Which Bank of America Student Credit Card Is Best For You?

Which Bank of America Student Credit Card Is Best For You?

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If you’re in college, your first credit card will likely be a student card. Designed for students with limited incomes, student credit cards have no annual fees and aim to help you build your credit history, offering impressive rewards in exchange. If you can pay your balance on time, it’s a win-win situation for you.

While there’s a considerable number of options out there, Bank of America offers two versions to choose from — the Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card for Students and the Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card for Students. As the names suggest, the cards are different in how they earn rewards, and the best choice for you will depend if you want to earn cash back or travel rewards. This guide further breaks down each card’s rewards structures and features to help you make the right decision.

Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card for Students vs. Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card for Students

While the fundamental difference between the two Bank of America student cards is the redemption options, there are plenty of other features to consider. From its earnings rate to sign-up bonus, you’ll want to select the card that will reward you better for your spending habits.

Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card for Students
Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card for Students
Rewards3% cash back in the category of your choice, including gas, online shopping, dining, travel, drug stores, or home improvement/furnishings; 2% cash back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs; and 1% cash back on all other purchases.1.5 points for every $1 you spend on all purchases
Sign-up bonusOnline $200 cash rewards bonus after making at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of your account opening.25,000 online bonus points if you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of your account opening
Foreign transaction fee3%0%
Best forStudents who want to earn cash backStudents who want to travel and study internationally
Annual fee$0$0
APR13.99% to 23.99% variable16.99%-24.99% Variable
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The Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card for Students lets you redeem your points to pay down travel purchases — such as flights, hotels, vacation packages, cruises, rental cars or baggage fees. If you don’t usually travel, then you should go with a traditional cash back card, like the Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card for Students. You can redeem your cash back in $25 increments.

Who should get the Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card for Students?

The Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card for Students is best for rewards maximizers and planners, as you’ll have the opportunity to earn as much as 3% cash back catered to your expenses. You’ll earn 3% cash back in the category of your choice, including gas, online shopping, dining, travel, drug stores, or home improvement/furnishings; 2% cash back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs; and 1% cash back on all other purchases.

You can change these bonus categories month-to-month, allowing you to change your preferences based on your needs. However, the 3% and 2% cash back bonuses are both capped at up to $2,500 each quarter — once you exceed this limit, you will then earn 1% on all purchases. But if you don’t spend more than $10,000 per year, you won’t have to worry about these limits.

Who should get the Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card for Students?

The Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card for Students has the more straight-forward earnings rate: You can 1.5 points for every $1 you spend on all purchases For those who don’t want to keep up with multiple bonus categories, the Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card for Students offers the simplicity of a consistent rewards rate. This card also comes with a slightly better sign-up bonus than the Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card for Students. Again, though, this is only beneficial if you’re a frequent traveler.

International students and those studying abroad should apply for the Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card for Students instead, as this card does not charge users a foreign transaction fee. Other credit cards impose a 3% fee on all transactions outside of the United States, which quickly mounts up. It doesn’t matter how many rewards you earn — they’re unlikely to make up for the financial loss brought on by a foreign transaction fee.

How do the Bank of America student credit cards compare to other student credit cards?

Most credit card analysis is incomplete unless you consider it against its competitors. We look at some other popular student credit cards to see how the Bank of America offerings compare.

Journey Student Rewards from Capital One

The Journey Student Rewards from Capital One could be excellent for building responsible credit habits: You’ll Earn 1% Cash Back on all purchases; 0.25% Cash Back bonus on the cash back you earn each month you pay on time.

Furthermore, this card comes with a $60 streaming subscription credit, so you’ll earn $5 per month for 12 months on select streaming subscriptions when you pay on time. As the name suggests, you’ll be on a stronger credit journey since the additional cashback and the streaming service credit incentivize you to pay your balance on time.

If you can’t decide between the Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card for Students or the Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card for Students, the Journey Student Rewards from Capital One offers the best of both worlds. You won’t pay any foreign transaction fees — perfect for studying abroad — and you’ll earn valuable cash back at the same time. However, this card comes with a considerably high purchase rate (26.99% (Variable) APR), so you’ll want to steer clear of accruing any interest fees.

Discover it® Student Cash Back

Students who aren’t turned away by a little extra homework will find some great savings with the Discover it® Student Cash Back. The card provides one of the highest rewards rates of any student credit card — 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places each quarter like Amazon.com, grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations and when you pay using PayPal, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate, 1% unlimited cash back on all other purchases - automatically with no limit.

The bonus calendar is student-friendly, offering plenty of opportunities to maximize your purchases each quarter. For 2021, the categories include grocery stores, Walgreens and CVS (January-March); gas stations, wholesale clubs and select streaming services (April-June); restaurants and PayPal (July-September) and Amazon.com, Walmart.com and Target.com (October-December).

Bottom line? This card is best for those who want to earn as much cash back as possible. In place of a traditional sign-up bonus, Discover offers its exclusive Cashback Match — get an unlimited dollar-for-dollar match for all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year, automatically. For ongoing savings, Discover will award you a statement credit of $20 each school year if your GPA is 3.0 or higher, for up to five years — that’s a nice extra touch for those who put in all that hard work.

Wells Fargo Cash Back℠ College Card

Students who already bank with Wells Fargo might consider applying for the Wells Fargo Cash Back℠ College Card — the only student card offered by Wells Fargo. Cardholders earn 3% cash rewards earned for up to $2,500 spent on gas, grocery, and drugstore purchases for the first 6 months. Enjoy 1% cash rewards for other purchases.

Compared with the Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card for Students, the limit on the Wells Fargo Cash Back℠ College Card is much lower. There’s also no sign-up bonus with this card — and with a measly 1% rewards rate on almost all purchases, you’ll fare better with another student cashback card instead.

ValuePenguin’s verdict

You can’t go wrong with either of Bank of America’s student credit cards, as they both offer generous sign-up bonuses and rewards that keep on giving. With no annual fees, you could get a net positive with either card. Regardless of the choice you make, you’ll want to pay off your credit card statement in full and on time every month — otherwise, you may start to accrue interest that negates the rewards earned in the first place.

The information related to Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card for Students, Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card for Students, Journey Student Rewards from Capital One, Discover it® Student Cash Back and Wells Fargo Cash Back℠ College Card has been independently collected by ValuePenguin and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card prior to publication.

Stella Shon

Stella Shon is a travel credit cards writer with ValuePenguin. After studying abroad in Paris three years ago, she became determined to keep traveling. That’s when she discovered the world of points and miles, which enabled her to travel on a student budget. Since then, she’s flown over 150,000 miles and earned more than 500,000 points and miles with eight different credit cards. While in college, she even co-founded her own travel agency, helping her peers plan and book trips on a budget. As a recent journalism graduate from UNC-Chapel Hill, her goal is to write about travel to make it simpler and achievable for everyone. Her work has also appeared on JetBlue, The Points Guy, Travel + Leisure and CNBC.

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How We Calculate Rewards: ValuePenguin calculates the value of rewards by estimating the dollar value of any points, miles or bonuses earned using the card less any associated annual fees. These estimates here are ValuePenguin's alone, not those of the card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer.

Example of how we calculate the rewards rates: When redeemed for travel through Ultimate Rewards, Chase Sapphire Preferred points are worth $0.0125 each. The card awards 2 points on travel and dining and 1 point on everything else. Therefore, we say the card has a 2.5% rewards rate on dining and travel (2 x $0.0125) and a 1.25% rewards rate on everything else (1 x $0.0125).