Best Student Credit Cards: A Closer Look
Discover it® Student Cash Back
The Discover it® Student Cash Back card is tailored towards helping students build their credit history, but it doesn’t skimp on rewards.
Students using this card can expect the same amazing rewards as the regular Discover it® Student Cash Back card if they’re willing to do the small amount of leg work required to activate spending categories quarterly.
Discover it® Student Chrome
The Discover it® Student Chrome card offers simple, straightforward rewards that are geared toward student spending.
Students will also benefit from no annual fee and rewards for timely payments and good grades.
This card also offers a 0% APR for the first 6-months, which is an amazing offer to help students get on their feet.
Chase Freedom® Student Credit Card
The Chase Freedom® Student Credit Card makes it easy for students to learn the ins and outs of credit card rewards and bonuses while encouraging on-time payment and credit building.
This card has a lower APR than many of its peers and gives good standing rewards for credit cardholders who pay their bills on time.
Chase really considers this a starter card and offers many options for card upgrades after graduation.
Journey Student Rewards from Capital One
The Journey Student Rewards from Capital One card offers customization like personalized payment due dates with straightforward rewards.
Students using this card can expect to earn 1% cashback on everything with a 1.25% cashback potential for on-time payments.
The Capital One Journey Student Rewards card also comes with automatic consideration for a higher credit limit in 6 months with on-time payments.
Deserve® EDU Mastercard for Students
Students without a Social Security Number or any sort of credit history need look no further than the Deserve® EDU Mastercard for Students to get started building credit.
This card has a 1% cashback on all purchases and no foreign transaction fees, making it an excellent choice for foreign students.
Despite its lenient approval strategy, the Deserve® EDU Mastercard for Students does not require a deposit.
Petal® 2 “Cash Back, No Fees” Visa® Credit Card
The Petal® 2 “Cash Back, No Fees” Visa® Credit Card is a card for new credit users that also boasts a large credit limit.
There are no annual fees, and the rewards structure is uncomplicated. Students will earn 1% on all purchases and get an increase to 1.25% after 6 months of on-time payments.
There is no introductory APR for this card, but there is no penalty APR for missed payments.
Capital One SavorOne Student Cash Rewards Credit Card
The Capital One SaveOne Student Cash Rewards Credit Card was designed with students in mind.
This card offers 3x the points in categories where students are doing the most spending. It also has no annual fee, no foreign transaction fees, and no hidden fees.
Students who make on-time payments can also be considered for a higher credit limit in as little as 6 months.
Capital One Quicksilver Student Cash Rewards Credit Card
The Capital One Quicksilver Student Cash Rewards Credit Card is a no-fuss credit card with unlimited 1.5% cashback on all purchases.
While they do not offer an introductory APR, the Capital One Quicksilver Student Cash Rewards Credit Card does have a middle-of-the-road APR and the potential for increased credit after 6 months of on-time payments.
This card also encourages AutoPay to keep students on the path to building a credit history they can brag about at parties.
Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards Credit Card for Students
The Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards Credit Card for Students is a mouthful but a solid choice for students who want some control over their maximum rewards.
The card allows cardholders to select monthly which category they’d like their 3% cashback rewarded under.
Students also benefit from an extended 0% APR for the first 15 billing cycles and no annual fee.
This card also comes with a Welcome Bonus of $200 in cash rewards after the first $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days.
Citi Rewards+℠ Student Card
Commuter students are among those who would benefit the most from the Citi Rewards+℠ Student Card with its automatic 2X points on gas piracies up to the first $6000.
This card also has a unique point rounding system where cardholders can expect points to be rounded to the nearest 10 just because Citi wants to reward its cardholders.
The Citi Rewards+℠ Student Card also offers a Welcome Bonus worth about $25 when many of its peers do not.
>> More: Best Rewards Credit Cards
Secured Mastercard® from Capital One
If students are not quite ready to jump into the credit card pool with both feet but still want to build credit, the Secured Mastercard® from Capital One is a great choice.
This card reports to the three major credit bureaus and requires a refundable deposit as a way of keeping credit limits within means.
This credit card for students with no credit also comes without fees that other cards targeting the same audience typically carry.
What Types of Student Credit Cards Are Available?
- Travel Rewards: Travel credit cards will allow cardholders to earn points that can be used for flights, hotels, transportation, and other travel expenses. See our list of the best travel credit cards.
- Rewards: Credit cards can offer rewards as incentives for using their card on qualifying purchases. Rewards can be anything from points to mileage to cashback. Rewards can be tiered for purchases in certain categories, flat-rate rewards, or a combination of the two.
