If you’re a college student, living (and eating and commuting) off campus, you may be drawn to the points offered on the Citi Rewards+ Student Card, especially if you’re particularly organized and want flexibility in your redemption options.
That said, there are other student cards on the market with simpler rewards schemes and better incentives for new cardholders, and these cards could be more attainable too. The Citi Rewards+ Student Card may require a stronger credit profile than some competitors, and that can be tricky to achieve if you’re still building your credit history.
Rounding-up feature for rewards points
Decent 0% APR offer
Good credit is recommended
Redemption values aren’t transparent
High-maintenance rewards program
- Rounding-up feature for rewards points: The Thank You points you’ll earn on this card are rounded to the nearest 10 points, meaning you’ll earn more than the stated rewards rate on most items. For example, anything under $10—even a $1 pack of gum that would normally earn 1 point—earns 10 points, and a $67 dress earns 70 points. What’s more, whenever you redeem your points, you’ll get 10% of them back (up to a limit.)
- Decent 0% APR offer: This card offers new cardholders seven months to make purchases without accruing interest. It’s not the longest stretch available on a student card, but some competitors don’t have any interest-free promotion at all. This perk can help you make a large purchase and pay it off over several months while avoiding any borrowing costs.
- Good credit is recommended: You may need a stronger credit profile for this card than some on the market.
- Redemption values aren’t transparent: The number of points you earn is only part of the equation. You’ll also want a good value when it comes time to use those points. But with the Citi ThankYou program, points for some uses aren’t worth the benchmark 1 cent each, and worse still, you won’t know until you’re signed in to your online account and try to use them. (More on this in the Redeeming Rewards section below.)
- High-maintenance rewards program: Besides varying redemption values, there are rules and restrictions to keep track of. Not only is there a cap on the higher rewards rate at grocery stores and gas stations, but you may need to accrue a certain number of points before you can use them (different options have different thresholds.) All this may make the program feel more complicated than some students are up to handling.
As you compare your options, make sure to check our list of the best student credit cards.
Bonus for New Cardholders
The Citi Rewards+ Student Card offers 2,500 bonus points (worth up to $25) if you spend $500 within three months of account opening. This welcome offer is pretty meager compared to some incentives on competing student credit cards, although some don’t offer anything at all. On the plus side, you’ll only need to average $167 a month in charges to reach the spending requirement.
Earning Points & Rewards
At first glance, the Citi Rewards+ Student Card has a pretty middling rewards proposition. You’ll earn 2 ThankYou points per $1 you spend at supermarkets and gas stations and 1 point per $1 you spend on everything else. The double points rate applies to the first $6,000 in grocery and gas purchases you make in a calendar year, and then it drops to 1 point per $1.
But, there’s a kicker. Citi will round up your rewards to the nearest 10 points on each purchase you make, so you will usually earn rewards at a higher rate, and it all depends on the transaction amount.
For example, your $3 daily coffee will earn 10 points (rounding up from 3 to 10) just like a $10 meal will. Or, a $23 trip to the movies will earn 30 points (rounding up to 30 from 23). Even better, a $51 purchase at the supermarket will earn 110 points (rounding up to 110 from 102.) There are no limits to the rewards you can earn this way.
When it comes time to redeem points, cardholders can phone in or use Citi’s online rewards portal for any number of options. These include airfare or other travel bookings, gift cards, statement credits, online shopping, and online bill pay. You can even make payments toward a mortgage or student loan or transfer points to an eligible airline or hotel loyalty program.
Many of these redemptions require a minimum threshold for redemption, including $10 for statement credits and $50 for cash rewards received via check.
The tricky part is knowing what value you’ll get for specific redemption options. Points used in many ways, including to book travel or buy gift cards, are worth 1 cent each. But if you use them at the Amazon or Expedia checkout, they’re only worth 0.8 cent each, and if you get a statement credit or cash, the value is unclear.
In fact, Citibank’s website has a warning to online account users that redemption values vary by card and may wind up being different from those shown before they sign in.
How to Get the Most Out of This Card
Besides using your card for all your supermarket and gas purchases, always pay your monthly bills on time and in full to establish the best habits right from the start. The 0% APR offer, despite its relatively short term, can still be worthwhile for any irregular purchases you may have planned, but only if you know you can pay off the entire balance before the promotion expires.
As with any introductory offer, don’t let the short term “interest-free loan” tempt you into making purchases you can’t afford. And definitely don’t run a balance month-to-month or interest costs will quickly erase the benefit of any rewards.
- Sports, music, and event ticket presales, plus VIP access at some events
While Citibank does offer 24/7 customer service options, it got an “about average” rating in J.D. Power’s 2019 U.S. Credit Card Customer Satisfaction Study. The bank’s mobile app fared worse, scoring below average in a separate J.D. Power survey of card apps. One plus? Citi provides free FICO scores, updated monthly, in the app and online.
This credit card app offers “Citi Quick Lock,” so you can prevent your card from being used if it’s been lost or stolen. You’ll also get access to Citi Identity Theft Solutions—a program that can help you protect or restore your identity in the event of fraud, even if the fraud involved another bank’s card or service.
Most fees charged by this credit card are standard, but be aware you’ll have to pay a 3% foreign transaction fee if you use it outside the U.S.