Best Student Credit Cards of 2019

A student credit card is a great way to build credit history and learn about financial responsibility. It might seem like you have too many to choose from, but Bankrate is here to help you do the homework. Check out the best student credit cards from our partners and find the right one today.

Bankrate's picks for top student credit cards of 2019

Need more information?

Skip down to read our
card profiles and expert advice.

Best for rotating cash back bonus categories

Discover Image

Recommended Credit Score

New to Credit to Fair (0 - 740)

A FICO score/credit score is used to represent the creditworthiness of a person and may be one indicator to the credit type you are eligible for. However, credit score alone does not guarantee or imply approval for any financial product.

Apply Now On Discover's secure website

Discover it® Student Cash Back

Rewards Rate:
Earn 5% cash back in rotating categories each quarter like gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, Amazon.com and more, up to the quarterly maximum each time you activate. Earn 1% unlimited cash back on all other purchases – automatically.
Welcome 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.
Annual Fee:
$0
Purchase Intro APR:
0% for 6 months
Balance Transfer Intro APR:
10.99% for 6 months
Regular APR:
14.99% - 23.99% Variable

Card Details

  • 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 at different places each quarter like gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, Amazon.com and more up to the quarterly maximum, each time 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 14.99% - 23.99%.

Best for flat-rate cash back and studying abroad

Capital One Image

Recommended Credit Score

Limited to Average (0 - 740)

A FICO score/credit score is used to represent the creditworthiness of a person and may be one indicator to the credit type you are eligible for. However, credit score alone does not guarantee or imply approval for any financial product.

Apply Now On Capital One's secure website

Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One®

Rewards Rate:
Earn 1% cash back on all your purchases. Pay on time to boost your cash back to a total of 1.25% for that month
Welcome Offer:
N/A
Annual Fee:
$0
Purchase Intro APR:
N/A
Balance Transfer Intro APR:
N/A
Regular APR:
26.96% (Variable)

Card Details

  • Earn 1% cash back on all your purchases. Pay on time to boost your cash back to a total of 1.25% for that month
  • Enjoy no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees
  • Get a head start and build your credit with responsible use
  • Get Eno®, your Capital One® assistant, to manage your account via text, receive alerts, and shop safer online
  • Pick the monthly due date that works best for you
  • Get access to a higher credit line after making your first 5 monthly payments on time
  • $0 fraud liability if your card is ever lost or stolen
  • Monitor your credit profile with the CreditWise® app, free for everyone
Terms and Restrictions Apply

Best for gas, dining & large purchases

Discover Image

Recommended Credit Score

New to Credit to Fair (0 - 740)

A FICO score/credit score is used to represent the creditworthiness of a person and may be one indicator to the credit type you are eligible for. However, credit score alone does not guarantee or imply approval for any financial product.

Apply Now On Discover's secure website

Discover it® Student chrome

Rewards Rate:
Earn 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter. Earn 1% unlimited cash back on all other purchases – automatically.
Welcome 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.
Annual Fee:
$0
Purchase Intro APR:
0% for 6 months
Balance Transfer Intro APR:
10.99% for 6 months
Regular APR:
14.99% - 23.99% Variable

Card Details

  • 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 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter. 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 14.99% - 23.99%.

Best for everyday spending

Citi Image

Recommended Credit Score

Good (670 - 850)

A FICO score/credit score is used to represent the creditworthiness of a person and may be one indicator to the credit type you are eligible for. However, credit score alone does not guarantee or imply approval for any financial product.

Apply Now On Citi's secure website

Citi Rewards+℠ Student Card

Rewards Rate:
Earn 2X ThankYou® Points at Supermarkets and Gas Stations for the first $6,000 per year and then 1X Points thereafter Earn 1X Points on All Other Purchases.
Welcome Offer:
Earn 2,500 bonus points after you spend $500 in purchases with your card within 3 months of account opening; redeemable for a $25 gift card at thankyou.com
Annual Fee:
$0
Purchase Intro APR:
0% intro for 7 months on Purchases
Regular APR:
16.49% - 26.49% (Variable)

