Preparing the kids for back-to-school can be a budget-busting endeavor. In fact, according to the National Retail Federation’s Back-to-School Spending Survey, Kindergarten through college is expected to log $68 billion in spending in 2015, with the average family spending an estimated $630 on electronics, supplies and clothing for their children. With that in mind, choosing plastic over cash can help you save money, earn rewards, protect your purchases and defer interest, getting the school year off to a fast and frugal start.
Here are five ways your favorite rewards credit card can help you lower costs and save money on your back-to-school buys.
Back-to-school merchandise goes on sale in September, so if you have a credit card with price protection, you can use it to buy school supplies now and cash in on the savings later. Price protection also allows you to get the price difference between the regular cost and the sale cost of an item reimbursed if the item goes on sale within a specified period of time.
First, be sure to read your benefits statement or visit your card issuer’s website for restrictions and terms. Many programs have restrictions on certain items, such as Internet purchases or personalized goods, so be sure to check the details before you buy. Your terms will indicate monetary limits and length of time you have after a purchase to file a claim and other important information.
Many shoppers prefer to avoid the hordes of back-to-school shoppers at the local mall and shopping emporium by shopping online. Bonus malls are online shopping portals that help you rack up additional rewards or get exclusive discounts. Bonus malls are a great way to save big money or earn extra rewards on your online purchases, and many malls include popular back-to-school retailers such as Office Depot, Staples, Wal-Mart, Target and more. There’s no extra cost to shop through a bonus mall, just make sure you use the credit card associated with that bonus mall to get the rewards or discounts.
Some credit card rewards offer extra points or cash back on certain purchase categories, such as groceries, gas and department store shopping. Department store rewards for back-to-school supplies and extra gas for transporting the kids to school are obvious payoffs, but a card with additional grocery rewards can pay off in long-term dividends, even more if you play it just right.
Many grocery stores sell gift cards for dozens of other merchants so you can purchase all the gift cards you need for electronics, clothing, and office supply stores and get the extra rewards on your spending because it will be coded as a grocery purchase. Don’t forget that the extra rewards on certain purchase categories may have spending limits. For details on those and other rules, learn about your card’s rewards policy before you shop.
Back-to-school must-haves often include a computer, tablet or e-reader, all of which come with manufacturer warranties. However, a typical warranty only covers about one year, so you may have to consider an extended warranty. Many credit cards double your warranty (generally up to one year), giving you the option to forgo the extended warranty offered by the merchant. That way you’ll save money while covering expensive electronics for longer than the manufacturer’s warranty.
0% APR offers
If you’re a bit short on cash for back-to-school supplies, you can use a 0% credit card offer to avoid accruing interest for the next 12 months or longer. You’ll still need to make at least the minimum payments each month, and pay off the balance in full before the introductory rate expires. If you don’t, you’ll incur interest on your remaining balance and perhaps retroactively on your original balance.