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The 8 best credit cards for new parents, helping you pay for everything from diapers to a college fund

Having a baby brings overwhelming joy, but also a lot of new expenses. CNBC Select recommends the best credit cards for the unexpected situations new parents might encounter.

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A lot changes when you have a child, and that includes your everyday expenses. From buying packs of diapers in bulk, to frequenting the grocery aisles for baby food and browsing Amazon for newborn everything, your now-expanded shopping list may mean it's time to open a credit card that fits your growing family's needs.

The best credit cards for new parents are those that reward the categories where you spend the most. Whether it's a rewards card or a cash-back card, there are many options to choose from that help ease the financial burden of becoming a new parent.

Below, CNBC Select rounds up eight common spending categories for new parents and the best corresponding credit card to use for each.

Best credit cards for new parents

  1. For making the grocery store rounds: Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express
  2. For driving to appointments and playdates: PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature® Card
  3. For squeezing in a workout: U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card
  4. For the frequent Target run: Target REDCard
  5. For filling up your Amazon cart: Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card
  6. For the times when you forget to pay your credit card bill: Citi Simplicity® Card
  7. For kickstarting your kid's college fund: Fidelity® Rewards Visa Signature® Card
  8. For earning money back: Citi® Double Cash Card

1. For making the grocery store rounds

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express
On American Express's secure site
  • Rewards

    6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1%), 6% cash back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions, 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations, 3% cash back on transit including taxis/rideshare, parking, tolls, trains, buses and more and 1% cash back on other purchases

  • Welcome bonus

    $250 statement credit after you spend $1,000 on eligible purchases on your new card within the first 3 months

  • Annual fee

    $95

  • Intro APR

    0% APR for the first 12 months on purchases and balance transfers

  • Regular APR

    12.99% to 23.99% variable

  • Balance transfer fee

    3%, $5 minimum

  • Foreign transaction fee

    2.7%

  • Credit needed

    Excellent/Good

See rates and fees, terms apply.

 

New moms and dads will be happy to learn that the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express offers the highest cash-back rate at U.S. supermarkets at 6% (on up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%). We calculated that the average American can earn $310 in cash back each year when they do their shopping at qualifying supermarkets. If you're a parent looking to maximize cash back on that never-ending grocery list, this card is for you.

For loyal grocery shoppers at the bulk discount retailer Costco, it may be worth considering the Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi. Its robust rewards program offers 2% cash back on all eligible purchases from Costco and Costco.com.

In addition to high grocery rewards with the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express, there's an unlimited 6% cash back on over 20 select streaming subscriptions, including popular services like Netflix, Spotify and Disney+ — which may come in handy during a future toddler temper tantrum.

The Blue Cash Preferred® Card does come with a $95 annual fee, but it can be offset by the cash back you earn and the discounts you get through the money-saving Amex Offers, which provide extra points at participating retailers.

2. For driving to appointments and playdates

PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature® Card

PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature® Card
Information about the PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature® Card has been collected independently by CNBC and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of the card prior to publication.
  • Rewards

    5X points on gas, 3X points on groceries, 1X points on all other purchases

  • Welcome bonus

    $100 statement credit when you spend $1,500 in the first 90 days from account opening

  • Annual fee

    $0

  • Intro APR

    0% for the first 12 months on balance transfers

  • Regular APR

    11.74% to 17.99% variable

  • Balance transfer fee

    3%

  • Foreign transaction fee

    None

  • Credit needed

    N/A

Terms apply.

The PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature® Card currently offers the highest rewards rate at gas stations, with 5X points per dollar spent. If you want to maximize rewards while transporting your little one, this card can earn the average American $111 annually, based on CNBC Select calculations.

This card has no annual fee, so you can really save on the road. PenFed is a credit union, so membership is required to open the PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature® Card.

3. For squeezing in a workout

U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card

U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card
On U.S. Bank's secure site
  • Rewards

    5% cash back on two categories you choose quarterly (on your first $2,000 in combined eligible net purchases each quarter, then 1%); 2% cash back on one everyday category; 1% cash back on everything else

  • Welcome bonus

    $150 after you spend $500 within the first 90 days of account opening

  • Annual fee

    $0

  • Intro APR

    0% APR for the first 12 billing cycles on balance transfers

  • Regular APR

    13.99% to 23.99% variable*

  • Balance transfer fee

    3%, minimum $5

  • Foreign transaction fee

    2% to 3%

  • Credit needed

    Excellent/Good

*See rates and fees, terms apply.

