The best credit union student credit card is the Patelco Credit Union Progress Student Rewards Mastercard® Credit Card because it gives 2 points per $1 spent on all school and grocery purchases, and 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases. The card also comes with a $0 annual fee. To qualify for this card, applicants must be members of the Patelco Credit Union. Membership is free and available to students at San Francisco State University, Cal State East Bay, and UC Berkeley, as well as people from select counties and cities in California.
No, you don't need a job to get a student credit card, though you do need enough income to cover both your regular expenses and minimum monthly credit card payments, which are around $20 for most student cards. What counts as income depends on the credit card issuer and your age. You might be able to include scholarships, household income and even your allowance, among other sources.… read full answer
What Counts as Income on Student Credit Card Applications:
Shared Household Income
If you are over 21 years old, credit card issuers can consider your household income - money earned by a spouse, partner, or parent - as long as you have reasonable access to it. On the other hand, applicants between 18 and 21 years old can only apply for a credit card with their independent income. This rule was put in place through the CARD Act of 2009 with the purpose of discouraging irresponsible borrowing and predatory lending practices targeted toward young consumers.
Many credit card issuers will also consider support you receive from a parent or guardian as part of your income, even if you are not yet 21 years old. As a rule of thumb, you can include funds that are regularly deposited into your bank account.
Even if you don't have a traditional job, you can still include freelance earnings on your credit card application.
Scholarships and Grants
Credit card issuers have different policies when it comes to considering academic scholarships and grants as a form of income. Generally, you're safe to add any money that ends up in your account after covering tuition and school fees. Some issuers might even allow you to include the entire sum on the application, if the funds land in your personal bank account first. Unfortunately, student loans don't count as income, since they're a form of debt.
Social Security and Unemployment Benefits.
Income from government assistance programs, such as Social Security and unemployment benefits, can also count as income on credit card applications.
Even if your added income from all these sources doesn't satisfy student credit card requirements, there are still a few ways you could get a credit card.
Student Credit Card Alternatives if You Have No Job
Become an Authorized User
Even if your income situation makes it unlikely for you to get approved for any student credit card, you can still become an authorized user on someone else's account. Authorized users receive their own credit card and can make purchases, but the primary cardholder remains responsible for making payments.
Get a Secured Credit Card
If you don't have a regular source of income, secured credit cards might be a viable option. Because users are required to place a refundable deposit as collateral, income requirements for secured cards tend to be less strict. However, keep in mind that even with the security deposit, you're still responsible for making minimum monthly payments.
Calculating Annual Income for Student Credit Card Applications
It can be difficult to accurately measure your annual income when you don't have a fixed salary. And while credit card companies only ask for an estimate, it is important to remember that overstating your income on a credit card application can result in your application being declined. Moreover, knowingly lying on a credit card application is a crime.
To make sure you put down the right number, read carefully though the issuer's application guidelines or call customer service for more information. And if you need help picking a card, check out WalletHub's picks for the best student credit cards of 2022.
Here’s what to put for income on a credit card application as a student: income from full or part-time jobs (including work-study), investment dividends, and most other funds that are regularly deposited into your bank account. Excess scholarship money that ends up in your bank account after tuition expenses generally counts as income, too. Some credit card companies may even consider the entire amount as income if it lands in your bank account first. Social Security payments and pensions from deceased relatives, and public assistance payments also count as income. Money from grants may or may not count, depending on the credit card company.… read full answer
In general, if the money is available to pay a debt you owe, and is not earmarked exclusively for education expenses, it usually counts as income on a credit card application. The exception is borrowed money, including student loans.
Student loans don’t count as income
There’s no law against including student loan disbursements in your total annual income. But student loan money shouldn’t be counted as income on a credit card application because it’s not income—it’s debt. Any money that must be repaid should not be counted as income. Many students use loan money for personal expenses while in school, but that doesn’t mean it’s income.
What portion of scholarship or grant money counts as income?
