Paying for College with Credit Cards.

Sometime in December, we’ll get our second biggest bill ever, when Radford University sends out their spring semester bills.

In the JumpStart household, that means it is credit card application time.

I want to make it clear, that we are not borrowing money, with credit cards, to pay tuition.  The cash is already in our accounts, but if we are going to spend 8 grand, we may as well earn some credit card bonuses.  We’ll charge 8 grand on credit cards, and then pay the balances off in full.  Our hard earned money is never spent on credit card interest.

JumpStart Jack’s Aps

My 18 year old son JumpStart Jack already has a Discover card and a Bank of America card.  His credit score took a temporary hit, but has made a bit of a rebound.  With some recent credit card junk mail, no applications in over 90 days, and a credit score in the “good” range, we were a little ambitious and decided to go for the Chase Freedom.


The Freedom is not a particularly hard card to get approval for, but Chase has a reputation of not approving students.  Mrs. JS and I already have Freedoms, and I went into my account and generated a referral link.  Might as well add a few points to my account, if he gets approved.  Feel free to use the Freedom Link yourself.

After filling out the info, we got the dreaded instant rejection screen.  I am second guessing some of our application answers.  Jack is employed and he is a student.  Chase doesn’t have an option for employed and a student.  Jack lives at home for free and/or pays for a dorm room, and that doesn’t fit neatly into the Chase response choices either.  After our rejection, we moved on to an easier target.

The AMEX everyday card has a better reputation with approval rates for students.  Mrs. JS and I also have everyday cards, and I grabbed a referral code.  If you are in the market for a new AMEX card, I’d appreciate you using my AMEX Link.

Unfortunately Jack wants the no fee Everyday card, and our link was for the preferred card.  Instead, I went through a link on Frequent Miler’s site.

After submitting the application, we were thrilled to get the instant approval and a $1000 credit line.

In hindsight, we should have called it a day, but Citi had sent Jack some junk mail for the AAdvantage card.  After entering the special invitation number and all Jack’s info, we got our second instant rejection.  Should have called it a day, but we turned our sights on Bank of America.

Jack and I felt optimistic because BofA granted Jack his first card.  We chose a BofA travel rewards card, and finished the day with a third instant rejection.

Jack’s credit score will take a hit after 4 hard pulls and a new credit account opening, but we’ll wait another 3 months, keep monitoring his scores, and reassess after his 19th birthday.

The AMEX everyday card is a solid card for regular spend and earns transferable points called membership rewards points.  The card earns 2.4x at grocery stores as long as it is used 20 times per month.  It also came with a bonus 10k points after spending $1000 on the card.  The 11k MR points will be worth $110 cash, and more if used with the right transfer partners.

Mrs. JumpStart’s Aps

Mrs. JumpStart stepped in for the next couple of apps.  Mrs. JS has an excellent credit score, and only 4 hard pulls in the last 2 years.  Her most recent applications scored her 2 Southwest cards, 120,000 SW miles, and the companion pass.

Another Chase card was the only choice, since she is still under 5/24.  Mrs. JS got the instant approved for the Chase Saphire Preferred card.  It comes with a $50k point bonus after $4000 in spend.  These transferable points are called Ultimate Rewards points and could be used for $500 cash.  They are more valuable when transferred to partners such as Hyatt and United.

We decided to grab one more card for Mrs. JS, and chose the new BofA Premium Rewards Card.  She scored another instant approval and another 50k bonus points after $3000 in spend.  BofA points are worth $500 cash, but we will have to pay a $95 annual fee.  There are some possible $100 reimbursement features, but I do not know if we’ll be able to take advantage of them.

In a couple of weeks, we’ll have 3 new cards in hand, ready to earn 3 bonuses after spending 8 grand.  When the spring college bill arrives, I can knock out the spend in a few minutes.  There will be a 2.75% convenience fee of $220, but the bonuses more than justify the fee.  Jack will begin accumulating MR points and have a solid, long-term, no-fee, AMEX card. Mrs JS will add a big 50k chunk to our stash of UR points, and net over $400 in cash back.

Tuition bills are rough at 8 grand,  but this credit card strategy give us a great rebate.

*Part of Financially Savvy Saturdays on brokeGIRLrich.*

Posted in Credit cards, Paying for college..


  1. I was late to the game on getting sign-up rewards. We’ve already paid off three years of school and just collected the cash back on my existing card. Finally used Fall tuition to cap off a Chase Sapphire Preferred and get the 50K bonus. Wish I would have gotten on that train earlier!

    • I got into the credit card game in 2013. Wish I had gotten in earlier. A lot of good deals died before I found out about them. I used one american airlines card for 15 years, before that.

      • Wow, that’s still a long time doing it. So you’ve cycled through the offers a few times? That’s the part I don’t have a great handle on yet, when to cancel a card after you’ve gotten the initial reward. Have you kept track of all the rewards you’ve gotten over the years?

        • Look up the double browser trick. About 5 years ago, people used to apply for the exact same card twice at the same time and get the bonuses twice.
          The cards that have annual fees get cancelled 11 months in unless there is some yearly benefit that makes the fee worth it. Sometimes they offer retention offers that make them worth keeping.
          I currently have 1.4 million miles/points according to my award wallet account. I am not sure how many points I have redeemed.

    • I have got to get to Hawaii one day. I’ve only been through an airport in Cali. Can’t wait til my first Cali trip this summer.

  2. Great strategy! We haven’t done too much credit card hacking…we mostly use our Amazon card and get Christmas presents with it. On the other hand, we haven’t had tuition payments to worry about either. Something to think about as we get closer to college (and being able to travel without the kiddo).

    • Even if you don’t want travel, many of the cards have some good cash back bonuses. Running a grand per month over a year through a 1% card will earn 120$ cash back.
      The Blue Cash Everyday card from AMEX will give you 150$ after the first grand of of spend.
      If you are willing to switch cards a couple times a year, it can add up. Remember, couples can get the bonuses twice.
      The only drawback is there is some mental work to organize and keep track of multiple accounts.

  3. This is something to think about anytime you have a large purchase or bill coming up. While I’ve stuck to cash rewards, I’ve managed to take advantage of a number of bonuses plus the regular rewards. Every bit makes a difference!

    • Awesome! The value of the points is a funny thing. I have been on free first class flights that had ticket values around $10,000, but I would never pay that much, and can’t sell my points for that much. Do you have a post about how you racked up $13k?

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