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Choosing the Right Student Credit Card Rewards

By: Larry Goldberg

If you’re off to college, you’re probably off to a new world where you’ll be applying for the right student credit cards to meet your needs. Choosing from the rewards programs offered by many student credit cards, though, can be a real challenge. The first thing you need to do is to investigate the kinds of rewards programs you might be encountering.


  • Airline rewards: Probably the most common rewards program in the industry, lots of people choose airline miles over any other rewards system. It costs quite a bit to fly in this country, and if you use your credit card a lot, these can really pay off. Watch out, though, because in some cases, airline miles aren’t what they’re made out to be. If you don’t fly, don’t get an airline miles rewards card. Moreover, if you don’t spend much on your credit card, airline miles rewards just aren’t worth the hassle. It takes quite a bit of spending to get that reward, then you have to deal with blackout dates, advance tickets, and all of the other hassles involved. If you think airline rewards are worth it for you, though, the best rule of thumb is to know your card’s program and the associated rules.
  • Cash back rewards: People value cash, and when credit card companies pioneered the cash back idea, it seemed like a good one. Unlike retailer credits or airline miles, everyone uses cash, and the idea that you get rewarded with it just for using your card seems simple enough. The problem with these kinds of cards, though, comes in the fine print. Most cards only offer you one percent of your purchases back in cash, and few offer you that money back if you do things like take cash advances or make late payments. Moreover, most cash back cards come with higher interest rates than traditional cards, so if you’re a big credit card spender, cash back rewards might be a great idea. If not, you may want to look elsewhere. Whatever you do, though, read the fine print with these.
  • Points-based rewards: These kinds of student rewards cards offer you a number of points for each purchase you make. When you accumulate a certain number of points, you can redeem them for hotel discounts, air miles, retailer discounts, gifts, or in some cases, cash. These cards are great because, essentially, they let you choose your reward. The drawback to this kind of rewards card, though, is that you earn points at a slower rate, and there are usually earnings caps on your points. Moreover, like cash back cards, your overall interest rate might be higher with this kind of card than it would be with a low-rate card.


The bottom line is that when you’re choosing a great student rewards card to meet your needs, evaluate your needs first. Figure out if you’ll be able to use the rewards presented to you, and if you’ll even be able to earn those little enticements.


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