Credit Cards » Compare Credit Cards » Find The Best College Student Card
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Find The Best College Student Card

A student card is a great first step toward a good credit history. Discover the best student cards of 2021 - compare and apply online

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Build Credit History with Perfect Cards for College

Obtaining a credit card while being a student in college is actually a good idea as it will help you build up your credit history. It will actually be a first step towards establishing your good credit history.

Good credit may not seem like a big deal at first, but this is where you are definitely wrong. Good credit is required for obtaining loans, even student loans, buying a car, or even buying a house later down the road.

Credit can also be a factor in you landing a good job and being able to rent a decent apartment.

As it turns out, there are credit cards that are geared specifically for students and recently graduated professionals. These cards usually offer discounts and cash back for getting good grades and making purchases.

The only thing is, there are so many card companies that all seem to offer the same things. This is why we are here. We have created a list of credit cards that are the best for college students looking to build their credit.

Here are The Smart Investor Select’s picks for the college students credit cards:

Discover It Student Chrome

Discover It Student Chrome Card Review

On Discover Secure Website

Discover It Student Chrome

Reward Details

Up to 2% cashback

Current Offer

Match Bonus for the first 12 months

Credit Rating

Fair

Annual Fee

$0

0% Intro

6 months

APR

12.99% – 21.99%
  • Overview
  • Card Features
  • Pros & Cons

Discover it® Student chrome offers 2% cashback on restaurant and gas station purchases on up $1000 worth of purchases each quarter, and an additional 1% cashback on all other purchases.

This card also rewards you with a cashback match by doubling all the cashback you've accumulated in the first year. This means that $100 could turn to $200, which you could redeem for statement credit, gift cards, and other options. This card does not charge an annual fee, and new cardholders enjoy a 0% APR for the first 6 months.

  • APR: 12.99% - 21.99%
  • Annual fee: $0
  • Balance Transfer Fee: 5%
  • Foreign Transaction Fee: None
  • Rewards Plan: 2% cashback at gas and restaurants (up to $1,000 every quarter), 1% on groceries and other student related products
  • Sign Up bonus: Match Bonus for the first 12 months
  • 0% APR Introductory Rate period: 6 months
  • 0% Intro APR
  • No Annual Fee
  • Cash Back Rewards
  • No Foreign Fees
  • Not Widely Accepted Outside the US
  • Restrictions on Rewards
  • Late Payment Fee

Capital One Secured Mastercard

Capital One Secured Card review

On Capital one Secure Website

Capital One Secured Mastercard

Reward Details

None

Current Offer

None

Credit Rating

No Credit – Poor

Annual Fee

None

0% Intro

None

APR

26.99%
  • Overview
  • Card Features
  • Pros & Cons

Building your credit with a reliable, secured credit card may be a very smart move; however, not all secured credit cards are designed equal. Capital one secured Mastercard has some unique attributes that can win you over and make you trust them. Capital one secured card makes deposits less formidable, and this one of the unique qualities of capital one secured Mastercard.

Capital One Secured Card does not give any reward. However, using this card comes with some benefits: zero fees on a foreign transaction, travel accident insurance, secondary car rental insurance, extended warranty, and 24-hour travel assistance services. Some of the limitations of using this card are the relatively low initial credit limit and the no bonus offer program than other card issuers.

Capital One ranked 5th with a rating of 808, according to the J.D. Power Customer Satisfaction Study in 2020.

