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Best Credit Cards for School Shopping in February 2024

These credit cards will earn you the most rewards and perks on your school necessities.

  • CNET'S PICK
    CNET Rating CNET rates credit cards by comparing their offers to those of their categorical competitors. Each card is individually evaluated through a formula which reflects the standards and expectations of the contemporary market. Credit card issuers have no say or influence in our ratings. How we rate credit cards
    9.5/10
    Annual Fee $0
    Rewards Rate
    2% Earn unlimited 2% cash rewards on purchases
    Intro offer available Earn a $200 cash rewards bonus after spending $500 in purchases in the first 3 months. Select “Apply Now” to take advantage of this specific offer and learn more about product features, terms and conditions.
    Apply Now with Wells Fargo
  • CNET Rating CNET rates credit cards by comparing their offers to those of their categorical competitors. Each card is individually evaluated through a formula which reflects the standards and expectations of the contemporary market. Credit card issuers have no say or influence in our ratings. How we rate credit cards
    8/10
    Annual Fee $0
    Rewards Rate
    1% - 5% Earn 2% on every purchase with unlimited 1% cash back when you buy, plus an additional 1% as you pay for those purchases. To earn cash back, pay at least the minimum due on time.; Plus, for a limited time, earn 5% total cash back on hotel, car rentals and attractions booked on the Citi Travel℠ portal through 12/31/24.
    Intro offer available Earn $200 cash back after you spend $1,500 on purchases in the first 6 months of account opening. This bonus offer will be fulfilled as 20,000 ThankYou® Points, which can be redeemed for $200 cash back.
    Apply Now with Citi
  • CNET Rating CNET rates credit cards by comparing their offers to those of their categorical competitors. Each card is individually evaluated through a formula which reflects the standards and expectations of the contemporary market. Credit card issuers have no say or influence in our ratings. How we rate credit cards
    9.5/10
    Annual Fee $0
    Rewards Rate
    1% - 5% Earn unlimited 5% back at Amazon.com, Amazon Fresh, Whole Foods Market, and on Chase Travel purchases with an eligible Prime membership; Earn unlimited 2% back at gas stations, restaurants, and on local transit and commuting (including rideshare); Earn unlimited 1% back on all other purchases
    Intro offer available Get a $100 Amazon Gift Card instantly upon approval exclusively for Prime members
  • CNET Rating CNET rates credit cards by comparing their offers to those of their categorical competitors. Each card is individually evaluated through a formula which reflects the standards and expectations of the contemporary market. Credit card issuers have no say or influence in our ratings. How we rate credit cards
    5.5/10
    Annual Fee $0
    Rewards Rate
    1% - 5% Save 5% in store and online at Target; For each eligible purchase you make in gas or dining merchant categories, you earn rewards at a rate of 2% of the eligible purchase amount.; For each eligible purchase you make at a merchant that is not in a gas or dining category, you earn rewards at a rate of 1% of the eligible purchase amount.
    Intro offer available Save $50 on a future qualifying purchase over $50 when approved for a credit or debit RedCard. Offer is redeemable only through Target Circle™. Valid 10/29/23 – 12/9/23
  • CNET Rating CNET rates credit cards by comparing their offers to those of their categorical competitors. Each card is individually evaluated through a formula which reflects the standards and expectations of the contemporary market. Credit card issuers have no say or influence in our ratings. How we rate credit cards
    7.5/10
    Annual Fee $0
    Rewards Rate
    1% - 5% Earn 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places you shop each quarter like grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations, and more, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate.; Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - automatically.
    Intro offer available Intro Offer: Unlimited Cashback Match - only from Discover. Discover will automatically match all the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year! There's no minimum spending or maximum rewards. You could turn $150 cash back into $300.
CNET'S PICK
Best overall credit card for school shopping

Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card

9.5/10 CNET Rating CNET rates credit cards by comparing their offers to those of their categorical competitors. Each card is individually evaluated through a formula which reflects the standards and expectations of the contemporary market. Credit card issuers have no say or influence in our ratings. How we rate credit cards
Apply Now with Wells Fargo

Schoolchildren and college students alike need books, new wardrobes and even dorm room furnishings -- and the costs can add up quickly. To stretch your back-to-school budget, you can use the right credit cards to earn cash backwelcome bonuses and even promotional financing. The picks below all feature no annual fee or a low annual fee, and can optimize your school shopping and beyond.

