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How to Earn Rewards for Back-to-School Shopping

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A new school year can bring a lot of excitement — new classes, new friends and new experiences — but that excitement doesn’t come for free. And according to a recent LendingTree study, 3 in 4 parents with kids younger than 18 say they’re stressed about back-to-school shopping this year.

It’s no wonder: Inflation, talk of a potential recession and a continuing global pandemic are bound to take an emotional and financial toll. But there are ways to earn rewards for back-to-school shopping, even during tumultuous times — the key is taking a strategic approach to your spending.

Here are a few tips to start.

5 ways to earn back-to-school shopping rewards

No. 1: Avoid paying in cash

“If you’re paying cash for all your back-to-school shopping, you’re leaving money on the table,” says Matt Schulz, LendingTree chief credit analyst. “That’s the last thing anyone should do in 2022, with life seemingly getting more expensive by the day.”

While cash may present a debt-free way to shop, you can pay off a credit card balance before being charged interest if you already have the money. Just make the payment before the end of your card’s billing cycle.

No. 2: Cash in on existing rewards

If you’re worried about a new credit inquiry dinging your credit score or not interested in getting a new card, you may still find rewards with your existing ones. The key is knowing which ones offer rewards — a certain percentage in cash back, for example — and prioritizing those at checkout. (You may also have to activate rewards to earn them.)

“Using credit card rewards is especially important with inflation running rampant,” Schulz says. “Sure, 1% or 2% cash back may not be life-changing, but when prices rise and your personal financial margin for error seems to be shrinking, every bit helps.”

No. 3: Seek student discounts and sales

Looking for opportunities to save on the products you need to buy for the back-to-school season is essential.

If you have a list of required supplies, do a quick Google search to compare products and prices and keep a lookout for local sales (as 26% of back-to-school shoppers plan to do this year). Companies like Office Depot, Staples, Target and Walmart offer versions of back-to-school sales or targeted discounts that could be worth exploring.

No. 4: Get a new credit card

It may be a good idea to apply for a rewards credit card if you don’t already have one that offers rewards. Just make sure that the rewards align with your spending needs. (Cash back cards are often a good option for back-to-school shoppers, since that spending doesn’t fall into categories like dining out or travel.)

“It may sound counterintuitive, but, used wisely, the right credit card can really help you extend your budget,” Schulz says.

He advises looking for a card that offers at least a $100 sign-up bonus for spending $500 to $1,000 within the first few months of having the card.

Again, it’s vital to buy your supplies with the card, then pay it off with the money you’d earmarked for back-to-school shopping. That way, you can cash in on those rewards and avoid interest.

No. 5: Consider cash back apps

Now could be a good time to start if you’re not already using a cash back app for everyday shopping.

Options like, Fetch Rewards, Ibotta and Rakuten offer opportunities to get rebates on purchases. Typically, you’ll need to create an account and run your purchase through the app to access those rewards. You may not find opportunities for every purchase, but it’s worth checking if you want to save on back-to-school shopping this year.


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