Best Credit Cards for (New) Parents
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Any parent will tell you that there's nothing that can prepare you for how much having a baby will change your life. And while there's little that can be done to prepare you for how much a baby will change you finances, as a new mom (my son is now nine months old), I have one unexpected tip — apply for a new credit card.
When you become a parent, where you spend your money changes drastically overnight. One night you're heading to happy hour after work, the next you're changing diapers and feeding a baby. You may have traveled every month pre-kid. Post-kid travel is far more difficult.
Kids are amazing, but they change your lifestyle and spending habits. So, your credit card rewards program should probably change too. The good news is that several credit cards offer great rewards and protection for new moms and dads.
Four Spending Changes, and the Cards to Fit
Here are three major ways your spending changes with kids, and which credit cards correlate to that new way of spending.
Pre-kids: You go out to movies, restaurants, and bars.
Post-kids: You buy more groceries and stay home.
Any credit cards you have that pay high rewards for entertainment or dining out should be stashed in your freezer post-kids. You'll be doing a lot less of this than you did before children. (But that's ok, because your child entertains you with his constant discoveries and endless antics.)
Instead of dining out or heading to the bar or movies, you'll be spending more time cooking at home. If you don't already have a rewards card that pays you top dollar for groceries, get one now. My picks for cash back on groceries?
Blue Cash Preferred® Card From American Express
The Blue Cash Preferred® Card pays 6% cash back back at US supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases, 3% back at US gas stations and select US department stores, and 1% on other purchases. You get cash back in the form of Reward Dollars that can be redeemed as a statement credit. New cardmembers also get a 0% introductory APR on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months. (Then it becomes 12.99%-21.99% variable APR.) While there is a $75 annual fee, if you spend just over $100 a month on gas and groceries you can earn about that much in rewards. And I don't know a parent who manages to spend less than $100 a month on groceries. Even better, you get $150 back in the form of a statement credit after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new card in your first three months. Terms and limitations apply.
The Amex EveryDaySM Credit Card From American Express
If you want a card that offers extra points at US supermarkets, without an annual fee, the Amex EveryDaySM Credit Card is a great choice. You get 2x points at US supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1x), plus 1 point for other purchases. You might also find yourself making quick runs for various errands (diapers, wipes, formula, binky). New applicants also get a 0% introductory APR on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months, which then becomes a 12.99%-21.99% variable APR. With this card, when you use it 20 or more times per billing cycle, you get 20% more points on those purchases less returns and credits. You can also earn 10,000 Membership Reward® points after you use your new Card to make $1,000 in purchases within the first 3 months. Redeem your rewards in travel: flights, hotels, and vacation or cruise booking. Rack up the points and use them to plan a vacation when your little one is eighteen months or so. There is no annual fee. Terms and limitations apply.
Pre-kids: You can pack a weekend getaway bag in 15 minutes and jetset at a moment's notice
Post-kids: Vacations are few and far between, due to the bigger costs and planning required
It used to be easy to drop what you were doing and take a few days off, whether it was a weekend trip to Vegas or a fun filled week in Mexico. Nowadays, each additional airfare required to get everyone on board is an extra few months of scrimping and saving. But don't worry. There are credit cards that will get you on your much deserved vacation sooner. Rack up on points and miles to get discounted tickets and rooms. There's no credit card to help you with the packing, though.
Starwoood Preferred Guest® Credit Card From American Express
The reason the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card is so popular among travel hackers is that this card lets you redeem travel for both airfare and hotels, unlike many co-branded airlines and hotel credit cards. That means you can pick and choose the best deal for your family. American Express Membership Rewards allows you 1:1 transfer to loyalty programs which means their points can be more valuable than those of other reward credit cards. (See all our top picks for travel reward credit cards.)
Sign up offer: Earn 10,000 Starpoints after your first purchase on the Card and an additional 15,000 Starpoints after you make $5,000 in purchases within the first 6 months. Annual fee of $65 is waived for the first year. Terms and limitations apply.
