Reward points may be important savings tool for school


To get the best deal, most of us compare prices and rebates, but that leaves out an important savings tool -- reward points. Keep them in mind and you can double your savings.

The back-to-school isles are crowded and the shopping lists are long.

"I got headphones, the crayons and folders," said Nev Fullerton, a 2nd grader in San Francisco.

"My school books, pencils and headphones for the computers and that's it," said Dillon Fullerton, a student in San Francisco.

When asked what he had on his list San Francisco student Owen Stevenson said, "Well, I just got a bunch of stuff in Santa Cruz, so I'm just looking here."

His mother chimed in, "This is like the fine tuning."

Even fine tuning can cost you. That's why you have to think in terms of dollars and cents and credit card points.

Joe Ridout is with Consumer Action. He says, "If you go to a grocery store, for example, and have a good credit card like American Express Blue Cash, that saves you 6 percent off anything you buy at a grocery store. So that's a way to save money if the school supplies you're interested in can be found at a grocery store."

When you are shopping online for back to school items expert shopper Jill Cataldo from says never start at the retailer's website.

"A lot of credit cards -- Discover does this -- has a portal through their site where if you shop through Discover you may save an extra percentage on what you're buying. And for the month of August Discover is offering 10 percent off for Macy's, JC Penney's, Kmart, Footlocker. A variety of retailers you might be shopping online anyways," said Cataldo.

And Upromise may be the ultimate back to school points program.

"Upromise is a college savings rewards program. So when you buy the things you need to buy anyway, as long as you buy those through participating merchants, you can save money that comes back as cash back for college," said Debby Hohler from Upromise.

Go to the website and you can begin putting away money for your kid's education. There is a credit card if you want, an online shopping portal and more.

"You can also save money when you are dinning out, when you are booking travel, even buying and selling a house," said Hohler.

Carolyn Samiere of San Francisco has been using Upromise for years and has received $1,500 from Upromise for her daughter's college fund.

"Those funds are swept into an associated investment account, so those earnings earn money as investments in that account," said Samiere.

Her advice is to sign up, but be sure to keep track of your spending.

"If one can pay back the entire credit card balance in each billing period then it is really free money. And that is not something anyone wants to leave on the table," said Samiere.

That's because your back to school list is endless.

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