Best Credit Card For College Students – 5% Back At Restaurants and Amazon.com

I ran across this article Best credit cards for college kids on CNN Money. I found it interesting that 75% of all college students have a credit card, when I see so much media attention to how credit card companies target students. Seems like students now are seen more as big kids instead of young adults (again, note the title of the article). Soon they’ll need lessons on how to feed and bathe themselves…

The article then goes on to list some good characteristics of a college credit card, which really didn’t seem any different than what anyone should look for in a credit card… Low APR? Less fees? Calling Captain Obvious! CNN did suggest out the best credit card for those select “responsible” students – the Citi mtvU Platinum Select Visa Card, which was interesting.

The goal of every rewards card is to give you just enough good stuff to have you use it for everything, and this card is smart. What were my two top expenses as a college student besides rent? Eating out and textbooks. So guess what, the card gives you 5 ThankYou Points for every dollar you spend at restaurants, bookstores, record stores, movie theaters and video rental stores. These points can be converted to up to 5% back in gift cards or 5% back in cash towards your student loans. Some may see this as sneaky way to prey on college “kids”, but I see it as another loss leader to take advantage of.

In addition, one big “loophole” is that everything you buy from Amazon.com gets 5% back as well, as it is categorized as a bookstore! They can’t tell if you bought books there, or went for 8 bags of groceries and an iPod Touch instead.

The only problem is that if you aren’t a student, some people report that they ask for verification. Some have gotten transcript requests, many others slip by. I know some people out there have this card; please report your experiences! Students can also earn 250-2000 points per semester for maintaining a good GPA, and 25 points each month for not exceeding your credit limit and paying on time.

Comments

  1. I might have to get that card–I’m even a student, if not full time!

    The website doesn’t list the details of the rewards, how annoying.

  2. I may have to get this card, we have Premier Pass and Professional and we get tonz of gift cards throughout the year, if you don’t use your card for 3 to 4 months at all, you get special 3000 bonus point offers for using the card up to certain amount, last one I got was $750, so they gave me the points which = 25.00 gift card.

    How do credit card companies make money?? It seems they’re always paying us to use them.

    The professional card is the best, 3 thank you points for every 1 dollar spent at all restaurants, gas stations, certain office supplies. 10,000 thank you points for signing up. I have made at least 500 dollars in gift cards from this card alone.

    Premier Pass is good if you fly a lot, you get points for the things you buy and the miles you fly.. very cool!

  3. Paul Newbill says:

    The best credit card is no credit card. Don’t forget that. Pay cash!

  4. does anyone know what stores you could get gift cards for?

  5. It’s all through the ThankYou network from Citibank, so all of the equivalent rewards you can get there (http://www.thankyounetwork.com)

    It has been a very useful card for me as a student–I rack in quite a few points each month–the 5pts/dollar @ restaurants are quite useful.

  6. I applied as a graduate student. MTVu requested verification that included my semester tuition pay stub and a xeroxed copy of my student identification with the current semester sticker attached.

    The card offers the best rewards for restaurants and other student related purchases. The only downside is that the card is branded with the MTV logo. MTV isn’t exactly the apex of professionalism and sophistication. :)

  7. Thanks for putting this up. It made me check to see if my school was added to the list (it wasn’t in the past). Looks like they finally added an “Other” option so now hopefully I can get the card and not be worried about being hassled about my school being listed.

  8. It’s a really great card. I use it for dining and Amazon all the time.

    I got the card a year ago. I remember calling to check on the status of my application, and I was told they were in the process of verifying my student status with my university. I was enrolled in a continuing ed class at the time. I didn’t have to provide them with any additional information myself, but I think that policy has changed.

    If you’re not in school anymore, you can just enroll in some course at your local community college to qualify and then drop it after you’ve been approved.

    @Chris:
    You can check out what kind of rewards they offer at http://www.thankyounetwork.com. They offer gift cards for Target, Macy’s, Gap, BR, Amazon, Best Buy, etc, etc.

  9. This card is the best. Here’s why I think so:

    1) You can’t get anywhere near 5% on restaurants elsewhere. And this card has a broad definition of restaurants, including most sit-down restaurants, fast food places, and even Starbucks. I mean, you can’t get a coupon at Starbucks, much less 5% off. So, this is huge and adds up very quickly if you use it for all restaurant purchases.

    2) The Amazon=bookstore thing is HUGE. I mean, everything is usually cheaper on Amazon anyway… tacking on 5% cashback is just gravy.

    3) Thank You Points can be used to purchase flights/hotel stays on Expedia. Each point is valued at 1 cent, but when you’re getting 5% cashback, the points can add up very quickly. Plus, you still get FF miles on the flights you do purchase.

