Review of the Citi ThankYou® Preferred Card for College Students

Kat Tretina

Kat Tretina | Reviews

Oct 11, 2018 | Updated Sep 20, 2019

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Update: The Citi ThankYou Preferred Card for College Students has been discontinued for new applicants. It has been replaced by the Citi Rewards+ Student Card.

If you’re a college student, you likely don’t have a lengthy credit history, if you have any credit history at all. That’s why it’s so important to consider a student credit card while you’re still in school. It well help you establish your credit and build good habits before you even graduate.

The Citi ThankYou® Preferred Card for College Students is designed specifically for current students who are looking to build their credit.

There’s no annual fee on this card. And, unlike some other student cards, it actually offers some decent rewards. You can earn 2X ThankYou points on dining and entertainment and 1X point on all other purchases. You can even earn a 2,500-point signup bonus if you spend $500 within the first 3 months of opening an account.

By becoming a cardholder, you also get access to some nice benefits. Overall, it’s a good choice for students who are new to the world of credit cards and don’t have an established credit history.

Continue reading to learn more about the Citi ThankYou Preferred Card for College Students.

Our Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

We give the Citi ThankYou Preferred Card for College Students 4 out of 5 Stars because it’s one of the better starter credit cards available for students.

Citi’s customer support was responsive to our questions. That’s good news for credit card beginners, as you can quickly and easily get help managing your account.

Why We Like It

  • No annual fee
  • 2X points for dining and entertainment
  • 7-month 0% introductory APR on new purchases, then 16.49%–26.49% Variable
  • No expiration date on rewards points

Why It Could Be Better

  • Low signup bonus
  • No balance transfer introductory APR offer

The ThankYou Preferred Card for College Students is great for those looking to earn rewards for certain spending categories. However, if you’re looking for a new card that offers a higher signup bonus, check out some alternatives below.

Insider Advice: Using This Card As Part of Your Credit Card Strategy

  • Get the signup bonus: Spend $500 within the first 3 months to get 2,500 ThankYou points, a $25 value.
  • Use it for dining and entertainment purchases: Earn 2X points on dining out & entertainment.
  • Pay no interest fees: You’ll get 7 months at 0% APR for new purchases, giving you time to pay off your balance without paying interest. After that, a regular APR of 16.49%–26.49% Variable will apply.
  • Take advantage of your benefits: Citi offers some useful benefits, like Purchase Protection, to help protect against loss and theft.
  • Redeem for ThankYou Select and Credit: Redeem your rewards points for ThankYou Select and Credit to get the full value of 1 cent per point.
  • Pay on time: Late payments will have a strongly negative effect on your credit scores, so be sure to make all your monthly payments on time.

The Rewards

With this card you can earn the equivalent of 1% to 2% cash back on your purchases, depending on what you buy.


Spending Rewards
  • 2X ThankYou points per $1 spent on:
    • Dining
    • Entertainment
  • 1X ThankYou point per $1 spent on all other purchases
Introductory Bonus Offer
  • 2,500 bonus points for spending $500 in the first 3 months
    • Value: $25
    • Return on spend: 5%

College students can rack up rewards quickly for select purchases, such as dining and entertainment. Dining locations include cafes, bars, fast food places, and restaurants. The entertainment category is fairly broad, encompassing things you might not think of, such as video rentals and on-demand internet streaming. You can see the full list of eligible entertainment purchases below.

Amusement Parks Concerts Live entertainment and theatrical productions Live sporting events Movie theaters
Museums and art galleries On-demand internet streaming media Record stores Tourist attractions Video rentals

However, you’ll earn just 1X point per $1 spent on all other purchases, such as gas, groceries, or textbooks. There are other student credit cards that offer more rewards, so it may be worth shopping around for another card in addition to this one.

Your rewards points are worth up to 1 cent each, so you can earn a cash back equivalent of 2% when making purchases within the dining and entertainment category. Other purchases will earn just 1% cash back.

Your points never expire, so you can build them up without worrying about losing them.

There is a 2,500-point signup bonus if you spend $500 within the first 3 months of having the card, a $25 value. Although that isn’t high compared to other cards, it’s an easy way to get free money.

According to The College Board, full-time undergraduate students will spend nearly $1,300 per year just on textbooks and school supplies. If you use the card to pay for a semester’s worth of textbooks, you can quickly qualify for the signup bonus.

