The best credit cards — and shopping tips — for getting back to school

There is nothing cheap about tuition fees these days. In 2021, the National Retail Federation said families with children in elementary and high school plan to spend an average of $848.90 on school supplies — $59 more than the previous year.

Even worse for families with college students. The National Retail Federation reports that these families will spend an average of $1,200.32 on school supplies this year. This is $141 more than in 2020.

Since you are already planning to splurge on pencils, backpacks, clothes and scissors this summer, why not earn extra rewards or bonuses? You can if you use your credit cards wisely.

Here are the best credit cards and spending tips to help you boost your school rewards and savings this year.

Citi Double Cash Card: the best card for every day

Why we chose it: You will actually receive 2 percent cashback on all purchases with Citi® Dual Cash Card – 1 percent when making a purchase and an additional 1 percent when paying an invoice. This means you’ll get your money back whether you buy notebooks, glue, and folders, or more expensive items like computers, sneakers, or shirts.


  • 1 percent cashback on regular purchases plus an additional 1 percent cash back on purchases.
  • No annual fee
  • No category restrictions
  • Technically, this card earns basic gratitude points.


  • No signup bonus
  • The reward expires if the card is not used for more than 12 months.

Who should apply: Busy parents who between baseball practice, violin lessons, and school don’t want to spend too much effort on getting the maximum reward will appreciate this fixed-rate cashback card. Citi Double Cash is also convenient for cardholders who do a lot of shopping across multiple stores, both online and in person.

Who should missA: Loyal customers of the same retailer, such as Amazon or Target, can choose to forgo this card in favor of a co-branded one. And of course, if a cashback of up to 2 percent seems like too little reward, you can keep looking for bonus category cards with higher reward rates.

Bank of America Customized Cash Rewards Credit Card: Best for Online Shopping

Why did we choose this: Consistently recognized as one of the best cashback cards, Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards Credit Card rewards lovers of online shopping. Not only does it offer 2 percent cash back on everyday categories like grocery stores and wholesale clubs, but it also gives you 3 percent back on a category of your choice (gas, online shopping, restaurants, travel, pharmacies, or home and furniture). ). ). Note that there is a general spending limit of $2,500 each quarter for the 2 percent and 3 percent categories.

Many online stores are good for buying school supplies. For example,,, and are in the online shopping category for Bank of America.

The best part is that you can change your selection category up to once a month, so once the school season is over and your family starts a new project like bathroom renovation, you can easily change your 3 percent category to home improvement and furniture.


  • $200 online cash rewards if you spend $1,000 within 90 days.
  • No annual fee
  • The ability to select the category in which you want to receive increased rewards once a month
  • Up to 75% higher reward levels with Preferred Rewards.


  • $2,500 spending cap on the 2 percent and 3 percent categories each quarter

Who should apply: For parents who spend in different categories, the Bank of America Customized Cash card is a great option with a flexible selection category.

Who should miss: Cardholders who prefer to shop in person will find it difficult to earn the maximum reward on this card during the school season. In addition, if you are loyal to a particular supermarket, it is better to get a store card.

Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card: Best for Amazon Fans

Why we chose it: The Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature* Card is ideal if you already have an Amazon Prime membership and make a lot of purchases through Amazon, including children’s clothing or school purchases. You will receive a 5 percent refund on all purchases made on and Whole Foods. The card also provides a solid 2% cashback at pharmacies (which can be helpful if you buy school supplies there), restaurants and gas stations, as well as a 1% cashback on all other purchases.


  • $100 Gift Card Upon Approval
  • Unlimited cashback and perpetual expiration
  • There is no minimum requirement to redeem points on


  • To do this, you must have an Amazon Prime membership ($139 per year).
  • A card can only be linked to one Amazon Prime account.

Who should applyA: If you love shopping on enough to sign up for an Amazon Prime membership, you can also sign up for an Amazon Prime Rewards card to earn rewards on purchases you already make. Online shoppers looking to make their primary store should consider this card.

Who should miss: Those who do not like online shopping should stay away from this card. And of course, non-Amazon Prime account holders cannot claim this card.