- Cash Back: Cash back cards are exactly what they sound like! These cards offer cash back on purchases either assessed as a flat percentage rate or as a tiered percentage rate in different categories. An example of cashback would be 1% back on all purchases or 3% back on purchases made at gas stations.
- Points and Mileage: Points and Mileage are friends that look alike, but not siblings. Cards that offer mileage for purchases are rewarding cardholders with airline-specific “currency” to be used on flights with a particular airline. The points that are rewarded to cardholders for purchases can be used at various airlines and are more flexible.
- Secured: A secured credit card is an arrangement where the cardholder pays a deposit to secure their credit limit. These cards can range from the deposit being a percentage of the overall limit to being completely secured by a deposit. Either way, students should look for cards that report to the three major credit bureaus to get the most out of these cards.
Why It Is Smart for College Students to Build Credit
Even people with the best savings and spending habits will still need a credit score to be approved for a car loan, rent, and loans.
College years are a great time for students to build credit history through timely payments and responsible credit usage so that they are positively positioned for the future.
Who Should Apply for a Student Credit Card?
College is a time for learning and learning how to be a responsible consumer should be part of every student’s daily life.
Students do not need to go all out and get a card with a massive credit limit, but pretty much all students should be using college as a time to build credit, even if that means getting a secured card that reports to the three major credit bureaus.
>> More: How to Build Credit
How to Compare Student Credit Cards
#1. Annual Fees
Annual fees are typically reserved for flossy rewards cards, but cards targeted at people with low or no credit can also carry them.
Several student-centric cards carry a $0 annual fee, so students should be careful to make sure they’re getting what they pay for.
#2. Compare APRs
There is no such thing as “free money,” which certainly includes money spent on a credit card.
Savvy students should always consider the APR for cards that pique their interest. APRs can really add up for anyone that cannot pay off the entire card balance every month.
APRs are one of the most important considerations in choosing the best card for you.
#3. Sweet Rewards
Cards targeted at students can still have sweet rewards. Students looking to help themselves build credit can make the most of their spending by finding a card that rewards the money they are spending the most.
#4. Credit Reporting
Finding a card that reports to the three major credit bureaus are going to be paramount in building a credit history as a student.
There may be some super credit cards out there, but if they’re not reporting your on-time payments, you’re not getting the full benefit.
#5. Travel Fees
Travel fees may not be a deal-breaker for everyone, but if you plan to use your card overseas, double-check your card doesn’t carry a foreign transaction fee.
While a small percentage fee like the standard 3% does not seem like much, it can really add up over time.
#6. Ability to Upgrade Cards
Student cards are starter cards that can carry decent rewards, but some of them also offer the ability to upgrade to a more robust card later on with a history of on-time payment.
This might not be important to everyone but think of student cards as a warm introduction to the credit card company that can lead to paying off later.
Is It Easy to Get a Student Credit Card?
First of all, anyone under the age of 21 MUST have a parent or guardian cosign a card with them if they do not have independent income according to the Credit Card Act of 2009.
This fact increases the likelihood of a student being approved for a card. However, student cards are designed for students, so the credit card companies already understand that applicants may have no credit when they apply. It is easier to get a student card than it is a regular card with the same credit profile.
Do I Need a Job to Get a Student Credit Card?
You do not need a job to get a student credit card, but you do need independent income to get a credit card without a parent or guardian co-signer.
Students who want to get a card without a co-signer do need independent income from a job.
How Are Student Credit Cards Different from Regular Credit Cards?
The primary difference between regular credit cards and student credit cards is the rewards, rates, and offers for people who have no credit or limited credit.
How Old Do I Have to Be to Get a Student Credit Card?
Consumers must be at least 18 years old to get a credit card, but anyone under the age of 21 must have a co-signer or proof of independent income.
What Do I Do with My Student Credit Card After I Graduate?
The issuer of your student credit card has a lot to do with what happens to your card when you graduate.
Cards issued by companies that also offer non-student cards will likely roll your account into one of those cards or offer to upgrade your card to an even better card upon graduation.
Bottom Line: Best Student Credit Cards
There are many “best” student credit cards out there for each different student. Universally, students should look for the lowest APR and interest rates with the best rewards that fit their needs.
To accurately evaluate the best student credit cards we reviewed the cards credit building capability, cardholder requirements, annual fees, and rewards. These metrics are key decision-making factors that consumers should consider if they are the market for a credit card designed for students. Read our strict editorial guidelines and credit card rating methodology to learn more about the integrity and transparency of our reviews.