Card Details

  • The Citi Rewards+℠ Student Card - the only credit card that automatically rounds up to the nearest 10 points on every purchase - with no cap
  • Earn 2,500 bonus points after you spend $500 in purchases with your card within 3 months of account opening; redeemable for a $25 gift card at thankyou.com
  • 0% Intro APR on purchases for 7 months. After that, the variable APR will be 16.49% - 26.49%, based on your creditworthiness
  • Earn 2X ThankYou® Points at Supermarkets and Gas Stations for the first $6,000 per year and then 1X Points thereafter. Plus, earn 1X Points on All Other Purchases.
  • Get 10% Points Back for the first 100,000 ThankYou® Points you redeem per year
  • No annual fee
Terms and Restrictions Apply

Best student starter card

WebBank Image

Recommended Credit Score

Excellent to Limited (0 - 740)

A FICO score/credit score is used to represent the creditworthiness of a person and may be one indicator to the credit type you are eligible for. However, credit score alone does not guarantee or imply approval for any financial product.

Apply Now On WebBank's secure website

Petal Visa® Credit Card

Rewards Rate:
Up to 1.5% cash back after making 12 on-time monthly payments. 1% cash back on purchases right away
Annual Fee:
$0
Purchase Intro APR:
N/A
Regular APR:
14.99 - 25.99% (Variable)

Card Details

  • Up to 1.5% cash back after making 12 on-time monthly payments
  • 1% cash back on purchases right away
  • No fees whatsoever. No late fee, international fee, annual fee, or any-other-kind-of-fee, fee
  • Build credit alongside tens of thousands of Petal Card members
  • Cash flow technology can help applicants without credit history get approved
  • $500 - $10,000 credit limits
  • Petal's mobile app makes it easy to manage your money, track your spending, and automate payments
  • See if you're pre-approved within minutes without impacting your credit score
  • Petal reports to all 3 major credit bureaus
  • No deposits required
  • Card issued by WebBank, member FDIC
Terms and Restrictions Apply

Editorial disclosure: All reviews are prepared by Bankrate.com staff. Opinions expressed therein are solely those of the reviewer and have not been reviewed or approved by any advertiser. The information, including card rates and fees, presented in the review is accurate as of the date of the review. Check the data at the top of this page and the bank’s website for the most current information.


Author: Barry Bridges | bbridges@bankrate.com


What you need to know about student credit cards

Don’t dismiss a student credit card as a “junior card” just because it might be geared toward someone with a limited credit history. Many student cards can be just as useful and valuable as general rewards cards, only with some featured specifically tailored to credit-building needs.

Check out our top picks for student credit cards and learn more about making your entry into the world of credit.

How we chose the top student credit cards

A lot of factors determine a card’s Bankrate score, but some features have greater influence than others. Here’s a list of the top criteria we use to evaluate and score student cards:

  • Credit requirements. The typical person shopping for a student credit card might not have excellent credit or even much credit history at all. Most of the cards on our list are open to new-credit, fair-credit or limited-credit applicants.
  • Fees. Obviously, someone who doesn’t yet have a full-time career would be better served by a credit card that goes easy on the fees and charges.
  • Rewards. Some of our top student credit cards have rewards programs that earn cash back for gas, groceries and other everyday purchases. Rewards offer a surefire way to get more value from your card.

Our picks for the best student credit cards of 2019

Card Name Best for Bankrate score
Discover it® Student chrome Gas, dining and large purchases 4.7/5
Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One® Flat-rate cash back and studying abroad 4.0/5
Discover it® Student Cash Back Rotating cash back bonus categories 4.7/5
Citi Rewards+℠ Student Card For everyday spending 4.6/5
Deserve® Edu Mastercard for Students Best for Amazon Prime membership N/A
Petal Visa® Credit Card Best student starter card N/A

A closer look at the top credit cards for students

Discover it® Student Cash Back

This student card can produce an extremely lucrative first year of cash back for savvy spenders. Earn 5% cash back in rotating categories each quarter, such as gas stations, grocery stores and restaurants, up to the quarterly maximum each time you activate. Earn 1% unlimited cash back on all other purchases. There’s no annual fee and a $20 reward for each year you maintain a 3.0 GPA up to the next 5 years. Maxing out the quarterly bonuses before the rewards rate drops from 5% to 1% will result in $75 in rewards each quarter.

