Back-to-school shopping can get expensive fast. On one hand, you think you’re just buying pens, pencils, and notebooks, but everything adds up. Clothes can also be pricey even with the sales and discounts especially if you’re purchasing a whole new fall wardrobe.
For parents who wind up spending a few hundred dollars each year during the back-to-school season, it may make sense to use a credit card for most purchases.
Before you decide if you want to use a credit card or not, check out these pros and cons.
1. Earn Rewards
Rewards are one of the best perks of using credit cards. You’ll usually earn more rewards points or cash back as you spend more money so why not use your card for back-to-school purchases.
It can be a great way to earn cash back or points for travel, dining out, or other expenses. You can even use your rewards as a statement credit to help lower the cost of your back-to-school purchases.
Quality rewards credit cards are going to offer a competitive sign on bonus. For example, you may be able to spend $500 in the first three months and earn 60,000 bonus points. The Capital One Quicksilver card offers 1.5 percent cash back and has a current sign on bonus $150 cash back once you spend $500 on purchases during the first three months.
Using your credit card for school supplies and school clothes can easily help you earn sign-on bonuses and it will be worth it so long as you’re able to pay the bill off in full each month.
If you’re going to get in-store rebates or use digital coupons anyway, you can double your rewards by paying for school items with a credit card
2. Zero Percent APR Offers
I’m not crazy about taking advantage of zero percent APR offers because I feel it can allow people to get into the habit of being okay with carrying debt each month. However, I understand that some back-to-school items come with a large price tag.
If you needed to purchase something expensive like a laptop for your child, ideally, you’d want to save up for it in advance. However, life is unexpected and other circumstances and expenses may pop up that prevent you from being able to set the money aside.
Thats’ where a zero percent APR credit card offer may come in handy. For a limited amount of time (anywhere from six months to 24+ months), your APR will be zero percent so you won’t get charged any interest on your balance if you don’t pay it off in full during the month.
You can put money toward your purchase each month just like you would if you were saving up for it without having to worry about interest. I would say to approach this option with caution because you don’t want to buy too many things that will cause a financial strain as you pay your zero percent APR credit card balance. You also want to be mindful of when the zero percent APR promotional rate expires so you can pay off your balance before the interest rate goes back up.
3. Purchase and Price Protection
One thing I love about using credit cards is that they can be safer than using cash. It’s harder for thieves to steal your card information and you can easily freeze your account if you misplace your card while shopping.
If you have cash and lose it or get pickpocketed, it’s gone for good, unfortunately.
Even if someone is able to steal your card or card information, you have protection and won’t be liable for what they spend.
Your purchases are protected too. With purchase protection, you can have items replaced if what you buy is damaged or stolen or get a refund for an unsatisfactory product or service.
Some cards even offer to extend the manufacturer’s warranty without you having to pay for the additional protection.
You can also take advantage of price protection which is good to have in your back pocket since back-to-school items tend to fluctuate in terms of price. If you buy something one week, then see it go on sale the next week some credit cards will refund you the difference.
1. Temptation to Overspend
The biggest downside of using a credit card to buy anything is that you may feel tempted to overspend. It’s proven that shoppers spend more money when they have a credit card in their hands. If you’re trying to stick to a budget while back-to-school shopping, it may be difficult if you use a credit card and struggle with your spending.
2. Easier to Get Into Debt
When you overspend with your credit card, it’s likely that you won’t be able to pay the balance off in full. Carrying a balance on your credit card means you’re in debt and stuck paying interest on past purchases.
The longer you carry a balance, the more difficult it becomes to pay back your debt. You’ll spend a lot more money in the process too because credit card interest rates can be pretty high.
In my opinion, it’s not worth it to get into debt just to buy back-to-school items. There are plenty of ways to get free or cheap back-to-school items and if you feel your risk of getting into debt is high, you shouldn’t use a credit card.
Using credit cards for back-to-school shopping can seem like a no-brainer. It feels great to earn rewards and having purchase and price protection is important. However, you have to carefully way the drawbacks and be honest about how well you control your spending.
If you’re going to get into debt by using a credit card or don’t have the money anyway to buy certain back-to-school items in cash, I’d say don’t do it. The rewards and discounts aren’t worth it at the end of the day and there are plenty of cheap ways to get school supplies.