College students who are looking for opportunities to build their credit history while earning rewards for their purchases often turn to credit cards specifically targeting students. In exchange for jump-starting a positive credit history, these cards offer rewards for purchases that busy, on-the-go students typically make.
In many instances, such cards result in a positive experience. However, as with any rewards credit card, it is important to make sure you pay your balance in full each month in order to keep finances sound and also to maximize the earning potential of the rewards. This is the case with the Citi® Dividend® Card for College Students.
- Fees. There is no annual fee for the card. Balance transfers are $5 or 4%, whichever is greater, and there is a foreign transaction fee of 3%.
- APR. There is a 0% introductory APR on purchases for seven months from the date the account is opened. The balance transfer APR is the same as the purchase APR after the introductory period ends: 13.99%, 18.99%, or 23.99%, based on creditworthiness and variations in the prime rate. Approval for this card generally requires a credit score above 700. There is a penalty APR of up to 29.99% that may be applied if a payment is late or returned.
- Cash Back. You are able to earn cash back in the form of Dividend Dollars in the amount of 5% on purchases made in quarterly categories. For example, purchases made at Macy’s, drug stores, and fitness clubs earn 5%, and purchases made on everything else earn 1%. You do need to sign up and activate the 5% categories every quarter, however. You are also able to earn 1% on cash advances, and five Dividend Dollars for each balance transfer of $1,500 or more.
- Redeeming Cash Back. The Citi Dividend card for college students awards purchases with cash back at a maximum of 300 Dividend Dollars per year. Dividend Dollars can be redeemed for checks in $50 increments and do not expire as long as you make a qualifying purchase with the card every 12 months. There is no cap on Dividend Dollars earned through the Citi Bonus Cash Center, and these are not included in your $300 yearly maximum.
- Shop Citi Bonus Cash Center. There are opportunities to earn more cash back if you choose to shop online with the Citi Bonus Cash Center, Citibank’s online portal that includes more than 400 online retailers. When you shop with the Citi Bonus Cash Center, you are able to earn an average of 5% cash back even on gift card purchases. Also, you can take advantage of various exclusive deals and discounts. The cash back earned on these purchases is not included in the $300 yearly cap, thus allowing you to earn unlimited cash back through the Citi Bonus Cash Center.
- Citi Shops the Best Price. The Citi Dividend card for college students also provides Citi Price Rewind, which is a tool that searches out and tracks online prices for purchases that you have made with your card for 30 days. All you have to do is register your purchase – if a lower price is found (by at least $25), you receive the price difference back. The limit on this refund is $250 per item and $1,000 per calendar year.
- No Annual Fee. Few consumers have the time to make sure their rewards are covering annual fees, and college students are no different. The Citi Dividend card does not charge an annual membership fee to carry the credit card.
- Introductory APR. While it may seem to be just an incentive to spend, the 0% APR on purchases for seven months could come in handy for students who have to make a big purchase for school. It allows seven months to pay off the purchase before interest is charged, which could help you save quite a bit of money (as long as you pay it off during that period). In comparison, the Journey Student Rewards card by Capital One does not offer an introductory APR at all, and Discover it for Students offers 0% for six months.
- Foreign Transaction Fees. Many student credit cards charge a foreign transaction fee of 1% to 3%, with the Citi Dividend charging the highest. If you’re spending a semester abroad, you may want to consider a card such as the Discover it for Students or the Journey Student Rewards card by Capital One, both of which are credit cards with no foreign transaction fee.
- Limitations on Cash Back. You do have the opportunity to earn an unlimited amount of Dividend Dollars if you shop through the Citi Bonus Cash Center, but there is a $300 yearly cap on earning from all other purchases. The Discover it for Students allows 5% cash back on $1,500 of purchases each quarter, and the 1% earned on all other purchases is unlimited.
- High Credit Score Required. For the most part, the credit score required for this card is in the mid-700s, which would be considered in the “excellent” range. For college students, this could be a problem, especially when most students don’t have any credit and are attempting to build a credit history. Additionally, if a lower credit score is approved, the APR is likely to be in the higher range of 18.99% to 23.99%, making it even more important that you do not carry a balance. If you have a lower credit score, the Capital One Journey Student Rewards card requires an “average” credit score, which is generally considered to be between 620 and 679.
The Citi Dividend card for college students is a suitable student card if you want to start out with a very basic cash back card and do not plan to use it outside of the U.S. However, if your credit score is already high enough to qualify for the card, you may be able to earn more rewards with fewer limitations on a credit card that is not specifically targeting college students. There isn’t any rule that as a student you have to carry only student credit cards. Depending on your spending habits, you may be better off with a card such as the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express, which also has no annual fee. In fact, the Citi® Dividend Platinum Select® Visa® is almost the same card except that it is not designated for students, may have a lower APR, and provides a $100 cash sign-up bonus.
The Citi® Dividend® Card for College Students is a very basic cash back card that works well for students who are just starting out with rewards cards and would like to build a positive credit history.
3.7 out of 5 stars: There are better rewards credit cards available for students or consumers who already have “good” and “excellent” credit ratings.