Best Student Credit Cards in 2024

Contributions by 6+ experts

Updated: July 16, 2024

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Getting a credit card as a student can be a step forward in establishing a financial foundation. The best credit cards for students offer perks such as cash back on everyday purchases, no annual fees and a friendly APR. They also provide educational resources to help you understand your spending and, possibly, a free FICO score update to keep track of your credit-building journey.

Finding the best credit card for students involves comparing different cards based on fees, interest rates, rewards and credit-building capabilities. By securing a card that aligns with your spending habits and financial goals, you can make the most out of its benefits while establishing a solid credit history.

Why You Can Trust Our List

Capital One Quicksilver Student Cash Rewards Credit Card
Credit Card logo for Capital One Quicksilver Student Cash Rewards Credit Card
MoneyGeek Rating
4.6/ of 5

On Partner's Website


Rewards Rate
Earn 10% cash back on purchases made through Uber ...
APR
19.99% - 29.99% variable
Annual Fee
$0
Recommended Credit
(No Credit History)
Capital One SavorOne Student Cash Rewards Credit Card
Credit Card logo for Capital One SavorOne Student Cash Rewards Credit Card
MoneyGeek Rating
4.9/ of 5

On Partner's Website


Rewards Rate
8% Cash Back on Capital One Entertainment purchase...
APR
19.99% - 29.99% variable
Annual Fee
$0
Recommended Credit
(No Credit History)
Discover it® Secured Credit Card

APR
28.24% variable
Min. Security Deposit
$200
Annual Fee
$0
Recommended Credit
(No Credit History)
Petal 2 Visa

Rewards Rate
1% Cash Back on All Purchases
APR
18.24% – 32.24% Variable
Annual Fee
$0
Recommended Credit
(No Credit History)
Petal® 1

Rewards Rate
2%–10% Cash Back
APR
25.24% – 34.74% variable
Annual Fee
$0
Recommended Credit
580 – 740 (Fair to Good)
Discover it® Student Cash Back
Credit Card logo for Discover it® Student Cash Back
MoneyGeek Rating
3.6/ of 5

Rewards Rate
Earn 5% cash back on everyday purchases at differe...
APR
18.24% - 27.24% variable
Annual Fee
$0
Recommended Credit
(No Credit History)
Discover it® Student Chrome
Credit Card logo for Discover it® Student Chrome
MoneyGeek Rating
3.6/ of 5

Rewards Rate
Earn 2% cash back at Gas Stations and Restaurants ...
APR
18.24% - 27.24% variable
Annual Fee
$0
Recommended Credit
(No Credit History)
Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card for Students

Rewards Rate
Earn 1.5 points per dollar on every purchase.
APR
18.24% – 28.24% Variable
Annual Fee
18.24% – 28.24% Variable
Recommended Credit
(No Credit History)
Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards credit card for Students
Credit Card logo for Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards credit card for Students
MoneyGeek Rating
1.6/ of 5

Rewards Rate
Earn 3% in a category of your choice, 2% back at g...
APR
18.24% – 28.24% variable
Annual Fee
$0
Recommended Credit
(No Credit History)
Bank of America® Unlimited Cash Rewards Credit Card for Students
Credit Card logo for Bank of America® Unlimited Cash Rewards Credit Card for Students
MoneyGeek Rating
3.9/ of 5

Rewards Rate
Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases.
APR
18.24%–28.24% Variable
Annual Fee
$0
Recommended Credit
670-850 (Good to Excellent)

What’s a Student Credit Card?

A student credit card is specifically tailored to meet the financial needs of students. Unlike standard credit cards, these are crafted with lower credit limits and more lenient approval requirements, considering that most students have little to no credit history. They are beginner-friendly tools aimed at introducing students to the world of credit while offering some buffer against common financial missteps.

Student credit cards provide a controlled environment where you can learn how to manage a budget, handle monthly payments and understand the impact of interest rates. Over time, responsible usage of your student credit card can help establish a positive credit history, which will be beneficial when applying for future loans or other credit cards.

