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Best Student Credit Cards

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by Sam Lipscomb | Updated Sep. 15, 2020

Overview of the Best Student Credit Cards

One of the most important steps of young adulthood is responsibly building credit. Many people don't know that the length of time your oldest credit card has been open can significantly impact your credit score. For that reason, getting your first credit card when you're a college student can be an incredibly smart move that ends up saving you thousands when you graduate and start looking into buying your first home or a new car. Using our credit card model, we found some of the best credit card offers for students. The cards below provide the best combination of rewards (where available), low fees, and likelihood of approval for applicants with little credit. See More



Best Student Credit Card for Cash Back Categories

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  • Intro Offer: Discover will match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year, automatically. There’s no signing up. And no limit to how much is matched.
  • Earn 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places each quarter like grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations, select rideshares, and online shopping, up to the quarterly maximum, when you activate. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - automatically.
  • Good Grades Rewards: $20 statement credit each school year your GPA is 3.0 or higher for up to the next 5 years.
  • No annual fee. No late fee on first late payment. No APR change for paying late.
  • Get 100% U.S. based customer service & get your free Credit Scorecard with your FICO® Credit Score, number of recent inquiries and more.
  • Freeze It® on/off switch for your account that prevents new purchases, cash advances & balance transfers in seconds.
  • Get an alert if we find your Social Security number on any of thousands of Dark Web sites.* Activate for free.
  • 0% intro APR on purchases for 6 months, then the standard variable purchase APR of 19.49%.

Annual Fee

$0

Purchase Intro APR

0% for 6 Months

Balance Transfer Intro APR

10.99% for 6 Months

Regular APR

19.49% Variable

Details

The Discover it® Student Cash Back is one of the best student cards you can get. For starters, you’ll earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in purchases within rotating categories when you activate them each quarter. These categories may include grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations, rideshare purchases and online shopping at certain retailers. On all other purchases, cardholders will earn 1% cash back automatically. The card also does not have an annual fee.

In addition to these benefits, Discover will match all the cash back you earn during your first year with the card. Furthermore, students who earn at least a 3.0 GPA will receive a $20 good grade bonus reward every year for up to five years.

Why We Like It

The Discover it® Student Cash Back boasts a fantastic rewards program, but it’s also a great card for students with fair or unestablished credit. Not many cards work on both of these fronts, making it a really solid choice.

Through Discover’s mobile app and website, you’ll be able to view your card’s balance, payment due dates, cash back accruals and other important information like your credit score. Discover will also waive the late fee for your first late payment, though up to a $40 fee will follow thereafter. The lack of an annual fee coupled with a great lineup of benefits makes this card perfect for young students.

Best Student Credit Card for Extra Perks and Rewards

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  • After you spend $500 in the first three billing cycles with your Deserve EDU Mastercard, you will receive a one year Amazon Prime Student membership
  • Once you are approved and begin using your card, you will earn 1% cash back on every purchase
  • Receive cell phone protection up to $600
  • There are no deposits required to receive your card. There are no annual fees and no foreign transaction fees.
  • If you are an international student, there is no social security number required for you to apply
  • Unlimited referral bonuses: Refer a friend to Deserve EDU using your personal referral code and upon their approval, card activation and use, you will receive $30 and so will your referral
  • There is no impact to your credit score to see if you prequalify
  • Card is issued by Celtic Bank, Member FDIC

Annual Fee

$0

Purchase Intro APR

N/A

Balance Transfer Intro APR

N/A

Regular APR

18.74% Variable

Details

The Deserve EDU is a great option for college students, but its perks are what really stand out. For example, if you pay your cell phone bill with your card, you’ll receive up to $600 in coverage if your phone is stolen or damaged. In addition, if you spend $500 in the first three billing cycles with the card, you will get one year of Amazon Prime Student for free. All cardholders also gain access to Mastercard Platinum Benefits.

In terms of rewards, the Deserve EDU earns 1% cash back on all purchases. The card also comes with no annual fee or foreign transaction fees. Even those with average or limited credit will have an easier time getting approved for this card.

Why We Like It

While there are certainly student cards out there that offer more when it comes to cash back, the Deserve EDU is a great option because of its extra perks. Mastercard’s broad acceptance and simple cash back features make it a solid option for any student. This deal only becomes sweeter when you take into account the free year of Amazon Prime Student.

Best Student Card for Traveling Abroad

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  • Earn 1% cash back on every purchase - plus, you can increase that to 1.25% just by paying on time for the month
  • When you pay on time, earn $5 per month for up to 12 months on eligible streaming subscriptions - some exclusions apply
  • No foreign transaction fees when you travel abroad and there is no annual fee
  • Have the freedom to pick the monthly due date that works best for your payment schedule
  • With responsible card use the Journey Student Rewards card can help build your credit. Capital One will automatically review your account and consider you for a higher credit line in as little as six months
  • Zero fraud liability coverage if your card is ever lost or stolen
  • Get access to CreditWise and monitor your credit score and credit report for free

Annual Fee

$0

Purchase Intro APR

N/A

Balance Transfer Intro APR

N/A

Regular APR

26.99% Variable

Details

When you open a Journey Student Rewards from Capital One, you’ll receive 1% cash back on all purchases. In addition, Capital One offers an extra 0.25% cash back for a specific month when you pay your credit card bill on time. This card is also accessible to those with fair credit, as is the case with many college students. This card has no annual fee or foreign transaction fees.