Whether it entails enrolling in a gym membership or using fitness equipment in the comfort of your own home, getting exercise is a good outlet for any new parent. With the U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card, you can earn up to 5% cash back at gyms and fitness centers. This was the only card CNBC Select could find that offers bonus rewards, more than 2%, on eligible gyms. Gyms and fitness clubs are considered one category, and popular merchants include SoulCycle, LA Fitness and Equinox. Check out the full list of eligible gyms and fitness centers.

Cardholders can also benefit from 5% cash back on two bonus categories each quarter, including home utilities and department stores (which pairs nicely with making your home baby-friendly). You can also enjoy no interest on balance transfers for 12 billing cycles (after 13.99% to 23.99% variable APR), so if you need to pay off high interest debt, this may be the card for you. 

4. For the frequent Target run

Target REDcard

Target REDcard
On Target's secure site
  • Rewards

    5% discount at checkout on most purchases in-store and at Target.com

  • Welcome bonus

    No current offer

  • Annual fee

    $0

  • Intro APR

    None

  • Regular APR

    24.40% variable

  • Balance transfer fee

    N/A

  • Foreign transaction fee

    N/A

  • Credit needed

    N/A

Terms apply.

If you're a parent who likes to do all of your general shopping in one place — groceries, clothing and everything in-between — a Target credit card may be your next best move.

The Target REDCard is a store card that offers members a 5% discount at checkout on most purchases in-store and at Target.com. This is a great way to save instantly on your Target runs. You don't accrue points like other rewards and cash-back credit cards, but you also don't have to jump through hoops to redeem them.

The card also has no annual fee and offers a bunch of additional perks, such as free two-day shipping on most items with no minimum purchase and an additional 30 days for returns. Target REDCard holders can also benefit from 10% off a purchase every account anniversary year and exclusives, such as special items, gifts and offers throughout the year.

Though we recommend the Target credit card because of its instant discount at checkout, both in-store and online, it is worth mentioning its counterpart big retailer, Walmart. Walmart has two credit cards: the co-branded Capital One® Walmart Rewards™ Card and the private-label Walmart Rewards™ Card. Both Walmart cards come with no annual fee, but they earn a lower 2% back on Walmart purchases in-store. And if you don't want to deal with the hassle of cashing in your points when it comes to redeeming rewards, Target is again the best choice.

5. For filling up your Amazon cart

Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card

Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card
Information about the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card has been collected independently by CNBC and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of the card prior to publication.
  • Rewards

    5% cash back at Amazon.com and Whole Foods Market; 2% back at restaurants, gas stations and drugstores; 1% back on all other purchases

  • Welcome bonus

    $70 Amazon.com gift card upon approval

  • Annual fee

    $0 (but Prime membership is required)

  • Intro APR

    None

  • Regular APR

    15.74% to 23.74% variable

  • Balance transfer fee

    5%, $5 minimum

  • Foreign transaction fee

    None

  • Credit needed

    Excellent/Good

Terms apply.

 

If you see yourself ordering all the baby basics online, you should consider getting an Amazon credit card. Although the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card, offered through Chase, requires users to have an eligible Amazon Prime membership ($119 annually, or $12.99 a month), the company's branded credit card offers the highest rewards return: a robust 5% cash back at Amazon.com and Whole Foods Market. Amazon Prime membership gives you access to a number of perks, including free two-day shipping, access to Prime Video and exclusive discounts at Whole Foods (that grocery list is looking less daunting).

When you sign up for the card, you receive a $70 Amazon.com gift card automatically after account approval. This welcome bonus could be a great way to help fund a new nursery in your home, or gift your partner something special for being a new parent.

6. For the times when you forget to pay your credit card bill

Citi Simplicity® Card - No Late Fees Ever

Citi Simplicity® Card - No Late Fees Ever
On Citi’s secure site
  • Rewards

    None

  • Welcome bonus

    None

  • Annual fee

    $0

  • Intro APR

    0% for the first 21 months on balance transfers and 0% for the first 12 months on purchases

  • Regular APR

    14.74% - 24.74% variable

  • Balance transfer fee

    5%, minimum $5

  • Foreign transaction fee

    3%

  • Credit needed

    Excellent/Good

Terms apply.

