Selected by WalletHub Editors from 1,000+ credit cards — Updated September 19, 2017
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.
A student credit card is the best way to build credit and prepare for the financial realities of life after graduation. And the best student credit cards can help you save a great deal, thanks to generous rewards, 0% intro rates and low fees. They’re not too hard to get, either. All you need is an active college or university email address and enough income or assets to make the monthly minimum payments, which are usually around $15 for students.
Credit card companies tend to give students better deals than their credit experience would ordinarily merit because students have 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, seeing as WalletHub’s editors have done the work for you. We compared hundreds of credit cards for college students (some of which originate from WalletHub partners) based on their fees, rewards and interest rates to find the best deals for the biggest student needs. And a number of offers stood out above the rest.
You can learn more about these offers 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 browse our list of money-saving pointers, which should come in handy before graduation and beyond.show more
Journey offers 1.25% cash back on all purchases when you pay your bill on time each month (otherwise 1%). That's actually more than you’d get with the average cash back credit card. Plus, there’s no annual fee.
This card offers 2% cash back on your first $1,000 in restaurant and gas purchases each quarter, as well as 1% on all purchases. That's actually more than you’d get with the average cash back credit card. Plus, Discover doubles your first year earnings, you get a $20 annual bonus for good grades, and there’s no annual fee.
This card gives you great rewards in spending categories that are popular among college students: 3% cash back on gas, plus 2% back at grocery stores / wholesale clubs for the first $2,500 spent in those categories (combined) each quarter. You’ll earn 1% cash back on everything else.
There’s also a $150 bonus for spending $500 in the first 90 days your account is open (if you apply online). And if you redeem your rewards for a direct deposit to a Bank of America savings or checking account, you’ll get a 10% bonus. There is no annual fee.
If you apply online and spend $1,000+ during the first 90 days your account is open, you’ll earn 20,000 bonus points, redeemable for $200 in travel-related expenses. This card’s ongoing rewards aren’t too shabby either. You’ll get 3 points for every $1 in purchases made through Bank of America’s Travel Center, plus 1.5 points per $1 spent on everything else. There is no annual fee.
This card offers 0% intro APRs for 15 months on new purchases and balances transferred within 60 days of account opening. Plus, there’s no annual fee. And if you transfer a balance during the first 60 days, there’s no transfer fee, either. So if you’ve got some big-ticket plans coming up or some credit card debt to get rid of, this could be the card for you.
Just make sure to use a credit card calculator to confirm that you’ll be able to repay your full balance by the time regular rates take effect. You could lose a lot of your savings if you carry a balance past the 15-month mark.
Secured credit cards are among the top tools for building and rebuilding credit. They offer high approval odds and charge low fees. And the Capital One Secured Mastercard is one of the very best.
It doesn’t have an annual fee, for one thing. And while all cardholders start with a $200 spending limit, your required security deposit might not be that high. Depending on your overall creditworthiness, you’ll have to put down $49, $99 or $200. That’s why it’s known as a “partially secured” card.
This secured card requires a minimum deposit of $200 and does not charge an annual fee. It’s also a rare secured card with rewards, offering 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants (on the first $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter), plus 1% cash back on everything else. Discover doubles what you earn the first year, too.
WalletHub’s editors have done the work to highlight the best student credit cards on the market. But you still have to decide which offer is right for your particular needs. And these rules of thumb will help you pinpoint that plastic.
Here's what you should do to find the best student credit card for your needs:
Rule Out Cards with Annual Fees. Students should always limit their search to cards that don't charge annual fees. A student’s top priority for using a credit card is to build credit, after all, and most college students have limited budgets. So the best student credit cards are therefore those that are basically 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’re in Credit Card Debt. A few student credit cards offer 0% intro rates on balance transfers. 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.
Get a Secured Card If You’re Rejected.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 student credit card is only half the battle. You also need to use it responsibly, avoid common money-management mistakes, and build financial literacy for success after graduation.
Here are some tips for doing so:
Consider Credit Building Your Top Priority – A good credit score will save you thousands of dollars per year on loans, lines of credit and insurance premiums. It may even help you land your dream job or lease a new car. And two of the keys to building a good credit score are making on-time payments and establishing a long track record of responsible borrowing.
Don’t Make Purchases If You Don’t Trust Yourself – Credit cards report information to the major credit bureaus every month even when you don’t make any purchases. And while you may build credit faster by making purchases and paying them off by the end of the month, 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. You could even cut it up. Just make sure to save your account number in case you need to call customer service.
Make a 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 main reasons why credit card debt levels are so high.
Take Advantage of Campus Resources – Most colleges and universities offer financial literacy resources of some sort. For example, there might be a personal finance class you can take, a money-management help center you can visit or online educational materials to peruse. Find out and soak up as much information as you can, especially if it will fulfill a curriculum requirement. Because unlike much of what you’ll learn in college, financial skills translate directly to everyday life.
Approach Student Loans with Caution – Taking out a bunch of student loans might not seem like a big 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. Student debt increases the pressure to find a job 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. So try to supplement your tuition money with scholarships, grants and work experience. This will also give your resume a boost.
Improve Your Financial Literacy – Understanding how to manage money is an invaluable life skill. And you probably won’t learn much about in school. So you’ll have to take things into your own hands. 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.
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.