If you’re a mom or dad to young kids, you’re quickly learning how expensive and exhausting a child can be.
I know the feeling.
My wife and I have two children under the age of three, and it’s been a wonderfully rude awakening, to say the least. After all, the average child costs around $16,916 per year.
Fortunately, my background is in personal finance. Knowing where to find the best deals -- on credit cards, in particular -- has helped me save hundreds, maybe even thousands, on child-related expenses.
Picking the right credit card isn’t easy, though.
There are more than 1,000 offers available, and young parents have unique needs. For example, your credit standing might need some TLC, you might still be in college, or you might simply want to stretch your dollars as far as possible.
Taking all that into account, here are four of the best credit card offers for new parents with a range of financial needs.
Even people with limited credit experience can qualify for the Target REDcard.
The Target store credit card doesn’t charge an annual fee and offers a 5% discount on every Target purchase -- including online.
That’s pretty much the complete package as far as a budget-conscious young parent is concerned. My wife has this card and loves the everyday savings it provides.
The Kohl’s Card is another good option, offering a 20% first-purchase discount and another 15% discount when your card arrives in the mail.
Kohl’s doesn’t have as broad a selection of items as Target, though, so if you have to choose one, I recommend the REDcard.
Between increased costs, a more hectic lifestyle and less sleep, it’s understandable if your credit score has become “bad.”
After all, the average first-time parent is in the same boat. But you don’t want to let it stay that way.
Using a secured card is the best way to bounce back -- the required security deposit makes approval all but guaranteed and reduces the need for high fees.
The Capital One Secured MasterCard is an especially attractive option, since it lacks an annual fee and has the potential to be “partially secured” -- meaning your spending limit could actually be higher than the amount of your deposit.
You’ll be required to place a $49, $99 or $200 deposit in return for a spending limit of $200 to $3,000, depending on your creditworthiness.
Roughly 26% of undergraduate college students (about five million people) are raising kids while in school.
So it’s worth noting a college or university email address can serve as your ticket to better credit card terms than you’d otherwise expect with a limited credit standing. BankAmericard Cash Rewards for Students is a good example of this.
It doesn’t charge an annual fee or interest for the first 12 months. It also offers a $100 initial bonus, 3% cash back on gas and 2% on groceries (up to $1,500 in combined quarterly purchases), and 1% cash back on everything else.
If you check your credit score and find it’s actually excellent, you might want to apply for Citi Double Cash.
It’s one of the best cash-back credit cards on the market, offering 1% cash back on all purchases, plus another 1% when you pay your monthly bill.
It also offers 0% introductory financing for both new purchases and balance transfers for the first 15 months -- and there’s no annual fee.
Regardless of which card you pick, make sure to use it responsibly.
Credit cards are our most efficient credit-building tools. They can be free to use, don’t require getting into debt and report information to the major credit bureaus every month.
As long as this information is positive, the process will lead to efficient credit score gains. But it can work the other way, too.
Finally, it’s wise to add your child to your account as an authorized user. There’s no minimum age requirement, so you’re free to arrange a huge head start in his or her credit career.
I know I’ll be taking this approach with my kids.
Plus, authorized users can’t be held accountable for mistakes. So, your child can request the removal of any negative records you pass along to his or her credit report.
Your Turn: Are you a new parent? Do you have one of these cards, or do you have another favorite?
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Odysseas Papadimitriou is CEO of the personal finance website WalletHub, which offers free credit scores, full credit reports and 24/7 credit monitoring. He is a personal finance industry veteran, having previously worked as a senior executive at Capital One.