Target Redcard: Best for personal purchases

Why we chose it: The Back to School aisle at Target is another level of beautiful, colorful selection like no other. Does a 5 percent discount on all Target in-store and online purchases sound good? Not a bad deal that makes Target Redcard* awfully attractive. You’ll also get free shipping on most items when ordering on (instead of the usual $35 minimum for free shipping) and an additional 30 days to return or exchange.


  • 5% off at Target (including Starbucks stores and gift cards)
  • Free shipping on most items
  • Add your Redcard to the Target app for contactless payment
  • No annual fee


  • No awards in non-targeted categories

Who should applyA: Avid Target fans who easily spend hours at the Target store should apply for this card. Plus, this card will appeal to cardholders who prefer to shop in person rather than online, especially since Target is known for its many physical stores.

Who should miss: If you prefer another supermarket like Walmart, you can skip this one. In addition, those who tend to shop in different places rather than the same store should also continue to shop.

Comparison of cards that are best for shopping at school

We know it’s hard to keep track of credit card benefits – which one earns points or cashback, and in which bonus categories? Check out the following table to see our side-by-side comparison.

Card Awards Bonus for registration Annual fee
Citi® Dual Cash Card
  • 1% back on regular purchases and an additional 1% when paying for these purchases
Nobody $0
Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards Credit Card
  • 3% cashback for the selected category (gas, online stores, restaurants, travel, pharmacies or household goods and furniture)
  • 2% back on grocery and bulk purchases at the club
    (cumulative spending limit of $2,500 across the 2% and 3% categories each quarter)
  • 1% back on all other purchases
$200 online cash rewards if you spend $1,000 within 90 days. $0
Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card*
  • 5% cashback for purchases at and Whole Foods
  • 2% back on purchases at restaurants, gas stations and pharmacies
  • 1% back on other purchases
$100 Gift Card Upon Approval $0 (requires $139 Amazon Prime membership)
Target red card*
  • 5% off Target and
Nobody $0

Shopping Tips Before School

Using the right credit card is just one step away. It also helps to practice other trading strategies in combination with a high reward credit card to maximize your back-to-school savings.

Stack up your perks

John Sellers, executive director of rewards at Bank of America, said in a previous interview that consumers can combine their in-store rewards programs, credit cards, and bank rewards to maximize the cash back or points they earn on school purchases.

One example is the Bank of America Preferred Rewards program – qualifying for the Platinum Honors level gives you a 75 percent increase in your reward rate. This increases the cashback rate for online purchases, for example, from 3 percent to 5.25 percent.

Get creative in your favorite store

Most experts don’t recommend branded department store cards, but they pay off if you have a favorite store that you frequently shop at.

Such is the case with Karen Hawksmeier Murphy, founder of coupon and savings site, who said in a previous interview that Kohl’s is one of her favorite children’s clothing stores. The sales section at the store is often overflowing with 50 to 75 percent off items, she says, and you can save even more if you use the store’s branded credit card. These savings can add up significantly, especially when combined with Kohl’s in-store sales and Kohl’s Cash deals.

Sales Search

April Lewis-Parks, director of corporate communications at Consolidated Credit, a non-profit credit counseling agency, said in a previous interview that it might be more cost-effective to spend time researching retailers that offer school discounts than looking for the best possible credit card to use. when purchasing these items.

Instead of using a business credit card that offers extra rewards at an office supply store, you can buy your kids’ school supplies at a less expensive store like Walmart or Target, according to Lewis-Parks.

She also recommended using a cashback card that rewards you on all purchases. So you can shop at less expensive stores and still get at least some bonus money from your credit card provider.

bottom line

Depending on where you do most of your shopping, some cards may offer better rewards than others. Be mindful of where you’re already using your card’s benefits so you don’t spend extra money on rewards.

Editorial disclaimer

The editorial content on this page is based solely on the objective judgment of our contributors and is not based on advertising. It was not provided or ordered by credit card issuers. However, we may receive compensation when you click on links to our partners’ products.

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