Key takeaways

  • Most student credit cards require you to be a college student. You'll typically need to list the school you attend and whether you're a part-time or full-time student.
  • Many student credit cards consider your credit score, income, debt-to-income ratio and credit history length. You'll also need to be at least 18 years old to qualify for a student credit card.
  • If you're not yet a student or you're just looking for a first credit card, you may want to consider a secured credit card to help build your credit history.

It’s easy to see why student credit cards appeal to many consumers who are just starting their credit journey. They’re typically easier to qualify for than traditional credit cards, and many even let applicants check their approval odds online without any impact to their credit scores.

But can you get a student credit card if you’re not a student? The answer to this question is far from simple, mostly because different card issuers have their own requirements for student cards. If you’re interested in getting a student credit card and you’re wondering what you need before you apply, read on.

Who qualifies for a student credit card?

Most student credit cards actually require you to be a student, and you’ll have to prove it. For example, the credit card application for the Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards Card for Students* requires you to list which school you attend and whether you are a part-time or full-time student.

However, there are some student cards that you can apply for as a nonstudent. Because these cards are designed for students who don’t have any credit history, you may be able to qualify with no credit and without verifying student status. While this could be an option for those wanting to build credit, a better bet would be to explore alternatives like secured cards or becoming an authorized user on someone else’s card.

How to qualify for a student card

Like any other type of credit card, the approval requirements for student credit cards vary by issuer. Generally speaking, you need to be at least 18 years old and, for most cards, a U.S. citizen to get approved. If you’re under 21 without independent income, you might also need a co-signer.

From there, the rules are different for different cards. For example, marketing materials for the Discover It® Student Cash Back state that a credit score is not required to qualify for the card. In the meantime, other cards state that applicants can be approved if they have fair credit or better, which typically means having a FICO score of 580 or higher.

Beyond your credit score, other factors that are considered when you apply for a credit card include your income, your debt-to-income ratio and the length of your credit history.

When it comes to income, however, it’s smart to know what sources of income you can list on your student card application. If you’re 21 or older, you can include your own income when you apply, as well as sources of household income to which you have a “reasonable expectation of access,” which could include a spouse’s income.

If you’re under 21, on the other hand, you can only include the following sources of income on your application for a student credit card:

  • Personal income from your job
  • Allowances
  • Residual amounts of income from scholarships and other financial aid (not student loans) after paying tuition and other college expenses

If you’re under the age of 21 and you don’t have any income, your best option might be to become an authorized user on a parent’s credit card. You’ll still build credit this way, but the barrier to entry is much lower than applying for your own card.

Alternatives to consider if you don’t qualify for a student credit card

If you’re not yet a student or you’re looking for a first credit card in general, either way there are plenty of options to consider. For example, you can begin building credit with a secured credit card that requires a cash deposit as collateral.

Cards in this niche make it easy to get approved if you have no credit history. Most report to the three credit bureaus, thus helping you boost your score. Some secured credit cards — including the Discover it® Secured Credit Card and the Bank of America® Unlimited Cash Rewards Secured credit card* — even let you earn cash back on your spending without paying an annual fee.

If you have a fair credit score or better, however, a larger range of credit cards may be available to you. In fact, there are many excellent credit cards for fair credit that offer rewards with no annual fee, such as the Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards Credit Card and the Upgrade Cash Rewards Visa®.

The bottom line

Getting a student credit card is a smart first step to take if you want to build your credit history, which you’ll need later in life. Qualifications can vary widely from card to card, but most student credit cards will require you to be enrolled at a university.

If you aren’t a student, there are still plenty of good starter credit cards to choose from. And if your credit score is fair or better, you can also branch out to more traditional credit cards that offer higher limits and better perks.

The information about the Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards Card for Students and Bank of America® Unlimited Cash Rewards Secured credit card was last updated on May 16, 2024.

*The information about the Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards Card for Students and Bank of America® Unlimited Cash Rewards Secured credit card has been collected independently by The card details have not been reviewed or approved by the card issuer.