College life often marks the beginning of financial independence for students, and a responsible approach to credit can set the stage for a strong financial future.
Obtaining a credit card as a student is sometimes a little challenging—especially if you’re under 21. That’s mostly because students usually don’t have an income or credit history. If you’re under 21 and don’t have income, you’ll need to have a parent or other adult co-sign for you.
When you’re over 21, some of the requirements become less stringent; you’ll still need to show income (in order to apply without a co-signer), but you can typically use a partner’s income as part of your application.
Selecting the right credit card can help students build credit, earn rewards, and manage expenses. Here are some of the best credit cards designed for college students.
1. Discover it Student Cash Back
Discover it Student Cash Back is a popular choice among college students. It has generous cash back rewards and student-friendly features.
- Cash Back Rewards: Earn 5% cash back on rotating quarterly categories and 1% cash back on all other purchases. Plus, Discover matches all the cash back earned at the end of the first year.
- Good Grade Reward: Enjoy a $20 statement credit each school year your GPA is 3.0 or higher for up to five years.
- Introductory APR: Benefit from a 0% introductory APR on purchases for the first six months.
Discover it Student Cash Back lets students earn rewards on everyday spending while encouraging academic success through the Good Grade Reward.
2. Student Rewards from Capital One
The Student Rewards from Capital One helps students build credit responsibly and earn cash back on purchases.
- Cash Back Rewards: Earn 1% cash back on all purchases. If you pay on time, you can boost your cash back to 1.25% for that month.
- Credit Journey: Access Capital One’s CreditWise tool for free, which allows you to monitor and track your credit score. It also provides helpful tips on credit management.
- No Foreign Transaction Fees: Ideal for students who travel internationally, it doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees.
With a focus on building credit and offering a simple cash back structure, the Student Rewards card from Capital One is an excellent straightforward credit card option.
3. Citi Rewards Clear Card
The Citi Rewards Clear Student Card makes every purchase more rewarding, so it’s a great option for students to earn points on their spending.
- Points Rewards: Earn 2 ThankYou Points per dollar spent at supermarkets and gas stations (up to $6,000 in combined purchases per year) and 1 ThankYou Point per dollar on all other purchases. Citi rounds up points to the nearest 10 on every purchase.
- Round-Up Feature: Citi automatically rounds up your ThankYou Points to the nearest 10 on every purchase, providing an additional points boost.
- Introductory APR: Benefit from a 0% introductory APR on purchases for the first seven months.
The Clear Card offers a unique points system and the round-up feature, making it an appealing choice for students who want to earn rewards in a slightly different way.
4. Bank of America Customized Cash Rewards for Students
The Bank of America Customized Cash Rewards for Students caters to students who want to earn cash back with the flexibility to choose their preferred bonus category.
- Cash Back Rewards: Earn 3% cash back in a category of your choice (gas, online shopping, dining, travel, drug stores, or home improvement/furnishings) and 2% cash back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs (up to $2,500 combined quarterly choice category/grocery store/wholesale club purchases). All other purchases earn 1% cash back.
- Bonus Offer: Enjoy a $200 online cash rewards bonus after making at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening.
- Introductory APR: Benefit from a 0% introductory APR on purchases for the first 15 billing cycles.
The customizable cash back structure and a generous bonus offer make the Bank of America Customized Cash Rewards for Students an attractive option for students who want control over their bonus categories.
5. Citi Secured Mastercard for Students
The Citi Secured Mastercard for Students is an excellent option for students who are building credit for the first time or recovering from a low credit score.
- Secured Card: Requires a security deposit, which becomes your credit line. This helps students establish or rebuild their credit.
- Credit Limit Increase: With responsible credit use, you may be eligible for a credit limit increase after six months.
- Credit Education: Access to Citi’s credit education resources and tools to help you manage and improve your credit.
The Citi Secured Mastercard for Students offers a pathway to responsible credit use and can be a valuable tool for those looking to build or rebuild their credit history.
The bottom line: best credit cards for college students
Choosing the best credit card as a college student means thinking about things like rewards, fees, and credit-building features. Discover it Student Cash Back, Student Rewards from Capital One, Citi Secured Mastercard, Bank of America Customized Cash Rewards Credit Card for Students are all strong options, each catering to specific student needs.