Guide to Credit Cards & Big Travel for College Students

Guide to Credit Cards & Big Travel for College Students

Million Mile SecretsGuide to Credit Cards & Big Travel for College StudentsMillion Mile Secrets Team

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Are you a college student who wants to travel as much as possible?  There are lots of ways to get Big Travel for nearly free!  And it’s not hard to get started.

Guide To Credit Cards Big Travel For College Students
Take a Break From the Books to Travel the World! I’ll Give You Ideas About How to Get Started

I’ll show you how to build your credit and start earning miles and points, so you can see more of the world.  And visit family and friends back home!

Get Started on the Path Toward Big Travel

I’ve been lucky enough to visit beautiful cities all over the world, like Paris, Sydney, and Mumbai.  But I also appreciate traveling close to home like when I visited Big Bend National Park in Texas.

I get most of my Big Travel by using miles and points.  Check out my beginner’s guide if you’re just starting out!

Miles and points are 1 of the the best ways to travel cheaply.  Here’s how you can do it, too – even if you’re a college student!

Start Building Your Credit

You’ll need a decent amount of credit history to get a credit card that earns miles or points.  Because many of these cards are geared to folks with a longer credit history.

If you don’t have any credit history, or very little, you’ll need to show the banks you can be trusted with credit.  That means paying your bills on-time and in full every month.  Never miss a payment!

Guide To Credit Cards Big Travel For College Students
Getting a Store Credit Card is 1 Way to Start Building Your Credit History. Always Pay Your Bill in Full Each Month. And Use Your Credit Responsibly

And you should NOT get started with miles and points until you can pay off your credit cards each month.  Because the interest you’ll pay by carrying a balance negates the value of any miles or points you’ll earn.

But if you handle your credit responsibly, it will help to boost your credit score.

Ways to build credit include:

  • Get your parents to add you as an authorized user
  • Open a secured credit card
  • Apply for entry-level or store credit cards

Here’s my guide about the best credit cards to boost your credit history and score.

Best Cards to Get Once You Have Credit

Link:   Chase Freedom

Link:   Discover it for Students

Link:   Discover it chrome for Students

Link:   Citi ThankYou Preferred for College Students

Banks will approve you for certain cards without a long credit history.

For example, you can apply for the Chase Freedom card to start a good relationship with Chase.  They have some of the best travel rewards credit cards.

Once you establish a good payment history, you can apply for cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred or Chase British Airways – or other comparable cards with Big Travel benefits.

Guide To Credit Cards Big Travel For College Students
Once You Build Your Credit, You Can Apply for Cards Specifically for Students. Or for Entry-Level Cards to Point You in the Right Direction

Citi has the Citi ThankYou Preferred for College Students.  And after you show you’re responsible with credit, you can apply for premium cards like Citi Prestige or Citi ThankYou Premier Card.

Discover in particular has a few cards specifically for students.  So you might consider the Discover it for Students or Discover it chrome for Students.

Guide To Credit Cards Big Travel For College Students
Discover Has Great No Annual Fee Cards Geared Toward Students. And You Can Even Earn a Reward for Getting Good Grades!

They’ll even give you a $20 reward each school year when you get good grades (over a 3.0 GPA).  And the cards have no annual fee, so they’re a free way to build your credit!

You can earn miles, points, and cash back with any of these cards while you continue building a credit history and establishing relationships with the banks.

Meet Minimum Spending Requirements and Earn More Points!

Link:   40+ Powerful Ways To Complete Your Credit Card Minimum Spending Requirements

Once you move up to the miles and points cards, you’ll find their minimum spending requirements are higher than entry-level cards (whose minimum spending requirements tend to be $1,000 or less).  And when you’re a student, it can be tough to spend that much!

Guide To Credit Cards Big Travel For College Students
Use Your Cards When You Go Out to Eat With Friends. And Even for Rent and Tuition!

Check out my guide with 40+ ways to complete the minimum spending on your new cards.

Also consider using your cards for things like:

  • Dining out with friends
  • Books for classes
  • Fast food between classes
  • Public transportation like your subway pass

Any time you need to buy something, put it on 1 of your cards instead of using cash or debit cards.  But again, always make sure you can pay them in full at the end of each billing cycle.


RadPad is a service that allows you to pay your rent with a credit card, too.  If you live off-campus, that could be an option.

