The 8 Best Student Credit Cards of October 2022

To determine best student credit cards, we studies APRs, foreign transaction fees and welcome bonuses among other features

Student credit cards are a great resource for students to safely build credit — and they can make paying for things like books and groceries a lot easier. But students who have never managed credit before may be apprehensive about wielding something as powerful (and intimidating) as a credit card, especially if they’ve heard horror stories about crippling credit card debt.

To help, we’ve compiled a list of the best student credit cards currently available. Whether you’re trying to earn rewards, fund your study abroad or just start building credit history, one of these credit cards is likely ideal for you.

The Best Student Credit Cards

  • Discover it Student Cash Back: Best Overall Student Credit Card
  • Capital One Quicksilver Student Cash Rewards Credit Card: Best Student Credit Card for Simplicity
  • Bank of America Travel Rewards Credit Card for Students: Best Card for Studying Abroad
  • Capital One SavorOne Student Cash Rewards Credit Card: Best Card for Rewards
  • Chase Freedom Student Credit Card: Best Card for Bonuses
  • Deserve EDU Mastercard for Students: Best Card for International Students
  • Discover it Secured Credit Card: Best Secured Credit Card for Students
  • Chime Credit Builder Secured Visa Credit Card: Best Card for Safely Building Credit

Discover it Student Cash Back

Best Overall Student Credit Card

5 out of 5 Overall

Key Features
  • Rotating rewards
  • Upgrade card upon graduation
  • Available for fair credit or no credit borrowers
The Discover it Student Cash Back credit card tops our list of best student credit cards because of its high potential for rewards and low barrier for entry. Rewards amounts rotate; for example, you’ll earn 5% at grocery stores and gyms from January through February but then 5% at gas stations from April through June. And you’ll always earn 1% on everything else.
Discover it Student Cash Back

Annual fees
No annual fee
Foreign transaction fees
No foreign transaction fee
Balance transfer fees
3% intro balance transfer fee; 5% after introductory period
APR
15.99% to 24.99% (0% APR for six months)
Rewards
Up to 5% cash back
Minimum credit requirement
Fair credit (580 or higher) or new to credit

More Information About Discover it Student Cash Back

The rotating rewards amount for this student credit card can lead to a high earning potential if you pay attention to how you use the card. However, first-time credit card users may be overwhelmed when trying to keep track of the rewards. The 1% cashback on everything else is also lower than some of the other credit cards on this list but is still a respectable amount for a student credit card.

The Welcome Match is an attractive offer. Whatever rewards cash you earn during your first year, Discover will match. That’s double the cash without any strings attached.

When you graduate, Discover automatically transitions this card to a standard credit card. You’ll keep all the rewards perks, but you may be able to increase your credit limit. While you might be able to find credit cards with a lower APR after graduating, you can avoid accumulating credit card debt by paying it off each month.

Looking for a great checking account? We’ve got the details on the best checking accounts for all sorts of situations.

Capital One Quicksilver Student

Best Student Credit Card for Simplicity

4.5 out of 5 Overall

Key Features
  • Easy-to-track rewards
  • Warranties and travel insurance
  • Part of Capital One’s award-winning mobile app
The Capital One Quicksilver Student Cash Rewards Credit Card may not have topped our list of the best student credit cards, but it was a close match. This card is certainly easier for students to keep track of; everything earns 1.5% cash back. Plus, Capital One continues to win awards for its leading mobile app; managing your credit card payments in the app is intuitive and easy.
Capital One Quicksilver Student

Annual fees
No annual fee
Foreign transaction fees
No foreign transaction fee
Balance transfer fees
No balance transfer free at 17.99% to 27.99% transfer APR
APR
17.99% to 27.99%
Rewards
1.5% cash back
Minimum credit requirement
Fair credit (580 or higher) or limited credit history

More Information About Capital One Quicksilver Student Cash Rewards

The flat 1.5% cash back is easy for cardholders to keep track of, and it’s still a competitive (and unlimited) cash back offer for a card with no annual fees. In fact, the non-student Quicksilver also pays out the same 1.5% cash back. You can earn 5% on travel purchases (hotels and rental cars) when you book through Capital One Travel in the app.