  • APR: 26.99%
  • Annual fee: None
  • Balance Transfer Fee: None
  • Foreign Transaction Fee: Unknown
  • Rewards Plan: None
  • Sign Up bonus: None
  • 0% APR Introductory Rate period: None
  • Build Your Credit
  • No Annual Fee
  • No Foreign Transaction / Balance Transfer Fee
  • Flexible Security Deposit
  • No Rewards
  • High APR
  • Put Down a Refundable Deposit

Citi Secured Mastercard

citi secured mastercard review

On Citi one Secure Website

Citi Secured Mastercard

Reward Details

None

Current Offer

None

Credit Rating

Poor – Fair

Annual Fee

$0

0% Intro

None

APR

22.49%
  • Overview
  • Card Features
  • Pros & Cons

The Citi secured card is different from other secured credit cards. It is designed for individuals that have no credit or individuals with limited credit. Individuals with bad credit are not eligible to have this card. It's a great plus for you if you qualify because they don’t charge an annual fee, and they report all card activities to all the three main credit bureaus.

The Citi Secured Mastercard offers no rewards. Some of the benefits you can get from using this card include; free FICO score access, account alerts and flexible payment due date. However, there is a high annual percentage, which is one of the disadvantages of using this card.

Citi ranked 6th out of 11 card issuers with a score of 801, according to the 2020 J.D. Power Credit Card Customer Satisfaction Study.

  • APR: 22.49%
  • Annual fee: $0
  • Balance Transfer Fee: $5 or 3%
  • Foreign Transaction Fee: 3%
  • Rewards Plan: None
  • Sign Up bonus: None
  • 0% APR Introductory Rate period: None
  • Build Your Credit
  • No Annual Fee
  • Protection
  • No Rewards/Intro 0% APR Periods / Sign Up Bonus
  • High Ongoing Variable APR
  • Put Down a Refundable Deposit

Petal 2 Visa

Petal 2 Visa card Review

On Petal 2 Secure Website

Petal 2 Visa

Reward Details

1.5% cash back

Current Offer

None

Credit Rating

Fair

Annual Fee

$0

0% Intro

None

APR

12.99% – 26.99% Variable
  • Overview
  • Card Features
  • Pros & Cons

Petal 2 Visa Credit Card offers you the benefits of a rewards card, no fees attached. This card does not charge annual fees, maintenances fees, foreign transaction fees, over limit fees, late payment fees or any kind of fee. It is a great choice for people who want to build their credit up without forgoing rewards. These rewards are offered as cash backs which will increase depending on your level of financial responsibility.

While using this card does not attract any direct fees, users who have a habit of defaulting in monthly payments will not get the best value out of this card. Considering that the upper limit of the APR is high, poor account management may have you paying considerably higher than you would expect to.

  • APR: 12.99% - 26.99% Variable
  • Annual fee: $0
  • Balance Transfer Fee: N/A
  • Foreign Transaction Fee: $0
  • Rewards Plan: 1.5% cash back
  • Sign Up bonus: None
  • 0% APR Introductory Rate period: None
  • No Fees
  • Cash Back Rewards
  • Reports to all Three Major Credit Bureaus
  • No Deposit Required
  • No Balance Transfer or Cash Advance
  • No Intro APR
  • Quite High APR

Discover It Student Cash Back

Discover It Student Cash Back Card Review

On Discover Secure Website

Discover It Student Cash Back

Reward Details

1-5% cashback

Current Offer

Match Bonus for the first 12 months

Credit Rating

Fair

Annual Fee

$0

0% Intro

0% intro APR for six months

APR

12.99% – 21.99%
  • Overview
  • Card Features
  • Pros & Cons

Discover It Student Cash Back is a credit card designed for students alone. It is one of the best products for those in higher institutions in the US. It is ideal for clients starting their credit journey and wish to earn cashback rewards. Customers are liable to claim a  5% cashback on groceries, cafes, restaurants, gas stations, and purchases via Paypal. You can also claim this cashback on online stores like Amazon while you gain 1% cashback on every other purchase. There is a match bonus on all cash backs after your first year. The card is widely accepted across the US, and it offers a series of benefits, including good grade rewards for students with a Cgpa of 3.0 and higher. These clients are liable to claim a $20 statement credit. 

