Selected by WalletHub Editors from 1,000+ credit cards — Updated March 24, 2017
A student credit card is the best way for any young person with an active college or university email address to build credit and prepare for the financial realities of life after graduation. Sure, student credit cards aren’t quite as easy to get as they once were, when issuers were allowed to trade free t-shirts for sign-ups right on campus. But as long as you can demonstrate enough income or assets to make a card’s minimum payments, which are usually about $15 for students, you should have little trouble getting a great credit card.You see, credit card companies typically give students better account terms than their credit experience would ordinarily merit, due to their relatively high earning potential and years of forthcoming financial needs. And your job is to take advantage of this opportunity. That means finding the best student credit card for your needs and making on-time payments every month.Finding the best student card is the easy part, considering that WalletHub’s editors have already done the work for you. They compared hundreds of credit cards for college students based on their fees, rewards and interest rates to find the best deals for the biggest student needs. And six offers in particular stood out above the rest.…show moreshow lessA student credit card is the best way for any young person with an active college or university email address to build credit and prepare for the financial realities of life after graduation. Sure, student credit cards aren’t quite as easy to get as they once were, when issuers were allowed to trade free t-shirts for sign-ups right on campus. But as long as you can demonstrate enough income or assets to make a card’s minimum payments, which are usually about $15 for students, you should have little trouble getting a great credit card.
You see, credit card companies typically give students better account terms than their credit experience would ordinarily merit, due to their relatively high earning potential and years of forthcoming financial needs. And your job is to take advantage of this opportunity. That means finding the best student credit card for your needs and making on-time payments every month.
Finding the best student card is the easy part, considering that WalletHub’s editors have already done the work for you. They compared hundreds of credit cards for college students based on their fees, rewards and interest rates to find the best deals for the biggest student needs. And six offers in particular stood out above the rest.
You can learn more about these offers (some of which originate from WalletHub partners), below. We’ll also explain how to choose between the best student rewards credit cards and the student cards with the lowest rates. Finally, make sure to check out our other money-saving pointers, which should come in handy before graduation and beyond.
This content is not provided or commissioned by any issuer. Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of an issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by an issuer.show more
This card provides 1.25% cash back on all purchases when you pay your bill on time each month (otherwise 1%). That's actually more than what’s offered by the average cash back credit card for people with excellent credit, according to CardHub’s latest Credit Card Landscape Report. It does not charge an annual fee.
This card offers relatively lucrative rewards in expense categories that are popular among students, giving you 3% cash back on gas and 2% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs (for the first $2,500 in combined quarterly purchases) as well as 1% cash back on everything else. You’ll also get a $100 initial rewards bonus for spending $500 in the first 90 days if you apply online and a 10% rewards bonus if you redeem your earnings for a direct deposit to a Bank of America savings or checking account. There is no annual fee.
This card is great for students who plan to eat out frequently and spend a lot on entertainment, offering 2 points per $1 spent at restaurants and on the likes of movies, music, video games and more. You’ll also get a 2,500-point initial bonus for spending at least $500 in the first 90 days your account is open, and there is no annual fee.
This card’s primary draw for students with wanderlust is its 20,000-point initial bonus for spending at least $1,000 within 90 days of account opening, which is available only to online applicants and redeemable for a $200 travel-related expense. But its ongoing rewards aren’t too shabby either, offering 1.5 points per $1 spent across all purchases. There is no annual fee.
Offering 0% interest on new purchases and balance transfers for the first 12 months, this no-annual-fee student credit card provides a great deal of saving potential to students who use a credit card calculator to plan their payments. After all, you don’t want much of a balance left over when the card’s 13.49% to 23.49% regular APR takes effect. Not only would it eat away at your savings, but young people should avoid getting in the habit of carrying a balance under unfavorable conditions.
Your means as a student are likely limited, so if you have damaged credit and are averse to the idea of placing a high security deposit, this partially secured card might be right for you. Applicants must place a security deposit of $49, $99 or $200 for a credit line of $200-$3,000, which means you might get a bit of spending power that’s not prepaid. Unfortunately, you won’t earn any rewards.
This secured card does not charge an annual fee and therefore warrants consideration if you’re seeking a guaranteed-approval, credit-building tool. The minimum deposit is just $200. In addition, this card comes with a rewards program providing 2% cash back at restaurants and gas stations on the first $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter and 1% on everything else. Your first year earnings are doubled.
Given the importance of credit building and how well credit cards lend themselves to the task, students must approach their choice of plastic with care yet avoid delay in making this decision. And while WalletHub’s editors have done the work to highlight the best student credit cards on the market, there are still some rules of thumb that can aid in the process.
Make Sure There’s No Annual Fee. Students should always limit their search to cards that do not charge an annual fee, assuming their credit is not somehow damaged already. A student’s top priority for using a credit card is to build credit, after all, and most college students have limited budgets. The best student credit cards are therefore those that are essentially free to maintain.
