The Ultimate Guide to Credit Cards
Friday, November 27, 2020

15 Best Credit Cards for Paying Tuition

Best Credit Cards For Paying Tuition

credit card advice

Eric Bank
By: Eric Bank
Posted: February 18, 2020
Advertiser Disclosure

You can pony up your tuition in many ways, including a student loan, a 529 plan, even cash. Credit cards may not immediately spring to mind when mulling over how to pay your tuition, but you might be surprised that, under the right conditions, using credit cards can be a savvy move.

In this article, we’ll review the best credit cards for paying tuition, one of which may be the perfect choice to have in your pocket for your appointment with the bursar.

0% Interest | Signup Bonus | Student Offers
FAQs & Methodology

Best Cards with 0% Interest for Paying Tuition

These cards offer new cardmembers a 0% APR for an introductory period following account opening. Using one makes good sense if you can pay most or all of the balance before the period ends.

Any balance remaining after the introductory period expires will incur interest at the card’s regular APR, which is why it’s critical to compare interest rates before applying.

  • Earn a $200 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.
  • Earn 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (not including Target® or Walmart® purchases) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year.
  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on all other purchases.
  • Earn 5% on travel purchased through Chase, 3% on dining at restaurants and drugstores, and 1.5% on all other purchases.
  • No annual fee.
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases, then a variable APR of 14.99 - 23.74%.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% Intro APR on Purchases 15 months
N/A
14.99% - 23.74% Variable
$0
Good/Excellent

The Chase Freedom Unlimited® offers new cardmembers a promotional APR (0% Intro APR on Purchases 15 months) after opening the account. In addition, you can earn an introductory bonus when you meet the very attainable time frame and purchase requirements.

The card also lets you earn cash back on every purchase. The Chase Freedom Unlimited® card has no annual fee, no redemption minimums, and no reward expiration while the account remains open.

Chase Freedom FlexSM Review

at the issuer'ssecure website

0% INTRO APR RATING

★★★★★
4.8

OVERALL RATING

4.9/5.0
  • Earn a $200 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.
  • Earn 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (not including Target® or Walmart® purchases) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year.
  • Earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate. Enjoy new 5% categories each quarter!
  • Earn 5% on travel purchased through Chase, 3% on dining at restaurants and drugstores, and 1% on all other purchases.
  • No annual fee.
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases, then a variable APR of 14.99 - 23.74%.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% Intro APR on Purchases 15 months
N/A
14.99% - 23.74% Variable
$0
Good/Excellent

The Chase Freedom FlexSM card gives new cardmembers a promotional APR (0% Intro APR on Purchases 15 months) after opening the account. In addition, you can receive a cash back bonus when you spend $500 during the first three months. This card has no annual fee.

0% INTRO APR RATING

★★★★★
4.9

OVERALL RATING

4.8/5.0
  • One-time $200 cash bonus after you spend $500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening
  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day
  • No rotating categories or sign-ups needed to earn cash rewards; plus, cash back won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how much you can earn
  • 0% intro APR on purchases for 15 months; 15.49%-25.49% variable APR after that
  • Pay no annual fee or foreign transaction fees
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 15 months
N/A
15.49% - 25.49% (Variable)
$0
Excellent, Good

After opening your account, the Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card offers an introductory purchase APR of 0% for 15 months.

The card pays you cash back on all purchases. The card charges no foreign transaction fees, no annual fee, and your cash back rewards don’t expire while the account remains open.

0% INTRO APR RATING

★★★★★
4.9

OVERALL RATING

4.8/5.0
  • Earn a one-time $200 cash bonus after you spend $500 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening
  • Earn unlimited 3% cash back on dining and entertainment, 2% at grocery stores and 1% on all other purchases
  • No rotating categories or sign-ups needed to earn cash rewards; plus cash back won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how much you can earn
  • 0% intro APR on purchases for 15 months; 15.49% - 25.49% variable APR after that
  • No foreign transaction fee
  • No annual fee
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 15 months
N/A
15.49% - 25.49% (Variable)
$0
Excellent, Good

The Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card gives new cardmembers a promotional APR — 0% for 15 months — to pay off your tuition over time.

This no-annual-fee card offers benefits such as virtual card numbers, no foreign transaction fees, and special access to events.

5. Discover it® Cash Back

This card is currently not available.

0% Intro APR Rating

★★★★★
N/A

OVERALL RATING

N/A
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A

The Discover it® Cash Back card offers new cardmembers a promotional APR on purchases. The cash back you earn with the card never expires while the account is open, and you can redeem your rewards at any time, in any amount.

Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card Review

at Bank Of America'ssecure website

EXPERT'S RATING

★★★★★
4.9

OVERALL RATING

4.7/5.0
  • Enjoy a $200 cash rewards bonus after spending at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening
  • Earn 3% cash back in the category of your choice: gas, online shopping, dining, travel, drug stores, or home improvement/furnishings and 2% cash back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs on the first $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club purchases each quarter, then earn 1%
  • Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases
  • Introductory 0% APR for your first 12 billing cycles for purchases and balance transfers made within 60 days of account opening (balance transfer fee applies)
  • $0 annual fee
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 12 billing cycles
0% for 12 billing cycles
13.99% - 23.99% Variable
$0
Good/Excellent

The Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card offers a promotional 0% APR on purchases after opening the account. Your cash back is worth 25% to 75% more when redeemed through Preferred Rewards.

0% INTRO APR RATING

★★★★★
4.6

OVERALL RATING

4.8/5.0
  • $0 annual fee and no foreign transaction fees
  • Earn a bonus of 20,000 miles once you spend $500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $200 in travel
  • Earn unlimited 1.25X miles on every purchase, every day
  • Travel when you want with no blackout dates and fly any airline, stay at any hotel, anytime
  • Miles won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how many you can earn
  • Transfer your miles to over 10+ travel loyalty programs
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 12 months
N/A
15.49% - 25.49% (Variable)
$0
Excellent, Good

The Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card offers an introductory APR — 0% for 12 months — to new cardmembers. The Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card charges no annual or foreign transaction fees. You can transfer your miles to 12+ travel partners or use them for travel without any blackout dates.

Best Cards for Paying Tuition to Earn a Signup Bonus

Signup bonuses incentivize you to obtain a card and then use it right away. You earn the bonus by spending a set amount on purchases during the first three months.

If you’re going to pay some or all of your tuition with a credit card, you may as well use one with a generous signup bonus. These cards all offer large bonuses that can make a substantial dent in your tuition and help ease some of the financial pain.

EXPERT'S RATING

★★★★★
4.8

OVERALL RATING

4.8/5.0
  • Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide, eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel.
  • Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on orders over $12 for a minimum of one year on qualifying food purchases with DashPass, DoorDash's subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.
  • Earn 2x total points on up to $1,000 in grocery store purchases per month from November 1, 2020 to April 30, 2021. Includes eligible pick-up and delivery services.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
15.99% - 22.99% Variable
$95
Good/Excellent

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card card rewards you a hefty sum of introductory bonus points when you spend $4,000 on purchases (including tuition) during the first three months after opening the account. Those points are worth a large chunk of change, especially toward travel when redeemed at Chase Ultimate Rewards, where points are worth 25% more for certain redemptions.

You can transfer your points one for one to Chase’s airline travel and hotel partners. This is a premium card and it charges an annual fee.

EXPERT'S RATING

★★★★★
4.9

OVERALL RATING

4.9/5.0
  • Earn 100,000 bonus miles when you spend $20,000 on purchases in the first 12 months from account opening, or still earn 50,000 miles if you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on every purchase, every day
  • Miles won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how many you can earn
  • Receive up to $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✔®
  • Redeem on travel—from vacation rentals to car rentals and more. Plus transfer your miles to over 10+ travel loyalty programs
  • No foreign transaction fees
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
17.24% - 24.49% (Variable)
$95
Excellent, Good

The Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card gives you a one-time signup bonus when you meet a purchase threshold in a set time frame from when you first receive your card. These bonus miles add up to serious travel rewards.

You can transfer your miles to more than a dozen travel partners or redeem your miles for travel with no blackout dates. Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card gives you a credit to reimburse up to $100 for TSA Preè or Global Entry fees.

EXPERT'S RATING

★★★★★
4.8

OVERALL RATING

4.8/5.0
  • Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
  • 3X points on travel immediately after earning your $300 travel credit. 3X points on dining at restaurants including eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $750 toward travel
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
16.99%-23.99% Variable
$550
Good/Excellent

The Chase Sapphire Reserve® points you earn are worth 50% more when redeemed at Chase Ultimate Rewards® for travel and hotel expenses.

Additionally, the card gives you a $300 credit each year to reimburse travel expenses. This premium travel rewards card charges a hefty annual fee.