  • APR: 12.99% - 21.99%
  • Annual fee: $0
  • Balance Transfer Fee: %5
  • Foreign Transaction Fee: None
  • Rewards Plan: 5% cashback on bonus categories (Up to $1,500 per quarter) , 1% cashback on the rest
  • Sign Up bonus: Match Bonus for the first 12 months
  • 0% APR Introductory Rate period: 0% intro APR for six months
  • Introductory Rates
  • Cash Back Rewards
  • No Rewards Limits
  • Reasonable APR
  • No Annual Fee
  • Limited Use outside the US
  • No International Students
  • Need to Activate Bonus rewards categories every quarter

Credit One Bank Platinum Visa

Credit One Bank Platinum Visa

On Credit One Secure Website

Credit One Bank Platinum Visa

Reward Details

1% cash back

Current Offer

None

Credit Rating

Poor – Limited

Annual Fee

$99

0% Intro

None

APR

17.99% – 23.99%
  • Overview
  • Card Features
  • Pros & Cons

The Credit One Bank Platinum Visa with Cash Back Rewards credit card is a card that is best utilized when someone is looking to build or rebuild their credit, while still being offered some type of rewards options for the card holder. It's available to those with a bad, poor or fair credit rating. The card’s limit is variable depending on your income and credit history. However, you can obtain an initial credit line of $300 to $3,000.

Credit One also automatically reviews accounts for opportunities to increase the credit line. You can also choose your payment due date to fit your financial habits. In addition to these benefits, you can also earn 1% cash back on eligible purchases.

  • APR: 17.99% - 23.99%
  • Annual fee: $99
  • Balance Transfer Fee: None
  • Foreign Transaction Fee: $1 or 3%
  • Rewards Plan: 1% cash back rewards on everyday purchases - gas and groceries as well as your monthly mobile phone, internet, cable, and satellite TV services
  • Sign Up bonus: None
  • 0% APR Introductory Rate period: None
  • Build Your Credit
  • No Annual Fee
  • Cash Back Rewards
  • High Credit Limit
  • Annual Fee
  • High APR
  • Penalty Fees

Find The Best College Student Card

One of the most talked-about aspects of personal finance today is credit cards. No matter what age you are or what your financial situation may be, there are always tons of questions about whether or not you should have a credit card, when one should be used, and so on.

This guide in particular is going to focus on college students and credit cards. It will walk you through all of the key types of scenarios that you will come across as a college student, as well as some of the best options on the market for these types of offerings.

What Should Students Know About Getting a First Credit Card?

As soon as you get to college, you will likely experience a massive amount of independence that you are not normally used to. You might be living away from home for the first time, have control over all of your own finances, and be forced to make a lot of decisions on a daily basis about how best to spend your money.

It is important that you are fully aware of the common pitfalls that are associated with credit cards. While there are definitely numerous advantages associated with their use, a lot of college students get into trouble with them. Adding significant credit card debt on top of student loans is a recipe for disaster and can be very tricky to get out of.

Start Building Up Your Credit

However, there are some key advantages that also need to be considered. For many students, it will be the first time in their lives that they are able to start building up their credit history. In the future, a good credit score will be key when it comes time to get the likes of a car loan or a mortgage. Starting off with a good foundation in this department can also put in place good habits for your financial being going forward into your adult life.

FICO scores influence whether you may be accepted for credit.  A good FICO score can determine whether you obtain mortgage or finance approval, attractive auto insurance rates or even acceptance for a lease.

In this chart using Experian data, you can see the average FICO score has increased significantly over the last decade. While there was a dip in 2013, the average score has consistently increased year on year.

Average FICO Score 8

While you can get your hands on multiple credit cards, this is usually never advisable. Some colleges and other educational institutions do accept credit card payments for tuition fees, but these will often have significant charges attached to them.

Perhaps the most important thing you need to know about getting your first credit card is knowing exactly how they work. This includes knowing when you need to pay off your monthly credit balance and what fees will be in place if you miss payments. You should also be aware of your credit limit, as well as any perks that may be associated with using the card.

How to Build Good Credit as a Student?