The APR is higher than the Discover it Student Cash Back (and Discover’s other student card, Discover it Student chrome, which did not rank in our best student credit cards list), but the lack of annual fee, foreign transaction fee and balance transfer fee make up for it.

Capital One is currently offering a limited-time bonus: Spend $100 within three months of account opening to earn a $100 cash bonus.

Bank of America Travel Rewards

Best Card for Studying Abroad

4.5 out of 5 Overall

Key Features
  • Earn points toward travel
  • Attractive welcome bonus
  • No foreign transaction fees
The Bank of America Travel Rewards Credit Card for Students is more difficult to get approved for: You’ll already need good credit, which you can get from being an authorized user on a parent’s card during high school. But if you can get approved, you’ll want this card for studying abroad — it racks up travel points with every swipe, and the welcome offer includes 25,000 bonus points.
Bank of America Travel Rewards

Annual fees
No annual fee
Foreign transaction fees
No foreign transaction fee
Balance transfer fees
3% of every transaction ($10 minimum fee)
APR
16.99% to 26.99% (0% APR for 18 months)
Rewards
1.5 points for every $1 spent
Minimum credit requirement
Good credit (670 or higher)

More Information About Bank of America Travel Rewards Credit Card

If your aim in getting a student credit card is to establish credit history, this is not the card for you. To qualify for this student credit card, you’ll likely need a credit score of 670 or higher. College students who have built good credit history in their early years on campus — or college students who benefited from being an authorized user on a parent’s card — should consider applying.

Not only will you earn 1.5 points for every dollar spent, you’ll also get 25,000 bonus points if you spend $1,000 within 90 days of account opening. That’s $250 toward travel and dining purchases.

Bank of America also offers an Unlimited Cash Rewards Credit Card for Students with 1.5% cash back, but if you’re looking for cash back rewards, there are better options, like the Capital One Quicksilver. But for study-abroad students looking for travel points, you can’t do better than the Bank of America Travel Rewards card.

Capital One SavorOne Student Cash Reward

Best Card for Rewards

4.5 out of 5 Overall

Key Features
  • Higher cash back rewards
  • Warranties and travel insurance
  • Part of Capital One’s award-winning mobile app
While the Capital One SavorOne Student Cash Rewards Credit Card can’t compete with the 5% cash back offered by the Discover it Student Cash Back, Capital One’s 3% cash back is year-round in select categories. This can make it more appealing depending on your spending habits.
Capital One SavorOne Student Cash Reward

Annual fees
No annual fee
Foreign transaction fees
No foreign transaction fee
Balance transfer fees
No balance transfer free at 17.99% to 27.99% transfer APR
APR
17.99% to 27.99%
Rewards
3% cashback on dining, entertainment, streaming and groceries; 1% on everything else
Minimum credit requirement
Fair credit (580 or higher) or limited credit history

More Information About Capital One SavorOne Student Cash Rewards

With this student credit card, you can earn 3% cash back on groceries, select streaming services, dining and entertainment — and you don’t need to keep track of what month it is. If this is where the bulk of your spending happens, the SavorOne could be ideal for you.

However, you’ll only earn 1% cash back on everything else, making it less attractive for some than the Capital One Quicksilver. College students with stronger credit scores might want to consider opening multiple rewards credit cards to take advantage of the special rewards of each.

Capital One is currently offering a limited-time bonus: Spend $100 within three months of account opening to earn a $100 cash bonus.

A savings account helps set aside money for a vacation, wedding or home. Check out some of the best savings accounts for a variety of needs.

Chase Freedom Student Credit Card

Best Card for Bonuses

4 out of 5 Overall

Key Features
  • Easy welcome bonus
  • Annual rewards for good account standing
  • Lower APR
The 1% flat rate for the Chase Freedom Student Credit Card isn’t appealing, but the $50 welcome bonus and yearly $20 bonuses for keeping the account in good standing make up for it. Chase also makes it easy for responsible borrowers to increase their credit limit over time, which is an important part of improving your credit report. The fees on this card, however, may be enough to dissuade you.
Chase Freedom Student Credit Card

Annual fees
No annual fee
Foreign transaction fees
3% of each transaction
Balance transfer fees
5% of every transaction ($5 minimum fee)
APR
17.24%
Rewards
1% cash back
Minimum credit requirement
Good credit (670 or higher)

More Information About Chase Freedom Student Credit Card

This is not an easy card to qualify for. Like Bank of America’s student credit cards, Chase wants to see a polished credit report, making the Freedom Student Credit Card less attainable for newbies. We also don’t love the 1% flat rate rewards; you can do much better with other credit cards on this list.