Read more: Best Student Credit Cards

CNET’S PICK
9.5/10
CNET Rating CNET rates credit cards by comparing their offers to those of their categorical competitors. Each card is individually evaluated through a formula which reflects the standards and expectations of the contemporary market. Credit card issuers have no say or influence in our ratings. How we rate credit cards
Apply Now
with Wells Fargo
Intro Offer
$200 cash rewards Earn a $200 cash rewards bonus after spending $500 in purchases in the first 3 months. Select “Apply Now” to take advantage of this specific offer and learn more about product features, terms and conditions.
Annual Fee
$0
Rewards Rate
2% Earn unlimited 2% cash rewards on purchases
Rec. Credit Recommended Credit: A credit score is used to indicate an applicant’s credit worthiness and may provide guidance about account eligibility. It does not necessarily guarantee approval for any financial product.
670 – 850 Good – Excellent
APR
20.24%, 25.24%, or 29.99% Variable APR

The Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card has a top cash rewards rate for your spending, regardless of which brands you prefer or whether you shop online or in physical stores. It’s low maintenance with no annual fee, and you can likely unlock the welcome bonus between your school shopping and day-to-day purchases. And if you need a little extra time to pay off books, dorm room furnishings or other school supplies, you can make use of the introductory APR. Just make sure to make all your minimum payments on time and pay off the balance by the end of the introductory period to avoid interest charges.

See more details in our full review of the Wells Fargo Active Cash Card.

Intro Balance Transfer APR
0% intro APR for 15 months from account opening on qualifying balance transfers
Intro Purchase APR
0% intro APR for 15 months from account opening
Regular APR
20.24%, 25.24%, or 29.99% Variable APR
Balance Transfer Fee
up to 5%, min: $5
2%
Earn unlimited 2% cash rewards on purchases

The Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card has a top cash rewards rate for your spending, regardless of which brands you prefer or whether you shop online or in physical stores. It’s low maintenance with no annual fee, and you can likely unlock the welcome bonus between your school shopping and day-to-day purchases. And if you need a little extra time to pay off books, dorm room furnishings or other school supplies, you can make use of the introductory APR. Just make sure to make all your minimum payments on time and pay off the balance by the end of the introductory period to avoid interest charges.

See more details in our full review of the Wells Fargo Active Cash Card.

Intro Balance Transfer APR
0% intro APR for 15 months from account opening on qualifying balance transfers
Intro Purchase APR
0% intro APR for 15 months from account opening
Regular APR
20.24%, 25.24%, or 29.99% Variable APR
Balance Transfer Fee
up to 5%, min: $5
2%
Earn unlimited 2% cash rewards on purchases
8/10
CNET Rating CNET rates credit cards by comparing their offers to those of their categorical competitors. Each card is individually evaluated through a formula which reflects the standards and expectations of the contemporary market. Credit card issuers have no say or influence in our ratings. How we rate credit cards
Apply Now
with Citi
Intro Offer
$200 cash back Earn $200 cash back after you spend $1,500 on purchases in the first 6 months of account opening. This bonus offer will be fulfilled as 20,000 ThankYou® Points, which can be redeemed for $200 cash back.
Annual Fee
$0
Rewards Rate
1% – 5% Earn 2% on every purchase with unlimited 1% cash back when you buy, plus an additional 1% as you pay for those purchases. To earn cash back, pay at least the minimum due on time.; Plus, for a limited time, earn 5% total cash back on hotel, car rentals and attractions booked on the Citi Travel℠ portal through 12/31/24.
Rec. Credit Recommended Credit: A credit score is used to indicate an applicant’s credit worthiness and may provide guidance about account eligibility. It does not necessarily guarantee approval for any financial product.
580 – 850 Fair – Excellent
APR
19.24% – 29.24% (Variable)

While you won’t get an introductory APR on purchases like with the Active Cash, you can still earn a top cash-back rate on all of your school spending with the Citi Double Cash® Card. The catch is that you earn the first 1% when you make the purchase, like with most rewards credit cards, but you don’t earn the second 1% until you pay off those purchases. While this could be seen as inconvenient, it can help incentivize cardholders to pay off their card on time and in full, which can in turn boost your credit.

Check out our full review of the Citi Double Cash Card for more details.

