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Student credit cards guide

Student credit cards guide

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The best student cards for cash back, travel and more.

Picking the right student credit card can seem daunting, especially if it’s your first card. But breathe easy: We’ve narrowed the top products in this handy guide.

Our pick for students

Petal Visa Credit Card

  • Apply if you're new to credit or have a fair to good score
  • Sync your bank account to show you're a responsible borrower
  • No fees: No annual, foreign transaction, overlimit or even late fees
  • Credit limits up to $10,000
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Compare student credit cards

The student credit card market has been heating up, and you have several strong options to choose from. A $0 annual fee is standard. Plus, you may find solid rewards and attractive signup bonuses.

Name Product Filter values Rewards Purchase APR Annual Fee
Bank of America® Travel Rewards for Students
Bank of America® Travel Rewards for Students
Earn unlimited 1.5 points for every $1 you spend on all purchases everywhere, every time and no expiration on points
17.24% to 25.24% fixed
$0
Start building your financial future
Bank of America® Cash Rewards for Students
Bank of America® Cash Rewards for Students
Earn 3% and 2% cash back on the first $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club purchases each quarter, then earn 1%
16.24% to 26.24% fixed
$0
Start building your financial future
1% cash back on all purchases
20.99% variable
$0
Designed for college students to build credit history and earn rewards.
N/A
26.99% variable
$0
Take control and build your credit with responsible use.
Earn 5% cash back in rotating categories up to the quarterly maximum each time you activate. Plus unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases.
15.24% to 24.24% variable
$0
Earn 5% cash back in rotating categories up to the quarterly maximum each time you activate. Plus unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases.

Compare up to 4 providers

Best student credit cards

Each of the following products can serve you well as your first credit card. You won’t pay an annual fee for any of them.

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

Bank of America® Travel Rewards for Students

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 and one of the best signup bonuses around.

  • Rewards: 1.5x points on every purchase.
  • Signup bonus: 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.

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

Bank of America® Cash Rewards for Students

There are several student cards with great rewards, but this card comes out on top because of its flexible 3% cashback category. Plus, you’ll find an attractive signup bonus and a generous intro APR on purchases and balance transfers.

  • Reward highlights: 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: $150 cash rewards bonus after you make $500 in purchases within the first 90 days of account opening.
  • Intro APR: 0% on purchases and balance transfers for the first 12 statement closing dates from account opening. (After that, 16.24% to 26.24% variable.)
  • Monthly FICO score.

Ace in the hole: The Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card for Students 3% cashback category

Each month, you can set the category in which you earn 3% cash back. These categories include:

  • Gas.
  • Dining.
  • Travel.
  • Online shopping.
  • Drug stores.
  • Home improvement and furnishings.

This is an excellent perk because of its flexibility. You can set your top cashback category based on where you spend the most money — a luxury you won’t find with other cards.

Best for international students: Deserve® Edu Card

International students often find it difficult to get a US credit card because they may not have Social Security numbers. The Deserve Edu Mastercard is a convenient solution: You don’t need a Social Security number to apply.

  • Rewards: 1% cash back on all purchases.
  • No Social Security number required if you’re an international student.
  • Credit for your Amazon Prime Student subscription, up to a lifetime total of $59.

Best for rebuilding credit: Secured Mastercard® from Capital One®

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.

  • Security deposit: Deposit $49, $99 or $200 — according to Capital One’s discretion — and get an initial credit line of $200.
  • Pay your first five monthly payments on time and get a credit limit increase.
  • No foreign transaction fees.

Best for rotating cash back: Discover it® Student Cash Back

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.

  • Reward highlight: 5% cash back in quarterly rotating categories on up to 1,500% in purchases per quarter, then 1%.
  • Cardmember bonuses: Good Grade Reward for up to five years; first-year Cashback Match.
  • Intro APR: 0% on purchases for the first 6 months from account opening. After that, 15.24% to 24.24% variable.

Methodology

To select our picks for student cards, we compared products on the market with related benefits and rewards. We narrowed the winners to cards with additional standout features.