So why did we include this one on our list of the best student credit cards? Because it has the best bonuses available. You’ll get a $50 welcome bonus just for making a purchase within three months of account opening. Then for the next five years, you can earn a $20 annual Good Standing bonus for keeping your account in good shape.

We also like the Chase Freedom Student Credit Card because of the lower APR compared to competitors — and the ability to increase your credit limit if you swipe your student credit card responsibly.

Deserve EDU Mastercard for Students

Best Card for International Students

4 out of 5 Overall

Key Features
  • No Social Security number required
  • Free Amazon Prime Student for a year
  • Free cell phone protection coverage
The Deserve EDU Mastercard for Students makes a compelling case for first-time borrowers. It’s hard for college students to overlook the free Amazon Prime Student and free cell phone protection coverage, but don’t let such gimmicks be the sole reason you apply for a card. Instead, we like this card because it’s easier for international students to apply; no Social Security number needed!
Deserve EDU Mastercard for Students

Annual fees
No annual fee
Foreign transaction fees
No foreign transaction fee
Balance transfer fees
Balance transfers not available
APR
20.99%
Rewards
1% cash back
Minimum credit requirement
Fair credit (580 or higher) or new to credit

More Information About Deserve EDU Mastercard for Students

If you’re an American student, there are better credit cards available to you — with lower APRs, the option for balance transfers and better cash back rewards. But if you’re an international student studying in the US, you’ll have a much easier time applying for a card from Deserve EDU than you will elsewhere.

Plus, because Deserve doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees, international college students can continue to spend with the card when they visit home during breaks.

Discover it Secured Credit Card

Best Secured Credit Card for Students

3.5 out of 5 Overall

Key Features
  • Refundable security deposit
  • Earn rewards
  • Automatically upgrade to unsecured card
Secured credit cards are available to more than just students, but if you’re a student with no credit history or poor credit history, secured credit cards may be a better option over student credit cards. The Discover it Secured Credit Card is the best secured credit card for students because it still allows you to earn rewards; just be mindful of the high APR.
Discover it Secured Credit Card

Annual fees
No annual fee
Foreign transaction fees
No foreign transaction fee
Balance transfer fees
3% intro balance transfer fee; 5% after introductory period
APR
25.99%
Rewards
2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants; 1% cash back on everything else
Minimum credit requirement
Poor credit (300 or higher) or new to credit

More Information About Discover it Secured Credit Card

If you’re only focused on building a credit history and don’t care so much about rewards, there may be better secured credit cards for you (like the Chime Credit Builder card explored below). But if you want to take advantage of rewards while repairing your credit report, there’s no better card than the Discover it Secured Credit Card.

In fact, you’ll earn more than just 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants and 1% cash back everywhere else; at the end of your first year, Discover will match all the rewards you’ve earned to date. That’s double the rewards for a full year.

Chime Credit Builder Secured Visa

Best Card for Safely Building Credit

3.5 out of 5 Overall

Key Features
  • No interest charged
  • No credit check
  • Must have Chime Checking Account
You won’t find any welcome bonuses or rewards for the Chime Credit Builder Secured Visa Credit Card, and you’ve got to open a Chime Checking Account to even qualify for the credit card. But it charges no fees and no interest, which makes it a safe way for borrowers with no or poor credit to start building or repairing their credit scores.
Chime Credit Builder Secured Visa

Annual fees
No annual fee
Foreign transaction fees
No foreign transaction fee
Balance transfer fees
No balance transfers
APR
N/A
Rewards
N/A
Minimum credit requirement
Poor credit (300 or higher) or new to credit

More Information About Chime Credit Builder Secured Visa Credit Card

Getting approved for a Credit Builder card from Chime can be easy, as long as you’re already a Chime Checking Account member. You can’t earn any rewards for swiping the car, and there’s no welcome bonus to speak of — but there’s also no APR, which makes this a safer way to start building your credit history. With Chime, the credit limit depends on the size of your security deposit (but there’s no minimum security deposit required).