Customer service representatives from different credit card companies have different opinions on this. For example, Chase reps say it depends on where the awarded money lands first. If the money goes directly to your school to pay for tuition and fees, you can only include whatever amount ultimately lands in your bank account. If the money comes to you first, you can include the entire amount—even if you pay tuition with it.
A Capital One rep said that no matter where scholarship money lands first, it’s up to the student to decide what gets counted in the application. That said, the rep did distinguish that grants do not count as income: “Neither student loans nor grants count as income because they are not considered a stable, continuous source of income."
If you’re in doubt, it’s best to call your credit card company’s customer service line and ask directly.
A student’s age impacts income on credit card applications
It’s worth noting that shared income can only be included on a credit card application if you’re over 21 years old. Those under 21 must have independent proof of income or a cosigner to get a credit card. That rule dates back to the Credit CARD Act of 2009. Credit card companies now have a more formal obligation to assess an applicant’s ability to pay their debt before extending a credit line.
How credit card companies interpret the law
There is a bit of a grey area between the CARD Act’s rules and credit card company guidelines for annual income. The law requires credit card companies to consider independent income for applicants under the age of 21. But based on the way major card issuers seem to interpret it, independent income doesn’t necessarily mean money earned directly by a student for doing a job.
For example, a Chase customer service representative suggested including any type of allowance you might receive from someone else to help pay your bills, if it’s deposited in your own bank account. Similarly, a Capital One representative noted that money must be “reasonably available” to you for it to count as independent income. That means the money must be regularly deposited into your personal account, or an account you share with the person depositing the funds.
So if your parents regularly deposit money into your bank account, you can use that amount in your annual income figure, according to Chase and Capital One reps. And if you’re 21 or older, you're allowed to report shared household income as your own on a credit application, as long as you have a reasonable expectation of access to the money. Sharing a bank account is not required in that case.
Does my annual income have to be 100% accurate?
Theoretically, credit card companies can take steps to verify what you put for income on your application. If they have a reason to doubt the number you give them, they can request information from your tax returns or use data from your credit report to create an estimate of your income. Keep that in mind because it’s against federal law to put false information on a credit card application. The law isn’t commonly prosecuted, but technically, breaking it is punishable by up to 30 years in federal prison per offense.
Having income from at least a part-time job will help a student get a credit card. But many students are unemployed while they’re in school. A 60% majority of full-time college students don’t have jobs, according to a 2019 study by the National Center for Education Statistics. That puts many college students at a disadvantage when it comes to getting a credit card. If your income is too low, try to find a cosigner or become an authorized user on a friend or family member’s account.
To qualify for a student credit card, an applicant must be a student, at least 18 years old, and capable of affording monthly credit card payments. Proof of enrollment at a college or university may be needed, too, though specific documentation requirements vary by card issuer.
You must be at least 18 years old and a U.S. citizen or legal resident to apply for a student credit card. A Social Security number (SSN) or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) is required in most cases, although international students who do not have an SSN might still qualify for a card such as Deserve® EDU Mastercard for Students if they meet the issuer's other requirements.
Proof of independent income.
Applicants under 21 years old must demonstrate an ability to pay the monthly credit card bill with their own source of income. Savings or wages from a part-time job would meet this requirement. Another option, if you can find an issuer that still allows it, is to have a co-signer who is at least 21 years old guarantee payment on the account.
Limited or no credit history.
Student credit cards are designed for people with limited or no credit, so if you have a bad credit score of 639 or less, your application will likely be rejected. Before you apply, you can sign up for a free WalletHub account to check if you have a credit score yet.
Verification of enrollment.
Most issuers will request some proof that you're a student, such as a college e-mail address. Though not all student credit cards require specific documentation, you should still be truthful when you apply.
Avoid too many recent credit inquiries.
It's important to minimize the number of times you apply for credit in a short period of time, particularly if you have limited or no credit. When you apply for a student credit card, issuers will perform a hard pull of your credit report, and if your credit history turns up frequent credit inquiries, or hard pulls, an issuer may view you as a credit risk and reject the application. So, don't apply for a bunch of cards all at once.
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