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Best student credit cards

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

The best student credit cards tend to offer the most valuable perks or features centered around a student’s financial needs or performance. To determine the best student cards of 2021, Finder compared more than 200 credit cards, singling out and ranking eligible cards based on financial features important to students, including rewards, accessibility based on credit history, and perks based on school performance. The cards that offered the best value in a given category were chosen for our best picks. Here are your top options.
  • Why trust us? Unlike our competitors, Finder’s credit card experts research and write about all credit cards, including those from providers who aren’t partners on our site. Our trustworthy, unbiased evaluations are solely meant to help you choose the best credit card for your financial needs.

What are the best student credit cards?

Best for long-term value
Chase Freedom® Student Credit Card

Chase Freedom® Student Credit Card logo
Credit recommended (670-850)
See offer
on Creditcards.com's secure site
Rates & fees

670
Min. credit score
$0
Annual fee
Up to 1%
Cash back
$50
Welcome offer
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.
  • Chase Ultimate Rewards. Earn an unlimited 1% cash back on all purchases. The fact that you earn Chase Ultimate Rewards points inherently boosts the potential value of your rewards beyond what other secured cards can earn.
  • No annual fee. A lack of annual fee is ideal on any card designed for building credit.
  • Annual reward bonus. Chase will give you $20 on each account anniversary for your first 4 years of card ownership.
Annual Fee $0
Purchase APR 14.99% variable
Balance transfer APR 14.99% variable
Welcome offer $50 after making a purchase in the first 3 months
Estimated welcome offer value
Rewards 4% cashback on Lyft and 1% cash back on all other purchases

Best for international students
Deserve® Edu Card

Deserve® Edu Card logo
Credit recommended (580-850)
Apply now
on Deserve®'s secure site
580
Min. credit score
$0
Annual fee
Up to 1%
Cash back
Other
Welcome offer
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.
  • Rewards. Earn 1% cash back on all purchases.
  • Low requirements for international students. No Social Security number required if you're an international student.
  • Amazon Prime credit. Get credit for your Amazon Prime Student subscription, up to a lifetime total of $59.
  • No intro APR period. You don't get a 0% intro APR period on purchases or balance transfers.
  • No signup bonus. There's no bonus to earn when you signup for the card.
Annual Fee $0
Purchase APR 18.74% variable
Balance transfer APR N/A
Welcome offer Amazon Prime Student subscription credit up to $59 after spending $500 in the first 3 months
Estimated welcome offer value
Rewards 1% cash back on all purchases

Best for flat-rate rewards and no foreign transaction fees
Bank of America® Travel Rewards for Students

Bank of America® Travel Rewards for Students logo
Finder Rating: 4.1 / 5

★★★★★

Credit recommended (580-850)
Read review
580
Min. credit score
$0
Annual fee
1.5x
Points
25,000
Points welcome offer
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.
  • Rewards points. Earn 1.5x points on every purchase.
  • Signup bonus. Earn 25,000 bonus points after you make $1,000 on purchases within the first 90 days of account opening.
  • Helpful extras. Monthly FICO score and no foreign transaction fees.
  • No 0% APR on balance transfers. You get a 0% intro APR period on purchases, but not on balance transfers.
Annual Fee $0
Purchase APR 0% intro for the first 12 billing cycles (then 14.99% to 22.99% variable)
Balance transfer APR 14.99% to 22.99% variable
Welcome offer 25,000 points after spending $1,000 in the first 90 days
Estimated welcome offer value $250 based on Finder's valuation
Rewards 1.5x points on all purchases

Best for overall cash back
Bank of America® Cash Rewards for Students

Bank of America® Cash Rewards for Students logo
Finder Rating: 4.4 / 5

★★★★★

Credit recommended (580-850)
Read review
580
Min. credit score
$0
Annual fee
Up to 3%
Cash back
$200
Welcome offer
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.
  • Cash back. Earn 3% cash back in an eligible category of your choice and 2% cash back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs. Earn these rates on the first $2,500 in combined purchases each quarter, then 1%.
  • Signup bonus. Earn $200 cash rewards bonus after you make $1,000 in purchases within the first 90 days of account opening.
  • Intro APR. Get 0% on purchases and balance transfers for the first 12 statement closing dates from account opening. After that, 13.99% to 23.99% variable.
  • Foreign transaction fees. Avoid using this card abroad or online with foreign merchants or you'll pay 3% of the amount of each transaction.
  • Balance transfer limitations. To use the 0% intro APR period, complete your transfers within the first 60 days when you open your account.
Annual Fee $0
Purchase APR 0% intro for the first 12 statement closing dates (then 13.99% to 23.99% variable)
Balance transfer APR 0% intro for the first 12 billing cycles (then 13.99% to 23.99% variable)
Welcome offer $200 after spending $1,000 in the first 90 days
Estimated welcome offer value
Rewards 3% and 2% cash back on the first $2,500 in combined choice category, grocery and wholesale club purchases each quarter, then 1%

