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Bank of America offers three different credit cards for students – all of which serve very different purposes. Your best choice will depend on a number of factors, including how much money you tend to spend, and whether you tend to pay off your balance month-to-month. Your choice will determine how much money you can save while at school.
ValuePenguin’s 2016 Picks For Best Bank of America Student Credit Cards:
- BankAmericard Travel Rewards® for Students: Best for international travel and varied spending
- BankAmericard Cash Rewards™ for Students: Best for saving money on gas and groceries
- BankAmericard® Credit Card for Students: Best for students who need to carry a balance
On Earning Rewards: BankAmericard Travel Rewards® for Students vs BankAmericard Cash Rewards™ for Students
The two differences between the BankAmericard Travel Rewards® for Students and the BankAmericard Cash Rewards™ for Students you need to focus on are their rewards rates and the foreign transaction fee. The BankAmericard Travel Rewards® for Students is the easiest to understand, as it earns you 1.5% back on all your purchases, no matter where you shop. The rewards are given in the form of points that you can redeem to pay down travel purchases on your bill. If you book travel through Bank of America’s travel portal you can earn double the rewards per dollar. The BankAmericard Cash Rewards™ for Students, on the other hand, gives users 2% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs and 3% on gas for the first $2,500 in combined purchases each quarter. That is much higher than the rewards you can earn through the BankAmericard Travel Rewards® for Students, however you must face those category limitations and the spending cap. All purchases outside of that earn just 1% cash back, which is significantly lower than what you get with the BankAmericard Travel Rewards® for Students.
So how do you split the difference? If non-grocery and non-gas purchases make up a significant part of what you charge to your credit card, the BankAmericard Travel Rewards® for Students may be the better choice. It will be far better for students who spend a lot of money on books, movie theaters, school supplies or at bars. However, keep in mind that all the rewards you earn with this card are only useful if you can eventually use them to pay for travel. If you don’t normally travel, then you should go with a traditional cash back credit card like the BankAmericard Cash Rewards™ for Students.
The rule of thumb to go by is 35%. If gas and groceries make up 35% of your total credit card purchases or more, get the BankAmericard Cash Rewards™ for Students. Otherwise you’re likely to benefit more from the BankAmericard Travel Rewards® for Students. The graph above helps illustrate this point.
International Students and Travelers Should Be Aware of Foreign Transaction Fees
The BankAmericard Travel Rewards® for Students is the only Bank of America student credit card to not charge users a foreign transaction (FX) fee. The other credit cards will impose a 3% fee on all transactions outside of the United States.
This can be especially important to international students who may use a credit card to supplement some of their budget. Using a credit card is actually an easy way to have an emergency fund while abroad. Your parents or guardians can receive and pay your bill back at home, while you use your BankAmericard Travel Rewards® for Students overseas. If you want this kind of set up, then having a credit card with no foreign transaction fee is crucial. Getting charged a 3% fee on top of every transaction will quickly mount up. It doesn’t matter how many rewards you earn – they won’t make up for the financial loss brought on by an FX fee.
For Students Who Are Struggling with Credit Card Debt, The BankAmericard® Credit Card for Students Is The Best Choice
The BankAmericard® Credit Card for Students offers 0% APR for the first 18 billing cycles and it applies to balance transfers made within 60 days of account opening. That 0% period is on par with some of the top balance transfer credit cards on the market. The other two student rewards credit cards offered by Bank of America come with periods that are significantly shorter. Purchase APR on this card also has the most favorable range – it varies between 11.24% and 21.24%. Therefore, if you have a good enough credit score, you can qualify for one of the lowest standard interest rates around.
If you’ve already accumulated a significant amount of card debt on a non-BofA credit card, it makes sense to transfer it to the BankAmericard® Credit Card for Students within the first 60 days your account is opened. You can save a lot of money by deferring interest for 18 months, and speed up how quickly you pay off your debt. The graph below shows the difference between the BankAmericard® Credit Card for Students and a sample credit card, for a benchmark user with $10,000 in debt who can only make $500 monthly payments. Note that, initially, your balance is higher on the BankAmericard® Credit Card for Students due to the 3% transfer fee you'd have to pay. However, in the end deferring interest makes your remaining balance disappear faster, as your entire payment goes towards paying down the principal.
