Friday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: What to buy (and skip) in September. Also in the news: How to choose an airline credit card, how to help parents pay off college debt, and why the average American saves less than 5%.

What to Buy (and Skip) in September
Need a new mattress?

How to Choose an Airline Credit Card
Maximizing your miles.

Ask Brianna: How Do I Help My Parents Pay Off College Debt?
Contributing to the costs.

Average American saves less than 5%. How do you stack up?
How much do you save?

Q&A: Frequent flier cards

Dear Liz: I have an airline credit card but I find it really hard to use the frequent flier miles I get. The “free” flights have gotten more expensive (they take more miles) and harder to find. I’m getting sick of paying an annual fee for nothing. Would I be better off with a cash-back card?

Answer: Good cash-back rewards cards typically offer rebates of 1% to 2% on most purchases, and some have rotating categories that offer rebates of 5% to 6%. If you’re not an elite frequent flier or trying to amass miles for a special trip, then putting most of your spending on a cash-back card can make sense.

Think twice about closing that airline card, though. It likely offers some perks worth keeping, such as free checked bags and priority boarding. If you take one or two flights a year, the card may pay for itself.