Are your friends planning a last minute Spring Break trip, but you aren’t sure how you’re going to be able to go?
Don’t be left behind at the dorms! Traveling over spring break on some crazy adventure is a rite of passage for college students. You simply haven’t lived if you’ve never booked a flight 24 hours before your spring break starts to travel to the Gulf Coast, Mexico, or New York City.
Or maybe you’re like me and you hate flying. Instead you’re going to be piling in with four of your friends into a suddenly very inadequately sized sedan to drive to the Grand Canyon and back in four days.
There’s only one problem… you blew all of your extra money playing beer pong last weekend. You won’t have extra cash until the week after Spring Break and by then it will be too late. Your friends will be waxing poetic as to the great time they had sleeping on the beach and how delightful the sunrise was that morning. You don’t want to be regaled with stories of the exotic fun they had — you want to be there!
But how? It’s simple: get a student credit card to cover you until you get paid.
Fair warning: it is not often you’ll visit Good Financial Cents and see advice on willingly putting money on a credit card without having the funds to immediately pay it off.
But if you’re a college student, you’ve already likely wasted enjoyed spending hundreds of dollars on activities that the people in the real world would roll their eyes at. You are irresponsible by nature.
That’s fine. You’re in college. You’ve got to learn how to use credit and you might as well have fun doing it. With no credit history you likely won’t be able to get a great travel rewards credit card just yet. You will need to settle for a student credit card. And we’ll show you how to make the best choice in this situation.
What is a Student Credit Card?
Student credit cards are credit card programs targeted specifically at college students. The qualifications necessary to be approved for a card are lower than with other credit cards. The financing companies that issue the credit cards understand that you’re in college, you probably have uneven income from waiting tables, and you have a limited credit history. So they give you a small credit line so you can test the waters and see if you can handle responsible credit card use.
It’s basic math: lower requirements to get the credit card = lower credit score = minimal or no rewards program.
Aren’t Credit Cards Risky for College Students?
Are credit cards the worst thing that can happen to a student’s finances?
Yes and No. Credit cards are tools that allow you to float purchases for about 30 days before you have to pay for them.
I always compare credit cards to shovels. (Wait, what???)
How, exactly, are shovels like a piece of plastic that you swipe?
Both are tools that can be used for good and evil, for growth and destruction. A credit card is a financial tool that can help you build up your credit history, earn rewards, and teach responsible spending. Likewise a shovel can be used to dig a trench into the ground to plant seeds that later become your next meal.
On the other hand a shovel can be cause great damage to plants if used incorrectly. Roots can be cut and the plant withers and dies. Likewise irresponsible credit card use can lead to financial ruin with sky high balances, collections calls, and bankruptcy.
Traits of Horrible Student Credit Cards
If you’d like to make a mistake the leads to your eventual financial ruin, pick up a credit card with some of these traits:
- An annual fee. There is absolutely no reason a college student should fork out cash for the “right” to have a credit card. There are too many great student credit cards available to justify paying an annual fee of $25-50 just to have a credit card.
- Bad rewards program. Reward programs that encourage you to spend differently than you normally would are useless. It can be easy to be manipulated into spending at a certain store just to earn a few more reward points. Another trick is to offer you a lot of reward points, but force you to redeem them online where the rewards options are very limited.
- No rewards program. This isn’t a deal killer, but if you can get a student card with a rewards program (preferably cash back) then you should.
What is the Best Student Credit Card for Spring Break?
If you’re looking for a credit card for spring break, you have a few solid options:
Discover Student More Card – With $20 in Free Cash Back for a Limited Time
One of the best cards currently available in this category is the Discover® Student More Card with a $20 Cashback Bonus. You’ll not only get a student credit card, but Discover will give you $20 in cash back immediately following your first purchase on the card in the first 3 months.
The perks of this card include:
- 0% APR on your purchases during the first 9 months
- 5% cash back on rotating categories that college students use a lot of: gas stations, restaurants, and department stores
- Up to 1% cash back on every other purchase you make
- No annual fee
- No fee to redeem your cash back
Discover Student More Card in Other Varieties
Discover also offers the Student Card in several other varieties that all share the same terms. The only difference is how the physical credit card that you put in your wallet looks. The varieties include: Clear, Tropical Beach, Monogrammed with your initials, Open Road, Original, and Mix Tape (which looks, as you guessed, like a mix tape from the 80s).
There is one main differences between these cards and the one above:
- There is no $20 cash back bonus for using your card once in the first three months.
You are essentially trading $20 for 3 more months of 0% APR.
Everything else is the same: 5% cash back on specific categories, up to 1% cash back on other categories, no annual fees, and no fees to redeem the cash back you earn.
Update: The Discover Open Road card now has 2% cash back on gas and restaurant purchases.
Chase Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Credit Card
It might be hard for students with limited credit history to get this card, but it is worth a shot. If you get into the program you’ll be credited with 25,000 points that can be redeemed for a roundtrip flight almost anywhere Southwest flies.
A free flight makes getting to your spring break destination a lot more affordable.
Capital One Journey Student Rewards Credit Card
Let me start by saying on the surface this looks like a good credit card for college students. However, be careful because Capital One doesn’t have the best reputation when it comes to customer service. As long as you maintain proper documentation to protect yourself you should be fine.
So what’s the card look like?
- 1% cash back on all purchases (plus an additional 25% bonus for paying on time).
- No annual fee.
- No fees to redeem cash back.