Back to school. It’s that time of the year again. That time when your wallet may be getting a little thin from buying school supplies, clothes, shoes, electronics, and more. You may not know it, but these purchases can earn you a lot of points for cash back and travel. Follow along and learn how you can earn your next trip off of the purchase of your back to school supplies.

New Credit Card Signup Bonuses

New credit card signup bonuses are, by far, the best way to earn the most points in the shortest amount of time.

Earn points on back to school purchases

Any of these on your list to buy? Earn points on these purchases!

How it works: Credit card issuers are fighting for your business and loyalty. To attract new customers, they offer signup bonuses on many of their cards. These sign up bonuses can range from 15,000 to 100,000 points after meeting minimum spend requirements. Most of the minimum spending requirements are anywhere from $1 to $4,000 in a 3 month period after approval.

Why is it important for back to school purchases: You are (and will be) buying a lot of school supplies, clothing, athletic equipment, etc. over the next few weeks and months. If you are sending children off to college and have saved for their tuition, see if the university will accept credit card payments (with no fee, of course). Same goes for housing. If you have budgeted for these purchases, you will have an easy path towards hitting these minimum spending requirements.

Think about it, just one of the right credit card signup bonus can earn you enough points for 2 roundtrip flights anywhere in the United States! Not a bad way to start the school year!

*Note: if you are interested in a new credit card, please take a look at our recommendations*


Online Shopping Portals

I would consider online shopping portals the middle of the road technique of earning points. You are not going to earn as many points as you would with new credit card signup bonuses. You will earn more points than regular spending bonus categories. 

Chase credit card annual fee

Using the right credit card through online shopping portals can earn you some serious points!

How it works: Many airlines and credit card companies have their own online shopping portals. Within these portals, you will find many of the large retailers that you may typically visit in-person. If you begin your shopping experience through one of these portals, then you will earn bonus points.

Why is it important for back to school purchases: The bonus points earned vary from 1 extra point per dollar spent up to 50 extra points per dollar spent. This can amount to some serious earning! During peak consumer spending periods, these portals offer increased bonuses at stores that people spend the most money. Keep an eye out for those office supplies, clothing, and electronics stores and earn some additional points during your back to school purchases!

A couple of things to note:

  • Many stores allow you to order online and pick up in store. This will save you shipping costs and time spent in the store.
  • You do not need to use the same credit card of the shopping portal you are going through. For example, if you choose to use Chase’s shopping portal, you are not required to use a Chase card. See below for a tip on this.
  • There are some great portal consolidators to keep bookmarked. Evreward and Cashback Monitor are two great ones to bookmark. (*Traveling Dad is not affiliated with either of these companies. We like to recommend beneficial tools where helpful.*)


Spending Category Bonuses

I would consider spending category bonuses the slow earning technique. This is not your “get rich quick” scheme, but it is something to be mindful of. 

How it works: Credit card issuers encourage usage of their cards by attaching spending category bonuses to certain cards. Depending on where you shop, you can earn 2x, 3x (sometimes higher) points on your everyday spend. Some of the most common are dining, entertainment, travel, office supplies, gas, and groceries. 

Why is it important for back to school purchases: A good majority of back to school purchases will come from stores within some of the major spending categories. Pay close attention to your current credit card category bonuses and align your shopping to these bonus categories. This is a great way to earn bonus points on things that you are already planning on purchasing.

Tip: Your category bonuses can be stacked with shopping portals and new credit card signup bonuses for maximum earnings!


This time of year can be both stressful and exciting. Hopefully, this post will help you think about ways you can maximize every purchase you make. With these tips, your next trip could be here before you know it!

Disclaimer: never carry a balance on a credit card. If you cannot pay your balance in full each month, this is not the correct approach for you.