One important thing to note is that if you opened certain other Citi cards or were an authorized user on someone else’s credit card in the past 24 months, you might not be eligible for the 2,500-point signup bonus. You will not be eligible if:


Your points are worth up to 1 cent each. Redeeming them through the ThankYou Select and Credit program helps you get the most value, at 1 cent per point. That would give you a 2% cash back equivalent in the dining and entertainment categories, with 1% cash back elsewhere.

The ThankYou Select and Credit program requires you to specify purchases to which you can apply your rewards. Only certain types of purchases made during the current billing cycle are eligible. Those types are:

Clothing and Department Stores Dining Drugstores Entertainment
Gas Grocery Utility

There are other ways to redeem but these will provide less than 1 cent per point, so we recommend avoiding them. They include:

  • Statement credits
  • Gift cards
  • Point transfers
  • Merchandise, like electronics, home goods, and books
  • Charitable donations
  • Shop with Points at select retailers like Amazon

For cash-strapped college students who want to give back, the ability to donate your rewards points to a charity of your choice is a huge benefit. It’s an easy way to contribute without dipping into your normal cash flow.

The Benefits

The ThankYou Preferred Card for College Students offers some nice benefits and protections that a new credit card user will find useful.

Citi® Private Pass®

If you want to snag tickets to the Dave Matthews Band tour or reservations at the latest restaurant, the Citi Private Pass can be a great perk. Citi customers get special access to purchase tickets to thousands of events each year, including presale tickets for concerts, sporting events, and even complimentary movie screenings.

24/7 Concierge

If you need help making dinner reservations or finding a gift for the holidays, you can get 24/7 assistance through the Citi concierge service. Just call 1-800-508-8930 or email [email protected] for personalized assistance.

Fraud Protection

You’re protected against unauthorized charges on your account when using the ThankYou Preferred Card for College Students. You’re not responsible for any charges you didn’t make, online or in person.

Be sure to contact customer support immediately if you suspect fraudulent activity.

Shopping Protections

  • Extended Warranty: Eligible warranties of five years or less can be extended by up to 24 additional months. You can get up to $10,000 in coverage per item.
  • Purchase Protection: Eligible purchases are covered against theft or damage for 90 days, up to $1,000 per item and $50,000 per year.

Travel Protections

  • Travel Accident Insurance: You can be reimbursed up to $250,000 if you or a family member suffers accidental death or dismemberment while traveling by common carrier.
  • Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver: Decline the car rental company’s own insurance and get up to $50,000 in coverage against theft and collision damage for eligible vehicles.

The Terms & Fees

Intro APR for Purchases Purchase APR Balance Transfer APR Cash Advance APR
0% for 7 months 16.49%–26.49% Variable 16.49%–26.49% Variable; transfers must be completed within the first 2 months 27.24% Variable
Annual Fee Foreign Transaction Fee Balance Transfer Fee Cash Advance Fee
$0  3% 4%, $5 minimum 5%, $10 minimum
Penalty APR Late Fee Returned Payment Fee
Up to 29.99% Variable Up to $35 Up to $35

The ThankYou Preferred Card for College Students is such a great choice because there is no annual fee. As long as you pay off your balance in full each month to avoid interest charges and late fees, it will be free to use.

The card does have a 0% introductory APR offer for 7 months for new purchases. Although that’s short, it’s fairly typical for a student credit card. It gives you more than half the year to pay off any purchases without worrying about interest. That feature can be helpful as you pay off college-related expenses. However, it’s important to make all of your payments on time. Otherwise, you could lose out on this perk.

After the 7-month promotional offer ends, the APR can be quite high. If you’re new to credit cards, it’s important to understand how interest rates work and how to avoid paying interest. If you’re not careful, your credit card balance can balloon out of control, so it’s important to use your card responsibly and pay it off in full each month.

Another fee to keep in mind is the late fee. The ThankYou Preferred Card for College Students has a relatively high late fee of $35. If you miss even one payment, you’ll have to pay that fee on top of your monthly bill. Plus, you could end up with a much higher penalty APR. And worst of all, late payments will have a very negative effect on your credit scores.

If you plan on studying abroad, you should be aware that there is a 3% foreign transaction fee on the card. That fee will make your purchases overseas more expensive, so it might be worthwhile to shop around for a better card for studying abroad.

You can see the Citi ThankYou Preferred Card for College Students’ official terms and conditions here.

What Is the Credit Limit of the Citi ThankYou Preferred Card for College Students?

Depending on your creditworthiness, you may receive a credit limit as low as $500. Although that may sound small, it can be a useful tool in building your credit. As your credit improves, you can request a credit line increase or apply for a new card.