The BankAmericard Travel Rewards® for Students and the BankAmericard Cash Rewards™ for Students may be better for dealing with upcoming purchases you'll need to finance. Both cards come with 0% APR on purchases for the first 12 billing cycles. This can be beneficial if you know you're about to make large purchases, such as textbooks, and don't have the funds to completely pay them off in a month or two. The BankAmericard® Credit Card for Students is only helpful in dealing with past debt.
Students traditionally work with tighter budgets than the rest of the population so a card like this can be advantageous for many young adults. However, if you have the means to pay off your balance in full we recommend doing so. Whenever possible, you should show restraint and not make purchases onto your credit card that you cannot pay off at the end of the month. The interest charges you accumulate will almost always negate any rewards you might earn, and they will seriously devalue your purchases.
Comparing The Bank of America Student Credit Cards at a Glance
If you still want more details about each of the Bank of America student credit cards, the table below gives the most pertinent details. Use it to cross-compare among the three options.
|BankAmericard Travel Rewards® for Students||BankAmericard Cash Rewards™ for Students||BankAmericard® Credit Card for Students|
|Rewards||1.5 points on all purchases||1% cash back on every purchase, 2% at grocery stores and now at wholesale clubs and 3% on gas for the first $2,500 in combined grocery/wholesale club/gas purchases each quarter||None|
|Special Offer||20,000 online bonus points after making at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of your account opening||$100 cash rewards bonus offer after making at least $500 in purchases in the first 90 days of your account opening||None|
|Relationship Bonus||Those with a Bank of America checking or savings account receive an additional 10% points bonus||Receive a 10% customer bonus every time you redeem cash back into a Bank of America checking or savings account||None|
|APR||15.24% - 23.24% (V)||13.24% - 23.24% (V)||11.24% - 21.24% (V)|
|Intro APR||0% for 12 billing cycles (applies to purchases)||0% for 12 billing cycles (applies to balance transfers made within 60 days of account opening and balance transfers)||0% for 18 billing cycles (applies to balance transfers made within 60 days of account opening)|
|Foreign Transaction Fee||None||3%||3%|
How Do The Bank of America Credit Cards Compare to Other Student Credit Cards?
Most credit card analysis is incomplete, unless you take a moment to consider it in the greater context. We took a look at some other popular student credit card options, to see how the Bank of America offerings compare.
Citi ThankYou® Preferred Card for College Students
The Citi ThankYou® Preferred Card for College Students will provide the best savings for college students whose budget is preoccupied with entertainment and dining out. This card provides 2 ThankYou points per dollar in these categories. That approximately translates to a 2% return. It’s significantly better than both the BankAmericard Travel Rewards® for Students and the BankAmericard Cash Rewards™ for Students when used at bars, movie theaters, tourist attractions, and even concerts. Online streaming services like Netflix and Hulu also fall under the 2% entertainment category.
Like most rewards credit cards, this one isn’t intended for those who carry a balance on their credit card. The BankAmericard® Credit Card for Students still wins over the Citi ThankYou® Preferred Card for College Students when it comes to that.
Discover it® Student Cash Back
Students who aren’t turned away by having to do a little extra homework will find some of the best savings with the Discover it® Student Cash Back. The card provides one of the highest rewards rates of any student credit card. It gives 5% cash back in categories that change each quarter like gas, restaurants, and wholesale clubs up to a quarterly maximum of $1,500 when you activate. The downside is that you have to keep track of these changing categories if you want to get the most out of it. Non-bonus categories only get you 1% back. The bonus calendar tends to be pretty student-friendly. It includes things like Amazon.com, where you can order textbooks at a lower price.
Discover also has a special promotion going on for students who have a GPA of 3.0 or higher. Every year your grades match that threshold, Discover will award you a statement credit of $20. That’s a nice extra touch for those who already put in all that hard work. This perk will last up to 5 years.