Many of these cards provide access to financial education resources, helping you grasp the essentials of credit management. Moreover, some even offer rewards for good grades, encouraging academic excellence alongside financial responsibility.

How Does a Student Credit Card Work?

A student credit card operates similarly to a standard credit card but with features tailored to individuals who are either in college or new to credit. Here are some fundamental aspects of how student credit cards work:

Credit Limit

Student credit cards typically come with lower credit limits compared to standard credit cards. This is a measure to reduce the risk for both the card issuer and the student. With a lower credit limit, spending is capped at a manageable amount, making it easier for you to handle your card responsibly. This restriction also minimizes the potential debt you could accumulate, aiding in maintaining a healthy financial habit from the get-go.

Interest Rates

Interest rates on student credit cards can be higher due to the perceived risk by lenders because students usually have little to no credit history. Understanding how interest rates affect your balance is important. If you carry a balance month-to-month, the interest can add up quickly. However, by paying off the full balance each month, you can avoid paying interest, making the card a cost-effective choice.

Rewards and Benefits

Many student credit cards offer rewards programs and other benefits to entice responsible usage. You might earn cash back on purchases, receive statement credits or even get rewards for maintaining good grades. These incentives not only make using your card rewarding but also encourage responsible spending and timely payment habits.

Approval Requirements

Given that many students lack a credit history, student credit cards often have more lenient approval requirements. Some cards may also accept applicants with no income, although having a part-time job or other source of income can improve your chances of approval. These more relaxed criteria allows students an easier path to start building credit, although it's always advisable to have a steady income to manage a credit card responsibly.

Pros and Cons of a Student Credit Card

Understanding the advantages and drawbacks of having a student credit card can provide you with a well-rounded view to make an informed decision.

Pros

  • Credit Building: A student credit card is a stepping stone toward building a good credit history. By making purchases and paying off the balance on time, you demonstrate to lenders that you can manage credit responsibly. A good credit history will be beneficial when you need to qualify for loans, apartment rentals or even some job positions in the future.
  • Financial Independence: A student credit card allows for a certain level of financial independence. It can be particularly helpful in emergencies or for covering necessary expenses when cash flow is tight. Over time, managing a credit card helps develop financial responsibility and budgeting skills.
  • Rewards and Perks: Many student credit cards come with rewards programs, offering cash back, points or other perks for your spending. Some cards even reward you for good grades. These rewards can provide a pleasant incentive to spend wisely and pay off your balance each month.
  • Educational Resources: The educational resources provided by many student credit cards can be invaluable in learning about credit, budgeting and financial management. Access to your credit score, educational articles and budgeting tools provide a practical learning platform for personal finance management.

Cons

  • Potential to Overspend: With the freedom that comes with a credit card, there's a temptation to overspend. Without disciplined use, it's easy to accrue balances that can lead to significant debt, which could be hard to pay off as a student with limited income.
  • High Interest Rates: Student credit cards often have higher interest rates compared with other types of cards. If you carry a balance month to month, the interest charges can accumulate quickly, leading to more debt.
  • Impact on Credit Score: Mismanagement of a student credit card can negatively affect your credit score. Late payments, high balances and maxing out your credit limit can significantly lower your credit score, making it harder to qualify for financial products in the future.
  • Limited Credit Limit: The lower credit limit on student credit cards can be a constraint, especially during emergencies or unexpected situations. While it's a measure to promote responsible spending, it may sometimes limit the financial flexibility you have.