Intro Balance Transfer APR
0% intro for 18 months on Balance Transfers
Intro Purchase APR
N/A
Regular APR
19.24% – 29.24% (Variable)
Balance Transfer Fee
There is an intro balance transfer fee of 3% of each transfer (minimum $5) completed within the first 4 months of account opening. A balance transfer fee of 5% of each transfer ($5 minimum) applies if completed after 4 months of account opening.
5%
Plus, for a limited time, earn 5% total cash back on hotel, car rentals and attractions booked on the Citi Travel℠ portal through 12/31/24.
1%
Earn 2% on every purchase with unlimited 1% cash back when you buy, plus an additional 1% as you pay for those purchases. To earn cash back, pay at least the minimum due on time.

While you won’t get an introductory APR on purchases like with the Active Cash, you can still earn a top cash-back rate on all of your school spending with the Citi Double Cash® Card. The catch is that you earn the first 1% when you make the purchase, like with most rewards credit cards, but you don’t earn the second 1% until you pay off those purchases. While this could be seen as inconvenient, it can help incentivize cardholders to pay off their card on time and in full, which can in turn boost your credit.

Check out our full review of the Citi Double Cash Card for more details.

Intro Balance Transfer APR
0% intro for 18 months on Balance Transfers
Intro Purchase APR
N/A
Regular APR
19.24% – 29.24% (Variable)
Balance Transfer Fee
There is an intro balance transfer fee of 3% of each transfer (minimum $5) completed within the first 4 months of account opening. A balance transfer fee of 5% of each transfer ($5 minimum) applies if completed after 4 months of account opening.
5%
Plus, for a limited time, earn 5% total cash back on hotel, car rentals and attractions booked on the Citi Travel℠ portal through 12/31/24.
1%
Earn 2% on every purchase with unlimited 1% cash back when you buy, plus an additional 1% as you pay for those purchases. To earn cash back, pay at least the minimum due on time.
9.5/10
CNET Rating CNET rates credit cards by comparing their offers to those of their categorical competitors. Each card is individually evaluated through a formula which reflects the standards and expectations of the contemporary market. Credit card issuers have no say or influence in our ratings. How we rate credit cards
Intro Offer
Get a $100 Amazon Gift Card Get a $100 Amazon Gift Card instantly upon approval exclusively for Prime members
Annual Fee
$0
Rewards Rate
1% – 5% Earn unlimited 5% back at Amazon.com, Amazon Fresh, Whole Foods Market, and on Chase Travel purchases with an eligible Prime membership; Earn unlimited 2% back at gas stations, restaurants, and on local transit and commuting (including rideshare); Earn unlimited 1% back on all other purchases
Rec. Credit Recommended Credit: A credit score is used to indicate an applicant’s credit worthiness and may provide guidance about account eligibility. It does not necessarily guarantee approval for any financial product.
670 – 850 Good – Excellent
APR
19.49% – 27.49% Variable

You can stock up on fashion, supplies and dorm furnishings for the new school year on Amazon. The Prime Visa will earn you top rewards on Amazon even beyond the annual sales holiday. It’s one of the few retailer credit cards that lets you earn cash back on other spending categories, too. While there’s no annual fee, you’ll need to have a Prime membership ($139 annually) to maintain this card. Otherwise, you’ll get the rewards with the non-Prime version: the Amazon Visa*.

Check out our full review of the Prime Visa for more information.

Intro Balance Transfer APR
N/A
Intro Purchase APR
N/A
Regular APR
19.49% – 27.49% Variable
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
5%
Earn unlimited 5% back at Amazon.com, Amazon Fresh, Whole Foods Market, and on Chase Travel purchases with an eligible Prime membership
2%
Earn unlimited 2% back at gas stations, restaurants, and on local transit and commuting (including rideshare)
1%
Earn unlimited 1% back on all other purchases

You can stock up on fashion, supplies and dorm furnishings for the new school year on Amazon. The Prime Visa will earn you top rewards on Amazon even beyond the annual sales holiday. It’s one of the few retailer credit cards that lets you earn cash back on other spending categories, too. While there’s no annual fee, you’ll need to have a Prime membership ($139 annually) to maintain this card. Otherwise, you’ll get the rewards with the non-Prime version: the Amazon Visa*.

Check out our full review of the Prime Visa for more information.

