Rotating category bonuses, cash back cards and card-linked offers can help soon-to-be parents save on all things baby.
The fall season brings changing leaves and cooler weather, but it also marks a baby boom.
Statistically, September is one of the most popular birth months in the U.S. For some soon-to-be-parents, picking up all the essentials can lead to a last-minute shopping frenzy.
Buying baby gear with a rewards card can take some of the strain off your budget. If you’re expecting a new family addition soon, these tips can help you make the most of credit card rewards.
6 ways to save on new baby expenses
Choose a card with family-friendly benefits
Some rewards cards may be better suited for new baby shopping than others. Unless you’re planning a “babymoon” for later and want to earn travel miles or points, you most likely want to look for a cash back card that offers rewards on:
- Department store purchases.
- Online shopping.
- Grocery and supermarket purchases.
- Furniture purchases.
- Warehouse club shopping.
These kinds of stores may cover the gamut of baby needs you’re shopping for, including clothing, diapers, furniture, strollers, formula and bottles or nursing equipment.
A flat rate rewards card such as the Citi Double Cash Card can keep things simple if you want to earn the same amount of cash back on everything you spend for your new baby.
This card earns 1 percent back when you make purchases and 1 percent back as you pay them off. That amounts to 2 percent cash back total on everything you buy.
See related: Best flat-rate cards
Weigh the pros and cons of retail store cards
Ordinarily, retail store cards may not be the best bet for baby shopping, as they tend to have above-average APRs. There are, however, a couple of store cards you might make an exception for.“The Target REDcard is your absolute best bet when it comes to rewards on baby purchases,” says Tommy Wilke, co-founder of Credit Liftoff.
As the father of a 19-month-old with another baby on the way, Wilke says he and his wife do 90 percent of their baby-related shopping at Target to get 5 percent back on every purchase. As an added incentive, Target REDcard members also get 15 percent off select diapers, wipes and formula when signing up for Target’s baby subscription service.
Amazon is another rewards card option new parents might appreciate.
“Store-specific cards like Target and Amazon really help you with cash back and deals to help you try to stick to your budget as best as possible,” says credit card expert Russ Nauta.
- The Chase Amazon.com Rewards Visa card earns 3 percent back at Amazon and Whole Foods, 2 percent back at restaurants, gas stations and drugstores, and 1 percent back on everything else.
- Prime members can increase Amazon and Whole Foods rewards to 5 percent back, plus get free 2-day shipping, with the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature card.
Check quarterly bonus calendars
If your baby budget involves spending more money on some items than others, a cash back card with tiered rewards or a quarterly cash back bonus might be a better fit.
- Chase Freedom’s rotating categories through the end of September include gas stations and select streaming services.
- Discover’s rotating categories through the end of September include restaurants and PayPal.
- In both cases, the extra bonus offers 5 percent cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases per quarter. All other purchases earn 1 percent cash back.
- Don’t forget to opt in or activate the quarterly bonus in order to be eligible.
“Between the two cards, you’ll find bonuses that cover just about every purchase associated with raising a baby,” says Wilke.
For example, through the third quarter of 2019 you could take advantage of Discover’s extra bonus to purchase restaurant gift cards to use in the first few weeks after the baby is born.
In the fourth quarter, Discover’s bonus shifts to shopping at Amazon.com, Target and Walmart.com. That’s handy for buying diapers, wipes and new clothes as the baby grows.
Shop cash back sites to max out rewards
Cash back portals can add to your rewards total if you earn an additional percentage back when you spend. It’s as simple as creating an account and shopping baby-related deals through the portal with your cash back card.
Some portals make that even more tempting by offering their own cash back credit cards.
“With the Rakuten Cash Back Visa card, you earn 1 percent cash back on all purchases,” says Kristen Gall, general manager of Rakuten (formerly Ebates). “But when you use the card on qualifying purchases made through Rakuten.com, you can stack your cash back rewards and earn an additional 3 percent cash back on top of what you already get from shopping through the site.”
Gall says that depending on what you spend and where you shop online, it’s possible to earn up to 13 percent cash back through the site.
Carter’s, The Children’s Place and buybuy BABY are some of the merchants offering deals on Rakuten. But take time to check out cash back deals across sites to see where the best promotions are.
Some of the deal sites you might shop in addition to Rakuten include:
Compare pricing before you buy online
“When looking through deal sites, check to see if you earn more rewards shopping online versus in-store as deals may vary,” says Gall.
Say you want to buy some baby clothes from Macy’s, for example. If you shop Macy’s online through Rakuten, you’ll get 6 percent cash back. But if you shop through the portal using an in-store coupon, you get 3 percent back instead.
If you’re set on taking advantage of a particular in-store baby deal but the cash back rate is lower, you may still be able to make up some savings.
You could check your rewards card first for card-linked offers that let you earn extra rewards automatically when you shop partner merchants. You can browse Amex Offers and Chase Offers for deals if you have cards with either issuer.
Next, look for promo or coupon codes you can use at the checkout. RetailMeNot, Slickdeals and Brad’s Deals are a few you might try. Just check to make sure a retailer will accept digital codes for offline purchases.
See related: Choosing the right credit cards as your family grows
Earn and redeem rewards wisely
Before the sleep deprivation of new parenthood sets in, double-check your rewards strategy.
“Look for big sales on baby essentials and buy ahead of your needs to maximize savings,” says Gall.
Shopping wholesale clubs, for instance, with a card such as the Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi could increase rewards earnings. Just think about when you’ll need to redeem rewards since the Costco card issues them once per year as a Costco certificate.
Speaking of redemptions, consider the best ways to put the rewards you’ve earned to use. Wilke and his wife, for example, plan to earmark rewards they’re earning now for future baby purchases.
If you have a choice between redeeming for gift cards, merchandise or statement credit, definitely choose the statement credit, says Nauta. “Your eyes might bulge when you start to see how much you’re charging, so take all the help you can get.”