Best for rebuilding credit
Capital One® Secured Mastercard®

Capital One® Secured Mastercard® logo
Finder Rating: 4.4 / 5

★★★★★

Credit recommended (580-669)
Read review
Rates & fees

580
Min. credit score
$0
Annual fee
n/a
Rewards
n/a
Welcome offer
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, raising your credit limit if you make your first few payments on time. 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.
  • Security deposit. Deposit $49, $99 or $200, according to Capital One's discretion, and get an initial credit line of $200.
  • Potential credit limit increase. Pay your first five monthly payments on time and get a credit limit increase.
  • No foreign transaction fees. Purchases made abroad or online with foreign merchants won't cost you any foreign transaction fees.
  • No rewards. You won't earn any rewards on purchases made with this card.
  • No intro APR period. You don't get a 0% or a low-rate intro APR period on purchases or balance transfers.
Annual Fee $0
Purchase APR 26.99% variable
Balance transfer APR 26.99% variable
Welcome offer N/A
Estimated welcome offer value
Rewards N/A

Best for cash back on rotating categories
Discover it® Student Cash Back

Discover it® Student Cash Back logo
Finder Rating: 4.2 / 5

★★★★★

Credit recommended (580-739)
Read review
580
Min. credit score
$0
Annual fee
Up to 5%
Cash back
Other
Welcome offer
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.
  • Cash back. Earn 5% cash back in quarterly rotating categories on up to $1,500 in purchases per quarter, then 1%. You also earn 1% back on all other purchases.
  • Cashback match. Discover will double the entire cash back you earn during your first year of card membership.
  • Intro APR period. Get 0% intro APR period on purchases for the first 6 months from account opening. After that, a variable APR of 17.99% applies.
  • 10.99% intro APR period on balance transfers. With this card, you do get an intro APR period on balance transfers, but it's not 0%.
Annual Fee $0
Purchase APR 0% intro for the first 6 months (then from 17.99% variable)
Balance transfer APR 10.99% intro for the first 6 months (then from 17.99% variable)
Welcome offer Discover will match cash back at the end of your first card year
Estimated welcome offer value
Rewards 5% back in rotating categories each activated quarter up to $1,500, then 1% after that and on all other purchases

Best for inexperienced cardholders
Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One®

Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One® logo
Finder Rating: 3.9 / 5

★★★★★

Credit recommended (580-850)
Read review
Rates & fees

580
Min. credit score
$0
Annual fee
Up to 5%
Cash back
n/a
Welcome offer
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.
  • Cash back. Earn 1% cash back on all purchases. Increase this rate to 5% for the month by paying off your monthly balance before it's due.
  • No annual fee. You won't pay an annual fee to use this card. This is a great feature to have when you're trying to build your credit score.
  • No penalty APR. If you miss a payment, you'll only pay a late fee and won't incur a penalty APR. Many cards punish late payments with a penalty APR of up to 29.99%.
  • High base APR. This card comes with a higher than average base purchase APR of 22.99%.
  • No signup bonus. Though it offers rewards, this card doesn't come with a signup bonus.
Annual Fee $0
Purchase APR 22.99% variable
Balance transfer APR 22.99% variable
Welcome offer N/A
Estimated welcome offer value
Rewards 1% cash back on all purchases, 1.25% for months you pay on time

Best for commuters
Discover it® Chrome for Students

Discover it® Chrome for Students logo
Credit recommended (580-669)
Read review
580
Min. credit score
$0
Annual fee
Up to 2%
Cash back
Other
Welcome offer
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.
  • Cash back. Earn 2% cash back on dining and gas on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter, reverting to 1% after and on all other purchases.
  • No annual fee. You won't pay an annual fee to use this card.
  • Signup bonus. Discover will match any cash back you've earned during your first year of card ownership.
Annual Fee $0
Purchase APR 0% intro for the first 6 months (then 12.99% to 21.99% variable)
Balance transfer APR 10.99% intro for the first 6 months (then 12.99% to 21.99% variable)
Welcome offer Discover will match cash back at the end of your first card year
Estimated welcome offer value
Rewards 2% back on gas and dining up to $1,000 combined each activated quarter, then 1% after that and on all other purchases

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.

See all cards

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.

How do student credit cards work?

Student credit cards work similarly to standard credit cards. The primary difference is in who is eligible for them and their breadth of features.

  1. Compare and apply for a student card. Look through your options to find a student card that offers the rates and fees or rewards you need.
  2. Use and payoff your card each month. Start using your card for essentials or purchases that earn you rewards to start building your credit. Make sure to pay off your statement balance each month to avoid building interest, late fees and dings to your credit score.
  3. Graduate to a standard credit card. After you’ve responsibly used your credit card long enough, many providers will let you graduate to a standard credit card.

Student credit card pros and cons

Pros

  • Better odds of approval. Student cards are geared toward those who are just getting started with credit and have more relaxed credit requirements.
    • Start building your credit score early. A strong credit score will help you qualify for other major loans, including mortgages and car loans.
  • Strong terms. While not as robust as standard credit cards, many student cards come with good rates and fees and even rewards.

Cons

  • Reserved for students. As the name suggests, you typically aren’t eligible for a student card if you’re not a student.
  • Fewer features. Student credit cards tend to have fewer perks and features than standard credit cards.

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.

More guides on Finder

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