Student Rewards: Citi ThankYou Rewards vs. Capital One Journey Rewards

Estimated read time: 6 minutes

Choosing a credit card for a college student is tricky business. You need to find a card that gives them what they need financially without opening the door to future credit card debt. It stands to reason, students will have enough debt with their loans. They don't need credit cards stacked on top.

That said, a card used for everyday expenses that also yields rewards is a smart concept for savvy students. It rewards them for spending money on the right things. The question ultimately becomes, is it better to get a card that teaches someone to use credit responsibly or to use a card that provides rewards?

In our look at the Citi ThankYou for Students and the Journey Student Rewards card from Capital One, we aim to answer that question.

Cardholder Incentives

One card yields points, one yields cash back. Which of the two is better? You decide… but we'll give our opinion.

Journey Student Rewards from Capital One

The Journey Student Rewards card has a lot going for it.

Capital One Journey Student Rewards
Choose your payment date
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Everyday Rewards
Annual Fee
Recommended Credit:
Fair Credit
  • Great for building your credit if used responsibly.
  • Receive 1% cash back on every purchase, pay on time and boost your cash back to 1.25% for that month.
  • Choose your payment date.
  • Gain access to a higher credit line after you make your first 5 monthly payments on time.

Not only does it have a high customer rating, but the rewards are pretty great. Take a look:

  • This is a cashback card that allows students to recoup some of what they spend.
  • Increases in credit line can be earned for timely payments.
  • Access to Capital One's CreditWise credit monitor offers additional oversight to students who may need it.

While it isn't a high-yield card, the Journey Student Rewards card helps teach good credit card practices by rewarding students with higher rewards for that month if they pay on time. It also allows them to monitor their credit score. Since students start out with next to no credit, it can be rewarding for them to see their credit score rise throughout the year.

Citi ThankYou for Students

Citi's student card yields points rather than cashback, and arguably has more realistic reward categories. Check it out:

  • This is a points card that's particularly rewarding for dining and entertainment.
  • Bonuses may apply if spending thresholds are hit.
  • Points don't expire.

The Citi ThankYou isn't as much a training tool for credit usage, it's designed for fun and leisure, aimed at things college students are going to spend the most on: eating out and entertainment. The ThankYou points can be redeemed for gift cards and other rewards from the ThankYou Rewards collection.

Due to the fact that it has minimal fees, it could be a great choice for students looking to build credit while doing things they love—be it skipping out on dorm food for a dinner date or traveling to study abroad. But the rates and fees it does have are less competitive and forgiving than Capital One's Journey Student Rewards card. Also, because the ThankYou offers better reward rates, the card is more difficult to obtain and use.

Card Perks

In addition to the rewards offered by each card, cardholders also receive issuer-specific benefits.

Capital One Journey Student Rewards Perks

The Journey Student Rewards card comes with numerous account management tools to help you make the most of your card, including alerts, a due date you get to pick, autopay, 24/7 customer service, and more. You'll also be able to access your balance from the Mobile App and monitor your spending through the Capital One Wallet. If something happens and you lose your card while you're out for the evening, you're covered by Capital One's 0$ Fraud Liability program. You'll also receive alerts if any suspicious activity is detected from your card.

Capital One's travel perks are great, too. These include waiving some common fees and automatic travel accident insurance if you use your credit card to pay your entire fare. You'll also have access to 24-hour travel assistance services if your card is lost or stolen, automatic rental vehicle coverage if you pay for the rental with your card, and extended warranties on eligible items.

Citi ThankYou Preferred for Students Perks

With Citi, you'll have access to their Price Rewind program. If you find an item you've purchased within the last 60 days at a lower price, you may qualify for a refund up to the difference between what you paid and the price you've found. This can be particularly useful if you purchase something shortly before it goes on sale and the vendor won't refund the difference.

You'll also have access to Citi Private Pass, a program that provides the ability to purchase tickets to thousands of events annually and sometimes lets you get tickets ahead of everyone else. Citi provides travel protection in the form of EMV chip technology which is used worldwide, as well as worldwide travel accident insurance. This insurance provides financial coverage if you get sick or injured while traveling abroad.

You also have access to Citi Concierge, a program that connects you with specially-trained experts to help you find the best dining, shopping and entertainment options no matter where you are. You'll be able to choose your own payment due date, manage your account online and are not responsible for any unauthorized charges. Citi also provides extended manufacturer's warranties on purchases made with the card.

Qualification and Eligibility

While it may seem like you have to be a student to qualify for one of these cards, this is not always the case. What you do need is a checking or savings account with either company in order to qualify for a card. Here are the qualification requirements for each:

Journey Student Rewards Qualification Requirements

Here is the main thing to know about this card: you do not have to be a student to qualify.

The Journey Student Rewards card is available to both students and non-students alike as long as they have an average credit score. This makes it easily accessible to large portions of the population, and if you've had credit problems in the past this is a great card to get started rebuilding your credit rating. However, there are further requirements regarding income and credit card usage, so be sure to check with the card issuer before you apply.

Citi ThankYou Preferred for Students Qualification Requirements

The Citi ThankYou Preferred for Students does require that you be a college or graduate student in order to qualify. You must also be 18 years of age or older and have a valid social security number.

Citi's other requirements are not explicitly listed, but your income and existing debt will have bearing on whether you qualify or not. You need to have a Good credit score or higher to qualify.

Choosing a Card

Both the Journey Student Rewards Card from Capital One and the Citi ThankYou Preferred for Students are good options, but the one you choose ultimately boils down to your personal preference. The Journey is great for training someone to use a card correctly, but the rewards leave something to be desired. On the other hand, the Citi ThankYou Preferred has better rewards but more rates and fees to consider, as well as a brutal penalty APR.

It does introduce cardholders to rewards programs and sign-up bonuses, so the tradeoff may be worth it. Consider whether you are responsible with card usage. If so, the Citi ThankYou for Students may be the best option. It has better rewards by far. But rewards aren't good if you can't be responsible with credit. So if the applicant needs to figure out this whole credit thing the Journey Student Rewards card is likely a better choice.