There are a number of travel-centric features that come with this card. This includes travel accident insurance, an auto rental collision damage waiver and 24/7 travel assistance services if your card is lost or stolen.

Why We Like It

The Journey Student Rewards from Capital One is a great option for students traveling abroad who want to avoid foreign transaction fees. While there are other cards on the market that offer better rewards, the fact that this card charges no foreign transaction fees and is a Visa makes it a perfect option for traveling out of the country.

Best Student Card for Low Interest

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  • Receive 3% cash rewards for up to $2,500 spent on gas, grocery, and drugstore purchases for the first 6 months. Earn 1% on all other purchases
  • 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for six months, then 11.15% to 21.15% variable
  • Cash Rewards can be used towards travel, gift cards, merchandise, cash redemption options, and more
  • No annual fee
  • Good for building credit while in college

Annual Fee

$0

Purchase Intro APR

0% for 6 months

Balance Transfer Intro APR

0% for 6 months

Regular APR

11.15% - 21.15% Variable

Details

With the Wells Fargo Cash Back College Card, you’ll earn 3% cash back on up to $2,500 in gas station, grocery store and drugstore purchases for your first six months with the card. All other purchases will earn 1% cash back.

Wells Fargo offers cardholders access to credit score reporting and credit education tools with this card. As a result, it’s a great choice for students looking to build up their credit profile. With no annual fee, the card also has a 0% introductory APR on purchases and balance transfers for the first six months. After that, your APR will be 11.15% - 21.15% Variable, depending on your creditworthiness. This APR range is fairly low, especially for a student-centric card.

Why We Like It

You should never spend more with a credit card than you can physically repay. However, if you’re looking to carry a balance and save on interest, the Wells Fargo Cash Back College Card stands out because of its generous introductory and ongoing APR offers. But the benefits of this card aren’t limited to interest, as its cash back arrangement is fairly lucrative during the first six months. All of this makes the Wells Fargo Cash Back College Card a welcome addition to any student’s wallet.

Best Student Credit Card for Flat-Rate Cash Back

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  • Earn a one-time cash bonus of $200 when you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months with your new card
  • Earn 5% cash back on your grocery purchases on up to $12,000 spent in the first year. (This does not include Walmart or Target purchases)
  • Earn 5% cash back on travel when you purchase through Chase Ultimate Rewards and 3% cash back on drugstore purchases and on dining including takeout and eligible delivery services
  • Earn an unlimited 1.5% cash back on everything else
  • Pay no annual fee
  • Receive 0% APR for the first 15 months on purchases, then an ongoing variable APR of 14.99% - 23.74%
  • No minimum amount required to redeem your cash back, redeem anytime. Your cash back rewards will not expire as long as your account is open and in good standing

Annual Fee

$0

Purchase Intro APR

0% for 15 months

Balance Transfer Intro APR

N/A

Regular APR

14.99% - 23.74% Variable

Details

The Chase Freedom Unlimited technically isn’t a student card, but it’s still a high-end rewards option for students who can meet its good to excellent credit requirements. While this card is fairly low-cost, its real benefits come in the form of flat-rate cash back.

For example, new cardholders will earn 5% cash back at most grocery stores on up to $12,000 in purchases over their first year. Target and Walmart grocery purchases are not included in this offer, though. You will earn 5% cash back on travel purchases made through Chase Ultimate Rewards. Drug store and dining purchases will earn you 3% cash back. On all other purchases, you will receive unlimited 1.5% cash back. You’ll also get a one-time $200 bonus if you spend $500 within your first three months with the card.

There are no annual fees with Chase Freedom Unlimited. For your first 15 months with the card, you’ll also receive a 0% introductory APR on purchases. Once this intro period ends, your rate will be somewhere between 14.99% and 23.74% variable.

Why We Like It

The Chase Freedom Unlimited is one of the top flat-rate cash back credit cards on the market. It has no annual fee and currently comes with several perks that make it especially attractive. The card is also a Visa, which is widely accepted, and it earns you Chase rewards, which are easy to redeem and don’t expire. Although this card does charge a 3% foreign transaction fee, it’s still an attractive option for college students with good to excellent credit who are looking to maximize their rewards.

Methodology SmartAsset has developed a quantitative and independent system for evaluating the relative value of a credit card offer versus other offers in the marketplace. Our system evaluates cards based exclusively on their features, such as their rewards earning rate (if applicable), fees, perks, and rewards program redemption options. The annual rewards values on this page are calculated using annual spending assumptions in various categories such as, but not limited to, gas, restaurants, airfare, and US supermarkets. These spending assumptions are built on research that SmartAsset has conducted on existing student credit cardholders. Our promise with our credit card recommendations is that we will always strive to have the most comprehensive, accurate, and objective method of evaluating credit card offers. Any recommendations are solely determined by the result of this research and model, and is never influenced by any fees, commissions, or other forms of compensation that SmartAsset may receive from credit card issuers for leads generated on our website.

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