Intro Balance Transfer APR
N/A
Intro Purchase APR
N/A
Regular APR
19.49% – 27.49% Variable
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
5%
Earn unlimited 5% back at Amazon.com, Amazon Fresh, Whole Foods Market, and on Chase Travel purchases with an eligible Prime membership
2%
Earn unlimited 2% back at gas stations, restaurants, and on local transit and commuting (including rideshare)
1%
Earn unlimited 1% back on all other purchases
5.5/10
CNET Rating CNET rates credit cards by comparing their offers to those of their categorical competitors. Each card is individually evaluated through a formula which reflects the standards and expectations of the contemporary market. Credit card issuers have no say or influence in our ratings. How we rate credit cards
Intro Offer
Save $50 on a future qualifying purchase Save $50 on a future qualifying purchase over $50 when approved for a credit or debit RedCard. Offer is redeemable only through Target Circle™. Valid 10/29/23 – 12/9/23
Annual Fee
$0
Rewards Rate
1% – 5% Save 5% in store and online at Target; For each eligible purchase you make in gas or dining merchant categories, you earn rewards at a rate of 2% of the eligible purchase amount.; For each eligible purchase you make at a merchant that is not in a gas or dining category, you earn rewards at a rate of 1% of the eligible purchase amount.
Rec. Credit Recommended Credit: A credit score is used to indicate an applicant’s credit worthiness and may provide guidance about account eligibility. It does not necessarily guarantee approval for any financial product.
670 – 739 Good
APR
28.15% Variable

The REDcard credit card* can earn you 5% off your purchases online, in-store and at Starbucks located within Target stores. This can come in handy particularly if you’re furnishing an apartment or a dorm room. The card comes with plenty of perks that regular Target shoppers can make use of, long after the school season is over. Among them is free shipping for most Target.com purchases and an extra 30 days for returns.

Intro Balance Transfer APR
N/A
Intro Purchase APR
N/A
Regular APR
28.15% Variable
Balance Transfer Fee
N/A
5%
Save 5% in store and online at Target
2%
For each eligible purchase you make in gas or dining merchant categories, you earn rewards at a rate of 2% of the eligible purchase amount.
1%
For each eligible purchase you make at a merchant that is not in a gas or dining category, you earn rewards at a rate of 1% of the eligible purchase amount.

The REDcard credit card* can earn you 5% off your purchases online, in-store and at Starbucks located within Target stores. This can come in handy particularly if you’re furnishing an apartment or a dorm room. The card comes with plenty of perks that regular Target shoppers can make use of, long after the school season is over. Among them is free shipping for most Target.com purchases and an extra 30 days for returns.

Intro Balance Transfer APR
N/A
Intro Purchase APR
N/A
Regular APR
28.15% Variable
Balance Transfer Fee
N/A
5%
Save 5% in store and online at Target
2%
For each eligible purchase you make in gas or dining merchant categories, you earn rewards at a rate of 2% of the eligible purchase amount.
1%
For each eligible purchase you make at a merchant that is not in a gas or dining category, you earn rewards at a rate of 1% of the eligible purchase amount.
7.5/10
CNET Rating CNET rates credit cards by comparing their offers to those of their categorical competitors. Each card is individually evaluated through a formula which reflects the standards and expectations of the contemporary market. Credit card issuers have no say or influence in our ratings. How we rate credit cards
Intro Offer
Cashback Match™ Intro Offer: Unlimited Cashback Match – only from Discover. Discover will automatically match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year! There’s no minimum spending or maximum rewards. You could turn $150 cash back into $300.
Annual Fee
$0
Rewards Rate
1% – 5% Earn 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places you shop each quarter like grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations, and more, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate.; Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases – automatically.
Rec. Credit Recommended Credit: A credit score is used to indicate an applicant’s credit worthiness and may provide guidance about account eligibility. It does not necessarily guarantee approval for any financial product.
670 – 850 Good – Excellent
APR
17.24% – 28.24% Variable APR

The Discover it® Cash Back* offers some flexibility for your school spending. The flagship rotating rewards category often includes school necessities. In January through March, you can earn 5% cash back when you activate (on up to a combined $1,500 in spending for the fiscal quarter, then 1%) for restaurants and drug stores. And the welcome offer will make your rewards for the first year even better.

Check out more details in our full review of the Discover it Cash Back.

Intro Balance Transfer APR
0% for 15 months
Intro Purchase APR
0% for 15 months
Regular APR
17.24% – 28.24% Variable APR
Balance Transfer Fee
3% intro balance transfer fee, up to 5% fee on future balance transfers (see terms)*
5%
Earn 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places you shop each quarter like grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations, and more, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate.
1%
Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases – automatically.

