The Best Credit Card Rewards for Graduate Students

Find out how rewards can keep your college life on track

Whether you’re researching Supreme Court precedents, memorizing the circulatory system or analyzing the finer points of European history, attending graduate school can be an all-consuming challenge. Many graduate students struggle to balance their time, personal lives and especially their finances while completing a degree program. Unfortunately, student debt is already a challenge for many students with the total national student loan debt passing $1 trillion dollars in 20121 according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The good news is there are some excellent credit card options available to students that can help you get more out of the money you’re already spending. Keep your finances on track and still enjoy your grad school experience with these credit card rewards.

Lifestyle Rewards

Cards that give you points or cash back for dining and entertainment purchases are a great choice for students. Look for a rewards card that offers higher points for these spending categories or other rotating categories that fit your lifestyle. For example, if you commute to school a card that gives extra rewards for gas purchases can help relieve the pain at the pump.While credit card rewards that fit your lifestyle are a great way to get more out of your budget, avoid going overboard and applying for brand cards at every retailer you frequent. Holding more than a few open lines of credit makes it much easier to miss payments and lose sight of your total amount of debt. Also, each time you apply for a new line of credit the inquiry is recorded on your credit file and frequent applications for credit in a short time frame can have a negative impact on your credit score2. 

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Travel Rewards

If you’re attending a program out of state or headed to another country for study abroad consider a card with excellent travel rewards. To earn more rewards look for cards that offer miles or hotel points for everyday spending, instead of airline-specific loyalty cards that only give you rewards for actual flight miles. Cash back programs are also a safe bet as cash gives you the flexibility to purchase anything for your travels from baggage fees to souvenirs.If you’re researching new credit cards to take on an international trip be sure you understand which countries accept the card and if the card has foreign transaction fees. A 3% transaction fee on every purchase overseas can quickly surpass the value of rewards you receive from the card. Also be certain to contact your credit card company before leaving the country to inform them of your travel plans. Otherwise overseas charges may raise an alert with the fraud protection service and the card could be declined.

Qualify for a More Rewarding Card

The best rewards cards often have higher application requirements than standard credit cards. If you spent time in the workforce and managed credit responsibly between undergraduate and graduate school you may be able to qualify for cards you couldn’t previously. Request your free annual credit report from the major credit agencies to see your latest score and then research the requirements for top-tier rewards cards to determine if you can qualify.As a student you may also have the option to have a co-signer on a credit card. This person applies for the card with you, allowing you to use their credit score to qualify for rewards cards that might be out of your reach on your own. Of course the co-signer is also equally responsible for all debt incurred on the card. If you and your co-signer are both confident in your ability to manage credit responsibly this could be an excellent option to earn more rewards.Utilizing a rewards card is an excellent way to make your student budget stretch further. However, if you are consistently carrying a balance, a card with a low APR (annual percentage rate) is a better choice than a rewards card. It’s never worth it to go into debt just to earn the extra rewards. Discover card believes that consumers deserve the best resources and tools when making credit decisions. Our goal is to help consumers use credit wisely and meet their financial goals. 

Resources:

http://www.consumerfinance.gov/blog/too-big-to-fail-student-debt-hits-a-trillion/

http://www.creditreport.com/creditscores/articles/Five-Factors-That-Make-Up-Your-Credit-Score.aspx 

General Resources: 

http://www.naag.org/naag/policy.php

http://bigstory.ap.org/article/student-debt-stretches-record-1-5-households 

http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0155-free-credit-reports  

Discover card believes that consumers should be armed with the information they need to help them make informed credit decisions.

Legal Disclaimer: The articles and information provided herein are for informational purposes only and are not intended as a substitute for professional advice.

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