When you are starting out your adult life as a college student, it will likely be the first time that you will have the opportunity to start to build your credit score. It is vital that you get off on the right foot, rather than putting yourself at a disadvantage straight away if you poorly use credit.

By building a good credit score while you are in college, it will make things easier down the line when you are looking to get your hands on a more significant amount of credit, such as when you are buying a car or a house. Here are some of the key ways in which you can build your credit as a college student:

  • Get a credit card
  • Only use credit for certain purchases
  • Avoid buying expensive items on credit
  • Make sure you pay the entire balance each month
  • Pay each of your bills on time
  • Do not co-sign for any friends
  • Only apply for a single credit card
  • Pay your student loan payments on time

As you can see, there is a quick list right off the bat on how you can start building a good credit score while in college. Most of these solutions are common sense and pretty self-explanatory.

When applying for a credit card make sure that you do your research and find the best one for your needs. You want to ensure that you are getting the best deal possible and you will not be facing any extortionate charges down the line if things don't go to plan. There will be many major credit card companies that have specially designed credit cards for college students that have a number of great perks.

Making sure that you pay all of your various obligations on time is vital to building a credit score. Finally, you want to be selective about what purchases you make with credit and you should never co-sign for a friend with your credit card. 

Should I Get a Student or a Regular Credit Card?

Naturally, student credit cards are going to have a number of different perks for college students. In most cases, these will be a better choice than going for a regular credit card.

Normally, there are going to be lower fees and interest rates for student credit cards. You will also often get access to a lot of relevant rewards when you spend money using the credit card in certain types of stores. This can be a great way to save some money at the same time as building your credit score.

The main reason why credit card companies and financial institutions offer these types of incentives to college students is that they are trying to attract a new customer that will potentially turn into a long-term customer. Therefore, these incentives are a good way to get people in the door.

Oftentimes, people will stick using the same type of credit card even when they graduate from college. As a result of the various perks and lower fees, a student credit card is almost always the way to go.

What are the Main Benefits of Student Credit Cards?

As mentioned, there are a few different key perks associated with using a student credit card. These make them superior to regular credit cards in most cases. Here are some of the standout advantages:

  • Lower interest rates
  • Reduced fees
  • Access to spending rewards
  • Ability to build credit
  • Good for emergencies
  • Special student benefits

Just like with anything, it is always going to be an advantage when you can save money where possible. While the difference in the fees and interest rates with college student credit cards may seem minimal, in the long run, they can add up significantly.

Getting rewards when you spend on certain items in particular stores will also be easy ways to save some money that can be better used elsewhere. Some student cards even offer special rewards to those students who show that they have a GPA of 3.0 or greater. Finally, they are a good way to build credit and are ideal if you are in an emergency and don’t have any other funds on hand.

What are The Main Drawbacks of Student Credit Cards?

Naturally, there are going to be a few drawbacks associated with student credit cards. You need to be aware of these pitfalls before you dive headfirst into signing up for a particular card. Here are some of the main drawbacks:

  • Low credit limits
  • Possible to hurt your credit score
  • Temptation to spend
  • Ability to rack up significant debt

As you can see, there are a few ways that students can cause serious damage through the misuse of a credit card. If they are spending on all sorts of frivolous things and then not paying back on time, they will rack up debt and hurt their credit score at the same time. You will often have access to low credit limits, so they may not be sufficient in the case of a serious emergency, such as a medical issue.

For many people credit cards provide a convenient way to make purchases, but for others their card is necessary to make ends meet. This can mean carrying credit card debt. There is over $800 billion in credit card debt in the US.

In this chart using data from Urban Institute, you can see that the age group 43 to 47 carries the highest average credit card debt. This age group has almost double the credit card debt of their under 32 year old counterparts or seniors aged 68+.

Average Credit Card Debt by Age

Who Should Apply for a Student Card?

