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Best student credit cards

These cards let students build credit without the need for a previous credit history.

Finder compared more than 200 credit cards to rank the top credit cards for students in 2021. We considered features such as rewards, accessibility based on credit history, and perks based on school performance. Finder’s experts provide unbiased, trustworthy evaluations of all student credit cards and providers, not just those we partner with on the site.

What are the best student credit cards?

Best for long-term value

Chase Freedom® Student Credit Card

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The Chase Freedom® Student Credit Card offers an enticing benefit over other types of secured cards: the ability to earn Chase Ultimate Rewards points. Other secured cards that earn rewards typically earn just cash back. By earning Chase Ultimate Rewards, you can build a sizable trove of Chase points to cash in on should you choose to stick with Chase in the long-term.

Best for international students

Deserve® Edu Card

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on Deserve®'s secure website
International students often find it difficult to get a US credit card because they may not have Social Security numbers. The Deserve® Edu Card is a convenient solution: You don't need a Social Security number to apply. Though the rewards aren’t quite as strong as other student options, the accessibility is a more than welcome trade off, especially considering the card still earns 1% back on purchases.

Best for flat-rate rewards and no foreign transaction fees

Bank of America® Travel Rewards for Students

Finder rating 4.1 / 5 ★★★★★

The Bank of America® Travel Rewards for Students is one of the best travel cards on the market and it has a great student version, too. It offers solid flat-rate rewards on all purchases, no foreign transaction fees on purchases made abroad and one of the best signup bonuses around. This makes it a great “all-around” choice for students who want to earn rewards on their purchases, but don’t spend large amounts in particular categories.

Best for overall cash back

Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards for Students

Finder rating 4.4 / 5 ★★★★★

There are several student cards with great rewards, but this card comes out on top because of its flexible 3% cashback category, which allows you to choose a category from a pre-selected list. Plus, you'll find an attractive signup bonus and a generous intro APR on purchases and balance transfers. Students more interested in maximizing their credit card earnings will value this card more than a flat-rate card like the Bank of America Travel Rewards for Students.

Best for rebuilding credit

Capital One Platinum Secured Credit Card

Finder rating 4.4 / 5 ★★★★★

Apply now
on Capital One Bank®'s secure website
Capital One's secured card can help you improve your credit if it isn't yet where you want it to be. You might receive a $200 credit line with a security deposit far less than that amount. Capital One also gives you an incentive to use your card responsibly, possibly raising your credit limit after 6 months of responsible use. Since not every college student is going to have unsullied credit, this card is an excellent tool for students that want to course-correct their early credit mistakes.

Best for cash back on rotating categories

Discover it® Student Cash Back

Finder rating 4.2 / 5 ★★★★★

The Discover it® Student Cash Back offers stellar cash back in certain categories each quarter. It can be a great choice if you love having variety in your rewards. During certain months, you can take advantage of the 5% cash back by stocking up on select items for the school year. While this card earns more than the Bank of America Cash Rewards, it doesn’t offer the same level of flexibility, making it best for students committed to playing the game of credit card rewards.

Best for inexperienced cardholders

Journey Student Rewards from Capital One

Finder rating 3.9 / 5 ★★★★★

Apply now
on Capital One Bank®'s secure website
The Journey Student Rewards from Capital One combines a $0 annual fee with a flat cashback rate that you can increase through strong financial habits. Notably, it doesn't punish late payments with a penalty APR, which is incredibly helpful for students who need credit but aren’t yet in the habit of properly managing their credit account.

Best for commuters

Discover it® Chrome for Students

With the Discover it® Chrome for Students, you can earn solid cashback on categories you're most likely to spend as a student: dining and gas. While you can conceivably earn more with other student cards, this card’s rewards are reliable for students who commute to college and don’t need to worry about other purchases. Plus, this card requires no annual fee, rewards you for good grades, and offers Discover’s potentially valuable cash back match on your first year.

What’s changed in 2021

Not much changed for our list of top student cards in 2021. Providers didn’t do much to innovate in this space over 2020 and instead focused on providing and sustaining value on rewards cards throughout the pandemic.

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Compare all student credit cards

If our best picks for student credit cards don’t meet your needs, there are plenty more solid student cards out there. You can compare all student credit cards side-by-side to get a sense of what card is a good fit for your wallet.

How to choose a student credit card

Most student credit cards are designed for those with no credit history. That means if you damaged your credit score before entering college, you’re going to have far more limited credit card options than a student just starting their credit journey. Here are a few steps you’ll want to take when considering your options:

  • Review your credit score. Your credit score is going to dictate which student credit cards are available to you. You can check your score through any of the major credit bureaus: Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax.
  • Consider your spending habits. Do you travel to get to school? Do you dine out a lot when on campus? Depending on your spending needs, a student rewards card could help you recoup your expenditures.
  • Think about your initial spending needs. A few student rewards cards offer intro APRs on purchases. An intro APR can let you pay off your school supplies and book purchases over time without incurring interest.
  • Look at accessibility. If you’re an international student, your card options are going to be much more limited without a Social Security Number. In that case, you’ll want to look at student cards that don’t require a Social Security Number.

When is a student credit card worth it?

A student credit card is a great choice if you’re a student interested in building credit for the first time. Whether or not one is worth your time is pretty simple.

Get a student credit card if…

  • You’re a student.
  • You want to build credit.
  • You don’t wish to or can’t sign on to another account as an authorized user.

Get another card if…

  • You have a poor credit score.
  • You’re not a student.
  • Joining another account as an authorized user is more beneficial.

You asked, we listened: Top 5 student credit card questions

  1. What’s the difference between a secured card and a student card?
    You must put down a security deposit before you can get a secured card. This is different than a student card, which doesn’t require a security deposit.
    A secured card might be a good choice if your credit score needs work. Because your provider can take your deposit if you fail to pay your card bill, it may be more willing to take you on as a customer.
  2. Do I have to keep my student credit card forever?
    No. However, you may want to keep your card for at least a few years to lengthen your credit history.
  3. Does American Express offer a student card?
    No. However, you can still apply for an Amex card if you’re 18 or older with a good credit score.
  4. Can I get a credit card if I’m a high school student?
    It’s slightly tougher to get your own card if you’re under 21, but it’s doable. You must be at least 18 years old. You must also prove your ability to pay your own card bill, or apply with a cosigner.
    If you’re under 18, you can’t get a credit card on your own. But consider asking a parent to add you to their credit card account as an authorized user.
  5. Do I need to be a student to get a student credit card?
    Typically, you do need to be a student to get a student credit card. Your provider may ask you to show proof that you’re enrolled in a college or university.

Bottom line

The best student credit card depends on how you spend your money and what perks you’re looking for. If none of our top picks feel like the right fit for you, compare more student credit cards to find your best option.

Credit card ratings

★★★★★ — Excellent

★★★★★ — Good

★★★★★ — Average

★★★★★ — Subpar

★★★★★ — Poor

Our team evaluates credit cards to determine their value against similar cards on the market.

We rank card types — travel, cashback, business — on a set of factors that are most relevant to that type of card. We create these rankings to help you narrow down a credit card that best suits your spending and budget.

Learn the details of our methodology and scoring.

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