Choosing a credit card for a college student is tricky business.
You need to find a card that gives them what they need financially without opening the door to future credit card debt.
Students will have enough debt with their loans. They don't need credit cards stacked on top.
That said, a card used for everyday expenses that also yields rewards is akin to the Holy Grail.
It rewards students for spending money on the right things.
The question ultimately becomes, is it better to get a card that teaches someone to use credit responsibly or to use a card that provides rewards?
In our look at the Citi ThankYou for Students and the Journey Student Rewards card from Capital One, we aim to answer that question.
One card yields points, one yields cash back. Which of the two is better? You decide—but we'll give our opinion.
Journey Student Rewards from Capital One
The Journey Student Rewards card has a lot going for it.
Not only does it have a high customer rating, but the rewards are pretty great.
Take a look:
- 1% cash back on all purchases, and if that month's payment is made on time that 1% becomes 1.25%.
- Earn an increased credit line if the first five payments are made on time.
- No foreign transaction fees.
- No annual fee.
- Access to Capital One's CreditWise credit monitor.
While it isn't a high-yield card, the Journey Student Rewards card helps teach good credit card practices by rewarding students with higher rewards for that month if they pay on time.
It also allows them to monitor their credit score.
Since students start out with next to no credit, it can be rewarding for them to see their credit score rise throughout the year.
Citi ThankYou for Students
Citi's student card yields points rather than cash back, and arguably has more realistic reward categories.
Check it out:
- 2x points on dining out and entertainment.
- 1x points for all other purchases.
- Spend $500 within the first three months of opening the account and earn a 2,500 point bonus.
- 0% purchase APR for seven months.
- Points never expire.
- No annual fee.
The Citi ThankYou isn't as much a training tool for credit usage as it is aimed at the things college students are going to spend the most money on: eating out and entertainment.
Think back to when you were that age; how many nights were spent in with Chinese takeout and a rented movie?
The ThankYou points can be redeemed for gift cards and other rewards from the ThankYou Rewards collection.
Interest Rates and Fees
One of the cruelest realities of owning a credit card is the presence of fees.
When you give a student a piece of plastic that equates to money, students get excited—until they learn it costs them.
Journey Student Rewards Rates and Fees
The Journey Student Rewards card has easy-to-understand rates.
They're set, so while that is a downside, you know roughly what to expect each month.
- The purchase APR is 24.99% but may vary with the Prime Rate.
- The cash advance APR is 24.99% but may vary with the Prime Rate.
- Cash advance fees are $10 or 3% of the amount of the advance, whichever is greater.
- Late payment fees can be as high as $35.
You may notice there are no balance transfer rates listed here, and that's because the Journey Student Rewards doesn't allow balance transfers.
It does, however, lack an annual fee or foreign transaction fees, making it perfect for the student that wants to study abroad but still have access to a credit card.
Citi ThankYou for Students Rates and Fees
Citi's rates are a bit more complex than Capital One's rates.
- The purchase APR is 0% for 7 months, after which it increases to anywhere from 15.49% to 25.49% based on your credit rating. These rates can also vary with the Prime Rate.
- Balance transfer APR ranges from 15.49% to 25.49% based on the Prime Rate and your credit rating.
- The cash advance APR is 26.24%, but may vary with the Prime Rate.
- The penalty APR is 29.99% and can apply indefinitely.
- Balance transfer fees are $5 or 4% of the amount transferred, whichever is greater.
- Cash advance fees are $10 or 5% of the amount, whichever is greater.
- Foreign transaction fees are 3% of each purchase in US dollars.
- Late and returned payment fees can both reach $35, and both may be applied in certain circumstances.
The ThankYou's rates and fees are far less forgiving than those of Capital One's Journey Student Rewards card.
This is due in part to the rewards scheme; because the ThankYou offers better reward rates, the card is more difficult to obtain and use.
In addition to the rewards offered by each card, cardholders also receive issuer-specific benefits.
Capital One Journey Student Rewards Perks
The Journey Student Rewards card comes with numerous account management tools to help you make the most of your card, including alerts, a due date you get to pick, autopay, 24/7 customer service, and more.
You'll also be able to access your balance from the Mobile App and monitor your spending through the Capital One Wallet.
If something happens and you lose your card while you're out for the evening, you're covered by Capital One's 0$ Fraud Liability program.
Any charges made on a lost or stolen card are not your responsibility.
You'll receive alerts if any suspicious activity is detected from your card.
