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Credit Cards for College Students

Opening a credit card while you’re still in school is a great idea because it will enable you to build the credit standing required to rent an apartment, lease a car, land certain jobs and save money on loans and insurance premiums after graduation. Student credit cards also tend to be pretty good deals. Banks regard students as profitable future customers, so they are willing to offer them lower fees, better rates and more lucrative rewards than are available to people with limited or no credit.

We recommend choosing a card with no annual fee so you can minimize…show more

    JourneySM Student Rewards from Capital One®

    capital one student rewards credit card
    • 0% Purchases Not Offered
    • 0% Transfers Not Offered
    • Regular Rate 19.8% (V)
    • Annual Fee None
    • Rewards Rate 1% - 1.25% cash back
    • Rewards Bonus None
    • Minimum Credit Fair, Limited History

    Citi ThankYou® Preferred Card for College Students - Earn 2,500 Bonus Points

    citi thankyou student credit card
    • 0% Purchases 7 months
    • 0% Transfers Not Offered
    • Regular Rate 13.99% - 23.99% (V)
    • Annual Fee $0
    • Rewards Rate 1 - 2 points / $1
    • Rewards Bonus 2,500 points
    • Minimum Credit Good, Limited History

    Primor® Secured Visa Gold Credit Card

    primor secured gold credit card
    • Secured Credit Card Min Deposit of $200
    • One-Time Fees None
    • Regular Rate 9.99%
    • Annual Fee $49
    • Monthly Fee None
    • Minimum Credit Fair, Limited History, Bad

    Open SkySM Secured Visa® Credit Card

    open sky credit card
    • Secured Credit Card Min Deposit of $200
    • One-Time Fees None
    • Regular Rate 17.5% (V)
    • Annual Fee $29
    • Monthly Fee None
    • Minimum Credit Limited History, Bad
    • Build Your Credit, with monthly updates to all 3 credit bureaus.
    • Control Your Finances, start with a security deposit and credit line as low as $200.
    • Extra Credit When You Need It, increase your credit line up to $5000.
    • Avoid paying interest, no interest charged on new purchases if the balance is paid in full by the due date each month.
    • Easy funding options, with 4 ways to fund and NO checking account needed.
    • After your Account is open for one year or more Capital Bank will charge you a Credit Limit Increase Fee of $25.00 each time you add Deposit Funds and increase the Credit Limit and a Credit Limit Decrease Request Fee of $25.00 each time you request a reduction in your Credit Limit.
    • Apply in less than 5 minutes.
    • See All Reviews & Details About The Open SkySM Secured Visa® Credit Card

    Wells Fargo® Cash BackSM College Credit Card

    wells fargo cash back college card
    • 0% Purchases Not Offered
    • 0% Transfers Not Offered
    • Regular Rate 11.15% - 21.15% (V)
    • Annual Fee None
    • Rewards Rate 1% - 3% cash back
    • Rewards Bonus None
    • Minimum Credit Fair, Limited History
    • Earn 3% cash back on gas, grocery and drugstore net purchases (purchases minus returns/credits) for 6 months and 1% cash back on all other net purchases.
    • Earn unlimited cash rewards with no complicated calculations, no minimum purchase requirements and no expiration dates.
    • Redeem your cash rewards your way. Cash rewards are redeemed in $25 increments and you can choose to have them automatically deposited into your savings or checking account or apply them as a principal payment to your qualifying personal loan. If you prefer, you can get them as a statement credit or check.
    • Boost your earning potential and find great deals at your favorite local and national stores at the Earn More Mall site.
    • See All Reviews & Details About The Wells Fargo® Cash BackSM College Credit Card

    State Farm Bank Student Visa® Credit Card

    state farm bank student visa credit card
    • 0% Purchases Not Offered
    • 0% Transfers Not Offered
    • Regular Rate 11.24% - 18.24% (V)
    • Annual Fee None
    • Rewards Rate None
    • Minimum Credit Fair, Limited History

    Atlantic Stewardship Bank College Rewards Visa® Credit Card

    atlantic stewardship bank college rewards visa card
    • 0% Purchases Not Offered
    • 0% Transfers Not Offered
    • Regular Rate 11.99% - 22.99% (V)
    • Annual Fee None
    • Rewards Rate 1 point / $1
    • Rewards Bonus 1,000 points
    • Minimum Credit Fair, Limited History
    Credit Score
    Excellent Credit 721 – 850
    Good Credit 661 – 720
    Fair Credit 620 – 660
    Bad Credit 300 – 619
    Limited Credit Less than 3 years
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    Expert’s Answers

    Why get a student credit card?

