JumpStart from Scratch is Back in the Game.

Success story for an 18 year old’s first credit card.

My son JumpStart Jr. turned 18 and we picked a card for his first application.  Bank of America Student Travel awards was the first choice.  We were disappointed, but not surprised, with the instant rejection after submitting the application online.  Bank of America toyed with our emotions and immediately sent an offer to approve with a guarantor.  A week after I sent the forms with my signature as the guarantor, BofA switched it up and again and sent a couple of letters rejecting the application for a second time.

Mrs. JumpStart and I have a 3 year banking relationship with Bank of America.  I have a BofA savings account, and keep at least $1500 in it to avoid monthly fees.  We both have the Better Balance Rewards card, with automatic charges, and automatic payments, in order to trigger $30 and 25$ dollars bonuses each quarter.  We have gone through a series of Alaskan Airline cards.  There has never been an issue getting approved for BofA cards.  I have been putting off calling to question the rejection, but still need to follow through.

USAA is my main bank, but uncharacteristically weak customer service and vague credit card descriptions stopped us from choosing to apply with them.  JumpStart Jr. has already established his first adult savings and checking accounts with USAA.

Last week, I applied for the Discover it Student card.  At the end of the application, an error screen popped up, and no e-mails came from Discover.  I didn’t know it was rejected, approved, or never happened, and I became even more frustrated.  Over the next hour, I wrote the JumpStalled post describing my frustration with the Bank of America application and my frustration with all the free credit monitoring sources spitting out errors and no information.  I didn’t mention the Discover application in the post.

I decided to wait until Spring Break to get to work sending some emails, making some phone calls, and maybe checking out a credit union or other options.

Spring Break

It is a great feeling driving home from school at the beginning of Spring Break, but it got even better when I discovered a cardboard box, in the mail box, with JumpStart Jr’s first credit card inside. He had been approved with a $1000 credit limit.  His Discover it student card isn’t cosigned, isn’t authorized user, and was issued in his name.

Success had finally come 2 months after Jr.’s 18th birthday.  The JumpStart from Scratch has begun.

The Discover it card for students appears to be a normal Discover it card with one extra feature.  Every year in college with a 3.0 GPA earns a $20 bonus.  The card looks identical to my Discover it card, and it doesn’t even have the word student written on it.

Taking advantage of card features.

Samuel L Jackson makes fun of silly, confusing, rotating categories in his Capital One commercials.  He mocks the hardware store category, but I love Discover’s quarterly bonus category, and it’s currently 5% at Home Depot, Lowes, and Sam’s.  We don’t have much upcoming spend at these stores, but between Jr, Mrs. JS, and myself, we could use our 3 cards to get 5% back on $4500 worth of building supplies.  If there was a home improvement project in the works, this category would yield $225 of cash back.

This quarterly bonus category could also be used to get some college tuition back.  Sam’s sells 500$ Visa gift cards with a 6$ fee, and tuition can be paid by credit card for a 2.75% convenience fee.  Buying $1500 in Visa gift cards results in $18 in card fees and $41 in convenience fees, but yields $75 in bonus cash back. The bottom line is a rebate of $16 could be earned paying $1500 worth of tuition.

There are some hassles to earning the $16.  Jr’s $1000 credit limit makes 2 Sam’s trips necessary.  Cashiers get suspicious of large gift card purchases, fraud alert lock downs happen, gift cards sometimes don’t activate properly, carrying $1500 in cash equivalent gift cards has some risk, etc.  I am not jumping through these hoops for $16, but it could be done.

After examining the $20 yearly good grades bonus details, it clearly says 5 time limit, college student, and 3.0 yearly GPA.  I did not find the words “full time” attached to student, and am wondering if Jr.’s dual enrollment classes at Virginia Western Community College will qualify.  I’ll give that a try at the end of the semester, when his grades are complete.

The free FICO credit score is another feature of all discover cards.  Unfortunately, the discover card site did not have his score.  It was the first site that prompted semi-clear explanation. The other credit monitoring sites have just gone to errors.

Our objective is not to use the new $1000 credit limit to create debilitating debt.  Jr. isn’t even going to carry this card.  Our goal is to establish bank relationships, build credit score, and take advantage of bonuses that earn cash back bonuses.

Hopefully this will be the first of a series of cards that earn cash, airline miles, hotel points, and transferable bank points.

We used the card at the Green Goat and 7-11 last night, will pay the credit card bill in full, and the card will only be used when needed for a bonus category purchase.

Moving Forward.

I’ll continue to monitor the free credit monitoring services for his credit score.  I still need to call BofA to question their decision to reject the application even with a guarantor.  In 90 days, I’ll choose another credit card from a different bank for an application.  I am also on the watch for a decent bonus for opening savings or checking accounts.

Posted in Credit cards, updates.


  1. Congrats on the credit card success! My parents got me to open my first one during freshman orientation at college and I still have that credit card today. Here’s to hoping he learns to use it responsibly.

  2. My first card was a USAA card, but I don’t remember how I got it. My second card was Discover, and I only got it because it was the only card that they accepted at Sam’s. Both cards are no fee, and so there has never been a reason to close either. I frequently use the Discover for cash back deals. I haven’t used the USAA in forever, but it is set as a back up if my checking gets overdrawn.
    You never know, but my son seems to be pretty responsible with money.

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