Bank of America Cash Rewards credit card for Students

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Students on a budget will find some valuable perks in this no-annual-fee card.

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The Bank of America Cash Rewards credit card for Students is designed for people who are enrolled in school either full- or part-time. The credit requirements are more lenient than on other cash-back rewards cards, making it easier for people with little or no credit history to qualify.

Review

For current students with no or less-than-great credit history, this card is definitely worth considering — especially if you own a Bank of America checking or savings account. The Bank of America Cash Rewards credit card for Students is relatively easy to qualify for — you must have fair credit — and rewards you for spending money on everything.

Earning rewards is effortless with this card. Cardholders will get 3% cash back on gas; 2% cash back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs; and 1% cash back on all other purchases. The max you can get back on the 3% and 2% categories combined is $2,500 each quarter. Once you reach that limit, all of your spending will default to the 1%. So if you can, put your gas and grocery purchases on the card first in order to get the most value out of the rewards.

Bank of America account holders come out ahead of non-account holders as they claim a 10% customer bonus every time they redeem their cash back rewards into their Bank of America checking or savings account. If you get this card, setting up an account will help earn you a few extra bucks every year, which adds up over time. As a special bonus, new cardholders will get $150 cash back after spending just $500 in the first 90 days.

Finally, if you plan on making a big purchase that you can’t pay off all at once, this card has a generous 0% introductory APR for the first year. This is like getting an interest-free loan, provided you pay off the balance in full before the intro period expires.

This card is less forgiving than other student credit cards when it comes to paying late. You’ll face a late fee of up to $38. The issuer says it could apply a variable penalty APR of up to 29.99% after one late payment. That penalty APR would apply indefinitely.

If you’ve been late in making payments in the past or you think this might be a problem for you, steer clear of this credit card.

Who should get this card

Students who want to establish credit while earning rewards will likely find a lot of value in this card. There’s no annual fee, so it’s budget-friendly.

If you’re a student and a Bank of America account holder, then you have an extra reason to get this card: you’ll get that extra 10% bump in cash back every time you redeem your rewards into your Bank of America account.

Advantages
  • You don't have to have excellent credit to qualify.
  • There’s no annual fee.
  • The cash back rewards are competitive.
  • You'll earn a $150 cash back bonus after spending $500 within the first 90 days.
Disadvantages
  • After the introductory period, the APR is on the higher end of the spectrum.
  • There's a maximum amount of top-tier cash back rewards you can earn.
  • You must be a Bank of America customer to claim the 10% cash back bonus upon redemption.
  • Fees and penalties can be bruising if you pay late.

Fees and APR

  • Enjoy an introductory 0% APR for the first 12 billing cycles; after that, your APR will be between 13.99% and 23.99%, based on your creditworthiness.
  • Pay no annual fee.
  • There is a late payment penalty APR that can be up to 29.99%, based on your creditworthiness.
  • If you transfer a balance, you’ll have to pay either $10 or 3% of the amount of each transaction, whichever is greater.
  • Cardholders who make purchases outside of the U.S. will pay a foreign transaction fee of 3%.

Extras, perks and using points

New customers are eligible for an online $150 cash rewards bonus after making at least $500 in purchases in the first 90 days of opening the account.

You’ll snag a 10% customer bonus every time you redeem your cash back into a Bank of America checking or savings account.

Cash-back rewards can be redeemed at any time in any amount as either a statement credit, deposited to your Bank of America bank account, or used to buy gift cards through Bank of America’s online shopping portal.

How this card compares

Discover it® for Students
Card Details
  • Get a dollar-for-dollar match of all the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically.
  • Earn 5% cash back at Amazon.com and Target now through December 2017, on up to $1,500 in purchases when you activate. Plus, 1% cash back on all other purchases.
  • Good Grades Rewards: $20 cash back each school year your GPA is 3.0 or higher for up to the next 5 years.
  • No annual fee. No late fee on first late payment. No APR change for paying late.
  • Get 100% U.S. based customer service & get your free Credit Scorecard with your FICO® Credit Score, number of recent inquiries and more.
  • Freeze It®on/off switch for your account that prevents new purchases, cash advances & balance transfers in seconds.
  • New! Receive Free Social Security number alerts-Discover will monitor thousands of risky websites when you sign up.
  • 0% intro APR on purchases for 6 months, then the standard variable purchase APR of 13.99% -22.99%.
Credit Needed Fair
Regular APR 13.99% - 22.99% Variable
Annual Fee $0
Purchase Intro APR 0% for 6 months
Balance Transfers Intro APR 10.99% for 6 months

Discover it for Students is a card designed for young adults, but one that has had its training wheels removed. Unlike many student cards, this one comes with few fees, a low annual percentage rate for qualified cardholders and generous rewards. This is one of the very best credit cards for college students.

Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One®
Card Details
  • Earn 1% cash back on all your purchases. Pay on time to boost your cash back to a total of 1.25% for that month
  • There's no limit to the amount of cash back you can earn, and rewards won't expire for the life of the account
  • Get access to a higher credit line after making your first 5 monthly payments on time
  • Pay no annual or foreign transaction fees
  • Fraud coverage if your card is lost or stolen
  • Pick the monthly due date that works best for you
Credit Needed Fair
Regular APR 24.99% (Variable)
Annual Fee $0
Purchase Intro APR N/A
Balance Transfers Intro APR N/A

Journey Student Rewards from Capital One is a decent credit card for those just starting to build credit. It offers a flat rewards rate that we tend to value above rotating categories, but you’ll probably earn less with this card than with other student credit cards that offer rewards.

Citi ThankYou® Preferred Card for College Students
Card Details
  • Earn 2,500 bonus points after spending $500 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening*
  • 2,500 ThankYou® Points are redeemable for $25 in gift cards, electronics and other great rewards when redeemed at thankyou.com
  • Earn 2X Points on Dining Out & Entertainment
  • Earn 1X Points on All Other Purchases
  • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
  • Travel with ease and enjoy global acceptance with Chip Technology
  • No annual fee*
Credit Needed Good
Regular APR 15.49% - 25.49%* (Variable)
Annual Fee $0*
Purchase Intro APR 0%* for 7 months on Purchases*
Balance Transfers Intro APR N/A

Citi ThankYou Preferred for College Students is a terrific credit card for students who don’t carry a balance and pay on time every time. It offers some top-notch rewards without the quarterly caps we see on many of the other reward cards for students.

But if you’re new to credit and you carry a balance or make a mistake by paying late — even once — this credit card can prove punishing.

EDITORIAL NOTE

Opinions expressed here are author's alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines, or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.