    By: Odysseas Papadimitriou, CardHub CEOGetting a student credit card is highly recommended, given that it represents the easiest and cheapest way to establish credit in your own name. Your credit history is directly linked to the loan rates you’ll qualify for later in life and could also affect things like your prospects for certain types of jobs and your insurance premiums. Being an authorized user on a parent’s card will help you build some credit, but it won’t provide nearly the same benefit as you being the primary accountholder.

    Gaining experience using common financial products is also essential to becoming financially literate and avoiding serious mistakes down the road. “High school is a good time to introduce credit cards to students, especially if they get parental, school or church guidance,” says Dr. Debby Lindsey-Taliefero, an associate professor of economics at Howard University who studies financial literacy in urban areas. “My research has shown more important than credit cards are checking accounts with a debit card. Students that have a checking account increased their financial literacy score by 19 points.”

    But if you don’t trust yourself to use a student credit card responsibly, just don’t use it. Even if you lock your card in a drawer right after opening it and never actually make any purchases with it, your credit history will still get beefed up, thanks to the fact that your credit card company will report your card as being in good standing on a monthly basis. If that’s the road you think you’ll wind up taking, we highly recommend getting a no annual fee student credit card in order to minimize costs.

    What do I need to get a student credit card?

    By: Odysseas Papadimitriou, CardHub CEORegardless of your age, you need a valid Social Security Number (SSN) and a mailing address that cannot be a P.O. Box in order to get a college student credit card. [TIP: You can use the street address of where your university mailbox is located on a student credit card application and indicate your box number next to it, almost as if it’s an apartment number, in order to get around this requirement.]

    It’s important to note that if you are under 21, you need to indicate on your application that you have the income or assets (e.g. bank account balance, stocks, etc.) necessary to independently make the required monthly minimum payments on a new credit card (usually no more than $60). If you can’t do so, you’ll need a co-signer who is over 21 and is willing to accept financial responsibility in the event that you don’t pay back what you charge.

    Many folks are under the false impression that people under the age of 21 cannot access credit at all. That’s largely due to disparities between different versions of the Credit CARD Act of 2009 and misinformation being disseminated as a result. “Interestingly, every version of the Credit CARD Act of 2009 had strict protections for people under 21 (targeting college students), but the last version of the bill (the one actually enacted) weakened all those provisions, so it’s business as usual,” says Dr. Robert Scott, an associate professor of economics at Monmouth University. “People who only read the earlier versions of the bill assumed the protections for people under 21 were kept—but that is wrong. I followed the bill closely, since it’s my area of research and was shocked when I read the final version.”

    How should I use my student credit card?

    By: John Kiernan, Personal Finance EditorWhile it’s smart to take advantage of 0% APR offers and rewards, your ultimate objective in using a student credit card is to never miss a single payment and avoid both finance charges and debt. You’re not using a credit card at this stage in your life in order to spend beyond what you have in cash, after all, but instead to build a solid credit history. So set up automatic payment from a bank account (ACH) or set calendar reminders to pay your student credit card bill, and don’t let simply having a credit card lead you to spend more than normal.

    When can I qualify for a non-student credit card?

    By: Odysseas Papadimitriou, CardHub CEOGeneral-consumer credit cards for people with good credit usually have better rewards and 0% offers than credit cards for college students. However, it’s difficult to determine whether your credit score has improved enough for you to qualify for such cards. As a general rule, you aren’t ready to graduate from a credit card for students, if you will, until you have a full-time job and start receiving offers for better cards in the mail. Until then, avoid the temptation of applying for a non-student credit card because each time you apply for a new card, your credit score will dip for about six months. That could actually delay you from upgrading your credit card.

    Why do college students need their own type of credit card?

    By: Odysseas Papadimitriou, CardHub CEOCredit card companies typically offer unique credit cards for college students for a number of reasons, the biggest being that students are a unique type of consumer. For the most part, they are beginning financial independence with a clean slate, starting fresh without any blemishes or red flags that would lead issuers to avoid them. College students also have years of financial maturity in front of them, not to mention the fact that they are on track to get college degrees, and banks want to get a foot in the door and establish long-term relationships so they can handle their future lending, investing, credit and retirement needs. As a result, college student credit cards are typically more rewarding than other credit cards for people with similar credit histories.

