Student credit cards are designed for US college students over the age of 18, and are, in my opinion, something that each college student should have so that they can start building up a credit history and have a good credit score by the time they graduate (which is essential for employment checks, housing rental, and mortgage loans). A credit card will also come in handy when paying for everyday expenses such as groceries and utilities.
What I like most about student cards is that many of them offer a rewards system and additional incentives when students get good grades and pay their bills on time. Some cards even offer a points system that gives you points for every dollar you spend. You can even find some student cards that offer 0% introductory APR (annual percentage rate) on purchases, which lets you hold a balance from one month to the other without incurring interest for a predetermined period of time.
To help you choose the right student credit card for yourself, we've put together a list of our 4 best rated student credit cards currently available in the US. All the cards below have no annual fee.
Citi ThankYou® Preferred Card for College Students - Earn 2,500 Bonus Points
Discover it® for Students - New! Good Grades Rewards
Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One®
Wells Fargo Cash Back College Visa® card
Citi ThankYou® Preferred Card for College Students - Earn 2,500 Bonus Points. This rewards credit card gives you 2,500 bonus ThankYou points when spending $500 on this card within the first 3 months of card membership. You’ll earn 2 points for each dollar you spend on entertainment and dining at restaurants, as well as 1 point for each dollar you spend elsewhere. Enjoy 0% intro APR on purchases for 7 months (13.99% - 23.99% variable APR thereafter). No annual fee.
Read our review of Citi ThankYou® Preferred Card for College Students - Earn 2,500 Bonus Points here.
Discover it® for Students - New! Good Grades Rewards. This cash back card, issued by Discover Financial, lets you earn 5% cash back in categories that change each quarter up to the quarterly maximum, such as gas, restaurants, Amazon.com and more. You have to sign up for each quarter. Earn 1% cash back on all your other purchases. Offer for new cardmembers: Automatically double the cash back you have earned at the end of your first year of card membership, and receive $20 cash back each year your GPA is above or equal to 3.0. Enjoy 0% intro APR on purchases for 6 months, (12.99% - 21.99% variable APR thereafter), and 10.99% intro APR on balance transfers for the first 6 months (12.99% - 21.99% variable APR thereafter). This student card has even made it to our list of Best Rated Credit Cards 2015. Choose your card design. No annual fee.
Read our review of Discover it® for Students - New! Good Grades Rewards here.
Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One®. This student rewards card gives you 1% cash back on all your purchases, and rewards you with a 25% bonus on the cash back you earn each month as long as you pay your bills on time. That means you can earn a total of 1.25% cash back. There's no limit to what you can earn and you can redeem your cash back any time you want. Cash back doesn't expire. Busy students will be pleased to know that you can even set up automatic redemptions. You get free access to your credit score (with Capital One® Credit Tracker) to help you keep your credit on the right track. Enjoy a higher credit line after you make your first 5 monthly payments on time. No annual fee.
Read our review of Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One® here.
Wells Fargo Cash Back College Visa® card lets you earn 3% cash back on gas, grocery and drugstore net purchases for the first 6 months after you sign up, after that you earn 1%. You also get 1% cash back for all other purchases. Cash back can be redeemed in increments of $25, either as a deposit into your savings or checking account, as a check, for rewards or as credit. You also get an introductory APR of 5.90% to 13.90% on purchases for 6 months, after that, the variable purchase APR will be 11.15% to 21.15%. You get 5.90% to 13.90% intro APR on balance transfers for the first 6 months, 11.15% to 21.15% variable APR thereafter. Since the rate you get depends on your creditworthiness, if you don't have a (good) credit history yet you should be prepared to get a high APR. If you make your payments on time, you won't only avoid paying APR but will also build a good credit record. Benefits include chip-based technology, which gives you more security and lets you use this card outside of the US, and Zero Liability for fraudulent transactions. No annual fee.
Student Card Tips
Student credit cards are a great way for you to build good credit, which will be very important for you in the near future when you want to get a mortgage or loan. Apart from building a good credit history, having a student credit card will give you access to a line of credit and cash, some cards even let you earn rewards or cash back when you make purchases.
Some student cards reward you if you have a good GPA and pay your bills on time and most cash back student cards let you earn between 1%-5% cash back when you make purchases with the card. Remember to always read the terms and conditions of the cards you're comparing in order to find the one that will give you the most rewards on the things you spend more money on.
Many credit cards for students offer a 0% introductory APR period for purchases, which is something you should keep in mind when looking for a credit card and planning on holding a balance (in case you make a large purchase that you can't pay off in full before the due date). Remember that this introductory interest rate expires after a number of months, after which you will have to pay the APR which tends to be high, starting from 12.99% or more. So you shouldn't use your card as a supplemental student loan.
If you are careful, your student credit card will be a huge advantage to you, now and in later life. To see our full selection of Student Credit Cards click here.
Why Do I Need A Student Credit Card?
A student credit card serves a dual purpose. On the one hand it gives you all of the benefits that come with a credit card, like earning rewards, getting insurance coverage for purchases, and being able to make purchases and pay for them later. On the other hand, a student credit cards serves as an efficient credit building tool if used correctly. You should always make your payments in full on time, to build a solid credit history.
What Should I Expect From A Good Student Credit Card?
The exact benefits you should look for when checking out student credit cards will depend on your situation and how you go about your spending. But there are a few basics that good student credit cards should offer:
Free Access To Credit Scores
Since having a student credit card is all about building your credit history and raising your credit score, being able to regularly check on your progress is a must. Not all student credit cards give you access to your credit score, so I suggest you stick to the cards that do have this benefit.
Discover it® for Students - New! Good Grades Rewards, Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One® and Discover it® Chrome for Students - New! Good Grades Rewards all let you access your credit score.
With many good student cards offering cash back or points on your purchases, there isn’t much point in getting a card that doesn’t have this benefit.
Discover it® for Students - New! Good Grades Rewards lets you earn 5% cash back in categories that change each quarter (like gas, restaurants, Amazon.com and more). You earn that cash back up to the quarterly maximum when you sign up. All other purchases earn 1% cash back, so you can earn rewards on every purchase you make.
No Annual Fee
As a student you probably don’t have money to waste on an annual fee. These days you can get very rewarding credit cards without paying any annual fee. Save your money for something better.
Student life has enough challenges. The last thing you need are worries about a misplaced credit card distracting you during study hours. Security is a very real issue. If somebody were to use your credit card to make crazy expensive purchases, the damage to your credit score could stick with you a long time.
Discover Financial Services includes a neat Freeze It℠ on/off switch feature that lets you instantly freeze or enable your card account right from your phone. That can give you a lot of peace of mind if your card is misplaced or stolen.
There are other benefits you should look for, like travel and shopping benefits. Some cards give you travel insurance when you use them to make a purchase. Price protection and guaranteed return are two shopping benefits to look for.
Some student cards have special benefits that encourage good credit behavior. Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One® lets you earn a 25% bonus on the 1% cash back you earn, each month that you make your payment on time. So paying your credit card bill on time can help you earn a total of 1.25% cash back.