If you have a son or daughter going off to college in the fall, now’s a good time to have some in-depth conversations about personal finances, and whether a credit card is in the picture.
For young people who are inexperienced, or have problems, with money management, a debit card tied to a checking account might be the best bet.
But there are upsides to responsibly using a credit card. It’s a matter of finding one that works for you, and makes financial sense. And it might make more sense to do it now, rather than have your son or daughter sign up for one on their own because they’re enticed by a free T-shirt or baseball cap.
For the sake of discussion, here are some samples of what folks at the BillShrink.com website suggest are the top student credit cards. I’m not endorsing these, but they would be worth looking at while shopping around.
These offer some of the best features of a good credit card: no annual fee (paying money to use a credit card is usually senseless), cash back (a feature that is becoming harder to find) or other rewards (companies should reward you for your business!).
CapitalOne Journey Credit Card This card has no annual fee and is designed to help students learn and build their credit. It offers text and email alerts to help keep spending and bill payments on track and even offers a bonus for paying the bill on time. This card will also earn 1% cash back on all purchases. However, this card is not meant to carry a balance month to month and has a high APR of 19.8% and a low credit limit.
Citi mtvU Platinum Select Credit Card This card has no annual fee and is focused on rewarding students for being students. This card allows cardholders to earn one ThankYou point for every dollar spent and five ThankYou points for every dollar spent at restaurants, bookstores, record stores and movie theaters. Students can also get bonus ThankYou points twice a year for maintaining a good GPA. This card is also a bit better for students if they will be making a lot of purchases in the first seven months because it offers 0% APR. After the introductory period, the APR will range from 13.99-21.99%.
Discover Student More Card Like the others, this card also has no annual fee, but the rewards program is a bit more complicated. In general, this card earns .25% cash back. However, the card rotates through different categories quarterly and those “bonus” categories earn 5% cash back. While the 5% is the best of these cards, it is important to mark your calendar for when the bonus categories start. Similar to the Citi card, this card has a 0% introductory APR for the first nine months; after which it will be between 13.99-20.99%.
One upside to getting a student credit card is that it’s a way to build credit history and learn how to manage a budget. At least for the first couple years of college, it’s good for parents to keep on eye on spending. Having online access to their spending records is important to point out when they make a blunder.