    What about students who aren’t in college?

    By: Odysseas Papadimitriou, CardHub CEOThe student credit cards listed on this page are designed for college students. So what credit card options do you have as a high-schooler or graduate school student?

    If you are in high school, you likely cannot qualify for your own credit card thanks to requirements that you must be 18 in order to do so. If you are in this situation, being an authorized user on a parent’s account is a good start to a solid credit history, but you should get a credit card in your own name as soon as possible in order to truly take your credit to the next level.

    If you’re in graduate school and have a full-time income, you probably shouldn’t be looking for a student credit card, since you have the credit history and job status to warrant a credit card for good credit. If you are a graduate student without a full-time income, you’re in a tough spot because on the one hand your credit history might range all the way from limited credit to excellent credit, but your current income might not be sufficient to get a credit card for good or excellent credit.

    Student credit cards vs. Secured credit cards:

    By: Odysseas Papadimitriou, CardHub CEOWhile not branded as such, a secured credit card actually makes a great credit card for college students for two reasons: 1.) they basically offer guaranteed approval (you still need a co-signer or proof of income if you’re under 21) and 2.) they prevent you from spending beyond your means. Students need credit cards that allow them to build credit cost-effectively, and because secured credit cards require a refundable security deposit that protects issuers against default, some have low fee structures. What’s more, since a secured credit card’s deposit acts as its credit line, students are unable to spend beyond their means while using them—a fact that can be a relief to many parents and of assistance to inexperienced students.

    With that being said, student credit cards undoubtedly have better rewards and various other perks than secured cards. They also do not require students to sacrifice liquidity for credit card use, which can be important considering the tight budgets many young people are on. Therefore, secured credit cards are well-suited to serve as credit cards for students who have already had difficulty using credit responsibly or who really don’t trust themselves to spend responsibly.

    Community Discussion

    Ask a question or help others find the best student credit cards by sharing some tips.

    Mar 27, 2015
    When I turned 18 I bought my first car with the help of my parents. Afterwards I was swamped with both major and store brand credit cards. I wanted to jump in feet first but my dad put that to a screeching halt real fast. While I was upset with him and went into the entire "You're just trying to control me" teenage temper tantrum, I am extremely happy that he did. So, saying that, I think if students have a job, have a good head on their shoulder and an adult who will help guide them with their credit I think a card or two is a great thing for them.
    Mar 20, 2015
    When I was eighteen I was flooded with credit card offers and I took them eagerly, thinking it was pretty cool to be able to spend all that money and pay it back later. Of course I really didn’t understand at the time how that would impact my credit and future at a later time and I have had to rebuild my credit for years.

