After discontinuing its Citi Forward Card for College students in March, 2014, Citi has a new offer – a student version of its ThankYou Preferred card. Like the regular preferred card, the student version has no annual fee.
For some student cards, the only reward is the ability to build your credit. But the Citi ThankYou Preferred for College Students kicks in some extra rewards as well. Our review will help you understand what the card offers – and help you compare it to other student credit card offers on the market.
While we don’t offer this card on our site currently we felt it was worth reviewing since it is the newest product in the student credit card market. Read below to see how it stacks up to the competition.
The rewards structure of this card is identical to that of the regular Citi ThankYou Preferred:
- 2 ThankYou points per dollar on dining and entertainment (“entertainment” encompasses purchases from sports promoters, theatrical promoters, movie theaters, amusement parks, tourist attractions, video rental stores and record stores, according to the card’s terms and conditions)
- 1 ThankYou point per dollar for other purchases
There’s currently a sign-up bonus of 2,500 ThankYou points for cardholders who spend $500 in the first three months of opening the card.
So what are these ThankYou points? They’re currency in Citi’s ThankYou rewards system. They can be redeemed for cash back (in the form of a check or statement credit), gift cards, travel, online shopping, experiences and merchandise. A new option is the “Select and Credit” option, which allows you to get refunds for past purchases in select categories.
As you can see, there are tons of options to redeem your points – but how much value you get for your points varies. If you opt for cash back, your points are worth only half a cent each – with other cash-back cards (including the Discover it and Capital One Venture), your points go twice as far (they’re worth 1 cent when redeemed for cash back). Your points go a bit further if you use the “Select and Credit” option – they’re worth 0.75 cents each when redeemed that way.
Other redemption options give you a better return. For example, your points may be worth 1 cent each if you redeem for gift cards with Citi’s partner retailers and for travel. When it comes to merchandise, redemption value varies. Redeeming for both a NINJA Mega Kitchen System blender and a Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 (8GB) gets you a redemption value of 0.8 cents per point – better than redeeming for cash.
This is a student credit card, so you must be a currently enrolled college or graduate student and over 18 years of age, according to the card’s terms and conditions. Depending on your creditworthiness and income, the credit line may be as low as $500.
The real question with student cards is whether you have to be earning a steady income to get one. The CARD Act of 2009 required issuers of student cards to make sure applicants under 21 earn enough on their own to pay back charges. The application is vague when it comes to income requirements, saying only that it will review your annual income. What the application does make clear is that, if you’re under 21, the income you declare on your application must be your own. Only those over 21 can include income from others that they can access:
Protections and extras
Even if your credit limit is woefully low, you’ll still get some benefits from this card:
- EMV chip
- Rental car insurance
- Travel protections (lost luggage, travel accident, trip cancellation/interruption, travel emergency assistance)
- Extended warranty coverage
- Citi Price Rewind
Such extras make this card a better deal than a debit card, which wouldn’t provide travel insurance or extended warranty protection.
How does it compare?
There are a few other student cards that offer rewards (and have no annual fee):
- Discover it for Students: This card offers 5 percent cash back in rotating quarterly categories and 1 percent back on everything else.
- Journey Student Rewards from Capital One: This card lets you earn 1 percent cash back on all your purchases. If you pay your bill on time, you get a 25 percent bonus. In other words, you’re getting 1.25 percent back – a rate that’s pretty competitive even for non-student cards. Check out our review for more information.
- Citi Dividend Platinum Select for College students: This card is similar to the Discover it for Students, as it offers 5 percent back in rotating categories and 1 percent on all other purchases.
- Upromise World MasterCard: The cash back you earn on this card goes into a Upromise college savings account. You’ll earn 1 percent on most of your purchases, but you can earn more by making eligible online purchases through Upromise.com – or by making purchases at participating restaurants, gas stations or movie theaters. Check out our review to learn more.
As you’ll notice, some other student cards offer more cash back (up to 5 percent). However, you’ll get that higher rate only if you shop in the right categories each quarter –or shop with participating merchants. Some of the categories aren’t exactly student friendly. For example, gasoline, home furnishing stores and fitness clubs (all 5 percent categories offered by either the Citi Dividend or Discover it student cards) may not be that fruitful for a student who doesn’t have a car, lives in a furnished dorm and uses the campus gym.
The no-longer-available Citi Forward card offered 5 percent in a variety of categories (including restaurants), so this new offer may look less enticing in comparison. Yet it’s still competitive, compared with other current student card offerings. It gives a steady 2 points per dollar on restaurant and entertainment purchases year round – that means you’re getting double points on two relatively easy-to-reach categories year round without having to keep track of rotating categories.
There are two important caveats, however.
- ThankYou points might not be the best fit for a student. Many students may find cash back most useful. It’s immediate and can be used toward pressing needs, whether they be books, pizza or caffeinated beverages. ThankYou points are a little less concrete. If you don’t have time to shop around the Citi ThankYou site for the best gift card and travel deals, you’re stuck redeeming cash for a less-than-stellar rate, as discussed above.
- If you’re a student without a co-signer, chances are your credit limit will be low. Unlike a globe-trotting executive who can route thousands of dollars in restaurant purchases through a card, you might be trapped within a $500 credit limit. Plus, if you have a campus meal plan or a tight budget, you might not even be spending regularly at restaurants – so there go those double points.
If you can maximize your ThankYou points and dine out frequently, though, this could be a good starter card to build your credit before you graduate to more lucrative rewards cards.