    So, if you have the right spending habits (eating out, buying stuff on Amazon), the points on this card can add up super-quickly. And if you like to travel, you can get good value for your Thank You Points too. I can’t think of a better card.

    Incidentally, they will ask you whether you’re a student of some kind. Obviously, you probably shouldn’t lie about your status, but many people (including me) never have their status verified. And I’ve never heard of anyone losing the card once they’ve stopped being a student. Take that for what it’s worth.

  10. I have this card…I got it back in March. I’m a grad student, and I was never ever asked for verification, other than my school email address. Maybe they’ve gotten stricter with their requirements since then? But I do LOVE this card! I use it all the time, especially at restaurants. The Amazon loophole is great. And the points really rack up.

    The only downside, like Raymond pointed out, is that the card isn’t the classiest looking card in my wallet. Bright blue with the mtv logo.

  11. Hmm… I may have to get this card. I’ve been using the Chase Freedom card, which is nice as it almost gets ~3% cash back…

  12. From the Terms and Conditions on the application:

    “Unless you are participating in a limited-time offer, you will earn five ThankYouSM Points for every dollar you spend on purchases at (1) book stores, (2) record stores, (3) restaurants, including fast food restaurants, (4) motion picture theaters, and (5) video entertainment rental stores (“qualifying merchants”). You will earn one ThankYou Point for every dollar you spend on all other purchases.
    ? Purchases not eligible to receive the five points include, but are not limited to, purchases made at warehouse clubs, discount stores, department stores and convenience stores. Online and catalog purchases are not eligible to receive five ThankYouSM Points unless the merchants appropriately identify the transactions.”

  13. all marketing! :)

    Let me explain:
    usually these have annual cap of x dollars ($300)

    so they might as well advertize “we give 50% cashback on airtickets” (upto a max of $300 year)

    other variations:
    75% cashback on all electronic purchases (upto $300 year)
    100% cashback on all groceries – FREE groceries!!! (upto $300 year)

    see the pattern? they essentially have earmarked $300 per card…. and they give it away in various avatars….

    pure genius :)

  14. I am debating whether to get this card. I am the type of person that doesn’t want too many credit cards. I like to keep it simple and stick to a few. Right now, I’m using my first started card from USbank. It’s not that great but I use it to build my credit. Are there any other recommendations for student credit cards? Also, is there anything else comparable to the fidelity investment rewards as far as cash back for everything?

    My major purchases are food, books, gas, and bills.

  15. In response to Ram’s comment, I believe the MTVu card is capped at either 75,000 or 100,000 points per year. Which is quite a generous cap, compared to most other cards (particularly for a card with just a high cashback %). You’re talking about $750-1000 in points, which is a tidy sum no matter how you slice it.

  16. This is an excellent card; I’ve been using it for a couple years. Unfortunately the gift card selection has gotten worse lately. They used to have Amazon.com and Target but they don’t anymore, so I have a bunch of points and I’m not sure what to spend them on.

  17. I applied for this card last month, and had an absolutely horrible time with the verification process. It cannot be contained here in the comments, but if you’re interested, I wrote a post about it today: http://poorerthanyou.com/2007/10/18/best-student-credit-card-is-application-hell/

  18. I’m a graduate student and I’ve had this card for about 6 months now. I use it as my primary credit card and so far it’s been a pretty good choice. The promotion that I had also included 0% APR for 6 months on purchases so that worked out great. The one bad thing has been getting points for a good GPA, which I have not been able to do so far due to confusion among the customer service reps.

    I think as long as you have other sources of Thank You points as well (I have the Citibank account – 800 points a month) it’s a pretty good deal. The best redemption option for Thank You points is through Expedia where you can get a airline ticket worth up to $400 for 20,000 points with no blackout dates. I’m almost there and I’m planning on using it for my winter break travel.

  19. The one caveat I have for a “points” card like this is…don’t forget that points are essentially a floating, unpegged currency that can be devalued or expired at any time, just like airline miles. People get all excited banking up these things over time, then when it’s time to redeem, funny how suddenly there’s no available seats on any flight even 6 months in advance to use your miles on, or they expire faster. Someone’s already noticed that certain popular vendors gift cards are suddenly unavailable. Realize gift cards also can hide a certain level of inflation — a retailer can just mark up prices by a few basis points to cover the cost of issuing the gift cards.

    I seem to recall that gold miners working in a company town were often issued salary in company scrip, good only at the company store. Funny how the prices in the store seemed to always match the amount of scrip, meaning that the miners were never able to get out of debt. From this lesson I am very wary of forms of currency that are restricted in their fungibility.

