Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One® Review

Eric is an expert who has been covering personal finance since the mid-1990s. His articles have appeared broadly on sites such as MSN, USA Today, and Yahoo.

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This card amps up the value for cardholders who want to earn more rewards than the typical student credit card offers. The debt-averse side of us values that cardholders are incentivized to pay bills on time and avoid debt so they can earn 1.25% cash back for that month when paying bills on time. Here’s a closer look at the card.

Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One®

Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One®

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Our Bottom Line

This card amps up the value that other student credit cards lack. The fact that the offer cuts your out-of-pocket costs with no annual fee, while still offering cash back, makes it a leading student card.

What we Like:
  • 1% cash back
  • No annual fee
  • No foreign transaction fee
Key Scores:
3.5 5 Perks
3.5 5 Fees
3.5 5 APR
Perks 3.5/5
Fees 3.5/5
APR 3.5/5
  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Regular APR: 26.99% Variable
  • Intro APR: Purchases: N/A Balance Transfers: N/A
Highlights
  • Earn 1% cash back on all your purchases. Pay on time to boost your cash back to a total of 1.25% for that month
  • Enjoy no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees
  • Get a head start and build your credit with responsible use
  • Get Eno®, your Capital One® assistant, to manage your account via text, receive alerts, and shop safer online
  • Pick the monthly due date that works best for you
  • Get access to a higher credit line after making your first 5 monthly payments on time
  • $0 fraud liability if your card is ever lost or stolen
  • Monitor your credit profile with the CreditWise® app, free for everyone
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Rates & Fees

What I like about the card

No annual fee -- The target audience for this card is young consumers with limited budgets. Fortunately, Capital One gives them a pass on this not-uncommon charge in the credit card world.

25% bonus cash back -- The base cash-back rate is 1%, but a cardholder can bump that up to 1.25% if he or she is a timely payer. Each statement paid on time earns the higher rate of cash back. This not only brings in extra rewards, it encourages and builds good credit management for the user.

0.25% extra doesn’t sound like much, but it can make a difference. If a customer spends $20,000 per year on the card but misses every payment, his or her cash-back earnings would be $200 for that year. A timely payer would earn $250.

No foreign transaction fee -- Planning on doing a semester abroad? Using your new credit to fund a jaunt overseas? If so, this card is a good travel companion, as it incurs no foreign transaction fee on any purchases outside of our borders.

No expiration on cash-back rewards -- The cash back you earn never expires as long as your account is open, so there is never any pressure or rush to redeem those earnings.

Numerous cash-back redemption options -- You have the flexibility of choosing statement credits, a check, and automatic disbursement to redeem cash back once a certain amount is accumulated, or on certain dates no matter the amount. This plethora of choices allow a cardholder to tailor the redemption method to their individual needs and is rare among competing cards.

Why you can trust me

I’ve worked as a stock market analyst, writer, and editor at various points in my career, which now spans almost 25 years. Across that stretch of time I have covered many aspects of the finance industry, including the credit card business. With credit cards, I live what I cover. After returning to the U.S. in 2007 from a long stretch abroad, I obtained my first plastic. These days I have six credit cards, all of which I use actively. I’m a cardholder in good standing with each, and I’ve learned how to utilize them to their best advantage.

What could be improved

Intro APR offer -- It isn’t unusual for student cards to have tempting intro APRs as low as 0%. This card has no such promotional rate.

High standard APR -- The regular APR is quite high compared to rivals. Although this discourages late payments, which is a good thing, it can hurt the finances -- and that all-important credit profile -- of those who fall behind.

Suggested credit score

Capital One classifies the credit level it requires to get this card as “average.” It breaks this down to mean:

  • You have a limited credit history (very common for young consumers).
  • You’ve held a credit card or some other form of credit for less than three years.
  • You might have defaulted on a loan within the preceding five years.

It’s important to note that Capital One considers those to be only guidelines in a decision. The issuer will evaluate other factors to judge your creditworthiness.

Combing through online reviews of the card from ostensible cardholders, it seems that applicants with extremely limited -- or even no -- credit history were able to obtain this card. Although initial credit limits tend to be modest ($300 or $500), some reviewers say this rose precipitously within their first year when they made consistently timely payments.

Why you need a first credit card

At some point in life, you’ll need to buy something that you can’t afford with the money immediately at your disposal. The most convenient way to do this is to use credit with a beginner credit card.

The older you get, the more you’ll likely need credit. As we get deeper into adulthood we start to require higher-ticket items. Houses and cars are expensive, and likely far out of your financial reach unless you finance them somehow.

Getting your first credit card, using it prudently, and paying it off on time, is a way to start building the all-important credit profile that will allow you access to higher levels of borrowing. No, the ultimate aim isn’t to draw down as much money as possible; it’s to rise to the level where you’ll be able to secure financing for major purchases such as houses and cars.

Credit cards and your FICO® credit score

Building a good credit history isn't as complex as it may seem. Simply pay off balances like clockwork each month to establish a solid payment history and keep debt balances low. Payment history accounts for 35% of your FICO® Score and credit utilization (debt divided by available credit i.e. keeping your debt use low) comprises 30%. Focusing on these two factors can put you on the path to excellent credit fast, plus you'll avoid interest charges paying off balances in full each month.

