Citi ThankYou Preferred Card for College Students

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A great rewards card -- if you pay your bill in full every month.

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We’re tempted to grade the Citi ThankYou Preferred for College Students card twice: Once as a rewards credit card for college students, and once as a student card for those new to credit.

This 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.

Ultimately, that’s why we couldn’t offer a higher grade here.

Review

The no-fee card aims to reward college students for having fun. It pays 2 points per $1 spent on dining at restaurants and on entertainment purchases. All other spending earns 1 point per $1.

Unlike most other student cards, you can also earn a sign-up bonus. This one is relatively easy to grab. You’ll earn 2,500 points – worth $25 – if you spend $500 within the first three months of account opening.

And there’s also a nice 7 month 0% APR offer on purchases, which could come in handy for start-of-the-semester expenses. After that, the variable APR will be 15.49% to 25.49% based on your creditworthiness.

Keep in mind you won’t qualify for this card without some kind of income. And if studying or traveling abroad is in your near future, this is not the card to use as it comes with a 3% foreign transaction fee.

Who should get this card

Students who have a part-time job, a full-time job or some other source of income besides the bank of Mom and Dad could do well with the Citi ThankYou Preferred for College Students card. Its unlimited rewards on dining and entertainment may be attractive to young adults.

Advantages
  • You'll pay no annual fee with this card.
  • The entertainment category is broad and includes things like concerts, tourist attractions, video game stores and sporting events.
  • It has a sign-up bonus, which most other student credit cards do not.
Disadvantages
  • If you just want straight cash-back you may be better off with a different card.
  • The rewards take on the most value when you redeem them for gift cards or travel on Citi’s ThankYou site.
  • You have to show a source of income to qualify for the card.
  • You may be hit with a penalty APR of 29.99% after one late payment. It could apply indefinitely.

Fees and APR

  • Enjoy a 0% APR introductory on purchases for 7 months after account opening.
  • Regular APR is a variable 15.49% to 25.49%, which is high.
  • You’ll pay no annual fee.
  • A 3% foreign transaction fee will be added to all purchases made outside the U.S.

Extras, perks and using points

The card comes with several Citi perks including extended warranty protection, which can extend an original manufacturer’s warranty for an additional year; price protection, which can refund you the difference in price if an eligible item you purchased is found for less within 60 days; and some coverage protections against damage or theft, up to $1,000 per item and up to a maximum of $50,000 a year.

The card also comes with Citi Private Pass, which lets you buy tickets to events even if they’re sold out to the general public (and might make you the most popular person on campus.)

To use ThankYou Points, log into Citi’s rewards site at thankyou.com and choose what you’d like to redeem your points for.

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

The 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.

Discover it® chrome 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.
  • 2% cash back at restaurants and gas stations on up to $1,000 in combined purchases every quarter—no sign-ups needed. 1% cash back on all your 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

The Discover it Chrome for Students has the same rates and perks as the Discover it for Students but instead of rotating bonus categories, it pays 2% back on gas and restaurants, up to $1,000 per quarter, and an unlimited 1% on everything else. Although this might make it attractive to some, the rewards potential is greater with the Discover it for Students card.

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

The Journey Student Rewards from Capital One card is decent for those just starting to build up their credit score or anyone with average credit who may not qualify for other cards. But there are other cards aimed at those with less-than-stellar credit that offer better cash back rewards and you’re likely to get a better rate on the APR too.

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.