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Making the Most of Citi ThankYou for Students: Have Fun

Credit Cards, Student Credit Cards
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Making the Most of Citi ThankYou for Students: Have Fun

Your friends are posting selfies from Lollapalooza or Instagramming the delicious meal they’re having at the hot new restaurant. Feel like you’re missing out? Here’s a credit card that can help a student combat FOMO.

The Citi ThankYou® Preferred Card for College Students offers 2 ThankYou points per $1 spent on restaurants and entertainment, and 1 point per dollar on all other purchases. You can earn unlimited points, they never expire and you can redeem them in a variety of ways. And you get all of this with a $0 annual fee. Let’s drill down to see what else it offers and how you can get maximum value out of this card.

Don’t miss the bonus

To get you off to a flying start, the Citi ThankYou® Preferred Card for College Students offers a sign-up bonus with a spending threshold that’s easily within reach: Earn 2,500 bonus points after spending $500 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening* It’s never wise to spend money unnecessarily just to collect a credit card bonus. But even for a college student, simply putting regular expenses on the card should get you to the trigger amount with the Citi ThankYou® Preferred Card for College Students.

Have fun, earn points

With Citi ThankYou® Preferred Card for College Students, you earn rewards for having fun, but you have to remember to use it. Here’s where you’ll earn 2 points per dollar:

  • Restaurants: This category includes cafes, bars and fast food outlets. Yes — bars.
  • Entertainment: This includes live entertainment, theater, concerts, sporting events, movies, amusement parks, zoos, aquariums, circuses, tourist attractions, museums, record stores, video rental stores and on-demand internet streaming media.

There are some “entertainment” venues that don’t earn 2 points — golf courses, video game arcades, bowling centers and bookstores, for example — but you’ll still earn 1 point per dollar spent at these places as well as on everything else you purchase with your card.

Getting the most out of your credit cards also means capitalizing on whatever perks it offers. The Citi ThankYou® Preferred Card for College Students gets you into Citi Private Pass, which gives cardholders access to special events and opportunities. Recent examples include a day-long football camp with Rob Gronkowski of the New England Patriots; presale access to hard-to-get concert tickets; access to cardmember clubs at select PGA Tour golf tournaments; and discounts to Taste of the Nation food events across the country.

One of the perks of premium cards is concierge service to assist you with travel, shopping and entertainment. It’s surprising to find this feature on a student card, but Citi ThankYou® Preferred Card for College Students has it.

Pay on time and in full

If you’re a student using the Citi ThankYou® Preferred Card for College Students to build credit, it’s essential that you pay your bill on time every month. Your payment history is the single most important element of your credit score, and at this stage, you really can’t afford a late payment on your credit report.

If at all possible, pay your balance in full every month, too. If you carry a balance from one month to the next, you’ll be charged interest — and interest can wipe out the value of the points you earn. The APR on this card is 0% on Purchases for 7 months, and then the ongoing APR of 15.49% - 25.49% Variable APR.

To help you manage your credit, Citi lets you set your payment due date so that you can pay your bill when you’ve got the most money. You can also manage your account online or via the Citi app to check balances, see transactions and make payments.

Redeem points wisely

ThankYou points can be redeemed for merchandise, cash, travel, gift cards or donations to charity — but the value of a point varies according to how you redeem it. You get the highest value — 1 cent per point — when you redeem for gift cards, rental certificates or charitable donations. Redeeming for merchandise or using points to pay for purchases at online retailers typically nets you less than a penny a point. Redeeming for cash back or statement credit gives you 0.5 cent per point.

Cardholders have told NerdWallet that one of their favorite ways to use points is shopping at Amazon.com, where the typical value of a point is about 0.8 cents. Here’s how it works: Register your Citi ThankYou® Preferred Card for College Students in your Amazon.com account and select “pay with points.” Choose the number of points you want to use. Your card will be charged the full amount of the purchase, but you’ll then get a statement credit for the points you used within 24 to 48 hours. You can shop at other select merchants — including Best Buy, Live Nation and Expedia — the same way.

How to redeem rewards on the Citi ThankYou® Preferred Card for College Students

You can redeem by phone at 800-842-6596 or online. To redeem online:

  1. Sign into your account at citi.com.
  2. From your dashboard, click the “ThankYou from Citi” logo.
  3. Choose a redemption option from the bar across the top.

Other benefits (and a drawback)

The Citi ThankYou® Preferred Card for College Students provides travel benefits, including insurance if you have an accident while traveling, rental car insurance, and trip interruption and cancellation insurance. But if you’re headed abroad, be aware that purchases made internationally are subject to a 3% foreign transaction fee. If you have access to another card without such a fee, such as the Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One®, consider using that instead while overseas.

Once you’ve made a purchase, you’re covered. Your purchases have extended warranty and are protected from damage and theft. If a purchase is damaged or stolen within 120 days (90 days for New York residents) of the sale, you may get a refund or a repair.

Your purchases are also eligible for Citi Price Rewind: Register your purchase and Citi will look for a lower price for 60 days from the date of sale. If it finds a lower price, Citi will refund the difference up to $500 per item and $2,500 per calendar year. If you find a lower price, you can submit a request for a refund.

Now don’t miss out

With access to Citi Private Pass, concierge service, bonus rewards on entertainment and dining, and other benefits, the Citi ThankYou® Preferred Card for College Students is a solid card for a student with an active social life. If you’re not one for going out much, though, consider taking a look at another student credit card.

Ellen Cannon is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: ecannon@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @ellencannon.