    Unless you are working and can pay the money balance and understand how important it is to do so, I really wouldn’t encourage college students to use credit cards.
    Mar 21, 2015
    Photo of Card H.
    That's why they should teach financial literacy in high schools and colleges! It's also why regulators cracked down on on-campus credit card marketing.
    Mar 4, 2015
    When it comes to students having a credit card I really think it boils down to how responsible they are in terms of spending habits. A kid that's going away to school could make due with 1 or 2 cards. I would prefer giving my kids one card for typical expenses and one in case of an emergency, but overall one should do just fine..
    Feb 26, 2015
    While I think it’s important for students to have credit cards, I really think that they should limit the number they have. I would say one is ideal. It is very easy to get into trouble when you get your first credit card, and you feel like it’s free money and just start spending, spending and spending. That’s how credit cards can be dangerous.
    Feb 27, 2015
    Photo of Card H.
    We definitely don't recommend having more than one credit card when you're a student. We must all learn to walk before we can run!
    Feb 17, 2015
    A college student should have a credit card. It helps them build a lone of credit that they will need late in life and it helps teach them responsible spending. The card should have a low line of credit just in case they make some irresponsible choices. A credit card is also good if they have an emergency that costs more money than they have on them. Student credit cards are a good place to start because they offer reduced rates that normal credit cards do not offer. I think that one credit card is enough because they shouldn't be spending more than one credit card's line of credit offers.
    Feb 18, 2015
    Photo of Card H.
    You're 100% correct! College students aren't proven financially yet, and issuers don't give them too long of a leash as a result.
    Feb 11, 2015
    I think it's essential that a college student have a credit card, but he or she should probably have no more than two. They are extremely helpful in case of an emergency, and they help the student begin to establish credit that will be needed later in life. We all know that managing credit is an essential life skill and college students need this lesson as much as any other. The earlier that someone can learn to limit their spending and to pay their balances in full at the end of each month, the better off they will be later in life.
    Jan 9, 2015
    I think that a College Student should have two cards. One that they use for food and every day expenses and another one that they have but only keep as a back up in case there is a emergency and they need to have the money available right away. I feel that any more than two is just going to cause careless spending and charging could get out of control. I think I when having two and not using the one you are learning to have a emergency fund and even though it is available you don't have to use it and starts the practice of having money or a back up plan that you do not touch.
    Jan 7, 2015
    I found the CIti Thank You Card to be somewhat useful. I would recommend it for a student, but if you use credit cards as much as I do, you will quick outgrow it due to wanting a higher credit line.
    Jan 1, 2015
    I have the Citi Thank You Preferred card i use specifically for my school purchases such as supplies or books. I've had it for a few months now and have racked up a lot of points. I was also offered 7 months of zero interest which is a nice addition.
    Jan 2, 2015
    Photo of Card H.
    Sounds like you're doing things the right way. Keep it up!
    Dec 20, 2014
    I would recommend the Citi ThankYou Preferred Card for College Students. I love the bonus 2500 points they give you at the beginning though you do have to spend $500 the first 3 months.
    Nov 13, 2014
    I agree that a student should only have one credit card. I did not attend college, but I know how easy it is to get in trouble with credit cards. I was in a real mess with them and I was grown and married. We are still feeling the effects of it and we are retired and living on Social Security. I have a grandson in college and I don't know if he has a credit card, but if he does, I hope he only has one.
    Nov 15, 2014
    Photo of Joseph A.
    I agree with you that students should only have one credit card. But you have to make sure it is the right card. Even if you have only one credit card, if it is a bad fit for the student, it can get him or her into financial trouble just as badly as having multiple credit cards would. So picking the right card is just as important as limiting the number of cards you have.
    Nov 8, 2014
    When I was in college I was offered the Discover card. It allowed me to get a credit card without any credit except for buying a car. I was very new with the use of a credit card at the time, but Discover was easy to understand, the interest rates were reasonable and it help to establish more credit for the future.
    Nov 15, 2014
    Photo of Dustin H.
    I have to agree with you full heartedly, because I had a similar experience with Discover. It was the first card that I used as a student, and it really opened various doors for me in the future. It allowed me put my through into the world of credit - without overwhelming me. Looking back, it was great for setting up the foundation of my credit today.
    Oct 27, 2014
    Student credit cards are a good way to establish credit. In addition, students often are eligible for reduced rates and benefits that non-students aren't eligible for. It is important to be careful about spending and use it a minimum amount - just enough to establish and build a credit history and score without going over your limit or spending more than you can afford to pay.

    When choosing a card, try to pick one that has a low interest rate and compare the fees associated with different cards to pick the one that is right. It is a good idea to have one good card and no more than two cards. This will help keep costs affordable and prevent getting in trouble credit wise.
    Oct 28, 2014
    Photo of Card H.
    Good advice. Keep in mind that you can also build credit without using your card at all. Simply having an open account in good standing will help!
    Oct 8, 2014
    I did start out with a student credit card, and it turned out to be a great stepping stone on the road to credit-worthiness. Their benefits are that they're easy to obtain and relatively risk-free (if you're responsible). After I built up my credit a bit I "graduated" to a different card with better terms and higher limits. I still have my student card account open, since it's my oldest line of credit and that's important to your credit score, but I never use it for anything anymore.
    Oct 6, 2014
    Students should only have access to one credit card. It is far too easy for young people to get into trouble with their credit by having even one card. Giving them access to more than one card just increases the chance that they will run into trouble with their credit. In addition, students often have limited income, so paying even just one of their credit card payments every month can be difficult financially. Having to pay two or more credit card payments would devastate their monthly budget. So, given these risks involved, I argue that students 18-22 years old should be legally restricted to one card, or until their graduation.
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