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The Citi ThankYou® Preferred Card for College Students is a student credit card with no annual fee, a nice sign-up bonus (compared with other student credit cards), and a fairly generous rewards program that mirrors the “grown-up” Citi ThankYou Preferred Card. Like ThankYou Preferred, ThankYou Preferred for College Students’ reward currency is the ThankYou point, which can be redeemed for almost anything, including cash, at the Citi ThankYou portal. Points are generally worth $0.005 to $0.01 apiece at redemption, depending on how they’re used.
The Citi ThankYou Preferred Card for College Students competes with a number of other popular student cards, including Discover it for Students, Discover it Chrome for Students, Capital One Journey Student Rewards, and the Upromise MasterCard.
- Sign-up Bonus: When you spend at least $500 within 3 months of opening your account, you earn 2,500 bonus ThankYou points. That’s worth up to $25 when redeemed for gift cards.
- Earning ThankYou Rewards: This earns an unlimited 2 points per $1 spent on dining and entertainment. All other purchases earn an unlimited 1 point per $1 spent. Citi defines dining merchants as restaurants, bars, and other establishments that prepare food and drink for onsite consumption. Entertainment merchants include sports promoters and venues, concert halls, live theater promoters and venues, movie theaters, video rental stores, record stores, amusement parks, museums, and tourist attractions.
- Redeeming ThankYou Rewards: ThankYou points are redeemable for anything offered at Citi’s ThankYou portal. Redemption options include general merchandise, travel and transportation (with no blackout dates), cash, gift cards, and more. Gift card redemptions generally offer the best value for your points – they require 1 point per $0.01 in gift card face value, and the redemption minimum starts at 2,500 points ($25 value). General merchandise redemptions typically value ThankYou points between $0.005 and $0.01 and have variable minimums. Cash redemptions value ThankYou points at $0.005 apiece and require 10,000 ThankYou points ($50 value). You can also use your ThankYou points to pay for purchases made directly with select online merchants, including Amazon, Live Nation, and Expedia (hotels only).
- Introductory APR: This card has a 7-month 0% purchase APR promotion.
- Regular APR: After the promotional period ends, the purchase APR ranges from 14.24% to 24.24%, depending on your personal creditworthiness and prevailing interest rates. The balance transfer APR is the same from day one. The cash advance APR is 25.49%, and the penalty APR is 29.99%.
- Important Fees: There is no annual fee. The foreign transaction fee is 3% of the total transaction amount, while the balance transfer fee is the greater of $5 or 4% of the transferred amount. The cash advance fee is the greater of $10 or 5% of the transferred amount, and late and returned payments cost $35 each.
- Citi Private Pass: Citi Private Pass is a versatile perks program that provides pre-sales, special offers, discounts, and other forms of preferred access to musical performances, experiences (such as golf outings), and special events (such as celebrity chef dinners).
- Additional Benefits: This card’s other benefits include damage and theft protection for 120 days after purchase, up to $1,000 per item; complimentary extended warranties on items with original warranties of five years or less; and up to $1,500 per year in trip cancellation insurance.
- Credit Required: This card requires good credit. A few minor blemishes on your credit report aren’t likely to disqualify you from this card, but major issues could be problematic.
- No Annual Fee. This card doesn’t carry an annual fee. That’s great news for budget-conscious college students who don’t want to pay for the privilege of building their credit.
- Has a Sign-up Bonus. The Citi ThankYou Preferred Card for College Students has a sign-up bonus worth up to $25 when redeemed for gift cards. While that doesn’t sound like a lot, it’s better than student cards that lack sign-up bonuses altogether, including the Journey Student Credit Card from Capital One.
- Solid Intro Purchase APR Promotion. This card has a 7-month 0% purchase APR promotion, which is great for students who need to spend big on textbooks, dorm furniture, clothing, and other items at the start of the semester. Journey Student Credit Card and the Upromise MasterCard both lack intro purchase APR promotions.
- Solid Rewards Program for a Student Card. The Citi ThankYou Preferred Card for College Students earns ThankYou points at the same rate as the grown-up ThankYou Preferred Card, and offers the same super-versatile redemption options. Compared with other popular student credit cards, it’s generous – for instance, the Journey Student Credit Card earns a flat 1% cash back on all purchases, with no 2x categories, and Discover it Chrome for Students caps its 2x categories at $1,000 in quarterly spending.
- Limited Credit Education & Support. The Citi ThankYou Preferred Card for College Students doesn’t have much in the way of credit-related educational content for cardholders, nor does it provide regular FICO credit score updates. Since many college students have limited experience with credit cards, and many are actively in the process of building their personal credit, these amount to significant drawbacks. Capital One Journey, Discover it for Students, and Discover it Chrome for Students all provide personal credit scores at regular intervals. Journey has a substantial amount of credit-related content as well.
- No Intro Balance Transfer APR Promotion. This card doesn’t have an introductory balance transfer promotion. That’s a bummer for students who have existing credit card debt loads. If you’re looking to transfer high-interest balances from another student card, consider the Discover it student cards, which have 6-month balance transfer promotions at 10.99% APR.
- Has a Foreign Transaction Fee. The Citi ThankYou Preferred Card for College Students imposes a 3% fee on all foreign transactions. This is a downfall for those who study abroad or take spring break trips to other countries. Discover it for Students and Discover it Chrome for Students both waive foreign transaction fees.
- Has a Penalty APR. This card comes with a penalty APR of 29.99%, applicable indefinitely once you miss a payment due date. This is a big drawback for students who occasionally miss payments and can significantly add to the cost of card ownership during a time of life when most people have very little budgetary wiggle room. The Discover student cards both forgo penalty interest.
- Not for Students with Poor or Fair Credit. To qualify for this card, you must have good credit. Though Citi doesn’t require excellent credit (unlike for the flagship ThankYou Preferred card), good credit is actually a higher standard than most student credit cards – for instance, the Journey Student Credit Card only requires average credit.
Though student credit cards aren’t always marketed as tools for establishing a credit history and building good credit, many college students use them to do just that. But it’s important to remember that not all student credit cards are ideal for building credit. There tends to be an inverse relationship between favorable student credit card terms, including generous rewards programs, and suitability for students with poor or spotty credit. The more generous the card, the more strict its credit requirements are likely to be.
Unfortunately for students who lack solid credit (or much of a credit history at all), the Citi ThankYou® Preferred Card for College Students is a fairly generous student card that’s not suitable for credit newbies. If you’ve never had a credit card before, set your sights on a starter card, use it responsibly, and pay off your balances on time. Then, when your credit score has improved, try applying for a Citi rewards card.