Capital One's travel perks are great, too. You won't pay any foreign transaction fees, and you'll get automatic travel accident insurance if you use your credit card to pay your entire fare.
You'll also have access to 24-hour travel assistance services if your card is lost or stolen, automatic rental vehicle coverage if you pay for the rental with your card, and extended warranties on eligible items.
Citi ThankYou Preferred for Students Perks
With Citi, you'll have access to their Price Rewind program.
If you find an item you've purchased within the last 60 days at a lower price, you may qualify for a refund up to the difference between what you paid and the price you've found.
This can be particularly useful if you purchase something shortly before it goes on sale and the vendor won't refund the difference.
You'll also have access to Citi Private Pass, a program that provides the ability to purchase tickets to thousands of events annually and sometimes lets you get tickets ahead of everyone else.
Citi provides travel protection in the form of EMV chip technology which is used worldwide, as well as worldwide travel accident insurance.
This insurance provides financial coverage if you get sick or injured while traveling abroad.
You also have access to Citi Concierge, a program that connects you with specially-trained experts to help you find the best dining, shopping, and entertainment options no matter where you are.
You'll be able to choose your own payment due date, manage your account online, and are not responsible for any unauthorized charges.
Citi also provides extended manufacturer's warranties on purchases made with the card.
Qualification and Eligibility
While it may seem like you have to be a student to qualify for one of these cards, this is not always the case.
You do not, however, need to have a checking or savings account with either company in order to qualify for a card.
Here are the qualification requirements for each:
Journey Student Rewards Qualification Requirements
Here is the main thing to know about this card: you do not have to be a student to qualify.
The Journey Student Rewards card is available to both students and non-students alike as long as they have an average credit score.
This makes it easily accessible to large portions of the population, and if you've had credit problems in the past this is a great card to get started rebuilding your credit rating.
However, there are further requirements:
- You must be 18 years of age or older.
- You must live in the 50 US states, Washington D.C., or a US military location.
- Your monthly income must exceed your mortgage or rent by $425.
- You cannot have two or more open Capital One credit accounts.
- You cannot have a past due amount owed to Capital One.
While there are other requirements, these are the main ones to keep in mind.
Citi ThankYou Preferred for Students Qualification Requirements
The Citi ThankYou Preferred for Students does require that you be a college or graduate student in order to qualify.
You must also be 18 years of age or older and have a valid social security number.
Citi's other requirements are not explicitly listed, but your income and existing debt will have bearing on whether you qualify or not.
You need to have a Good credit score or higher to qualify.
Choosing a Card
Both the Journey Student Rewards Card from Capital One and the Citi ThankYou Preferred for Students are good options, but the one you choose ultimately boils down to your personal preference.
The Journey is great for training someone to use a card correctly, but the rewards leave something to be desired—the amount of cash back a person earns from 1.25% is negligible.
On the other hand, the Citi ThankYou Preferred has better rewards but far more rates and fees to consider, as well as a brutal penalty APR.
It does introduce cardholders to rewards programs and sign-up bonuses, so the tradeoff may be worth it.
Consider whether you (or the student you have in mind) is responsible with card usage.
If so, the Citi ThankYou for Students may be the best option.
It has better rewards by far.
On the other hand, the Journey Student Rewards card is good for someone who might lack the impulse control necessary, and it also lacks foreign transaction fees if you plan to study abroad at some point.
Check out what other customers have to say about these two cards.
Journey Student Rewards from Capital One
"This is a great card. I was trying to rebuild my credit and applied for this card with a low credit score.
"I was approved at first for only $300.00 but hey it was a start. After making a few purchases and making I believe 5 on time payments they increased my limit.
"Using the app to pay my bill is super easy and makes paying on time a breeze."
-- Kerrys25 (Capital One)
Citi ThankYou Preferred for Students
"I applied as a college student with a low income but good credit score and was approved for $900.
"Customer service has been a live person every time that I have called which I like when trying to get something done. My experience has been good so far..."
-- Anonymous (Credit Karma)
Both of these cards are solid options for the right person, but neither one really comes out over the other.
While the rewards offered by the Citi ThankYou are excellent, the rates and fees raise red flags.
The rewards provided by the Journey Student Rewards cards are mediocre at best, but the card itself is forgiving and a great tool for learning to use a credit card correctly.
Take a look at both cards, their rates and fees, rewards, and the perks that come with being a cardholder.
You know you financial tendencies better than anyone else, so take those into consideration before you decide which card to go with.