Now that your life just got a whole lot busier, it's only normal that other things may sometimes fall by the wayside — like paying your bills on time. We always recommend you pay your credit card balance on time and in full every month to avoid paying interest, but if you find yourself sometimes slipping, the Citi Simplicity® Card may be right for you.

The card has a guaranteed no penalty rate, no late fees if you miss a credit card payment and no annual fee.

The Citi Simplicity® Card also ranked on CNBC Select's list of the best balance transfer credit cards because it has one of the longest 0% intro APR periods out there, offering you a huge stretch of time to pay off any revolving credit card debt while starting a family. New cardmembers can get nearly two years (21 months) of of interest-free financing on balance transfers (after 14.74% to 24.74% variable APR). This can be helpful if you have a large balance or if your cash flow doesn't allow you to pay off debt within the 6-, 12-, 15- or 18-month time periods of other balance transfer cards.

7. For kickstarting your kid's college fund

Fidelity® Rewards Visa Signature® Card

Fidelity® Rewards Visa Signature® Card
Information about the Fidelity® Rewards Visa Signature® Card has been collected independently by CNBC and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of the card prior to publication.
  • Rewards

    2% cash back on every eligible net purchase

  • Welcome bonus

    Receive 10,000 bonus points — which equals $100 cash back, when deposited into an eligible Fidelity account — after you make at least $1,000 in eligible net purchases within the first 90 days of account opening

  • Annual fee

    $0

  • Intro APR

    None

  • Regular APR

    15.49% variable

  • Balance transfer fee

    Either 3% of the amount of each transfer or $5 minimum, whichever is greater

  • Foreign transaction fee

    1%

  • Credit needed

    N/A

Terms apply.

It's never too early to start saving for your child's education. 529 college savings credit cards are your best bet when planning for future college costs. These credit cards automatically deposit cash-back rewards from all your purchases into a 529 plan that you can open for your child. A 529 plan is a specialized savings account where the money is used to pay for the beneficiary's college expenses and K-12 tuition, tax-free.

A popular 529 card is the Fidelity® Rewards Visa Signature® Card that offers 2% cash back on purchases, putting money directly into your kid's college savings without you having to think about it. We recommend the Fidelity® card because of its higher rewards, but as a second option there is the Upromise® Mastercard®, which offers 1.25% cash back.

While 529 credit cards can be helpful in encouraging you to save money for your child's college education, we don't recommend relying on these alone to fund it.

8. For earning money back

Citi® Double Cash Card

Citi® Double Cash Card
On Citi's secure site
  • Rewards

    2% cash back: 1% on all purchases and an additional 1% after you pay your credit card bill

  • Welcome bonus

    No current offer

  • Annual fee

    $0

  • Intro APR

    0% for the first 18 months on balance transfers; N/A for purchases

  • Regular APR

    13.99% - 23.99% variable on purchases and balance transfers

  • Balance transfer fee

    Either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater

  • Foreign transaction fee

    3%

  • Credit needed

    Excellent/Good

Terms apply.

With all the additional spending ahead of you, it helps to have a credit card that simply lets you earn cash back on all of your purchases.

The Citi® Double Cash Card is one of the best no-annual-fee credit cards because of its straightforward and flat-rate, cash-back rewards program. Cardholders earn 2% cash back on all purchases — 1% when you make a purchase and an additional 1% when you pay your credit card bill.

With no limit to the amount you can earn back, new parents can really cash in on spending for the newborn in their lives. Cash back can be redeemed for a statement credit or direct deposit, and you don't have to worry about activating bonus categories and tracking your purchases with this card.

Information about the PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature® Card, Target REDCard, Capital One® Walmart Rewards™ Card, Walmart Rewards™ Card, Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card, Fidelity® Rewards Visa Signature® Card, and Upromise® Mastercard® has been collected independently by CNBC and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of the cards prior to publication.

Editorial Note: Opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the CNBC Select editorial staff’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any third party.