It’s almost time to put away the flip-flops and get ready to meet your new teacher. But before school starts, you’ll need to do some back-to-school shopping for new clothes, a new lunchbox and a variety of school supplies.
The National Retail Federation estimates families will spend over $37 billion this year on back-to-school shopping, which breaks down to an average of almost $850 per family. These purchases provide savvy shoppers with an opportunity to earn additional rewards using these tips.
Use Online Shopping Portals to Get Rewards
Online shopping portals reward customers with extra cash back, miles, or points on their purchases. Many of your favorite loyalty programs participate, such as American Airlines, Southwest Airlines and Chase Ultimate Rewards.
Before making your online purchase, visit one of these shopping portals first and see which stores offer the best rewards. This method also allows you to double-up on rewards—you’ll earn rewards from your credit card, plus additional rewards from one of these shopping portals.
If you don’t already have a preferred online shopping portal, you can go to CashbackMonitor.com to compare the latest offers.
Many shopping portals offer additional incentives during holidays and popular shopping periods, like back-to-school shopping. With these promos, some stores will offer enhanced rewards and the portals will provide extra bonuses when you spend certain amounts.
For example, American Airlines AAdvantage eShopping is offering 500 bonus miles when you spend $150, 1,000 miles for $300 and 2,000 miles after spending $500 through August 15th, 2021.
Meet Minimum Spending on a New Credit Card
In addition to earning credit card rewards on your back-to-school shopping, you can also earn a welcome bonus with a new credit card. One-time bonuses from credit cards can be the easiest way to earn a large amount of miles, points and cash back.
Premium credit cards typically require you to spend $3,000 to $4,000 or more to earn a welcome bonus. However, some bonuses can be earned when you spend $1,000 or less, such as with the Wells Fargo Active Cash℠ Card or the Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card.
With the average family spending $850 on back-to-school shopping, you can easily earn a bonus for yourself while buying clothes and school supplies for your child.
Earn Elite Status with Your Purchases
In addition to earning miles and points on your purchases, many airline and hotel credit cards allow you to get closer to elite status based on your spending. Hotel credit cards often include mid-level elite status just for having the card.
Plus, you can earn elite night credits or points towards the next level based on how much you spend each year. For example, every point earned on your spending with the IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card counts towards earning elite status.
While airline credit cards don’t provide automatic elite status just for having the card, some do make it easier to obtain status with your spending. The Delta SkyMiles Platinum American Express Card earns 10,000 MQMs after spending $25,000 per year.
You can do this twice a year, which means you can earn a total of 20,000 MQMs each year. Plus, the MQDs requirement is waived when you spend at least $25,000 a year on any eligible Delta SkyMiles American Express Card.
Maximize Category Bonuses
Credit cards often earn bonus rewards on certain categories of spending, like dining, gas or groceries. Depending on which credit card you use and where you’re shopping, you might earn bonus rewards on your back-to-school purchases.
Even for retailers that don’t earn bonus miles, points or cash back, there’s an easy way to stack some additional rewards. The trick? Purchase gift cards for non-bonused retailers from a grocery store, gas station or office supply store that qualifies for your card’s category bonus.
Get Free Hotel Nights
While many hotel credit cards include an annual free night just for being a cardholder and paying your annual fee, others require you to meet spending limits to earn them. For example, the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card and the Radisson Rewards Premier Visa Signature® Card both earn a free night based on your spending. Using your back-to-school purchases on these hotel credit cards will get you closer to a free night.
The World of Hyatt Credit Card is the best of both worlds. It includes an annual free night when you renew the card, plus you can earn a second free night each year based on your spending. When you redeem both free nights together, you’ll have an awesome weekend getaway to enjoy.
Bonus tip: Open up a Back-to-School Saving Account
With the average family spending almost $850 this year, back-to-school expenses can be a budget-breaker for many families. Instead of wondering where the money will come from next year, set aside money every month to cover the cost.
There are many online savings accounts that offer a higher yield without requiring a minimum deposit or charging monthly fees. Once your account is open, divide your annual back-to-school purchases by 12. Then, set up an automatic deposit from your checking account or paycheck for that amount. If you spent $840, your monthly deposit would be $70.
Next year, you can charge the back-to-school purchases on your card to earn rewards. Then, pay off the balance from your online savings account. This will help you avoid interest charges on your purchases and keep your monthly budget on target.
The Bottom Line
Every summer, families across the U.S. do back-to-school shopping to prepare for a new school year. This annual spending provides numerous opportunities to maximize your spending to earn valuable cash back, miles or points. While the biggest rewards are usually from a new credit card, many of these strategies can be used with your existing cards.