EXPERT'S RATING

★★★★★
4.8

OVERALL RATING

4.8/5.0
  • New Offer! Earn 100k bonus points after you spend $15,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,250 toward travel when redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Earn 3 points per $1 on the first $150,000 spent on travel and select business categories each account anniversary year
  • Earn 1 point per $1 on all other purchases - with no limit to the amount you can earn
  • Points are worth 25% more when you redeem for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • Redeem points for travel, cash back, gift cards and more - your points don't expire as long as your account is open
  • No foreign transaction fees
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
15.99%-20.99% Variable
$95
Good/Excellent

The Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card points you earn are worth 25% more if you redeem them through Chase Ultimate Rewards for travel-related purchases.

The card provides 3X points on combined purchases, up to $150,000 per year, on selected expenses, including social media advertising, internet, cable, phone, travel, and shipping. All other purchases earn unlimited 1X points. This card has an annual fee.

Ink Business Cash® Credit Card Review

at the issuer'ssecure website

EXPERT'S RATING

★★★★★
4.9

OVERALL RATING

4.6/5.0
  • Earn $750 bonus cash back after you spend $7,500 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening
  • Earn 5% cash back on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at office supply stores and on internet, cable and phone services each account anniversary year
  • Earn 2% cash back on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at gas stations and restaurants each account anniversary year
  • Earn 1% cash back on all other card purchases with no limit to the amount you can earn
  • 0% introductory APR for 12 months on purchases
  • Employee cards at no additional cost
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% Intro APR on Purchases 12 months
N/A
13.24% - 19.24% Variable
$0
Good/Excellent

The Ink Business Cash® Credit Card gives you a cash back bonus when you meet a set purchase threshold in the first three months of your account opening. This no-annual-fee card gives you 5% cash back on the first $25,000 spent each year on purchases at office supply stores and for phone, cable, and internet services.

Best Student Cards for Paying Tuition

It’s not unusual for students to have poor or limited credit. Fortunately, these three cards are optimized for students, which comes in handy if your parents aren’t paying all your tuition costs.

These cards offer one or more features that can at least partially offset your tuition and/or interest costs.

13. Discover it® Student Cash Back

This card is currently not available.

Student Rating

★★★★★
N/A

OVERALL RATING

N/A
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A

The Discover it® Student Cash Back card provides a promotional APR on new accounts. To encourage studious behavior, Discover rewards students that maintain a high GPA by providing statement credit for a set number of years.

Students will earn cash back rewards with this card that never expire.

14. Discover it® Student chrome

This card is currently not available.

Student Rating

★★★★★
N/A

OVERALL RATING

N/A
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A

The Discover it® Student chrome offers tiered cash back rewards on gas and restaurant purchases each calendar quarter (up to the quarterly limit).

New cardmembers receive a promotional APR, and like the previously mentioned Discover student card, statement credit is awarded to students who maintain a high GPA.

STUDENT RATING

★★★★★
4.8

OVERALL RATING

4.2/5.0
  • 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
  • Earn $5 per month for 12 months on Select Streaming Subscriptions when you pay on time. *Exclusions Apply
  • Enjoy no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees
  • You can help build your credit with responsible use of a card like this
  • Pick the monthly due date that works best for you
  • Be automatically considered for a higher credit line in as little as 6 months
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
26.99% (Variable)
$0
Average, Fair, Limited

The Journey Student Rewards from Capital One provides an unlimited 1% cash back on all purchases and charges no annual fee. Moreover, you can boost your cash back rate to 1.25% for the month by paying your bill on time.

Timely payments build your credit because the card reports your payments to one or more of the major credit bureaus. In addition, you can receive a higher credit limit if you make your first five monthly payments on time.

Can You Use a Credit Card to Pay Tuition?

There is a mixed picture regarding tuition payment via credit card. Most public colleges and community colleges accept credit cards for tuition purposes, but many private colleges do not.

However, some top private schools accept credit cards for tuition, including Johns Hopkins, Carnegie Mellon, Northwestern, Rice, and Wellesley. You can use your credit card at virtually all post-secondary schools to pay for other expenses, such as books, supplies, meal plans, fees, and more.

It’s important to carefully consider whether using your credit card for tuition is your best option.

Pros: 

  • You can earn a signup bonus potentially worth hundreds of dollars.
  • Many cards provide a year or more of 0% APR to new cardmembers, which saves you the cost of interest.
  • You can earn rewards in the form of cash back, points, or miles.
  • Some cards offer cash back matches or enhanced redemption values.

