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Citi Rewards+ Student review: College spending adds up, but it can also accelerate your rewards

This rewards card is great for commuter students. CNBC Select breaks down the rewards, benefits and fees associated with the Citi Rewards+ Student Credit Card to help you decide whether this is the right card for you.

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College students are always on the go. With all that rushing around, it's inevitable they'll buy last-minute snacks to get them through night of studying or coffee on the way to class.

While some turn to cash-only systems like the envelope method to avoid losing money, the Citi Rewards+℠ Student Credit Card offers a different way to help you save on those small purchases.

This student credit card rewards all of those little purchases with points, and then rounds those points up to the nearest 10. With 2X points at supermarkets and gas stations (up to $6,000 per year in combined purchases and then 1X points), it's an excellent choice for commuter students.

While young adults trying to develop good financial habits certainly need to manage their spending, the Citi Rewards+ Student card helps out when life has high demands. After all — giving up lattes is not always the secret to building wealth, but finding ways to bring in extra cash is.

Below, CNBC Select breaks down the rewards, benefits and fees associated with the Citi Rewards+ Student Credit Card to help you decide whether this is the right card for you.

Citi Rewards+ review

  • Rewards
  • Additional benefits
  • Fees
  • Bottom line

Citi Rewards+℠ Student Card

Citi Rewards+℠ Student Card
On Citi's secure site
  • Rewards

    Earn 2X ThankYou® points at supermarkets and gas stations for the first $6,000 per year and then 1X points thereafter. Plus, earn 1X points on all other purchases.

  • Welcome bonus

    Earn 2,500 bonus points after you spend $500 in purchases with your card within  3 months of account opening; redeemable for $25 gift card at thankyou.com.

  • Annual fee

    $0

  • Intro APR

    0% APR for the first 7 months on purchases

  • Regular APR

    14.49% - 24.49% variable on purchases and balance transfers

  • Balance transfer fee

    3% of each balance transfer; $5 minimum

  • Foreign transaction fee

    3%

  • Credit needed

    Good

See our methodology, terms apply.

Pros

  • All purchases round up to the nearest 10 points
  • Get 10% points back on all of your redemptions for the first 100,000 ThankYou® Points you redeem each year
  • Welcome bonus worth $25 gift card

Cons

  • 3% fee on purchases made outside the U.S.
  • Short intro 0% APR period on new purchases

Citi Rewards+ Student Credit Card rewards

With the Citi Rewards+ Student card, your rewards will automatically be rounded up to the nearest 10 points on every purchase — even the small ones.

You'll earn the following rewards on spending:

  • Gas & Supermarkets: 2X ThankYou® Points per $1 spent, up to the first $6,000 per year in combined purchase and 1X point per $1 after that
  • All other purchases: 1X ThankYou® Point per $1 spent, unlimited

With rounding, you can accumulate points quickly. For example, a $2.25 coffee would earn you 10 points. Thanks to 2X points at supermarkets, a $32 trip to buy groceries would round up to 70 points. Overtime, these small increases could add hundreds of extra points to your rewards balance.

Plus, Citi gives you 10% Points Back when you redeem your first 100,000 ThankYou® Points each year, making it possible to earn 10,000 bonus points per year.

When you're ready to redeem your ThankYou® Points, there are a number of options, including:

  • statement credits
  • gift cards
  • travel rewards
  • Shop With Points
  • charitable donations.
  • points sharing with other Citi cardholders
  • points transfer to a number of airline loyalty programs

Some of the less common ways you can redeem ThankYou® Points include using them to pay your mortgage or your student loans (in payments of up to $1,000).

As with most rewards programs, the value of your ThankYou® Points varies based on how you choose to redeem them. Generally, points tend to be worth about 1 cent each, but occasionally you may find bonuses, promotions and partnerships that change the value of your rewards. It's best to learn exactly how much your points are worth for each redemption method so you can make the most of your rewards when you spend them.

The good news? There is no limit to how many ThankYou® Points you can earn per year.

Additional benefits

Right now, you can earn 2,500 bonus ThankYou® Points after spending $500 in purchases within three months of opening your account. This is the equivalent of a $25 gift card, and a nice perk for a student who plans on buying textbooks or new decor for your dorm room.

The Citi Rewards+ card also comes with entertainment benefits including:

  • Special access to preferred tickets, presale tickets and VIP access for concerts, sporting events and more
  • Exclusive dining experiences
  • Complimentary movie screenings at the Citi Entertainment website

Fees

The Citi Rewards+ Student Credit Card comes with no annual fee and a 0% introductory APR period of seven months (then 14.49% to 24.49% variable APR) on new purchases. Take note that the standard APR is at least 1% higher than the Citi Rewards+ Credit Card, which comes with many of the same rewards but is not specifically geared toward students who may have little credit history. 

Citi Rewards+ also charges a penalty APR if you make a late payment or if one of your payments is returned. It could be as high as 29.99%, based on your credit score, and it could apply indefinitely. This high penalty APR is one more reason to practice good financial habits and pay off your balance on time and in full each month.

There is also a 3% foreign transaction fee for any purchases outside the U.S. If you have international travel on your horizon, such as a semester abroad, CNBC Select recommends finding a credit card with no foreign transaction fee, like the Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One®, which also has no annual fee.

Bottom line

The Citi Rewards+ Student Card is a great credit card for college students, but it's especially helpful for commuter students who want to take advantage of 2X points at gas stations.

With its unique rewards structure, your points will always round up to the nearest 10 automatically. It offers 2X rewards points for spending up to $6,000 on gas and at supermarkets, and 1X points for all other spending with no limit.

Additionally, the Citi Rewards + Student card offers a welcome bonus of 2,500 points when you spend $500 within three months of opening your account. You can think of that as comparable to a $25 coupon toward a $500 computer or textbook. There are student credit cards with higher welcome bonuses, such as the Bank of America® Travel Rewards for Students, which has a 25,000 spending bonus when you spend $1,000 in the first 90 days.

Our methodology

To determine which cards offer the best value for students, CNBC Select analyzed popular credit cards available for college students looking to build credit.

We compared each card on a range of features, including: credit limit, rewards program, introductory and standard APR, welcome bonuses and foreign transaction fees, as well as factors such as required credit score and customer reviews when available. We also considered any special student-centric programs that offer incentives or extra rewards.

Because it's unusual for college student cards to have robust rewards programs, we did not analyze how many rewards points you can earn in the first year. For students who are looking to build their credit history and develop strong financial skills, it's more important to practice good credit card habits — spending within your means, paying your balance on time and in full — than try to optimize your points balance.

Information about the Bank of America® Travel Rewards for Students and Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One® has been collected independently by CNBC and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of the card prior to publication.

Editorial Note: Opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the CNBC Select editorial staff’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any third party.