Factors to Consider When Applying for a Student Credit Card

When considering a student credit card, first assess your financial readiness and responsibilities. Here's a breakdown of who should consider applying for a student credit card and who might want to hold off for the time being:

Who Should Get a Student Credit Card?

    studentThinking icon

    Students with a steady income

    If you have a part-time job or a steady source of income, a student credit card can be a viable option. Having reliable income is important for effectively managing credit card payments. This will also aid in building a credit history, which will be beneficial in the long run.

    girlThinking icon

    Students ready to build credit

    If you’re keen on building a good credit history early, a student credit card is a great starting point. Responsible card management, like paying the full balance every month and keeping the utilization low, can significantly contribute to building a solid credit profile.

    highschoolStudent icon

    Students keen on learning financial responsibility

    If you're committed to learning about budgeting, financial planning and credit management, having a student credit card can provide real-world experience. It’s an opportunity to develop financial discipline and understand the dynamics of credit.

Who Shouldn’t Get a Student Credit Card?

    boyThinking icon

    Students without a steady income

    Without a steady income, managing a credit card can become a financial burden. It's advisable to have a regular income to cover the monthly payments and any unexpected charges that might arise.

    worldTraveler icon

    Students prone to overspending

    If you tend to spend impulsively or have not yet mastered budgeting, a credit card may exacerbate financial challenges. The temptation to spend can lead to accumulating debt that becomes overwhelming to manage.

    studentWithALoan icon

    Students with high existing debt

    If you already have significant debt, such as student loans or personal loans, adding a credit card to the mix may not be a wise decision. Before taking on additional financial responsibilities, a manageable debt level is important.

Comparing Student Credit Cards

When in the market for a student credit card, look at different cards to find the one that meets your needs and financial situation. Here are some key factors to consider when comparing student credit cards:

    lowInterestAPR icon

    Interest Rates

    The interest rate, or Annual Percentage Rate (APR), is a critical factor to consider as it determines how much you'll pay in interest if you carry a balance. Look for cards with lower interest rates, especially if you think you might carry a balance from month to month. Remember, the goal should be to pay off the balance in full each month to avoid interest charges.

    creditCard1 icon

    Credit Limit

    The credit limit is the maximum amount you can charge on your card. A lower credit limit helps control spending but can be limiting if you have larger expenses. Find a balance between having enough credit to cover your needs while not having so much that it tempts overspending.

    rewards icon

    Rewards and Perks

    Compare the rewards and perks offered by different student credit cards. Some cards offer cash back on purchases, discounts at specific retailers or even rewards for good grades. Consider what rewards or perks are most beneficial for your lifestyle and spending habits.

    annualFee icon

    Fees

    Look for cards with no or low fees. Common fees include annual fees, late payment fees and cash advance fees. Opt for a card with no annual fee and reasonable other charges, ensuring more of your money stays in your pocket.

How to Get a Student Credit Card

Securing a student credit card is a step toward financial independence and learning the ropes of credit management. Here's a structured guide to the process of obtaining your student credit card:

1
Check your credit score

Before applying for a student credit card, check your credit score. Knowing your credit standing helps set realistic expectations. Some credit card issuers provide a range of credit scores needed for approval, allowing you to gauge your eligibility.

2
Research and compare cards

Spend time researching and comparing different student credit cards to find the one that aligns with your financial goals and habits. Look at interest rates, fees, rewards and credit limits when comparing cards. Each card has its own set of features and benefits, so find the one that matches your spending habits and financial situation.

3
Understand the terms and conditions

Read through the terms and conditions of the credit cards you are interested in. Understand the interest rates, how they are applied, any fees associated and other important terms like the grace period for payments and rewards expiration, if applicable.

4
Prepare your application

Gather all necessary documentation needed for the application. This typically includes proof of identity, proof of income and sometimes proof of enrollment in a school. Make sure all the information you provide is accurate to prevent any delays or denials.

5
Apply online or in person

Most credit card companies allow you to apply online, while some banks and credit unions may offer in-person applications. Online applications usually provide a quicker response, while in-person applications might provide an opportunity to discuss the card’s features with a representative.

