Fun in the sun: How to maximize your family’s spending this summer


At Bankrate we strive to help you make smarter financial decisions. While we adhere to strict , this post may contain references to products from our partners. Here’s an explanation for

The content on this page is accurate as of the posting date; however, some of the offers mentioned may have expired.

Summer is a time for cookouts, celebrations, trips to the water park and more. With so much fun to be had — and money to spend — it’s important that you save along the way.

According to a 2018 Capital One survey, summer is the most expensive season for Americans.

Eighty-seven percent reported spending more money on social activities during the summer — approximately $305 more — compared to other seasons throughout the year.

It shouldn’t come as a shock that Americans tend to spend more during the summer months, especially those with children. When school is out of session, there’s generally more time for activities.

How to maximize your spending this summer

You don’t have to break the bank to have a good time. Depending on what you and your family plan to do this summer, specific credit cards can help you earn rewards for your spending.

For the cookout hosts…

Barbeques, bonfires, picnics and birthday parties can add up. That’s where a wholesale club membership can come in handy. Clubs like Costco and Sam’s Club offer significant discounts on everyday items — from food and drinks to lawn care needs.

If you’re already a member of a wholesale club, check to see if a co-branded credit card is available for your club of choice. The Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi, for example, offers 2 percent cash back on all purchases from Costco and

If you’re planning to travel this summer, you’ll be pleased to know this card offers 4 percent cash back on eligible gas worldwide, including Costco gas stations (up to $7,000 annually, then 1 percent). You’ll also receive 3 percent back on restaurant and eligible travel purchases and 1 percent on everything else.

For the busybodies…

No matter what activities you’ve organized for this summer, chances are it involves a car. To save at the pump, look into gas credit card options that can help you earn points, miles or cash back for filling up your tank.

“Costco gas meets top-tier standards, as do other ‘cheaper’ gas station options… However, if you are loyal to one gas brand it may make sense to open a credit card with them. Usually, you pay the cash price, rather than the increased credit card price, and receive cash back or fuel credits per gallon pumped,” says Michael D. Izbotsky, financial planner, owner and CCO of From Planning to Living LLC.

The Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card is a great option for families looking to earn rewards on gas purchases. You can choose one of six 3 percent categories ⁠— from gas to dining to travel ⁠— along with 2 percent back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs (up to $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club purchases quarterly) and 1 percent on everything else.

You won’t pay an annual fee with this card, and there’s a $200 cash reward bonus when you spend $1,000 in your first 90 days. Think: $200 to spend on a family trip to an amusement park or to cover a week-long campground fee.

For the concert fanatics …

If you planning to attend concerts or other live events this summer, check to see if you have a card that will offer rewards for ticket purchases (normally covered under an entertainment category).

“Rakuten (formerly Ebates) sometimes offers cash back for online ticketing services, such as Ticketmaster and StubHub. Many times you can find cheaper resale tickets via StubHub or similar services,” says Izbotsky.

If you’re interested in applying for a card that will help you earn rewards for your ticket purchases, the Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card will get you an unlimited 4 percent cash back on dining and entertainment and covers the following activities:

  • Concert tickets
  • Sporting events
  • Amusement park tickets
  • Aquarium and zoo entry fees
  • Movie tickets

Through May 2020, you can earn 8 percent cash back on tickets purchased via Vivid Seats with your Savor card. You’ll also get 2 percent back at grocery stores and 1 percent on everything else.

Additional ways to save

“I’m a big believer in investing and planning for your future, but everyone needs to have some fun along the way,” says Izbotsky.

To maximize your spending on fun activities this summer, look for small ways to cut back on supplemental purchases you would normally make.

Pack, don’t purchase

If you’re heading to an amusement park, pack your family’s lunches and any refreshments you’ll want throughout the day in a cooler. When you’re ready to take a break from the rides, swing by your car and lunch in the parking lot.

Carpool when you can

Are there other families in the neighborhood with similar schedules? Maybe your children play at the same parks and public pools. Consider starting a carpool that switches between families. It’ll save you time, mileage and cut down on the amount of money your family spends on gas.

Pitch a tent

If you’re looking to travel this summer, consider making it a camping trip. This is a much cheaper option than renting a hotel or Airbnb and, depending on the campground, you can fit groups of seven or more.

“Many camping sites are free or quite inexpensive — we’re talking about $12 a night in some places. There are some upfront costs for equipment (tent, cookware, etc.), but the more you go the more it pays for itself,” says Izbotsky.