How to manage the card wisely

It’s critical that you develop good credit card habits; Journey® Student Rewards is suitable for this, as it’s a low-cost card that actively encourages timely payment.

Here’s a checklist to get you on the road -- or back on the road, if you’re in a recovery situation -- to a solid credit profile.

Pay on time

Even if you can’t settle the entirety of your monthly statement, get that money in by the specified deadline. Timeliness is one of the top criteria creditors use to judge your worthiness as a borrower. Also, by paying on time you’ll avoid late fees.

Keep utilization low

Another key factor in credit decisions is your utilization rate, i.e. the percentage of available credit you actually use (for example, if your balance is $100 on a card with a $500 limit, your utilization would be 20%). Most credit card analysts recommend that you keep this below 30% or thereabouts.

Devise a credit budget

Having a credit card shouldn’t mean “I’ve got it, now I’m gonna spend it!” Figure out what you really need to spend money on, estimate a dollar amount for these requirements, and try to stay more or less within that budget. This will make your spending more predictable, and by extension the amount you’ll need to make statement payments.

Comparing top student credit cards

The market is packed with student credit cards, some valuable, many not. Here's a quick side-by-side comparison of two of our picks of the best student credit cards.

As of Oct. 22, 2019
Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One® Discover it® Student Cash Back
Rating image, 3.5 out of 5 stars.
3.5 stars
ToolTip Icon for Star Rating. We want your money to work harder for you. Which is why our ratings are biased toward offers that deliver versatility while cutting out-of-pocket costs.
Our ratings are based on a 5 star scale. 5 stars equals Best. 4 stars equals Excellent. 3 stars equals Good. 2 stars equals Fair. 1 star equals Poor.
Rating image, 4.5 out of 5 stars.
4.5 stars
ToolTip Icon for Star Rating. We want your money to work harder for you. Which is why our ratings are biased toward offers that deliver versatility while cutting out-of-pocket costs.
Our ratings are based on a 5 star scale. 5 stars equals Best. 4 stars equals Excellent. 3 stars equals Good. 2 stars equals Fair. 1 star equals Poor.
Apply Now
Secure lock icon.

On Capital One's Secure Website.

Read Full Review Rates & Fees
Apply Now
Secure lock icon.

On Discover's Secure Website.

Read Full Review Rates & Fees

Credit Rating Requirement: New/Rebuilding: Clickable tooltip icon for credit rating info.

Credit Rating Requirement: New/Rebuilding: Clickable tooltip icon for credit rating info.

Bonus: N/A Bonus: Cash back matched after the first year
Rewards Program: 1% cash back on all purchases. Pay on time for a total of 1.25% cash back for that month. Rewards Program: Earn 5% cash back in rotating quarterly categories you activate ($1,500 quarterly spending cap), 1% back on all else
Intro APR: Purchases: N/A Balance Transfers: N/A Intro APR: Purchases: 0.00%, 6 months Balance Transfers: 10.99%, 6 months
Regular APR: 26.99% Variable Regular APR: 14.49% - 23.49% Variable
Annual Fee: $0 Annual Fee: $0

Highlights:

  • Earn 1% cash back on all your purchases. Pay on time to boost your cash back to a total of 1.25% for that month
  • Enjoy no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees
  • Get a head start and build your credit with responsible use
  • Get Eno®, your Capital One® assistant, to manage your account via text, receive alerts, and shop safer online
  • Pick the monthly due date that works best for you
  • Get access to a higher credit line after making your first 5 monthly payments on time
  • $0 fraud liability if your card is ever lost or stolen
  • Monitor your credit profile with the CreditWise® app, free for everyone

Highlights:

  • INTRO OFFER: Discover will match ALL the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically. There's no signing up. And no limit to how much is matched.
  • Earn 5% cash back at different places each quarter like gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, Amazon.com and more up to the quarterly maximum, each time you activate. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - automatically.
  • Good Grades Rewards: $20 statement credit each school year your GPA is 3.0 or higher for up to the next 5 years.
  • No annual fee. No late fee on first late payment. No APR change for paying late.
  • Get 100% U.S. based customer service & get your free Credit Scorecard with your FICO® Credit Score, number of recent inquiries and more.
  • Freeze It® on/off switch for your account that prevents new purchases, cash advances & balance transfers in seconds.
  • Get an alert if we find your Social Security number on any of thousands of Dark Web sites.* Activate for free.
  • 0% intro APR on purchases for 6 months, then the standard variable purchase APR of 14.49% - 23.49%.

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Apply Now
Secure lock icon.

On Capital One's Secure Website.

Show More Arrow graphic to expand and collapse content
Apply Now
Secure lock icon.

On Discover's Secure Website.

The card is right for you if…

Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One is a good foot-in-the-door credit card. It’s also appropriate for those in credit recovery mode. Most likely you’ll first receive this card with a low credit limit, so it’s nearly impossible to get in a deep debt hole with it. That, plus the elevated cash-back rewards for timely payment, helps build those good debt management skills we all need.

Past the beginner/recovery stage, though, this card probably isn’t the ideal go-to, as is the case with any student credit card. Other cards aimed at the middle of the credit market have fuller feature sets, better rewards programs, lower APRs, and juicier bonuses.

That said, this card is a very good instrument for getting there. Good credit habits start early, and that journey can begin effectively with this card.

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