Pre-kids: You go to many stores for household items.
Post-kids: You start shopping mostly at one or two stores.
If pre-kids you went to one store for eggs and milk, and a different store for toilet paper and paper towels; post-kids you'll now shop at just one store for everything. Research shows this, and companies are vying to be the one-store-fits-all for new parents. It's a hassle to take kids of any age in and out of their car seat and into multiple stores. Plus, you just don't have time to shop around like you used to.
So how does this impact your rewards? You should get a rewards card for the place you shop the most. For many parents, including myself, this is Target and Amazon.
The Target REDCard pays you 5% back on all Target purchases. And there's no yearly fee. So, when Target becomes your go-to store for pretty much everything from diaper rash ointment to baby food to laundry detergent to bananas, this card will save you quite a bit by giving you 5% back in rewards.
Amazon Rewards Visa
For the days when you just can't get out of the house to make it to Target, or the Babies R Us is too far of a drive, you'll find yourself ordering a lot from Amazon.
In the first few months after our son was born we probably ordered items from Amazon 3+ times a week. These were items we didn't know we needed until suddenly we did. (Like the crib rail cover for when our son starting chewing on his crib and paint chips were going all over the floor and into his mouth.) Many parents also order diapers and baby food from Amazon because the bulk prices are excellent.
Amazon happens to have their own card that pays 3% back on all Amazon.com purchases; 2% back at gas stations, restaurants, and drugstores; and 1% back for all other purchases. Additionally, you'll get a $30 Amazon gift card when approved for the card. With no annual fee, if you're spending several hundred dollars a month at Amazon, this card is worth adding to your wallet.
Pre-kids: You don't really pay attention to price tags.
Post-kids: With all the additional expenses, you can't afford not to.
When you were just shopping for yourself, you can afford to buy what you want, when you want them — waiting for sales, discounts, and coupons just wasn't your style. But when you have a little one, all the expenses add up. Paying for clothes that will last a few months just isn't going to work for you. Find a card that will help you spend less!
Discover it® Card
Discover it card offers 5% Cashback Bonus for gas and ground transportation on up to $1500 in purchases from Jan. through Mar. 2015 after you sign up for 5% Cashback Bonus. But what's really special about this card is its online mall where you can earn up to 20% cash back on certain purchases. Also, this card comes with a 14-month 0% introductory APR on purchases and balance transfers. (Then a variable purchase APR applies, which is currently 10.99%-22.99%. A 3% fee applies to each balance transfer.) And you get a free FICO® Credit Score online, on your monthly statement, and in their mobile app to help you stay on top of your credit. There is no annual fee, no overlimit fee, no foreign transaction fee, and no late fee on your first late payment. Your APR also won't increase for late payments.
Citi® Double Cash Card
Like its name entails, the Citi® Double Cash Card allows its users to earn twice the amount of cash back on all of their purchases. Cardholders can earn 1% cash back on every purchase they make, and then they can earn an additional 1% cash back as they pay those purchases off in full or over time. There's no cap on the amount of cash back they can earn, nor are there any category limitations on what purchases they can earn cash back on. There's also a special introductory 0% APR offer for new cardmembers that's good for 15 months, and then it becomes 12.99%-22.99% variable APR. There is no annual fee.
The Chase Freedom® Card offers 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter, and the bonus categories change every 3 months. Currently, cardholders can get 5% cash back on purchases at restaurants, Bed Bath & Beyond, H&M, and Overstock.com through June 2015. Cardholders can also earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases, and the cash back rewards will never expire.
New cardmembers will receive a $100 bonus after they spend $500 in purchases within the first 3 months from their account opening, and they can also receive an additional $25 bonus if they add an authorized user to their account and make a purchase within their first 3 months. There's also a special 0% introductory APR for 15 months, which then becomes a variable APR of 13.99%-22.99%. There is no annual fee.
Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any bank, card issuer, airline or hotel chain.