  • Best for flat-rate rewards and no foreign transaction fee. We picked the card that offers the highest flat-rate rewards and is billed as a student product.
  • Best for overall cash back. We picked this card based on the top non-quarterly-rotating rewards rate — in this case, 3% cash back for Bank of America’s card — and flexibility of reward earnings.
  • Best for international students. We looked for a card that allows international students to apply without a Social Security number. Rewards and additional student-focused benefits tipped the scales.
  • Best for rebuilding credit. We consider credit building the most important use of a secured card. That said, we picked a product that incentivizes members to pay on time. The security deposit is typically an onerous requirement for consumers, and Capital One’s product offers a chance to lessen that burden.
  • Best for rotating cash back. We looked for a card that offers the highest rotating cashback rate and is billed as a student product.

How to get a student credit card

If you’re relatively new to credit cards, don’t be afraid to take it slow. Take the time to pick a card that you might keep for the next few years. And above all, consider whether you’re ready to use credit responsibly.

If you’re relatively new to credit cards, don’t be afraid to take it slow. Take the time to pick a card that you might keep for the next few years. And above all, consider whether you’re ready to use credit responsibly.

  1. Compare features that are important to you.
    You can find many student products without annual fees. Compare major features such as rewards and signup bonus.

    If you want to make a fairly large purchase and pay for it over time with no interest, consider a card with an intro APR. But keep in mind you always have to pay back what you spend on your card. Now’s the time to take special care not to get into debt.

    If you think you’ll be traveling internationally — perhaps to study abroad — you might like a card with no foreign transaction fees.

  2. See if you’re eligible for a credit card.
    Many providers require a Social Security number, and you must show income or assets that prove you can pay your card bills. You must be at least 18 years old to get a card on your own.

    If you can’t independently pay your card bill, consider applying with a cosigner.

  3. See if you’re eligible for a credit card.
    Many providers require a Social Security number, and you must show income or assets that prove you can pay your card bills. You must be at least 18 years old to get a card on your own.

    If you can’t independently pay your card bill, consider applying with a cosigner.

  4. Apply for a credit card.
    On your card application, you’ll need information like your address, contact details, date of birth, total annual gross income, Social Security number, and monthly housing or rent payment. Also, submit other information that the card provider requires.
  5. Wait for approval.
    You may be approved instantly. If the provider needs to review your application, you may need to wait a few days to a few weeks to hear back.

    After approval, you’ll typically receive your card in the mail within seven to 10 days.

  6. Credit cards for high school students

    You can set yourself up for financial success by getting an early start on building credit. There are great benefits to having a good credit score, including:

    • Higher approval odds for an apartment application, car loan, etc.
    • Lower insurance rates.
    • Access to credit cards with better rewards and more benefits.

    It’s slightly tougher to get your own credit 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.

    Do’s and don’ts of student credit cards

    Start building great credit habits now to pave the way for a smooth financial journey ahead.

    How to properly use a card

    • See your card as a loan you must pay back — not as a blank check.
    • Always keep your credit utilization under 30%.
    • Pay your balance on time and in full each month.
    • Avoid loaning your card to friends.
    • Check your card’s pricing table and understand fees you might pay.

    Mistakes to avoid

    • Getting too many credit cards.
    • Consistently maxing out your credit limit.
    • Not paying your card bill in full each month.
    • Paying your card bill late.
    • Applying without a reliable source of income.

    Bottom line

    To find the right student credit card, compare features such as rewards, signup bonus and student-focused benefits. Above all, look at your card as a chance to build great financial habits.

    If you’d like to get up to speed on credit cards, check out our beginner’s guide.

    Frequently asked questions

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2 Responses

  1. Default Gravatar
    CollegeSeptember 22, 2018

    Good morning. I’m trying to get some help while I’m attending school…I would like to afford things I need and I’m not sure which card to get…

    • finder Customer Care
      JoshuaSeptember 25, 2018Staff

      Hi there,

      Thanks for getting in touch with finder. I hope all is well with you. :)

      Since I don’t completely know your unique situation, I may not be able to give you a specific recommendation. However, you might want to explore the table above. It gives you an overview of some of your options. You may then click on the “Go to site” green button or “More info” link to learn more about the specific card.

      Please do not forget to read the full T&Cs and PDS or details of the products before applying and making a financial decision.

      I hope this helps. Should you have further questions, please don’t hesitate to reach us out again.

      Have a wonderful day!

      Cheers,
      Joshua

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