What Is a Student Credit Card?

A student credit card is marketed specifically toward college students as a way to start building their credit. Students can sometimes get approved for a credit card with a limited credit history or no credit history at all.

Student credit cards may offer rewards (cash back or travel points) and might even have unique perks to draw in students, like free Amazon Prime or forgiveness for a late payment every now and then. But because student credit cards are aimed at college students, who typically don’t have significant income or high credit scores, credit limits tend to be low and interest rates are usually higher. And if you’re under the age of 21, you might need to provide proof of income to get approved.

How Do Student Credit Cards Work?

Student credit cards function just like regular credit cards, in that users can borrow a certain amount (up to their credit limit) and must make payments each month. Regular on-time payments can help improve your credit score — but late payments and spending more than you can afford to repay can quickly lead to mountains of credit card debt and a low credit score.

Using a student credit card responsibly (i.e., only spending on necessary purchases and paying it off in full, on time, every month) can boost your credit score. Once you’ve graduated, you can inquire about upgrading the credit card to a non-student option or increasing the credit limit.

If nothing else, you can open a new, better credit card but leave the student card open. Just don’t swipe it; having an extra credit card open increases your available credit (and reduces your credit utilization), which can boost your credit score. Plus, it’s nice to have in the event of an emergency.

Pro Tip

You don’t always have to be a student to qualify for a student credit card. Certain credit card issuers approve non-students interested in the lower required credit scores.

Why You Should Build Credit as a Student

Building credit as a student can set you up for success when you graduate — and responsibly using a student credit card is an easy way to do that.

A better credit score will make it easier to get approved for a car loan and then a mortgage loan; if you want to open a business after graduation, you may eventually need to take out a small business loan. Not only does a stronger credit history make it easier to get approved, but it also improves your chances of getting lower rates and even getting better rewards offers from other credit card issuers.

Building credit is about more than just increasing your odds of getting approved for larger credit asks down the road. An established credit score can make it easier to get approved for an apartment rental, set up utilities or even get hired for a job.

Pros and Cons of Student Credit Cards

Student credit cards offer several advantages to college students at the beginning of the credit journeys, but these credit cards also have their drawbacks.


Pros
  • Easy way to build credit history
  • Not challenging to get approved
  • Can earn rewards and student-specific perks
  • Learn financial responsibility early
  • Helpful in emergencies
  • Avoid foreign transaction fees if studying abroad

Cons
  • Can hurt your credit score if used irresponsibility
  • Easy to fall into credit card debt
  • Low credit limits
  • High APRs

What to Look for in a Student Credit Card

So how do you pick the best student credit card for you? You’ll need to carefully consider a range of features, like APRs, foreign transaction fees and welcome bonuses, to determine which card is best suited for your situation. Here are some things to consider:

Minimum Credit Score Requirement

The first thing to ask yourself is if you even qualify for the student credit cards you’re interested in. While most student credit cards are designed for students with limited credit history (or no credit history at all), some of the best options — those offering strong rewards and/or welcome bonuses — do have higher thresholds for credit scores.

Credit Reporting

If your main goal of obtaining a student credit card is to boost your credit score, make sure that the credit card issuer actually reports your activity to the three major credit bureaus. Most major credit card companies report usage, but it’s always good to make sure before signing up.

APR

As a student building credit, it’s a good idea to pay off your card in full every month. You can do this by limiting your spending to the amount of cash you already have in a bank account. Doing so means you won’t have to worry about credit card interest — a smart move since student credit cards usually carry high APRs.

But just in case you may carry some debt over month to month, you’ll want a student credit card with a low APR. Check out each card’s introductory APR and its regular APR; when in doubt, go with the card with the lower rate.

Fees

The best student credit cards have no annual fees (or monthly fees, for that matter). In general, you should only consider paying annual fees for a credit card if its rewards are strong enough that you’ll make considerably more money in the year by swiping it. As a student on a limited budget, it may be less likely that you’ll use your card for large enough purchases to justify an annual fee.

Speaking of fees, look for a student credit card with no foreign transaction fees, especially if you’ll be traveling (for school or for pleasure) in the next few years.

