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How to Save Money in College

Last updated on August 30th, 2021

With college tuition costs soaring, saving money in college has never been more important than it is now. Fortunately, saving money in college isn’t as hard as it sounds – it just takes patience, understanding, and the right tools. Here are some of the best ways to save money during your college years – including with student credit cards.

5 Tips to Save You Money During College

Here are some helpful tips for saving money in college:

Create a Budget (and Stick to It)

Saving money in college starts with setting a reasonable budget. Nowadays, most students make payments with cards or mobile wallets, making it easy to spend more money than expected quickly. Setting a reasonable budget can help eliminate over-spending and the inevitable scramble for money when the semester is nearly over.

To create a budget, carefully consider the types of purchases that are essential each month, including textbooks and school supplies, food, clothing, and entertainment. Also, ensure that the budget includes enough wiggle-room to ensure that any unexpected costs won’t break the bank and lead to empty pockets.

Once the budget is set, spend with consideration. For example, instead of meeting friends for coffee at a café every day, why not break a cup at home and put it in a travel mug and then meet up on campus instead?

Shop Smart by Using Online Deals and Coupons for Essentials

Shopping in-store offers plenty of benefits but buying online is one of the best ways to save money, thanks to online coupon and deal sites. Online shopping allows students to find coupons that they might have otherwise missed and stack those coupons with another manufacturer, payment network, or merchant offers.

When you stack deals, you add payment network deals to merchant coupons. Like Visa and Mastercard, payment networks provide exclusive savings to cardholders – regardless of if they have a debit or credit card. Stacking deals and coupons can provide significant savings – savings that only increase with free shipping or delivery that saves students money on gas.

Using a quality deals portal (like BestCards Membership) allows students to find deals from thousands of leading retailers, as well as network-specific deals from their bank or card issuer. Students can even earn cash back on select purchases – and even more cash back when they invite their friends or family to join and make eligible purchases through the portal. Even better, BestCards Membership is free to join.

Take Advantage of Credit Card Bonus Categories

An increasing number of credit card issuers are providing more lucrative rewards cards to students than ever before. Bank of America, for example, offers an impressive lineup of rewards credit cards for students, including the Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card for Students, the Bank of America® Unlimited Cash Rewards Credit Card for Students, and the Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards Credit Card for Students.

These cards offer enhanced rewards on all eligible purchases, with the Unlimited Rewards earning 1.5% cash back – and the Travel Rewards earning 1.5X points back – on all purchases. The Customized Cash Student Card, on the other hand, offers accelerated rewards of up to 3% cash back on the category of the student’s choice, with options including:

  • Gas (great for commuters)
  • Online shopping
  • Dining (great for students without a school meal plan)
  • Travel (great for students attending an out-of-state college who frequently visit home)
  • Drug stores
  • Home improvement/furnishings

Other banks also provide excellent rewards credit cards for students. These include offers from national banks (Discover, Capital One, etc.), and regional banks and credit unions – including the new Wescom Bruin Choice Visa® Credit Card for UCLA students, from Wescom Credit Union.

For more information on college credit cards, check out our dedicated Student Credit Cards page. Always make sure you carefully weigh the benefits of a credit card before applying to ensure you maximize the categories and receive the most value from your new card.

Good Grades Discounts

Some card issuers provide good grade discounts and rebates for students that hold their credit cards and perform well in the classroom. Discover offers one of the most prominent “good grade” bonuses with its Good Grade Reward. If students keep their GPA above 3.0, Discover will reward cardholders with a $20 statement credit each school year. Since this bonus is good for up to five academic years, the total reward has a value of up to $100 – just for studying. This bonus applies to both the Discover It Chrome for Students and the Discover It Student Cash Back.

Pay Your Balance On-Time Every Month

Paying your credit card balance on time (and in full) every month is essential to saving money during your college years. Payment history is the single-largest impactor on FICO Scores, with just one late payment capable of ruining a young credit history.

Paying in full also keeps accounts from accruing significant interest and paying in full before the due date removes the stress of adding interest to a card’s balance – which can greatly reduce the cost of items and services over time. Because many student credit cards feature an interest rate on purchases of around 16%, not paying off a textbook purchase of $100 can quickly turn to $116 – and more, over time.

Chase offers students a good standing bonus through its Chase Freedom® Student Card. Students can earn $20 (2,000 points) each year on the account anniversary for up to 5 years. They just need to regularly pay the statement on time and adhere to the terms in the Cardmember Agreement to reach this yearly bonus – worth $20.

Related Article: Best Credit Cards for College Students of 2021

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About: Cory
Cory Santos

Cory is BestCards.com's "Jack of all trades" and resident credit expert, covering all facets of the credit card space. In addition to credit cards, Cory finds that jogging, cats, and memes are essential parts of a balanced day.