6 Best Credit Cards for College Students – Reviews & Comparison

Most college students have limited experience with credit cards and other forms of credit. Accordingly, their credit histories are often thin or nonexistent. Therefore, the single most important reason for students to apply for credit cards is to build a positive credit history.

Students keen on building credit quickly need to look for cards that report timely payments to one or more (ideally all three) consumer credit reporting bureaus – and then keep up their end of the bargain by making in-full, on-time payments. The best student credit cards generally have low fees, reasonable APRs, and perks that specifically appeal to college students. A few even have cash back programs that reward spending on gas, groceries, dining out, and other routine purchases. Here’s a look at some of the best options on the market today.

1% Cash Back on All Purchases; 1.25% Cash Back Each Month When You Pay on Time

capital one journey student rewards credit card

Other perks include an automatic credit line increase after 5 months of on-time payments, minimal fees, and the perks associated with the Capital One CreditWise feature – a great credit education tool.

See our Capital One Journey Student Rewards Card Review for more information. Find out how you can apply for this card here.

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$20 Annual Cash Back Bonus for Good Grades; Double Cash Back Rewards in the First Year


Another nice benefit: at the end of your first year as a cardholder, Discover automatically doubles all the cash back you earned over the previous 12 months. Plus you get an additional $20 cash back every year your GPA stays above 3.0, for up to 5 years.

One downside is that Discover it for Students is meant for students with good to excellent credit. If you have poor credit or a spotty credit history, you’ll have trouble qualifying.

See our Discover it® Student Cash Back card Review for more information.

$20 Annual Cash Back Bonus for Good Grades; Good for Students With Average Credit


Like Discover it for Students, Discover it Chrome for Students pays you $20 cash back every year your GPA stays above 3.0, for up to 5 years.

See our Discover it Chrome for Students Card Review for more information.

2x Points on Dining & Entertainment; 1x Points on Everything Else; Personal Concierge Service and Other Perks

citi thankyou preferred card students

The ThankYou Points program is definitely this card’s biggest advantage, but a 7-month intro APR period helps too. Plus, Citi has an unusually generous lineup of value-added perks, such as the Private Pass program.

See our Citi ThankYou Preferred Card for College Students Review for more information.

No annual fee; Credit-building benefits with responsible card use

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However, deposits can’t be credited against your purchases – you still need to pay your bill every month, just as you would with a normal credit card. If you demonstrate a pattern of timely payments over several months, Capital One may raise your credit limit without requiring an additional deposit.

The biggest drawback of this card is its purchase APR, which is significantly higher than many other student credit cards. However, its fees are manageable, it’s available to students with poor or spotty credit, and the value-added benefits of Capital One CreditWise are definitely useful for students who want to track and build their credit over time.

See our Capital One Secured Mastercard Review for more information. Find out how you can apply for this card here.

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Reasonable APR and Fees; Relatively High Credit Limit; Good for Students With Poor Credit

citi secured mastercard

The Citi Secured Mastercard has relatively lax credit approval standards. If you have poor or spotty credit, this is probably the best student card for you. And because Citi automatically reports your payment patterns to the 3 major consumer credit reporting bureaus, it’s also a great card for building credit. If you make timely payments, your credit score is likely to rise over time. However, the annual fee and relatively high purchase and balance transfer APRs are significant drawbacks.

See our Citi Secured Mastercard Review for more information.

You’ve heard all the clichés about starving students. While you’re hopefully not actually going without regular meals as you work and study your way through school, you probably don’t have as much disposable income as you’d like.

Credit card issuers know that, on average, college students have less money than older people with full-time jobs. Accordingly, they tend to tightly restrict how much their student customers can spend on their cards. Don’t expect your first student credit card to come with an exceedingly high credit limit, particularly if your only source of income is a stipend or work-study job.

The good news is that if you make regular payments, build a positive credit history, and look for ways to earn extra income on the side, your credit limit – and spending power – is likely to increase over time. Years from now, when you think back to your time as a student, you might just identify your first-ever student credit card approval as a decisive milestone on your personal finance journey.

What’s your preferred student credit card?

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided by any bank, credit card issuer, airline, or hotel chain, and has not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of the bank, credit card issuer, airline, or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Updated: October 1, 2018
Categories: Careers, College & Education, Credit and Debt, Credit Cards

Brian Martucci writes about frugal living, entrepreneurship, and innovative ideas. When he’s not interviewing small business owners or investigating time- and money-saving strategies for Money Crashers readers, he’s probably out exploring a new trail or sampling a novel cuisine. Find him on Twitter @Brian_Martucci.

Comments Disclosure: The below responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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