Naturally, a credit card is going to be a great tool in the hands of someone responsible. However, if you are someone who does not have much control over their finances, then you need to proceed with caution. The temptation of having a credit card can be too hard to resist for some, who will use it to spend willy nilly.

For most college students, the pros will outweigh the cons of getting a student credit card. You have the ideal opportunity to start off building good credit, as well as putting in place smart financial habits. You will be able to rely on your credit history when you graduate. It also provides good peace of mind if an emergency occurs and you need quick access to funds.

How to Compare Student Credit Cards

If you are new to the world of credit cards, then it can be somewhat intimidating starting off. There are so many options on the market today, that it can be hard to know which is going to be a good fit for your needs. There may also be pushy people on campus who are trying to push certain credit cards to you.

It is important to take a deep breath and realize that the process is not going to be as intimidating as it initially appears. Some key questions you are going to want to ask yourself when you are looking to compare credit cards will be:

  • What is your goal with a credit card?
  • Do you want something simple or a card with tons of features?
  • Do you want good rewards for joining or more consistent bonuses over time?
  • Is it a reputable credit card?

Starting off your comparison, you want to be sure that you have compiled a shortlist of reputable credit card companies. Make sure that they are reputable brands and that they are properly regulated.

Your next step is to decide what your goal with a credit card is going to be. If you are going to use it consistently in an effort to build a good credit score, then the likes of cashback rewards are going to be a key consideration. If you are mainly getting one for emergency reasons, then you might want one that has more generous fees and payback terms.

Leading Card Companies by Number of Cards in Circulation (Millions, USA)

Certain cards will try to impress you with lucrative joining bonuses. However, you will often find that these flashy welcome offers then lead to a somewhat subpar experience over time. Other credit cards will be more consistent with the perks that they offer to students.

Alternatives to Student Credit Cards

There are some alternatives to getting a student credit card. These come in different forms and can often be viable options for those people who are seeking alternatives. A simple checking account is always a good option as you cannot really go into debt on these accounts. While there may be an overdraft facility, these usually won’t be very big for student accounts.

There are also useful prepaid cards that can be useful when a parent is providing money to their child. This means that they are able to control how much money goes to the card and they will be able to see how the funds are being spent. These types of cards usually have low fees and are easy to load up with funds online.

Secured credit cards are a way for a college student to start building their credit without having to consider the risks of credit cards with high limits. You will only be able to spend what has been loaded onto this card and no more. Therefore, there are a few different alternatives that you can use when it comes to college student credit cards.

What to Do With Your Student Credit Card After Graduation?

After you have graduated from college, you may be wondering what you should do with your student credit card. Normally, you will be able to keep this card and have your account kept open. There may even be an opportunity to upgrade your account to even better perks and looser limits.

You should do some market research to see what your next move should be. You might want to keep the perks of your current card. Otherwise, you might see that the issuer of your credit card has a better type of card that you can use, so you switch over to this option.

Finally, you can always close your account if you no longer need/want your credit card or you wish to transfer over to a different company. However, this can have a negative impact on your credit score, so this is something to keep in mind.

What is the Best Cashback Card for Students?

There are many great credit cards on the market today for college students. If you are particularly interested in cash back, then there are going to be some stand out options for you to consider. The idea of cash back is that you will, as the name suggests, get money back on certain types of purchases that you make. For example, some cards may offer you 2% cash back at grocery stores.

Perhaps the best cash back credit card for students currently on the market is the Discover it Student Cash Back card. This allows you to get 5% daily cash back on numerous different payments, including on Amazon.com, gas stations, restaurants, and grocery stores. This card currently carries no annual fee, no penalty APR, as well as a bonus for good grades. Do be aware that the 5% cash back has a limit of $1,500 of spending each quarter. 

What is the Best Student Card to Build Credit?

If you are a student with little to no credit history or you already have a bad credit score, then there are a few different options to consider. One of them is the First Progress Platinum Elite Mastercard Secured Credit Card. This has a medium level APR and an annual fee of $29. There are not really any perks or reward programs on offer either with this card, However, it does put users on a good path towards building a better credit score.