Customer Support

Because many students haven’t used credit cards before, or may be using one on their own for the first time, customer support is especially important. Responsiveness to customer inquiries can help prevent problems with your account.

Unfortunately, Citi’s customer service doesn’t earn rave reviews. According to the most recent J.D. Power U.S. Credit Card Satisfaction Study, Citi is 6thth out of 11 credit card companies in 2018.

However, we’ve had many positive interactions with its customer support team.

Phone Support

Citi Customer Support


When we’ve contacted Citi in the past, we’ve spoken to friendly representatives who were eager to help. In general, our experiences have been good ones.

Web Support

Citi Twitter Support @AskCiti

Customers with questions about the Citi ThankYou Preferred Card for College Students can reach customer supporting by tweeting @AskCiti.

I tweeted Citi a question about its promotional signup bonus and whether or not authorized users on other cards would still be eligible. The company responded within just 15 minutes.

I was pleasantly surprised by the ease of contacting customer service and the speed in which the representative replied. I think other customers would have a similar experience as cardholders.

As I found out, the representatives running the Twitter account are constantly monitoring it for questions. You can typically expect an answer to your inquiries within a few minutes. However, be sure not to share personal or account information on Twitter or any other social media channel.

Getting ahold of customer service is pretty easy with Citi, which makes this card perfect for students who may need help navigating their new credit card account.

The Bottom Line

If you’re a college student with a limited credit history or no credit history at all, the Citi ThankYou Preferred Card for College Students may be for you.

The 2X points spending categories — dining and entertainment — are common purchases for college and university students. If you regularly frequent cafes and bars, or can’t stop streaming on-demand media, you can quickly earn rewards points which you can redeem for past purchases through ThankYou Select and Credit.

You can also earn a 2,500-point signup bonus for spending $500 within the first 3 months of opening your account, a $25 value. That might not sound like much, but some student credit cards don’t offer any signup bonuses, so it’s a nice reward to have.

There are several student and secured credit cards designed particularly for those looking to build their credit. Check out some alternatives to the Citi ThankYou Preferred Card for College Students below.

How to Apply for the Citi ThankYou Preferred Card for College Students

Applying for the card is simple. Just click on the Apply Now button below. You’ll be redirected to the Citi website to fill out the application.

Citi will check one or more of your credit reports, but don’t worry. The ThankYou Preferred for College Students is designed for students with limited credit and no credit, so your chances of getting approved are higher than if you applied for another, non-student card.

You should usually receive a decision within a few minutes. If you’re approved, you’ll receive your card, credit limit information, and a credit card agreement in the mail. If you’re not approved, you’ll receive a letter detailing the reason for the denial.

Qualifications and Requirements

  • Must be at least 18 years old
  • Must be a current college or graduate student
  • Personal identifying information, including name, Social Security number, address, and phone number
  • Total annual income, and source of income
  • Monthly mortgage or rent payment

Alternatives to the Citi ThankYou Preferred Card for College Students

There are lots of different credit cards available for students and those with no credit history. Some offer more enticing rewards and benefits than the ThankYou Preferred for College Students, so it’s worth looking at some alternatives.


If you want to earn more rewards, the Discover it® Student Cash Back (Review) might be for you. As one of the best credit cards for students, the card offers 5% cash back in spending categories that rotate every three months. Plus, you’ll get 1% cash back on all other purchases.


  • 5% cash back in categories that rotate throughout the year, on the first $1,500 spent each quarter (see calendar below)
  • 1% cash back on all other purchases
  • Cashback Match: Get double the cash back on all your purchases in the first year of card membership

The 5% cash back calendar for 2019 is:

Quarter 5% Cash Back Category
January – March Grocery Stores
April – June Gas Stations, Uber, Lyft
July – September Restaurants, PayPal
October – December, Target,

To qualify for the 5% cash back offers, you need to manually activate the reward categories before you can start using them. You won’t earn those rewards until you activate them, so it’s important to keep an eye on the calendar (you’ll get notifications when it’s time to activate). Most other credit cards, like the ThankYou Preferred Card for College Students, don’t require you to activate rewards; you just go about your normal routine and earn rewards automatically.

You can only earn 5% cash back on the first $1,500 you spend in each quarter. After that, you’ll earn just 1% cash back on those purchases. That means you can earn up to $75 in cash back rewards each quarter at the 5% rate.

For your first year, you’ll get the excellent Cashback Match bonus. Discover will match any cash back rewards you earned in your first year, effectively doubling them. That means you’ll be getting 10% cash back in those categories, with 2% cash back everywhere else. That’s quite the offer.

