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When you have kids, you might find yourself spending money in ways you never imagined.
Instead of drinks and at-a-whim getaways, it’s diapers, school supplies and family road trips. If your credit cards are leftovers from your single days, it might be time to look at more family-friendly cards.
Here are our top picks for the best credit cards for families.
- Best for cash back: Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express
- Best for family travel: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
- Best for new parents: Citi® Double Cash Card
- Best for online shopping: Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card
- Best for college savings: Upromise MasterCard
Here’s why: When it comes to cash back, parents could find it hard to beat the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express ’s 6% cash back rate for purchases made at U.S. supermarkets. This card offers that exceptional cash back rate on up to the first $6,000 in purchases each year, and then a 1% cash back rate after that.
The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express delivers other strong cash back options, too, like 6% cash back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions, 3% cash back on transit (including taxis/rideshares, parking, tolls, trains, buses and more), 3% cash back on purchases made at U.S. gas stations, and 1% cash back on all other purchases.
With the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express, you’ll also receive a $300 statement credit for spending $3,000 in purchases within 6 months from account opening. That could be a nice boost if you’re planning a family trip or coming up on back-to-school shopping season.
Note that this card does come with a $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $95. The fee could offset some of your cash back earnings.
Check out our review of the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express to learn more.
Here’s why: Traveling with kids requires a lot of flexibility. You might be flying to Disney World one year, taking a road trip around the country the next and sneaking in family visits or parents-only getaways in between.
The Chase Sapphire Reserve® does flexibility really well. First, you get an annual $300 travel statement credit for qualifying travel purchases made with your card. After that, you get three points for every $1 you spend on purchases in the travel and restaurants categories worldwide, plus one point per $1 spent on all other purchases.
Here’s some good news: There are no revolving categories to keep track of and no airline or hotel requirements when you redeem cash back with the Chase Sapphire Reserve®. That means that even if your travel needs change often, you should still get good value out of this card. Your points are worth 1.5 cents each when you redeem for travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal, too.
And because family travel is rarely predictable, you’ll have some peace of mind with the card’s trip cancellation policy. If you have to call off or cut short your trip because of illness, severe weather and other covered situations, you could be reimbursed up to $10,000 per person and $20,000 per trip for prepaid, non-refundable travel expenses.
These Chase Sapphire Reserve® perks do come with a $550 annual fee, but the $300 travel statement credit should help you chip away at that cost — as long as you take advantage of that feature. The price of traveling with a family can add up fast. Even if you don’t travel too often, you might be able to rack up enough in travel fees to make this card worth the cost.
You can learn more from our review of the Chase Sapphire Reserve®.
If you’re not convinced, it might be worth giving the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card a look, too. It offers similar rewards to the Chase Sapphire Reserve® (but fewer perks), with a lower annual fee.
Here’s why: When you’re in the trenches of brand-new parenthood, you might not want to deal with tracking and activating the cash back categories on your credit card. Just getting through the days and catching some sleep might be your only priority, so extensive travel rewards might not fit your lifestyle, either. Enter the Citi® Double Cash Card , a straightforward, flat-rate cash back card.
Many flat-rate cash back credit cards we see offer up to 1.5% cash back on your purchases, but the Citi® Double Cash Card gives you a total of 2% cash back — 1% unlimited cash back for your purchases, plus another 1% cash back on payments made toward purchases, as long as you pay the minimum amount due.
The Citi® Double Cash Card also gives you a balance transfer option, if the cost of all that new baby gear was higher than expected. You’ll get an intro 0% APR — for 18 months from account opening — on balance transfers made within four months from account opening, plus a fee of 3% (minimum $5) of the transfer amount, whichever is greater. Just be prepared for the balance transfer APR to go up to a variable 13.99% – 23.99% rate once the promotional period ends.
The $0 annual fee is the cherry on top for this all-around strong pick for new parents.
Read our review of the Citi® Double Cash Card to learn more.
Here’s why: Whether your kids are in diapers or mailing in their college applications, they always seem to need so much stuff. If you rely on Amazon.com for household necessities and child-related needs, the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card is worth a look.
Cardholders with an Amazon Prime membership get 5% cash back for every $1 spent on purchases made with the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card at Amazon.com and Whole Foods Market, plus 2% cash back for every $1 spent on purchases in the following rewards categories: restaurants, gas stations and drugstores. Finally, you’ll earn 1% cash back for each $1 spent on all other purchases.
If you’re approved for the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card after applying, you’ll be immediately rewarded with a $70 Amazon.com gift card. Remember though, you must have an eligible Amazon Prime account to get this card — but you won’t be charged an annual fee to carry it, which some may consider a nice way to balance this requirement.
Read our review of the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card to learn more.
Here’s why: The Upromise MasterCard provides a simple way to save for college automatically by offering 1.25% cash back for every $1 spent on all purchases, and a 15% bonus on your total cash back when your Upromise Program account is linked to an eligible 529 college savings plan. The $0 annual fee means you can put more money toward your college savings, too.
The important factor to consider with this card is the cash back rate. If you link to a 529 college savings plan, you’ll earn almost 1.44% in cash back on your purchases. That’s still less than you’d get with other cards, like the 2% cash back rate that’s offered by the Citi® Double Cash Card, but the simplicity of linking accounts might make the card worth it for many parents.
If you already have or want to open a 529 college savings plan with Fidelity, the Fidelity® Rewards Visa Signature® Card could be another option worth considering.
How we picked these cards
When picking the best credit cards for families, we focused on what families value most — maximum savings with minimal hassle. Managing a family can be stressful enough, so we considered user-friendly card features to be a big plus.
It was also important to note where and how parents shop, and what they need at each stage of parenting. For example, new and seasoned parents alike might appreciate a one-stop-shop like Amazon, while parents looking toward their children’s future might like the simplicity of a card that allows for straightforward college savings.
How to make the most of credit cards for families
Parenthood can be overwhelming in so many ways, so you may find it helpful to choose a credit card that will do most of the work for you. Before making any choices, you should consider your lifestyle when you’re analyzing the value of a credit card.
For instance, if you were a frequent traveler before kids but are less certain about travel now that you’re a parent, a cash back card might be a better fit. Or, as your kids get older, you might find you can take advantage of more travel rewards features. Continue to think about your family’s growing needs and look for a card that works with those needs.
Once you decide on the kind of card that’s best for you, it might be easier to settle on a specific choice. If you spend a lot at certain places like grocery stores or gas stations, then a cash back or travel card with a high rewards-earning rate in those areas might be your best choice. Similarly, if your priority is simple rewards or a way to save for your kids’ college, then more straightforward cards might be better.