Student Credit Card Review

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Why a Student Credit Card?

You could survive school without a credit card if you had enough money, discipline and good luck. Of course there is the danger that you might become addicted to credit and slide into debt slavery before you graduate and land your first career opportunity. But compare that danger with not having a method to smooth your student income spikes. Or consider the danger in carrying cash instead of a credit card. Furthermore, a credit card could get your broken vehicle operational again or smooth your progress through a medical emergency. If you can use a student credit card in the way that it was intended, you will be safer with a card than without. Some say that a student credit card is important to have because it will help you to establish credit. If you decide to get a credit card, even if you have no credit, use it wisely and sparingly. College student credit cards aren’t all the same, which is why we invite you to read articles about student credit cards, especially our reviews of the Discover it® for StudentsWells Fargo Cash Back College Card and the Citi® Dividend® Card for College Students.

Student Credit Cards: What to Look For

Never forget that any cash back or reward system is secondary to a card’s annual percentage rate (APR). Many student credit card providers condescend to market to students as if you will be so swayed by rewards and redemptions that you will ignore interest rates. But keep your eye on the prize, which is the lowest annual percentage rate. Features and rewards shouldn’t be the deciding factor. Here are the main factors we considered when ranking the best cards.

Annual Percentage Rate
Some student credit card providers will not charge any interest for the first few months. After an introductory period the APR varies according to your credit history. The APR spread among the student credit cards that we reviewed goes from 11.15 to 21.99 percent for students with excellent credit. Is this not an astonishing spread? It is a good thing that you are researching the right credit card for college students. This is a test that will cost you if you fail.

Rewards
As long as you are not being enticed into borrowing more money than necessary, rewards in the form of cash or redeemable points are wonderful. And if you pay off your credit card within the monthly grace period, then you are actually better off than if you made your purchases with cash. Some cards give you cash back on each purchase. Usually it is 1 percent. But sometimes it is 2 percent or even 5 percent if you are able to follow all of the fine print about when and where and under what circumstances the rewards accrue. One card provider gives a 5-percent cash back bonus (limited to $1,500 in purchases) on a strict rotation: If you use the card for gas in the winter you get the bonus but the bonus doesn’t apply in the summer.

Redemptions
You can usually choose whether the cash is deposited into your bank account or credited to your card account. There are also options to donate rewards to charity. The more complicated rewards are in the form of points that you then redeem at certain sites that your card provider partners with. Sometimes the reward is that you can purchase a gift card for 90 percent of the face value. Other times you will select items from a catalog according to the points you’ve collected. Some vendors force you into a situation where you must call and discover what the points are worth on any particular day because the values fluctuate.

Features
After you have considered the most important feature of a credit card for students, APR, then it is time to consider other features such as travel assistance, extended warranty protection, travel and rental auto insurance and protection from fraud liability.

Fees
All of the student credit cards that we reviewed charge a late payment fee of up to $35. Some of them will raise your APR if you fail to meet payment deadlines. If you plan to spend the summer in an art institute in Florence or at a Shakespeare workshop in London, find out whether the student credit card that you are considering charges extra for purchases made abroad. Most, but not all, charge 3 percent for the privilege of buying something outside of the United States.

There is a wide spread in available interest rates and terms. There are radically different ways that student credit cards reward use and provide redemption. You will avoid potential grief by considering the research that we provide in our reviews before you choose the right student credit card for you.

At TopTenREVIEWS We Do the Research So You Don't Have To.™

Disclaimer: This content is not provided or commissioned by American Express. Opinions expressed here are author's alone, not those of American Express, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by American Express. This site may be compensated through American Express Affiliate Program.

 
 
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Rank #1#2#3#4#5
10-9  Excellent
8-6    Good
5-4    Average
3-2    Poor
1-0    Bad
Discover it® for Students Wells Fargo Cash Back College Card Citi® Dividend® Card for College Students Discover it® for Students with $20 Cashback Bonus Journey℠ Student Rewards from Capital One®
Discover it® for Students Wells Fargo Cash Back College Card Citi® Dividend® Card for College Students Discover it® for Students with $20 Cashback Bonus Journey℠ Student Rewards from Capital One®
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Visit Discover it® for Students
Visit Wells Fargo Cash Back College Card
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Visit Discover it® for Students with $20 Cashback Bonus
Visit Journey℠ Student Rewards from Capital One®
Ratings
9.88
8.77
6.88
6.03
4.95
10
9
8
7
6
5
4
3
2
1
10.00
10.00
10.00
10.00
7.50
9.38
6.88
7.50
10.00
8.75
7.50
6.88
1.25
10.00
8.13
2.50
9.38
10.00
10.00
7.50
0.63
7.50
10.00
10.00
10.00
 
Cash Back
  Yearly (Estimates)
How much do you spend each month on the following?
Dining Out $
Groceries $
Gas $
Department Stores $
Electronic Stores $
Hotels $
Airlines $
Other Travel $
Movies $
Other $
#1
Regular Apr
#1
 
Annual Percentage Rate
Introductory period in months 6 6 7 N/A N/A
Introductory APR for purchases 0% 5.9-13.9% 0% N/A N/A
Lowest APR for purchases 12.99% Variable* 11.15% 13.99% 12.99% Variable* 19.8% (V)
Highest APR for purchases 21.99% Variable* 21.99% 23.99% 21.99% Variable* 19.8% (V)
Balance-transfer APR 12.99%-21.99% Variable* 11.15-21.99% 13.99% - 23.99%* (Variable) 12.99%-21.99% Variable* 19.8% (V)
Cash-advance APR 24.99% Variable* 23.99% 25.24% 24.99% Variable* 24.9% (V)
Grace period in days 25 25 23 25 25
Rewards
Discounts for online partner purchases
 
5% cash back
 
 
2% cash back      
1% cash back
Points      
Redemptions
Account credit
 
Direct deposit
 
 
No limit to rewards
 
Gift cards
  
Charity donation
  
Partner shopping credit
  
 
Check  
 
Airline travel
    
Student loan rebate      
Approval Requirements
18+ years of age
Enrolled student
Co-signer not necessary
Features
Protection from fraud liability
Travel assistance
Extended warranty protection
Travel accident insurance
Auto rental insurance
Fees
Late payment $35 $35 Up to $35 Up to $35 Up to $35
Balance transfer 3% 3% 4% with $5 minimum 3% $0
Cash advance $10 or 5% 5% 5% with $10 minimum $10 or 5% 3%
Purchase outside of U.S.A.   3% 3% $0