Plus, you can redeem your rewards in several different ways, making it a convenient choice for college students.

  • Statement credits
  • Bank deposits
  • Gift cards (with a bonus of at least $5 per card)
  • Charitable donations
  • Redeem at select retailers, like Amazon


The Discover it for Students card offers a decent set of benefits for a student credit card, including:

  • Good Grades Reward: Get a $20 statement credit for every year that you earn a 3.0 GPA or higher, for up to five years.
  • FICO Credit Score: Discover allows you to check your FICO Score 8 from your TransUnion credit report for free.
  • Cash at Checkout: When shopping at participating locations, you can get cash back immediately by charging an additional amount over your purchase at the register. Instead of being counted as a cash advance, which can be expensive, it’s counted as part of your purchase.
  • Refer a Friend: Tell your friends about Discover and you can receive a $50 statement credit if they apply for the card and are approved. If your friend makes a purchase within the first three months of opening the card, he’ll get a $50 statement credit bonus, too. You can refer up to ten friends a year and earn up to $500.
  • Other Benefits: Discover offers some other useful benefits, such as fraud protection, free Social Security number alerts, and the ability to quickly freeze your account online.

Terms & Fees

The Discover it for Students has no annual fee, making it a great choice for credit card beginners. If you plan on studying abroad it may be a better choice than Citi’s student card, as there are no foreign transaction fees, either. However, Discover cards aren’t widely accepted outside the U.S., so you may need a backup credit card when traveling.

Discover offers a 6-month introductory 0% purchase APR, giving you some time to pay off your expenses without interest. That’s a big savings over its normal APR of 15.24%–24.24% Variable. However, that’s a slightly shorter term than the ThankYou Preferred Card for College Students offers.

Discover will also waive your late fee the first time you miss a payment, which is a nice benefit for those new to using credit cards. After the first missed payment, the late fee is up to $37.

Read more in our Review of the Discover it for Students


If you don’t spend much money eating out or on entertainment and want to earn rewards at gas stations and grocery stores instead, check out the Bank of America Cash Rewards™ Credit Card for Students (Review).

The card boasts one of the largest signup bonuses available for students, allowing you to get a $200 cash rewards bonus. That’s exceptional for a card designed for people with limited or no credit.


Spending Rewards
  • 3% cash back in one category of your choice:
    • Gas
    • Online shopping
    • Dining
    • Travel
    • Drugstores
    • Home improvement/furnishings stores
  • 2% cash back at:
    • Grocery stores
    • Wholesale clubs
  • 1% cash back on all other purchases
  • Spending limit: 3% and 2% rewards only up to $2,500 per quarter, then 1%
Introductory Bonus Offer
  • $200 cash rewards bonus for spending $1,000 in the first 90 days
    • Return on spend: 20%

The Bank of America card allows you to earn rewards on common spending categories. As a student, gas, groceries, and online spending might make up a substantial part of your spending, so it’s easy to rack up rewards quickly.

The signup bonus is easy to get, too. Use it to pay for routine expenses, like gas, groceries, and school supplies, and you can hit the $1,000 mark easily and get $200 cash back. That’s significantly more than the $25 you get from the bonus of the Citi ThankYou Preferred Card for College Students.


The Bank of America card offers some basic benefits that offer added security and protection.

  • Free FICO Score: You can check your FICO Score 8, based on your TransUnion credit report, for free.
  • Extended Warranty: Eligible purchases will have their manufacturer’s warranty doubled by up to one additional year. This benefit only applies to warranties of one year or less.
  • 24-Hour Travel Assistance: Call Travel Assistance Services when you need help away from home. This benefit is available when traveling 50 miles or more away from home, unless you live in New York in which case there is no mileage requirement.
  • Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver: Eligible rented vehicles are covered against damage and theft, as long as the rental company’s own insurance is declined.
  • Other Benefits: You’ll get access to other useful protections, such as $0 Fraud Liability, Identity Theft Resolution, and more.

Terms & Fees

The Bank of America Cash Rewards Card for Students has no annual fee. However, the card does have 3% foreign transaction fees.

The card also offers a 0% introductory APR for 12 months for both new purchases and balance transfers. That’s nearly double what the Citi ThankYou card provides, making it a good option if you’re looking to pay off debt, especially when you consider its normal rate of 16.24%–26.24%Variable.

Read more in our Review of the Bank of America Cash Rewards Card for Students


If you’ve had trouble getting approved for other cards, or if you’re an international student studying in the United States, check out the Deserve Edu Mastercard (Review).