Cons: 

  • Credit card APRs are higher than student loan APRs. According to U.S. News, the average minimum and maximum credit card APRs for consumers with fair credit are 24.96% and 25.81%, respectively. The averages for student credit cards are a minimum of 16.54% and a maximum of 24.25%. Compare that to the APR of 4.53% for undergraduate federal student loans.
  • Most colleges will charge a fee, usually 2.5% to 3%, when you use a credit card to pay tuition. You’ll want to compare the fee against the card’s regular and bonus rewards.
  • Your credit card spending limit may be too low to cover the cost of tuition.

This last point deserves discussion. If your tuition cost exceeds your card’s spending limit, you may want to consider using multiple cards — if you can qualify for them. If you do use multiple cards, you may want to consolidate the balances afterward.

Several of the cards in this review offer new cardmembers a 0% APR for balance transfers (fees apply, usually around 3%). Balance transfers make monthly payments more convenient and may reduce your minimum payment amount.

Do You Earn Rewards for Paying Tuition?

Tuition can cost thousands of dollars, so it would be nice to reap some rewards when paying it. The cards in this review offer a variety of rewards for paying tuition.

Our top choice for cards offering an introductory 0% APR on purchases is the Chase Freedom Unlimited®. The current introductory period is 0% Intro APR on Purchases 15 months after opening the account. This gives you some time to pay as much of the card balance as possible without the drag caused by interest.

How to Earn a Signup Bonus

Another popular reward for new cardmembers is a signup bonus. Our choice in this category is the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card card. It currently provides bonus points if you spend the required amount on purchases during the first three months that are redeemable for cash. If you redeem these points for travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards, the monetary value is even higher.

Naturally, you need to time your application for a bonus reward card so you receive the card just prior to your tuition due date. If you happen to have good to excellent credit, you may consider getting multiple new cards with generous introductory bonuses. This will maximize your total bonus, and you can then choose to consolidate your balances through a 0% APR transfer.

If your credit is thin or poor, your only option may be a student credit card. Our winner in this category is the Discover it® Student Cash Back card.

The Discover it® Student Cash Back provides new cardmembers an introductory APR and bonus cash back on quarterly rotating merchant categories that you activate, up to the quarterly limit.

How Does the Tuition Tax Credit Work?

A tax credit reduces your tax bill dollar for dollar. Compare this to a less-valuable tax deduction, which reduces your taxable income. You must multiply a tax deduction by your marginal tax rate to compute the tax savings. Clearly, a credit is worth more than an equal-sized deduction.

The federal government offers two tuition tax credit programs. The first is the American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC). The credit reimburses eligible students for qualified education expenses, up to $2,500 a year.

The credit pays 100% of the first $2,000 in qualified education expenses and 25% of the second $2,000. To qualify, students must:

  • Be working toward a degree or other education credential.
  • Be enrolled at least half time.
  • Not have claimed previous AOTC credits for more than four tax years.
  • Have qualified expenses that include tuition, enrollment fees, and required course materials.
  • Not have finished four years of higher education.
  • Have no convictions for felony drug crimes.
  • Not have a modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) above $90,000 for single filers or $180,000 for joint filers.

Alternatively, eligible students can apply for a Lifetime Learning Credit (LLC) to cover tuition and other qualified expenses. The credit is worth up to $2,000 per year.

You can use it if you are an undergraduate, graduate, or professional student, or you pay qualified education expenses for a dependent or third party. There is no restriction on the number of years you can apply for this credit.

To receive the LLC, you must:

  • Be taking courses at an eligible institution.
  • Be taking post-secondary-school courses or courses to gain a job.
  • Be enrolled for at least one course per year.
  • Have qualified expenses that include tuition and fees.
  • Not have a MAGI in 2020 exceeding $68,000 for single filers or $136,000 for joint filers.
  • Not have claimed the AOTC for the same year.

To claim either credit, you must file Schedule 3 of Form 1040 and Form 8863, Education Credits.

Ranking Methodology

Our list of the best cards for paying tuition considers various factors that are important when making a large purchase on a credit card, such as a promotional 0% interest rate, signup bonus offered, rewards earning rates, and the ongoing APR of each card. CardRates’ reviews undergo a thorough editorial integrity process to ensure that content is not compromised by advertiser influence.

Advertiser Disclosure

CardRates.com is a free online resource that offers valuable content and comparison services to users. To keep this resource 100% free, we receive compensation from many of the offers listed on the site. Along with key review factors, this compensation may impact how and where products appear across the site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). CardRates.com does not include the entire universe of available offers. Editorial opinions expressed on the site are strictly our own and are not provided, endorsed, or approved by advertisers.