Rewards or Welcome Bonus

The primary reason to get a student credit card is to start building credit. Many applicants who have no prior credit history or even bad credit may be limited to basic credit cards without any perks. But some student credit cards, reserved for qualifying students with good credit (even if it’s limited), may pay out cash back bonuses or travel points. Others might offer a one-time welcome bonus.

For cash back and points rewards, pay attention to how they work. Some are complicated — 2% for groceries, 3% for gas and 1% for everything else, for example — while others are more straightforward, with one flat rate. Variable perks can be enticing once you have a wallet with several rewards credit cards, though they can become a burden to keep track of. But for students just learning how credit cards work, a single flat rewards rate might be the way to go.

While rewards shouldn’t be your North Star when signing up for a student credit card (credit score requirements, APRs and annual fees are more important), they can give one card an edge over another if you’re having trouble choosing.

Additional Features

When shopping around for student credit cards, you may also want to consider:

  • International student acceptance: If you’re not American, your options will be more limited. Look for credit cards that don’t require a Social Security number to apply.
  • Pre-approval: If you’re worried about getting rejected when you apply — and thus damaging your already delicate credit score — look for student credit cards that offer pre-approval. Pre-approvals do not hurt your credit score.
  • Graduation: What happens to the card when you graduate? Some credit card companies will let you transition it to a different card while others may require that you apply for a separate card.

Alternatives to a Student Credit Card

Student credit cards are not the only way to start building credit as a student, and they may not even be your best option. Before signing up for any card, consider these alternatives:

Become an Authorized User

A parent, guardian, domestic partner or even trusting friend can make you an authorized user on their credit card. Doing so allows you to use their credit card as your own — but you won’t be on the hook for payments. As long as the credit cardholder makes regular, on-time payments, you should see your credit score go up.

But beware: If the cardholder makes late payments and uses the card irresponsibly, your score will suffer too.

Open a Retail Credit Card

Credit cards from stores typically don’t have the best rates and terms, but they do offer unique perks for the retail experience at that store. As long as having a line of credit at your favorite shop won’t incentivize you to overspend there, opening a retail credit card is a good way to establish credit history. Retail credit cards are usually much easier to open than a standard credit card — or even a student credit card.

Start With a Secured Credit Card

Our list of the best student credit cards includes two secured credit cards. That’s because they really are a great way to build credit safely. Because you make a security deposit upfront, your spending is backed up by that cash. This means the credit limit will be low — but the security deposit removes risk for the card issuer, which means it’s much easier to get approved.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Student Credit Cards

We’ve gathered the answers to the most common questions about student credit cards to help you fully understand their advantages and disadvantages.

Can International Students Get Student Credit Cards?

International students studying in America can get student credit cards — but it’s not easy. Credit card issuers generally ask for your Social Security number (SSN) when you apply; but if you’re not an American citizen, you likely don’t have a Social Security number, nor do you have an American credit history for the card issuer to check.

Don’t fret: You may be able to use your student visa to qualify for an SSN. Alternatively, you may be able to apply for an individual taxpayer identification number (ITIN), which some credit card issuers allow you to use in place of an SSN.

Some student credit cards do not require a Social Security number — for example, the Deserve EDU Mastercard for Students.

Do I Need a Job to Get a Student Credit Card?

A job is not required to get a student credit card, but in many instances, it may be your best bet for approval. Why? Predatory credit card issuers once lined college campuses with offers for student credit cards, offering prizes (think Frisbees and T-shirts) for signing up. Congress passed the Credit Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009 (CARD Act), putting an end to this practice and making it more difficult for students to open a line of credit.

As a part of this legislation, students under the age of 21 must either have an adult cosigner for a credit card or provide proof of income. While you may be able to have a parent cosign for you or use a spouse’s income on your application, in most cases, you’ll need a job to get a student credit card if you’re under 21.

How Old Do You Have to Be to Get a Credit Card?

You must be at least 18 years old to get a credit card, but getting an unsecured credit card if you’re under 21 is now more difficult thanks to the CARD Act. To get approved before you turn 21, you’ll need a cosigner or you’ll need to provide proof of steady income to qualify. To have access to a credit card before you’re 18, ask a parent or guardian to make you an authorized user on their card.

Contributor Timothy Moore is a writer and editor in Cincinnati who covers banks, loans, insurance, travel and automotive topics for The Penny Hoarder.