college finances

JumpStart From Scratch Progress Snapshot: 18 years and 6 months.


College Progress.

Semester 1 is paid for, and my son JS Jack will move into the dorm next week.  The tuition was paid with a combination of 3 different credit cards and a personal check.  The credit cards incurred a convenience fee, but they also hit spending amounts that triggered 3 bonuses.

Earning cashback with JS Jack’s first 2 credit cards.

Discover card.

Discover Card for Students offers 20$ for every year with a 3.0 GPA in college.  JS Jack took 3 dual enrollment classes his senior year, which give him a transcript from Virginia Western Community College, making him eligible for the 20$.  After grades were received, I took a few screen shots of his transcripts, and logged onto the Discover site to claim his money.  Turns out that Discover is incredibly trusting.  Instead of uploading documentation, Discover just had a pull down menu with possible GPA’s.  I chose the 3.0 to 3.5 range and hit the submit button.  20$ cashback already sits in his Discover account.

The April through May quarterly Discover 5% bonus category was home improvement scores.  Whenever I needed some building supplies, I used JS Jack’s card for the purchases.  The 5% cash back bonus added another $12.27 to his total, bringing the tally up to 32.27$.

In addition, Discover’s cash back match program will double his cash at the end of his first year.  After the 1st year bonus, he is already over 64$.

Bank of America

I could have sworn we applied for the Bank of America Travel Rewards for Students Card.  However when the card came it was the BofA Cashback Student Card.  The travel rewards card had $200 in travel after $1000 spend.  The Cashback card has a bonus of $100 cash back after $500 spend.  Regardless of the switcheroo, we were pleased to have a first credit card.  I used JS Jack’s card for family expenses during July, hit a grand of spend, and paid his balance in full.  Between the bonus and 1% back, he has racked up $113.

BofA offers a 10% bonus if cash back is deposited directly into a BofA saving or checking account. The basic saving account offered by BofA requires a $300 minimum balance to avoid monthly fees.  It may be worth parking $300 in a savings account for a while.  A 10% bonus would add 11 bucks and increase the total to $124.

It is kind of disturbing how easy it has been to use my son’s credit card.  I made a $350 surf board purchase without being ID’ed.  A waitress called me Jack, prompting giggling from family members, but nobody gave me away.  There have been no issues using a credit card with the wrong first name and different signature.

At 18 years and 6 months old, JS Jack is an authorized user on 2 of my AMEX cards, has a Victoria Secret store card, Discover Student Card, and Bank of America Student Cashback card.  His cashback total is at about $145, and discover will give him another $32 on his account anniversary.

What about credit score?

Credit score data from CreditKarma, Discover, and USAA is displayed below on the graph.  It took several weeks before he had a score at all.  After opening 3 accounts and running up the balances to hit bonuses, his scores have predictably sunk.  However, the recent Creditkarma scores suggest his score has bounced, and his headed back up.

The plan is to lay low for a couple months and monitor credit scores.  With low credit card balances and no credit pulls, I am optimistic there will be an upward trend.   Chase’s Freedom card and AMEX’s Everyday card are both on the radar.  They both have no annual fee, introductory bonuses, great bonus spend categories, and flexible transferable points.

Posted in Progress Snapshot.


  1. My kids (young adults) have my credit cards in thier wallets for emergency use or to use on things I allow or send them for; they’ve never had a problem using them.

    I’ve obtained credit cards to get the bonus points but I’ve never gone to the trouble that you have to keep track of bonuses after the first target. Something to consider.

    • I had an 800+ credit score in 2013 and had used 2 cards exclusively for 15 years. Then I found Frequent Miler and several other credit card travel blogs. I’ve cycled through a lot of cards since then, and I’ve already taken advantage of most of the opportunities. The advantage for a young adult Is that all the opportunities are still available, if they can get approved for the cards.

  2. It IS disturbing to see how easy it was to use your son’s credit card. Thank for this post. My oldest is still 5-6 years away from college but I’m already trying to map out the steps I’ll need to take with her financially.

    • Step 1. Money doesn’t come from parents or an ATM. It comes from earnings from a job or investment. Amazing how many kids think you go to the ATM to get more money.

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