Friday, May 12, 2006

How Far Would You Go For a Good Reward Credit Card?

Author: Nick
Category: Money
Topics:

omg credit card gimme gimme gimme

I’ve mentioned a few times before that the Citi mtvU Visa card is one of my favorite credit cards, and it’s also a favorite of many people who have one. That’s because it offers 5% back in rewards on purchases at restaurants, book stores, music stores, movie theaters, and video rental stores. For a college student whose purchases consist largely of food, books, and entertainment, this card is golden. And that’s just what Citi was hoping college students would feel when it limited the mtvU Visa to students currently enrolled in an accredited institution of higher learning.

Yup, that means ordinary working folks like you probably won’t be picking up one of these babies anytime soon… or will you? Some internet discussion about the card has revealed a few secrets that could help more people qualify for the card. In a nutshell, here are some tips you can use to get your hands on (and effectively use!) one of the sweetest reward cards around.

  • “Student” has a broad definition. When applying for the card, Citi will ask you in what state you attend school, and then a separate menu will appear asking you to select your school. From the list I saw for Maryland, any community or four-year college qualifies.
  • “Enrolled” has a broad definition. Nobody who graduated from college has admitted to losing the card once their student status ended. They did, however, lose the ability to submit their semi-annual report card to earn extra reward points for good grades. So if you’re looking for an easy way to become an “enrolled student,” find the cheapest one-credit class you can at your local community college, sign up and pay the tuition, and apply for the card. Heck, you could even drop the class and get a partial or full refund if you’re approved for the card and Citi doesn’t ask for additional documentation–something which a couple of applicants have reported Citi will do on occasion.
  • You get access to the Citi ThankYou Network. In addition to that 5% back at various merchants, you can earn more than the typical 1% at a slew of other vendors.
  • Turn those reward points into gift cards. That 5% back rate assumes you’re going to trade in 100 points (5 points earned per dollar spent at restaurants and the like) to obtain $1 worth of rewards. Of course, you’re going to need far more points before you can obtain anything in the 100:$1 ratio. Gift cards for various retail stores, restaurants, and gas stations are available in that ratio starting at 5,000 points for a $50 gift card. But why settle for gift cards when you can…
  • Turn those reward points into cash! You won’t see “cash” as an available reward in the Citi ThankYou Rewards catalog, but all cards eligible for those rewards (not just the mtvU Visa) can obtain “student loan rebates” available in the 100:$1 ratio starting at just 2,500 points! And if you don’t have any student loans, you can reportedly still deposit the check Citi will send you into any bank account.

If you’re wondering how I, a professional who hasn’t set foot in a school in over two years, have one of these cards, just ask my wife, the college student. The card is in her name, but it sits in my wallet. At the end of every meal where I use the card, I’ll turn to her and say, “Thanks for paying for dinner, sweetie.”

And thanks, sweetie, for helping us get 5% back on that dinner!

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