2% at U.S. gas stations & select U.S. dept stores, 1% on other purchases.  Advancing to the next grade also means it’s time for new clothes and shoes – earn extra cash back at U.S. department stores with this card! There are about 15 popular stores on Amex’s list including Kohl’s, J.C. Penney, Macy’s, Sears and Dillard’s. You will also earn extra cash back at U.S. gas stations and unlimited cash back on everything else, which can add up significantly at the end of the year. Earn a $100 statement credit after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new Card within the first 3 months.

Best for Laptops, Big Ticket Items

Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer: If expensive electronics, like a tablet or laptop, are on your back to school list, you can earn big cash back rewards with this card. That could be substantial for the big-ticket items on your list. This is a hard-working, high-earning cash back rewards card that will pay you twice. The simple cashback program rewards you with unlimited 1% cash back when you buy and 1% cash back as you pay for those purchases.  That makes it one of the highest all around cash-back reward cards. There is no annual fee and no limit to the amount of cash you can earn. If you are looking to transfer high-interest credit card debt, this card offers a long introductory 0%* for 18 months on Balance Transfers*.

Best for Cash-Back Bonus

Discover it® Cashback Match™: We give Discover an A+ for their originality with this sign-up bonus that could be worth hundreds of dollars depending on your spending level. This is a no-annual fee, high earning cash back card. Discover will automatically match all the cash back you earn at the end of your first year.* That means you could turn a $200 bonus into $400 with Cashback Match™. You will also earn 5% cash back in rotating categories each quarter like gas stations, Amazon.com, restaurants, wholesale clubs and more, up to the quarterly maximum each time you activate. Plus, 1% cash back on all other purchases.

Best For 0% Intro APR Interest

Citi Simplicity® Card - No Late Fees Ever: If the budget is tight right now, you will get an ultra-long 0%* for 21 months on purchases* introductory APR with this card. That means you will have well over a year to pay down your balance with no interest charges. This is the classic no-hassle credit card. It’s the only card with no late fees, no penalty rate, and no annual fee. If you have high interest credit card debt you’d like to transfer, there is an introductory 0%* for 21 months on balance transfers* too.

Best for Spring Break Travel Bonus

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card: This flexible travel card earns high marks for its impressive sign up bonus. Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's worth $625 in travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. The massive sign-up bonus will go a long way toward making your spring break plans a reality. Cash in your points on hotels, airfare, and even car rentals or cruises with this flexible travel card. Earn 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases. Your points are worth 25% more when you book airfare, hotels or car rentals through the easy to use Chase Ultimate Rewards® travel portal. The annual fee is $0 intro for the first year, then $95.

Best for High Ongoing Travel Rewards

Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit CardThe Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card earns top grades with its all-star line-up of benefits that will take families far. Earn unlimited 2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day. These miles are easy to redeem, can be used to fly on any airline or stay at any hotel with no blackout dates, and miles won't expire for the life of the account. Parents can also nail down an impressive sign-up bonus. Earn a one-time bonus of 40,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months of account opening, equal to $400 in travel. The annual fee is $0 intro for first year; $59 after that. If you don't want an annual fee consider its sister card the Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card

Best for Business Owning Parents

Ink Business Cash℠ Credit Card: Cardholders will love how they can earn $300 bonus cash back after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. Furthermore, there are tons of opportunities to earn cash back. Earn 5% cash back on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at office supply stores and on cellular phone, landline, internet and cable TV services each account anniversary year. Earn 2% cash back on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at gas stations and restaurants each account anniversary year. Unlimited 1% cash back on all other card purchases. Take advantage of introductory APR 0% for 12 months, all with no annual fee.

Best for Balance Transfer

BankAmericard® Credit CardThis is one of the best get-out-of-debt credit cards available, offering a rare combination of 0% Intro APR for 15 billing cycles for balance transfers made in the first 60 days, $0 annual fee and $0 Intro balance transfer fee for the first 60 days your account is open. After that, the fee for future balance transfers is 3% (min. $10). The BankAmericard® Credit Card offers you a low-cost way to get back to even.   Most credit cards charge a 3-5% balance transfer fee. Not here. Instead of paying interest, use this balance transfer card to pay down your debt faster.  On a $10,000 balance, a typical 3% balance transfer fee could cost you $300. You will also get 0% Introductory APR on purchases for 15 billing cycles too. That gives you some breathing room to pay down your back-to-school shopping bills with no interest.

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