What to Do If You Can’t Get a Student Credit Card

If you can’t get a student credit card, don’t fret. There are various alternatives to choose from.

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The Credit CARD Act of 2009, with its stricter eligibility criteria and cosigner rules, has made it harder for students to qualify for credit cards. This has led to a fair amount of confusion and frustration among those who find themselves at the shorter end of the straw. Fortunately, students can still explore other ways to get the extra funds they require and build their credit in other ways.

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  1. Review your credit card report to determine if you have been a victim of identity theft.
  2. If you can provide a deposit, consider applying for a secured credit card.
  3. Become an authorized user on someone else’s card.
  4. Get an adult to become a cosigner on your application for a new student card.
  5. Focus on building your credit history to increase the possibility of your credit card application's approval in the future.
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Why Can't You Get a Credit Card as a Student?

There is more than one possible reason why you can't get a credit card as a student.


The Credit CARD Act

According to the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility, and Disclosure (CARD) Act of 2009, those under 21 years of age cannot get credit cards in their names if they have no income or if they cannot find cosigners for their applications.


Credit History

Since credit card issuers check the creditworthiness of applicants before making decisions, an absence of or limited credit history may hinder your chances of getting a student credit card. An exception, in this case, can be a secured credit card, toward which you need to pay a deposit. Getting a new student credit card can also be a challenge if you already have poor credit history owing to an unpaid credit card debt, an outstanding student loan, a high credit utilization ratio or multiple inquiries for credit.


Identify Theft

A report released by Javelin pointed out that more than one million children across the U.S. were victims of identity theft in a single year. Irrespective of whether someone might have used your name to get a credit card, a loan or even a utility connection, its payment history will reflect on your credit report. This, in turn, can greatly limit your ability to get a student credit card until the matter is resolved.


No Enrollment Proof

Most student credit cards require that you submit proof of enrollment with your application. If you cannot, you might not qualify.

Can Student Loans Stop You From Getting a Credit Card?

Instances of individuals being denied credit cards because of student loans are common. If you have a big student loan, you might find it hard to get a student credit card. This is because card issuers may feel that your income is not enough to cover your debt. For example, having a student loan of $75,000 and an annual income of $25,000 may put your debt-to-income level above what a credit issuer is willing to approve.

Managing your student loan poorly and letting it have a negative effect on your credit score will also minimize your possibility of qualifying for a credit card. In addition, the amount you owe on your existing loan has a bearing on your credit score, so it’s crucial that you work on reducing your student loan debt.

If you’re unable to keep up with your student loan repayments, try to get assistance as quickly as possible. This may come in the form of an income-driven repayment plan, a modified payment plan, forbearance or even deferment. If you manage to stick to the revised terms, you don’t have to worry about your credit score going down.

What to Do If You Get a Student Credit Card Rejection Letter

Getting a student credit card rejection letter is not the end of the road, as there are steps you can take to try and rectify the problem.

Go Through the Notice

When credit card issuers reject an application, they are required to provide a reason or more information through what is commonly referred to as an adverse action notice. This notice should indicate why your application was rejected and the name of the bureau whose credit report was used to check your credit history. The reasons can include no credit history, poor credit history, inadequate income or not having provided proof of enrollment.

Review Your Credit Report

You have the right to request one free copy of your credit report from each of the top three credit reporting bureaus every 12 months. Ask for copies and review them carefully to look for possible errors or discrepancies. If you find any inconsistencies in the form of accounts that don’t belong to you or incorrect payment histories, report them at the earliest.

Alternatives to a Student Credit Card

Some alternatives to student credit cards come in the form of loans, scholarships and grants issued by the federal and various state governments, as well as those offered by private organizations and educational institutions. Other options include:

  • Get a credit builder loan. These typically small-value loans provided by some banks and credit unions are designed to help borrowers improve their credit scores. One drawback with this type of loan is that the lender holds the approved sum on your behalf and releases it to you only after you finish paying off the loan.
  • Apply for a secured credit card. When appropriately used, secured credit cards give you easy means to build your credit. You need to pay a deposit to get a secured card, and the same acts as your credit line.
  • Get a store credit card. Usually easier to qualify for than conventional credit cards, but these tend to have higher than normal interest rates so be conscious about usage.
  • Become an authorized user. Becoming an authorized user on someone else’s credit card can give you access to extra funds as well as the ability to build your credit. Bear in mind, though, that if the original user has poor credit habits, the same might reflect on your credit score. In this case, you are not legally responsible for paying off the debt.
  • Ask someone to become a cosigner. When you get a cosigner for a student credit card, you are liable to repay the debt. However, any default can hurt the credit scores of both.
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Building your credit with one of these alternatives can help you eventually qualify for premium travel rewards cards, arguably one of the best parts about working on your credit. If you get a store credit card or a secured credit card, be sure you don’t max out your credit limit. A low credit utilization ratio helps increase your credit score. —Alene Laney, Credit Card Journalist

Other Questions You May Have About Student Credit Cards

Find answers to other possible scenarios surrounding student credit cards in this section.

Next Steps

Now that you know the alternatives to a student credit card, determine which ones will work best for you. Then, make sure you stick to responsible financial habits to build your creditworthiness.

Compare & Review Credit Cards

By making use of data provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, experts at MoneyGeek have reviewed and analyzed over 80 student credit cards so that you can easily choose the one that suits you best. Some of the factors we consider when making our comparisons include fees, interest rates and offers.

Learn More About Credit Cards

The MoneyGeek editorial team remains updated about the latest financial trends so it may provide the right information to people who wish to learn how credit cards work, the benefits they have to offer and how to make use of them in the right manner.

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About the Author


Rajiv Baniwal has been writing about different financial topics for over 15 years. Meticulous in his research, he makes sure he provides accurate and up-to-date information. His areas of expertise include mortgages, personal loans, credit cards, insurance and international money transfers.

*Rates, fees or bonuses may vary or include specific stipulations. The content on this page is accurate as of the posting/last updated date; however, some of the offers mentioned may have expired. We recommend visiting the card issuer’s website for the most up-to-date information available.
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