Keep in mind you’ll pay a ~2% to 2.5% fee, depending on which card you use.  So it could be good to meet the minimum spending requirements, especially if you want to plan Big Travel with the points you earn.  But it may not be the best strategy for regular rent payments.

I encourage you to run the numbers to make sure it’s worth it.  For this deal and ANY others you find along the way!


If you attend a school that accepts credit cards for tuition, by all means use your miles-earning (or cash back-earning) credit card!  Do the math if there are any fees involved, though.  Because depending on how you want to use your miles, it may not be worth it to pay a fee to earn them.

Guide To Credit Cards Big Travel For College Students
Always Run the Numbers When Fees Are Involved. It’s Usually Not Worth it Unless You’re Earning a Nice Sign-Up Bonus

You might also considering paying your tuition through Plastiq.  But again, you’ll pay a 2.5% fee when you pay with a credit card.  That said, if you’re trying to earn lucrative sign-up bonus, paying tuition could be an easy way to knock out all the minimum spending requirements at once.

How to Travel Here at Home

If you want to travel home while school’s not in session, you can pay 25,000 miles for a domestic round-trip coach award flight, on most airlines including:

If you live near where you go to school, you can pay 10,000 United Airlines miles each way for coach flights under 700 miles on United Airlines.  Or you can pay 7,500 British Airways Avios points for flights under 1,150 miles on partners American Airlines and Alaska Airlines.

Guide To Credit Cards Big Travel For College Students
Most Domestic Airlines (Like Delta) Will Charge You 25,000 Miles and ~$11 to Fly Home on a Round-Trip Coach Award Flight

For example, if you go to school in Detroit, and you’re from Atlanta, you can fly home at the end of May.  And go back to Detroit in early September for 25,000 Delta miles and ~$11.  That’s a price most college students can afford to pay!  And, you’d get to spend your summer break at home.

You could also get home by using:

You can also fly on a budget airline to save money if you don’t have enough miles or points for a flight.

Of course, these methods will also work to get you anywhere else you want to go, in case you need a getaway and a break from the books!

How to Travel Farther

After you get familiar with your new cards and points programs, you might decide to travel beyond the US.  Maybe a backpacking trip to Europe?  Or a Caribbean vacation?

Guide To Credit Cards Big Travel For College Students
Big Travel Isn’t Just for Home! Swim, Lay Out, or Windsurf on the Beaches of the Dominican Republic During a School Break

Be sure to check out:

You can read the guides linked above for more tips to how to travel using the miles of your choice.

And now that you’re reading Million Mile Secrets, you’ll be an expert on booking award flights and hotel stays in no time (in case you need more things to study!) 😉

Bottom Line

If you’re a college student who loves to travel, you can start building your credit history as an extracurricular activity.  You’ll boost your credit score when you pay on-time and in full each month.  But you should NOT open a credit card if you can’t pay the balance.

Cards like the Chase Freedom or Discover it for Students are within reach once you show you’re responsible with credit.  Once you build a relationship with the banks, you can apply for cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred or Citi Prestige for Big Travel!

Use your cards for all your expenses, even rent and tuition.  As you start to earn more miles and points, you can use these tips to meet your minimum spending requirements.

From there, you can travel home to visit friends and family.  Or get Big Travel all around the world.  The key is to use your credit wisely.  Along with your education, it’s 1 of your most important assets!

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Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

  • Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Chase Sapphire Preferred® named a 'Best Travel Credit Card' by MONEY® Magazine, 2016-2017
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Earn 5,000 bonus points after you add the first authorized user and make a purchase in the first 3 months from account opening
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $625 toward travel.
  • No blackout dates or travel restrictions - as long as there's a seat on the flight, you can book it through Chase Ultimate Rewards

More Info

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Wells Fargo also has a decent cash back card for students.

I am a junior and I just got approved last week for the Marriott card from chase, but got denied from the chase sapphire preferred due to the 5/24 policy.


@Robert - Most likely not, although I could be wrong. I'd start with the Chase Freedom card and then try for the Chase Hyatt card after you build some credit history with Chase.

Also, I don't think there's a way to open a credit card jointly with a parent. Unless your parent opens the card, and then adds you as an authorized user.

Hope that helps a little. Good luck building your credit - it's worth it!

Would a student get approved for the Hyatt card? Is it more like a Freedom or a Sapphire in Chases eyes? Would it be best to get the freedom first and the try to get the Hyatt or will the amount of credit be too low to allow concurrent cards? Assume the student makes little but parent is willing to be on account?