These days, with a sluggish economy and rising prices of, well, everything, everyone could use a little extra cash. But add the cost of tuition, books and beer into an already meager budget, and college students can use a lot more money. Put some cash back in your pocket by finding the best rewards credit cards for students.
Whether you need your first credit card or are swiping one already, using a card with a strong rewards program means the difference between a night out and another night of ramen.
Picking the right card will maximize rewards and minimize costs. The list below outlines how to select the best rewards credit card:
1. REWARDS PROGRAMS + CASH BACK: MAXIMIZE RETURNS WITH YOUR SPENDING HABITS
Would you rather redeem your spending points for gift cards and merchandise, or get that money credited back to your account? Some programs offer options for both, so do the math and figure out how you’d benefit the most from the kinds of purchases you make. FindTheBest’s database of student rewards credit cards conveniently breaks down the cash and rewards points for different categories of purchases, so figure out which cards earn you the most rewards on what you buy most.
2. APR AND FEES: MINIMIZE INTEREST RATES AND CARD COSTS
Not so fast, big spender. A credit card is NOT free money – you’ll have to pay back what you owe, plus interest if you keep a balance from month to month. And, interest rates can be steep. According to FindTheBest, the Annual Percentage Rate, or APR, of student credit cards can range from 12% to a whopping 22%. That means that $1,000 laptop can cost you $1,220 if you don’t pay it off in time…
Read the fine print before signing up. Credit card companies can hit you with all sorts of fees and penalties. So, if you know you won’t be paying off your full balance every month, make sure to use a card with as low of an APR as possible, especially after any introductory period of lower ‘teaser’ rates.
3. NETWORK AND BANK: COMPARE ACCESSIBILITY, CONVENIENCE AND PERKS
Visa, MasterCard, AmEx or Discover? Make sure the places you frequent accept the card you carry. However, what some networks lack in overall acceptance they may make up in service or added perks.
Plan to study or travel abroad? Check out how commonly your card is accepted around the world.
If you’re a bank customer, selecting a credit card by the same bank could make transactions such as bill payment or transfers easier.
4. HEAD TO HEAD: COMPARE CREDIT CARDS SIDE-BY-SIDE
Look at credit cards in practice. For example, the Capital One Journey Student Rewards card, Citi Dividend Platinum Select Visa Card for College Students and the Discover Student More Card are three popular student rewards cards.
Compare credit cards side by side. The Citi and Discover cards boast up to 5% cash back, but Citi’s rate drops to 1% after the first six months. On the other hand, the Capital One card earns you extra cash when you pay your bill on time (which you always should). The Discover card offers higher cash back bonuses in more purchase categories than Capital One, though it may not be as widely accepted.
5. PRACTICE DISCIPLINE: PAY YOUR BILLS
Regardless of the card you choose, the key is to use it responsibly. Build a good credit score now – a strong credit history and low debt will save you a lot of money (and stress) in the future if you ever need a loan for a new house, car, etc. Already carrying credit card debt? Pay it off quickly, and don’t spend more than you can afford. While a rewards card can earn you some short-term perks, the long-term possibility of credit card debt on top of student loans may keep ramen on your dinner menu for longer.