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Local Banks Offer Credit Card Options To College Students

By Cristin A. Gonzlez
Technology Director

Credit cards are becoming the payment method of choice among the population at large, and choosing a credit card to use is often a matter of concern for incoming students.

Credit cards, however, must be used with care. National Credit Counseling Services, an organization that tracks consumer spending, reports that college students on average have a student loan balance of $10,146 after four years, leaving little room for credit card debts.

Most financial firms require that applicants be at least 18 years old to obtain a credit card. Credit cards can be obtained from local banks or, in other cases, directly from credit card companies.

Baybank

Baybank offers a classic Visa card with a $21 annual fee, a $1,000 credit line, and an annual percentage rate of the prime (currently 8.25 percent, though as a prime, the number varies) plus 8.4 percent, usually totalling somewhere over 16 percent in interest per year. Baybank has a grace period of 30 before interest is charged on purchases.

Student value packages are also available for those who wish to get a checking and savings account at Baybank. Some include credit cards with no annual fees and debit cards.

Citibank

Citibank's Visa card features a photograph of the owner for identification purposes and charges no annual fee. Their APR is currently 18.15 percent (9.4 percent added to the prime).

Their grace period before bills must be paid is 20 to 25 days. Citibank will charge a fee of $15 on past-due purchases and cash advances.

Fleet Bank

Fleet Bank offers several options, including a Visa credit card with an APR equal to 3 percent plus the prime, as well as a Caldor Visa with a 9.9 percent APR on balances transferred from any other credit card for one year. The Caldor card also gives a 1 percent rebate for purchases made at Caldor stores.

Fleet has no annual fees on any of its credit cards. A Mastercard with 3.4 percent APRs on transactions on first-year purchases is available.

There is a 250-day grace periods on purchases. Credit limits vary with income, but normally start at around $500.

Bank of Boston

The Bank of Boston's student card offers an APR currently at 6.4 percent (obtained by subtracting 1.85 from the prime) and has no annual fee. Credit line is determined during the approval process, and varies with income.

Bank of Boston offers a grace period is of 25 days, provided the previous balance was paid in full.

Bank of Boston offers both Mastercard and Visa credit cards.

Cambridge Trust Company

Cambridge Trust Company has an annual fee of $21 and a fixed APR of 16.45 percent. Credit limits normally range from $500 to $1,000, but it is relatively easy to get it increased.

The grace period for payments is 28 days. Only Mastercard is available.

American Express Optima

American Express offers the Optima student card as an option for college students. Unlike American Express's other cards, the Optima has no annual fee, and currently has a 18.15 percent APR for purchases. It also has a 30-day grace period for purchases.

The Optima card allows discounts in Continental Airlines airfares, Continental frequent flier miles, and 30 minutes per month of long distance calls on MCI for a year.

The Discover Card

Discover does not charge an annual fee and has an APR of 19.8 percent a 25-day grace period.

A special anniversary offer allows cardholders to get back 2.5 percent of the first $1,000 spent during this year and 0.5 percent for the second $1,000, and 1 percent for any $1,000 after that.