It will report to all of the credit bureaus and there is no credit check needed in order to obtain a card or no minimum credit score necessary. There is a 3% fee on foreign transactions, as you need to be aware of this and the late payment fee is set at $40.

What is the Best Capital One Credit Card for Students?

In terms of the best Capital One credit card for students, it will be the Journey Student Rewards card. The target market for this card is for those students who do not have much of a credit history. There is 1% unlimited cash back on all of your purchases, as well as a monthly bonus if you pay your bill on schedule. Therefore, it is a great card that incentivizes you for building strong personal finance habits.

If you manage to meet your monthly payments over the first six months on time, you will be able to get a credit limit increase. There are also no transaction fees associated with foreign exchange. There are cards out there that have better cash back deals and there is no welcome offer attached with this card. If you are trying to find a card that has a basic rewards program and you want to make sure you are with Capital One, then this is a card that could be a good fit for your needs.

What is the Best Citi Credit Card for Students?

The Citi Rewards+ Student card is an option for people who are starting out with a credit card for the first time. It has no annual fee and is targeting those students that have a good credit history already. Therefore, this can rule out a lot of people who do not have much of a credit history or already have a poor score.

You will get access to a signup bonus when you get this card, allowing you to get a $25 gift card when you spend $500 inside of the first three months of having the card. Going forward, you will get points on the likes of groceries and cash stations, with lower points available for other purchases. The roundup feature sees each purchase round up to the nearest 10 rewards point. There will also be a 0% intro APR for the initial seven months.

What is the Best Chase Card For Students?

The Chase Freedom Student credit card is a credit card that gives users a 1% rate of cash back on all purchases There will be no annual fee with this card and there are annual rewards if you keep the account in good standing. There will also be automatic increases in your credit limit when you meet payments on time for a certain number of consecutive months.

There is a 3% charge on foreign transactions, as well as no introductory APR, so these are things to keep in mind. This card does come with a $50 welcome bonus after you make your first purchase within 3 months of getting the card.

The type of people that this card will suit the best will be those students who want a card with a simple rewards system. There will be no expiration of rewards and there is no minimum that you need to remember in order to get the cash back bonus.

What is the Best Discover Credit Card for Students?

Perhaps the best credit card from Discover for students will be the Discover It Student chrome card. There is cash back of up to 2% on offer for purchases, with all of the cash back getting matched by Discover in the first year of using the card. There are discounts available for those people who showcase their good grades.

This card is also easy to get approved for and there are no annual fees to consider. If you are planning not traveling outside the US, there will not be as many places where a Discover card will be accepted. There are sometimes earnings caps also on certain categories for rewards.

What is the Best High Credit Limit Card for Students?

If you are a student, you need to be careful when it comes to credit cards that have a high limit. You don’t want to get in over your head and spend more than you will be able to afford to pay back.

However, there are some instances where a high limit student credit card will be acceptable. One of the best options in this regard is the Discover It Student Cash Back card. This allows students to get a limit of up to $3,500, which is a lot higher than most other cards for students.

There is no annual fee with this card and there is a 0% intro APR for the first 6 months. The welcome offer also sees your cash back being matched 100% for the first year of your account.

Credit Card Reviews Methodology

In order to determine the best possible credit cards, we look at things like fees, interest rates and rewards. We do this with companies that are associated with us as partners as well as other offerings. From there, we make a decision about what the best card is related to different categories and needs. We focus on interest rate cost & fees, especially the cost of carrying a balance, rewards – cards accumulate rewards in different currencies—points, miles, cash back—and their values vary widely usability – cards that accept a wide range of credit profiles and offer simple solutions for things like checking your credit score or contacting. We also consider customer reviews.

We look at cards related to good or excellent credit ratings that will then provide a range of different benefits and improvements for someone who has these scores. We also look at low fees when it comes to those who have lower credit scores.