Focus on Rewards if You Plan to Pay in Full. Paying your bill in full every month is the best approach because it will save you from expensive interest charges and help you avoid getting into the bad habit of spending above your means. And since interest rates don’t matter when you pay in full, you can concentrate on getting the most lucrative rewards for your spending habits.
Find a 0% Rate for Big-Ticket Purchases. There are a handful of 0% APR student credit cards available, any of which could save you a boatload if you plan things right. That means applying a few weeks before your desired purchase date and repaying your balance before regular rates take effect. WalletHub’s Credit Card Payoff Calculator can help with that.
Transfer a Balance if You Have Credit Debt Already. A few student credit cards offer 0% intro rates on balance transfers for at least six months. With that being said, you’ll need to consider more than just the length of the 0% term, including each card’s balance-transfer fee and regular APR. You can crunch the numbers with WalletHub’s Balance Transfer Calculator to see which offer would save you the most money.
Don’t Discount Secured Cards.Secured cards are the easiest type of credit card to get approved for. The reason is this: They require a refundable security deposit that serves as the account’s spending limit and reduces risk from both the student’s and issuer’s perspective. They also are indistinguishable from unsecured credit cards on your credit reports, which means you can build credit and practice responsible habits without running the risk of exacerbating your situation. So, if you have damaged credit, opening a secured card and rebuilding your credit standing is a must.
6 Money-Saving Tips For College Students
Identifying the best credit cards for your needs is only half the battle if you’re a college student. You also must determine how best to use your card as well as garner the skills and experience needed to enter the real world on the right financial foot. Here are some tips for doing so:
Build Credit: The difference between good, bad and even limited credit is thousands of dollars and a lot of stress. And because the length of time you’ve been using credit is a critical component of your credit score, it’s definitely worth getting a head start on building a track record of responsible financial management before you graduate. Not only may doing so help you land your dream job or lease a new car, but it also will save you money on major expenses such as a mortgage or an annual insurance premium.
Don’t Make Purchases If You Don’t Trust Yourself: Credit cards report to the major credit bureaus every month whether or not you make purchases with them. Although the credit-building benefits are more pronounced when you actually use your card, overspending and missing payments is counterproductive. So, if you don’t trust yourself to spend responsibly with plastic, give your card to your parents for safekeeping or even consider cutting it up (after noting down your account number in case you need to call customer service, of course).
Budget: If you combine credit card use with a well-defined budget while in college, you’ll be well ahead of the curve. Only two in five consumers have a budget, according to the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, and that’s one of the primary reasons that credit card debt levels are as prodigious as they are. So, figure out how much you can afford to spend overall each month and determine how you want to allocate that amount. Next, review your spending patterns and payment habits at the end of each billing cycle and adjust accordingly.
Leverage Campus Resources: Most colleges and universities offer some type of financial literacy resources, be they a personal finance class, a money management help center or online educational materials. Take advantage of them, especially if doing so will fulfill a curriculum requirement. Learn as much as you can because this information, unlike some of what you’ll learn in college, will translate directly to everyday life.
Approach Student Loans With Caution: Taking out a bunch of student loans might not seem like too big of a deal now, considering how long you’ll have to pay them off. But too few students truly consider how big of a burden they can wind up being to their parents after graduation. Student debt increases the pressure to find a job — already a tough task in the current economic climate — and can delay major life events such as buying a home, getting married or starting a family. No one wants to be paying off education debt into their 40s, which is all too common these days. Try to supplement your tuition money with scholarships, grants and work experience, which also give your resume a boost.
Improve Your Financial Literacy: Understanding how to manage money is an invaluable life skill that you probably won’t learn much about in school. The best thing you can do, therefore, is take matters into your own hands and educate yourself on the most important topics. To get a sense of your current knowledge level and the areas where you can improve the most, get your WalletLiteracy Score.
My daughter at Georgia Southern has a visa card from our credit union. It is really nerve racking to know that she now has the power to destroy her credit rating, but we taught her well. We shall see if the lessons took. So far all has gone well, she has paid off the card every month and only uses it for necessary expenses and the occasional whimsy that she has already saved money for. Have the card really makes me feel at ease to know that if an emergency should happen she would be able to handle the immediate financial needs.…read more
The BankAmericard Cash Rewards for Students Credit Card is the best student card out there. It has great cash rewards for purchases that all college students make in a weekly basis. Also it has one of the best student loan options there are with very much flexibility and affordability making it good for a student taking multiple courses. My son who currently goes to college uses this card says that it is perfect for him. He uses it for all his gas station fill ups in which he gets 3% cash back as rewards. The other feature that I love is that the card has a budget which is good because I don't want my son to drop his credit score from loans.…read more
Get unlimited free credit scores & reportsSign up for free credit monitoringget your free credit score & report