Designed for students without credit histories, you don’t have to provide a Social Security number when you apply, making it one of the few cards you can get without one (although you’ll need to provide one later).

Deserve considers more than just your credit score and income when reviewing your application, so you have a better chance of getting approved. It also considers factors like your education and future earning potential, making this a good fit for students.


  • 1% cash back on all purchases

The rewards for the Deserve Edu card are simple: get 1% cash back on all purchases. Your cash back rewards are immediately redeemed every billing period, in increments of $25.


Although the rewards for the Deserve Edu Mastercard are low, there are some nice benefits for students.

  • 1 Free Year of Amazon Prime Student: When you pay for Amazon Prime Student with your Deserve card, you’ll get a statement credit for $59 to pay for the membership fee.
  • Refer Friends for Statement Credits: Refer a friend to get a Deserve credit card and you will receive a $30 statement credit for every approval. If you refer ten friends you’ll get a $200 bonus, for a total of $500 in statement credits.
  • Lemonade Insurance Rebate: Get a $10 statement credit after making three consecutive payments for Lemonade Renters and Home Insurance.
  • Feather Furniture Rental Rebate: Get a $100 discount on your first month’s rental from Feather. To get the credit, pay with your Deserve card and use promo code “DESERVE100”.
  • Mint Mobile Rebate: Use your card to sign up and pay for any Mint Mobile wireless plan by November 28, 2019, and you’ll get a $45 statement credit.
  • Late Payment Waiver: The first time you miss a payment, Deserve will waive the late fee.
  • Price Protection: If you find an item you bought with the card being advertised for a lesser price within 60 days of the purchase, you can be reimbursed for the price difference.
  • Cell Phone Insurance: Charge your monthly cell phone bill to your Deserve card to get up to $600 in coverage against damage and theft.
  • Other shopping and travel protections: Including Extended Warranties, Roadside Assistance, a Car Rental Collision Damage Waiver, and more.

Terms & Fees

The Deserve Edu Mastercard has no annual fee or foreign transaction fees.

The card does not allow balance transfers or cash advances.

Read more in our Review of the Deserve Edu Mastercard


If you’ve had issues qualifying for credit cards, another option to consider is the Capital One® Secured Mastercard® (Review). It’s not a student credit card. Instead, it’s a secured credit card.

Rather than being issued a credit line like you would with a traditional credit card, you need to put down a security deposit. That deposit will fund your credit limit. For students, secured credit cards can be an easily accessible way to start building a solid credit history.

Security Deposit

You’ll need to make a security deposit after being approved for the card. The minimum security deposit required is dependent on your creditworthiness, but will be one of the following:

  • $49
  • $99
  • $200

Regardless of how much you have to deposit, your initial credit line will be $200. However, you can deposit up to $1,000 to fund your credit line if you want more spending power.

After making your first five monthly payments on time, Capital One will increase your credit line, without requiring an additional deposit.


The Capital One Secured Mastercard doesn’t offer any rewards like cash back or bonus points, which is typical for a secured credit card.


The benefits, provided by Capital One and Mastercard, are pretty good compared to many secured cards.

  • Reports Activity to the Credit Bureaus: Capital One will report your payment activity to the three major credit bureaus so you can build credit: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion.
  • Access to a Higher Credit Limit: Make you first five payments on time and you’ll get access to a higher credit limit without having to make an additional security deposit.
  • Choose Your Own Due Date: Pick your own bill due date to make your repayment easier on your budget.
  • Capital One CreditWise: The Capital One CreditWise service lets you monitor your VantageScore 3.0 credit score, based on your TransUnion credit report.
  • Price Protection: If you make a purchase with your card and find the same item being advertised for a lesser price, you can be reimbursed for the difference.
  • 24-Hour Travel Assistance: Call Travel Assistance Services when you need help away from home. This benefit is available when traveling 50 miles or more away from home, unless you live in New York in which case there is no mileage requirement.
  • Other Benefits: You’ll get other protections, too, including Extended Warranties, MasterRental Coverage for rental cars, Identity Theft Resolution Services, and Travel Accident Insurance.

Terms & Fees

The Capital One Secured Mastercard doesn’t have any annual fee. There are also no foreign transaction fees or balance transfer fees.

Read more in our Review of the Capital One Secured Mastercard

Looking to build your credit while you’re still in school? See some other great card options in the Best Student Credit Cards.

Do you use the Citi ThankYou Preferred Card for College Students? Let us know how you like it by leaving your own review!

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