    My suggestion is to redeem early and redeem often. Part of the reason I prefer cash back is it’s harder for these guys to play games like that, even if they do have an annual limit. And watch out for the tendency to go out to eat *because* of the rebate, ie that it tempts you to consume more than you would if you were paying cash. *That*, in my opinion, is how these debt peddlers get even us budget-minded folks into trouble, even if we pay off every month — they still get their cut from the retailer, so if we spend more and more often, over time that will pay for our rebates.

  20. A credit card can be a great thing – even for students. If you have self-control.

    I have the credit card mentioned in the article above (mtvU), and it works out well. I pay my tuition for school on it, and I end up getting loads of Rewards Points. I’ve had the card for less than a year and I’ve already gotten a $50 gift card that I can use for groceries & other practical goods.

    A 4.0 GPA helps too – 2,000 reward points twice a year! Didn’t do so well during the fall or spring but still taking a summer class? You can opt to send your summer transcripts instead of spring or fall. Works well if you are taking just one class in the summer & will certainly earn an A.

    A $50 gift card translates to 6,000 rewards points. I’m trying to save up to 10,000 points because a $100 gift card translates to 10,000 points – better value!

    I agree with Heather somewhat – it is kinda wierd to hand a card over to shop owners & etc. that has a huge MTV logo on it. Sucks to be advertising for MTV.

    Definitely worth it overall!

  21. Andy, they still have Amazon and Target gift cards.

  22. I use this card strictly for the bonus categories and it’s easy to rack up the thank you points. I like the blue color but i left the activation sticker on to hide the mtv logo!

  23. William Reading says:

    Speaking of expiry and yearly caps, here are the terms about that in spam they recently sent me for this card:

    “We do not determine whether merchants appropriately identify all transactions you make on your Card Account, but we do reserve the right to determine which purchases are qualified for ThankYou Points. You can earn up to 75,000 ThankYou Points during any calendar year (eligible purchases appearing on your January – December billing statements). You may only earn ThankYou Points on your Card Account as long as it is open and current. ThankYou Points expire five years from the end of the calendar year in which they are earned unless Thankyou Network is terminated.”

  24. Your total revolving debt must be less than $10,000 to qualify for this card. A real pain since I have about $20K at 0% for life with Citi.

  25. Hi guys,
    I have this card, and one nice thing about it besides the rewards, is the fact that Citibank does not convert your card to a different card once you are done with college. They let you keep the card the way it is, which is turn locks in the 5% rewards for the bonus categories.

  26. I got this card almost a year ago and love it.

    5% back from Amazon? Awesome. That covers all my books (expensive…) and much of what else I buy.

    > if you have the right spending
    > habits (eating out, buying stuff on Amazon)

    If you are a college student, “eating out” can hardly be considered a right spending habit. :)

  27. When I signed up for this card a couple years ago, we also got 5 points per dollar in gas. Is that not the case anymore?

  28. I have this card and I am very happy with it. I had to send in a photocopy of my campus ID. the Amazon loop hole is very nice indeed.

  29. Actually, I’m not sure if they do 5% on Amazon anymore, maybe just 5 points.

  30. the GPA verification process is annoying. I was transferred to 3 reps who didn’t know what I was talking about (probably because they were based in India). The ThankYou network rep transferred me to the Upromise call center for some reason!

    there’s no phone number for GPA verification in their card member literature either. Why advertise this feature and not put a number down for it? I have a 4.0 GPA, so I’m losing $40 worth of points every year if they can’t get their act together.

    I also use this card for restaurants & textbooks. No complaints there. I use ThankYou points to pay off my student loans, which is a better value than buying more “stuff” and gift cards IMHO.

  31. I found this online. This is the form you have to fill out and send to get the points for GPA.

    http://www.grillmaestro.com/mtvu-Grade-Points-Redemption-Form.pdf

    It says you should send an official transcript along with it. However, my school charges $5 for an official transcript. I just got an unofficial transcript and still managed to get the points!

  32. thanks Kate.

    For the unofficial transcript, did you just print it off the school website? or was it on letterhead?

    I was able to get 2 free official transcripts, but they’re $3 after then. My school has a printable transcript off their website but it’s so plain-looking I could’ve just typed it up myself.

  33. I have this card and I really like it. I had to get it so that I could pay off the rest of my tuition and get my books. I love all the programs they have for working with college students, as life is already hard enough. I have not had any issues and do everything online. It’s a very good idea to get this if you are trying to build some credit!!

Trackbacks

  1. [...] over at My Money Blog did a post about the Best Credit Card for College Students. This isn’t the first time I’ve seen this, since it’s based on a CNN Money [...]

  2. [...] Here’s an interesting question. Who’s the most popular bookstore? Amazon.com. With the Citi mtvU card for college students, the 5% back on books worked on all purchases at Amazon, even if it wasn’t 100% books, since [...]

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