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To Her Credit

The pink tax: What it is and how you can battle it

To Her Credit offers targeted advice about personal finance based on unique challenges faced by women. It is authored by women with different financial backgrounds, dedicated to encouraging empowerment through financial literacy.

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In a recent study across different kinds of purchases, the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs found that women’s and girls’ products cost an average of 7 percent more than similar products for men and boys. This phenomenon – known as the pink tax – affects women’s everyday lives, whether we realize it or not.  

How much more do women spend than men?

  • 7 percent more for toys and accessories  
  • 4 percent more for children’s clothing and 8 percent more for adult clothing  
  • 13 percent more for personal care products and 8 percent more for senior/home health care products

Coupled with the gender pay gap and other comparable inequalities like the tampon tax, it’s an inequitable reality in consumer spending. Though it’s impossible to control the entire consumer market, there are still a few ways you can combat these financial realities, and you can do so with your wallet.

Here’s our guide on how to financially conquer the pink tax using strategies that could ultimately save you a lot of money.

See related: Closing the gender pay gap

Ways to fight the pink tax

Luckily, there are plenty of steps we can take to combat this issue. We can switch to the men’s or unisex versions of commonly overpriced products – such as razors or shampoo. Or, we can be conscientious of where we shop. Some companies reduce the price of women’s products they sell to minimize the effect of the pink tax.

But if these options don’t work for you, being smart about the credit cards you use can help offset the cost of the pink tax.

Card rewards can help offset these charges

With unique bonus categories that allow cardholders to earn extra points or cash back, certain rewards cards make it easier for women to offset the pink tax. Here are some of our favorites, based on the most expensive purchase categories for women.

See related: The hidden cost of being a woman

Personal care products

The category with the biggest pink tax is personal care products – with many women’s products charging upward of 10 percent more than a similar product for men. Whether it be something as simple as shampoo or pricier menstrual care products, women have to spend a bit more just to take care of themselves and their loved ones.

How much more women’s personal care products cost than men’s (according to NCDPA)

Several credit cards offer rewards on drugstore purchases, which can help make up for a bit of this extra cost. The Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card, for one, allows users to choose drugstores as their 3 percent bonus category. (Note: You can change your 3 percent category once per calendar month to accommodate changes in spending, but earning is capped on the first $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club purchases each quarter.)

If you tend to buy these items online, look for cards that offer cash back on an online shopping category. The Bank of America Cash Rewards card also offers an online shopping bonus category. Or, select an alternative like the Uber Visa Card, that offers 2 points per dollar on online purchases. 

Children’s toys

Children’s toys are another category where the pink tax is prevalent. DCA compared bikes and scooters, general toys, backpacks, preschool toys, helmets and pads as well as arts and crafts. On average, children’s toys and accessories cost 7 percent more for girls. Helmets and pads were the most expensive category, at 13 percent, with an average difference of $2.90 per product. The most evenly-priced category was backpacks, but girls’ backpacks were still more expensive, at 0.8 percent more on average, or $0.20.

Average of how much more girls toys cost than boys (according to NCDPA):

Girls toys might cost a bit more than similar products for boys, but choosing the right rewards cards can help make up for some of this. Consider a card with an online shopping bonus, which can earn you extra cash back for ordering toys from any online retailer.

Clothing

Women’s clothing – both for children and adults – also tends to cost more than men’s clothing. For some products, you might be able to shop in the men’s section instead. For a lot of women’s clothing, however, you’ll just need to pay a bit more. A credit card with bonus rewards on department store purchases can take a bit of the sting out of a higher clothing bill.

Consider the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express, which offers 3 percent cash back at U.S. supermarkets (up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1 percent), 2 percent back at U.S. gas stations and select U.S. department stores and 1 percent cash back on general purchases.

Alternatively, cards with rotating bonus categories – like the Chase Freedom® – frequently feature department stores in their quarterly options.

How much more women pay for an article of clothing than men (according to NCDPA)

Other ways to financially fight the pink tax

It’s possible to combat the pink tax by using the methods below (or you can even try double-dipping some of these methods for an added boost of cost savings).

Buy in bulk

Buying the right things in bulk can save you a lot of money, particularly on a cost per unit basis. For example, if you buy tampons in bulk, you can save a lot of money over the course of time. Keep in mind that buying some items in bulk can actually cost you money, particularly if you’re choosing a product you haven’t tested out prior to purchase.

By and large, it’s important to consider whether buying in bulk makes sense for your budget, particularly when the upfront cost of giant quantities of tampons all at once is larger than the cost of a regular box of tampons, for example.

Buy more gender-neutral things

In many cases, you can avoid the pink tax by buying products marketed to men or that are gender-neutral. As always, consider your personal preference when deciding which product is right for you.

Support companies that take a stand

Some individuals have called out brands on social media and have even shamed them online for their higher-than-necessary prices for women’s products. Others have taken the approach of boycotting companies that charge higher prices for female products.

Companies themselves have taken action against the pink tax. Billie, a company lauded as one of the “Top 11 Innovations that Made Women’s Lives Better in 2017” by Fast Company magazine, sells women’s razors. Billie’s website claims it’s “against the pink tax” and even offers a unique pink tax rebate: You can share a referral link with friends, and when they enter their email to join the pink tax rebate, you can get a coupon to spend on your next Billie purchase.

Support women-owned products

As of January 2017, there were an estimated 11.6 million women-owned businesses in the U.S. that employed nearly 9 million people and generated $1.7 trillion in revenues, according to American Express’s 2017 State of Women-Owned Businesses Report.

It’s easy to find women-owned products (which most often reject the pink tax, for good reason)  — just look for the Women Owned logo. Women Owned, which also provides a directory of all women-owned enterprises, is an initiative from the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) and WEConnect International. It was originally created to increase support for women-owned businesses. Women Owned supports female entrepreneurs by raising awareness for Women Owned products.

Final thoughts

These card recommendations and other strategies to battle the pink tax are based on higher average spending by women in certain categories. However, dozens of factors can help you decide which card is right for you – including your income, spending preferences and current debt.

When researching card recommendations, consider how your spending as a woman might affect your decision. In the end, knowing your own preferences can ensure you are getting the best value out of your credit card.

As we continue with the To Her Credit series, we will strive to detail steps you can take to ensure you reach your financial goals – whatever they may be. If you have a story about the pink tax or about your relationship with finance in general, you can contact us at tohercredit@creditcards.com.

Editorial Disclaimer

The editorial content on this page is based solely on the objective assessment of our writers and is not driven by advertising dollars. It has not been provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. However, we may receive compensation when you click on links to products from our partners.

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Published: September 17, 2019

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