How credit card needs change as your kids grow up

From tot to teen years (and beyond), you may switch cards to maximize rewards

John Egan
Personal Finance Writer
Writes trendy stories about credit cards.

How credit card needs change as your kids grow up

 

As your kids change from boisterous baby to taxing teen, their needs – and your shopping habits – also change. That, in turn, might prompt a change in how you use your credit cards to maximize your rewards.

Here are some spending categories to consider as your kids transition from cradle to car:

The infant and tot years
In this foundational part of their lives, kids demand a lot of time and attention. This includes regular feeding, regular diaper changes and so much more.

During this period, you’ll constantly be running to the store to pick up baby food and diapers and laundry detergent and clothing … the list goes on and on.

If you’re doing that much shopping, you should think about putting a credit card in your wallet that can give birth to some solid rewards.

One of the options is the store-branded credit card from Babies R Us and Toys R Us. With the R Us card, you earn two points for every $1 spent on most R Us purchases. For 125 points, that would equate to $10 in R Us rewards. Outside R Us stores, you receive one point for every $4 spent where Mastercard is accepted.

Are you more of a traditional big-box shopper? Then you might want to check out the credit cards from Target and Walmart.

With Target’s Redcard*, you get a 5 percent discount on most in-store and online purchases. Bonus: free shipping on most items bought at Target.com.

The rewards for using Walmart’s credit card might not be as generous as Target’s, but the card comes with more rewards flexibility – a 3 percent discount on Walmart.com purchases, a 2 percent discount on purchases at Walmart and Murphy USA gas stations, and a 1 percent discount at Walmart and anywhere else a Walmart card or Walmart Mastercard is accepted.

Amazon’s Rewards Visa and Amazon Prime Visa also may save you a bundle as you’re raising your little one. While the Amazon Rewards Visa earns 3 percent cash back on Amazon purchases, 2 percent on gas, restaurant and drugstore purchases and 1 percent everywhere else, the Amazon Prime Visa earns 5 percent cash back on Amazon purchases ($99 Prime membership required) and includes Amazon Family discounts (including 20 percent off diapers subscriptions).

The elementary years
Once your kid is out of diapers, your purchasing patterns will grow up a little as well.

At this stage, there might be more emphasis on things like child care and toys. Of course, the need to buy clothes won’t go away.

To be sure, cards from Target, Toys R Us and Walmart still will come in handy, but you might want to explore other cards.

Depending on your preferences, you could apply for a cash back card or travel rewards card. But whichever card you go with, look for one that has a low interest rate in case those hefty child care costs – easily totaling thousands of dollars a year – carry over from one month to the next.

Among the low-interest cards to consider are Bank of America’s BankAmericard, the Discover it Cash Rewards card, the Barclaycard Ring Mastercard and the Citi Diamond Preferred card. Remember, though, that only people with excellent or good credit qualify for the lowest interest rates.

The preteen years
At this point in life, parents probably feel like they’re always chauffeuring their kids from soccer practice to band practice to theater performances. In other words, the kids’ and the parents’ schedules are packed.

To take some of the sting out of running a family taxi service, figure out ways to capitalize on credit card rewards affiliated with the kids’ extracurricular activities.

While you might not score huge rewards for charging the extracurricular fees themselves, you can gain more cash back or points by using a credit card to buy sports equipment and other extracurricular supplies.

Sporting goods chains like Academy Sports and Outdoors and Dick’s Sporting Goods have their own credit cards.

Academy’s Visa card offers 5x points on in-store and online purchases, along with 2x points at gas stations and 1x points everywhere that Visa cards are accepted. At Dick’s, the biggest benefit of the Rewards of Sport Mastercard is 6 percent back in rewards for in-store purchases; points and rewards also can be earned on other purchases.

Or maybe the U.S. Bank Cash+ Visa Signature card will net you more cash back on your child’s athletic shoes and gear – and on that tent, sleeping bag or kayak for you, too. Cardholders select two categories per quarter for 5 percent cash back, and sporting goods stores are among the choices. The card also pays 2 percent cash back year-round for purchases at gas stations, restaurants and grocery stores.

The teen years
Two favorite pursuits among teens – texting and driving – can be pretty costly. With texting, you’ve got the expenses associated with electronic devices and wireless service. And driving, of course, means coughing up a lot more money for car insurance.

So, how can you reap credit card rewards from these two teenage rites of passage?

When it comes to wireless service and devices, there are a number of credit card perks.

For example, with the AT&T Access card from Citi, you can earn two points for every $1 spent on AT&T products and services, as well as two points for every $1 spent on purchases made online at retail and travel websites, and one point for every $1 spent on other eligible purchases.

As for car insurance, some experts advise against paying insurance premiums and other everyday household expenses with a credit card, since you risk racking up interest charges. However, if you wipe out your balance every month, you can rev up rewards by paying your car insurance premiums via credit card.

Someone who has a car insurance policy with State Farm as well as a State Farm Rewards Visa card can earn three points for every $1 spent on insurance premium payments, up to $4,000 a year. In addition, you can collect one point for every $1 spent on other eligible purchases.

Meanwhile, someone who holds a Farmers Rewards Visa or Farmers Visa Signature card can earn 3x points for every $1 spent on Farmers’ insurance products, along with 3x points for every $1 spent on gas and home improvement purchases.

Graduating to travel rewards cards again
When the little ones head off to college and you’re freer to see all those places you’ve been putting off visiting, it’s likely time to swap those store cards for a travel card that can help you earn free flights, hotel stays and maybe even a better cash back rate when dining out at restaurants.

Now that you’re not racing from soccer practice to lacrosse match to archery class, you no doubt have a little more time, to consider travel and airline cards and other rewards cards to add to your wallet. You’ll find lots of stories and blog posts on our site to help you maximize your rewards as you start to tackle your bucket list activities that have been on hold for a few years (or maybe decades). 

* The content on this page is accurate as of the posting date. Please see the bank’s website for the most current version of the offer.

See related: Finding the best card to pay for child care expenses6 ways stay-at-home parents ruin their credit, Travel card reviews, Airline card reviews, Rewards card reviews


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Updated: 11-20-2017