The Discover it® Cash Back* offers some flexibility for your school spending. The flagship rotating rewards category often includes school necessities. In January through March, you can earn 5% cash back when you activate (on up to a combined $1,500 in spending for the fiscal quarter, then 1%) for restaurants and drug stores. And the welcome offer will make your rewards for the first year even better.

Check out more details in our full review of the Discover it Cash Back.

Intro Balance Transfer APR
0% for 15 months
Intro Purchase APR
0% for 15 months
Regular APR
17.24% – 28.24% Variable APR
Balance Transfer Fee
3% intro balance transfer fee, up to 5% fee on future balance transfers (see terms)*
5%
Earn 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places you shop each quarter like grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations, and more, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate.
1%
Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases – automatically.

FAQs

The average family with school-age children in the US spent roughly $850 a year on school supplies in 2021, according to the National Retail Federation. This figure is up 7% year over year from 2020.

According to the College Board, for the 2020 to 2021 school year, college students in four-year institutions averaged $1,240 just in books and other course materials. Other expenses, like room and board, transportation and tuition, add up to tens of thousands of spending in a year.

Avoid overspending by creating a budget based on the supplies you need and how much you’re willing to spend. Stick tight to your plan and avoid getting swayed by trendy school fashion or sought-after gear. A budget is the best way to avoid spending more than you can afford -- when you stick to it.

It’s also smart to comparison-shop. Look online, in-store and in ads to find the best prices on the items you or your kids need. You may need to group supplies by retailer to get the best deals -- it might involve buying some items online and others at specific retailers, but the extra effort may be worth the savings.

To maximize rewards and minimize overspending, draw on the power of gift cards by buying one for the amount of your school supply budget. You won’t be able to go over the limit, helping you control your spending. And if you’re smart about where you buy the gift card, you can also earn more cash-back rewards.

Erik Budde is CEO of GigaPoints, a platform that provides personalized credit card recommendations based on your spending. He suggests buying a gift card for your school shopping at a high-rewards category store, such as a grocery store.

“Since Amazon [and other types of] gift cards are sold at so many different types of retailers, this tactic works in a variety of different places,” Budde says. “Many credit cards offer bonus points at office supply stores, drug stores and more.”

Essentially, you may be able to earn points when you buy a gift card at a high rewards category store, while limiting your spending to the gift card amount.

Our methodology

CNET reviews credit cards by exhaustively comparing them across set criteria developed for each major category, including cash back, welcome bonus, travel rewards and balance transfer. We take into consideration the typical spending behavior of a range of consumer profiles -- with the understanding that everyone’s financial situation is different -- and the designated function of a card. 

For cash-back credit cards, for example, key factors include the annual fee, the “welcome bonus” and the cash-back rate (or rates, if they differ by spending category). For rewards and miles cards, we calculate and weigh the net monetary value of a card’s respective perks. And with balance transfer credit cards, we analyze specs such as the duration of the introductory 0% APR period and the balance transfer fee, while acknowledging secondary factors such as the standard APR and the length of time you have to make a balance transfer after you open the account.

More credit card advice

*All information about the Target Redcard Credit Card, Amazon Visa and the Discover it Cash Back has been collected independently by CNET and has not been reviewed by the issuer.

The editorial content on this page is based solely on objective, independent assessments by our writers and is not influenced by advertising or partnerships. It has not been provided or commissioned by any third party. However, we may receive compensation when you click on links to products or services offered by our partners.

Cynthia Paez Bowman is a finance, real estate and international business journalist. Besides Bankrate.com, her work has been featured in Business Jet Traveler, MSN, CheatSheet.com, Freshome.com and SimpleDollar.com. She owns and operates a small digital marketing and public relations firm that works with select startups and women-owned businesses to provide growth and visibility. Cynthia splits her time between Los Angeles, CA and San Sebastian, Spain. She travels to Africa and the Middle East regularly to consult with women's NGOs about small business development.
Jaclyn is a CNET Money editor who relishes the sweet spot between numbers and words. With responsibility for overseeing CNET's credit card coverage, she writes and edits news, reviews and advice. She has experience covering business, personal finance and economics, and previously managed contracts and investments as a real estate agent. Her tech interests include Tesla, SpaceX, The Boring Company and Neuralink.