Alternatives to a Student Credit Card

While student credit cards are designed with the young learner in mind, they're not the only route to establishing credit and learning money management. Here are a few alternatives that might suit your financial situation better:

Secured Credit Cards

Secured credit cards are excellent alternatives for those who are unable to get a traditional credit card. With a secured card, you make a deposit upfront, which then becomes your credit limit. This deposit acts as collateral for the lender, reducing their risk. Over time, responsible use of a secured credit card—like paying off the balance in full each month and keeping the utilization low—can help build your credit score. Some issuers even offer the opportunity to transition to a traditional, unsecured card after demonstrating responsible use.

Authorized User on a Parent’s Card

Being added as an authorized user on a parent's or other trusted adult's credit card can be a sensible step toward building credit. As an authorized user, the account's credit history may be reported to the credit bureaus under your name, too. This setup allows you to benefit from the primary cardholder's good credit habits. However, this method relies heavily on the primary cardholder maintaining good credit practices. Have a clear agreement on who is responsible for the charges made on the card to prevent any misunderstandings.

Personal Loans

Personal loans can also be a way to build credit. They’re not a direct substitute for a credit card, but they do allow for credit-building. When you take out a personal loan and make regular, on-time payments, this positive behavior is reported to the credit bureaus, helping to build your credit history. However, loans come with fixed repayment terms and typically higher interest rates than student credit cards. They should be considered carefully, ensuring the repayment terms align with your financial situation.

Maximizing Your Student Credit Card and Avoiding Debt

Having a student credit card can be empowering, offering a taste of financial independence. To maximize the potential of your student credit card, leverage the rewards and benefits it offers:

1
Use your card for rewarded expenses

Your card rewards you for spending in certain categories, like groceries or gas. Try to use it for those expenses. Truly benefit from the rewards by paying off the balance in full each month to avoid interest charges.

2
Stay below 30% of your credit limit

You'll keep your spending in check, and by maintaining a low credit utilization rate, you'll positively impact your credit score. Consistently monitor your account to stay informed about your spending levels and catch any unauthorized or fraudulent charges early.

3
Pay on time

Avoid debt with timely payment. Set up automatic payments or reminders to ensure you pay your bill on time every month. Late payments can result in fees, higher interest rates and negative marks on your credit report.

4
Avoid cash advances

Cash advances usually come with high fees and higher interest rates. Similarly, if your card allows, transferring a balance to avoid a high interest rate can be beneficial, but be aware of any balance transfer fees.

5
Empower yourself

Educating yourself about credit and budgeting can be significant in maximizing the benefits of your student credit card while keeping debt at bay.

By adopting disciplined spending habits and making informed decisions, you can set a strong foundation for your financial future.

FAQ About Student Credit Cards

Starting the journey down the line of credit cards can be intimidating and tricky, but it can be done. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about student credit cards.

How old do you need to be to get a credit card?
Is there a difference between student credit cards and regular credit cards?
How many credit cards should a college student have?
Do you have to be a student to get a student credit card?
What happens to my student credit card after I graduate?
Does a student credit card actually build credit?

Tips From the Pros: Finding & Using the Right Student Card

To help you make wise decisions about student credit cards, MoneyGeek consulted with professionals and subject matter experts with a wide range of backgrounds. All views expressed are those of the contributor.

  1. Many students are not educated on credit card use, managing spending and debt. What tips do you have for new credit card holders or parents looking to teach their students how to properly use a credit card?
  2. International or immigrant students and DACA recipients may face barriers when applying for a credit card in the U.S. What should they expect when applying for a student credit card and what can they do to increase their chances of approval?
  3. What are the most important factors a student should consider when comparing credit cards?
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About Grace Pilling


Grace Pilling headshot

Grace Pilling was the Senior Content Manager for Credit Cards at MoneyGeek. She previously led personal finance teams at Bankrate, CreditCards.com and MoneyUnder30.

Pilling has a bachelor's degree in English from Western Sydney University and a diploma in book editing, proofreading and publishing. She is focused on empowering readers to make informed financial choices that support their best lives, not a company’s bottom line.


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