Why this card might be right for you

This card is essentially the same as the Discover it® Cash Back. But students don’t have to worry about having a credit history to be approved. And Cashback Match, where Discover will automatically match all of your cash back earnings from your first year, is a great bonus.

Read the full review and apply on Discover’s secure website.

Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One®

The Journey card has no annual fee and offers 1% cash back on all purchases, but you can boost that to 1.25% if you pay your bill off on time. You can also use Eno®, your Capital One® assistant, to manage your account via text, receive alerts, and shop safer online.

Why this card might be right for you

Paying no foreign transaction fees on this card really sets it apart for student value. Take it abroad, pay your bill in full every month—your credit limit may even increase after 5 months of on time payments.

Read the full review and apply on Capital One’s secure website.

Discover it® Student chrome

Discover’s chrome card for students earns 2% cash back on up to $1,000 in purchases at gas stations and restaurants per quarter. For everything else, you’ll earn 1%. If you’re a student looking to build credit, the roughly $20 in rewards you earn every quarter will be a pleasant surprise you can count on for as long as you’re using the card (and reaching the spend cap of $1,000 per quarter).

Why this card might be right for you

Similar to the Discover it Student Cash Back, this card is essentially identical to the Discover it® chrome, only you receive a good grades reward that stretches over 5 years. And your cash back earnings will automatically be matched at the end of your first year with the card.

Read the full review and apply on Discover’s secure website.

Citi Rewards+℠ Student Card

With the Citi Rewards+ Student Card, you’ll receive 2 ThankYou® Points per dollar at supermarkets and gas stations (for the first $6,000 spent each year, then 1 point) and 1 ThankYou® Point per dollar on everything else. Enjoy paying zero percent APR for 7 months on new purchases (then 16.49% – 26.49% variable).

Why this card might be right for you

While this card does call for good/excellent credit, you get a 10-point round up on every purchase you make (meaning your $2 coffee can earn you 10 points rather than 1). One of the coolest perks of the card is its 10% Points Back feature — you’ll get 10% of your ThankYou® Points back on the first 100,000 points redeemed each year.

Read the full review and apply on Citi’s secure website.

Deserve® Edu Mastercard for Students

Students earn an unlimited 1% cash back on every purchase made with this card. Although that’s a modest rewards rate, it’s a nice benefit in the context of every other perk this card offers. Cardholders are eligible for up to $59 (lifetime total) for Amazon Prime Student, as well as ID theft protection, price protection and other Mastercard Platinum benefits. It’s also another card without foreign transaction fees, so take it abroad with you.

Why this card might be for you

Amazon Prime for Students can deliver a great deal of value and convenience, which explains the central appeal of this card’s one-year complimentary membership to the shopping and content service. Earning 1% cash back on eligible purchases is a modest amount of frosting on the cake. You can qualify for this card despite having no credit or limited credit, making it even more student-friendly.

Read the full review and apply on Deserve’s secure website.

Petal Visa® Credit Card

The Petal card is designed for those who want to manage their credit card transactions and history all in one simple, easy-to-use app. The fintech company tailors the card to those with little or no credit. In fact, you don’t have to have a credit history to apply, but if you do, Petal may use that information to assess whether you qualify. If you don’t have pre-existing credit information, Petal will draw from your bank accounts and other financial records to get a more holistic picture of your financial health. You won’t have to worry about an annual fee or a late payment fee with the Petal card, but your APR could potentially be high, depending on your qualifications (14.99% – 25.99% variable).

Why this card might be right for you

Students looking for a practical credit card to build credit can rest easy knowing not only that the Petal card’s barrier to entry is relatively low, but that it also offers a modest amount of cash back rewards. You’ll get 1% cash back on all purchases made with your card, and if you make 12 on-time payments, Petal will bump this rate up to 1.5%.

Read the full review and apply on WebBank’s secure website.

What are student credit cards and how do they work?

A student credit card works essentially like any other type of card. A credit card provides you with a line of credit. When you use it, money isn’t directly drawn from your bank account. Instead, the issuer (Capital One, Discover, etc.) pays for the expense and records the amount you charged. The total amount you owe to the issuer is called a balance.

If you pay off the balance in full and on time every month, you’ll never owe more than what you spent. Credit card issuers may allow you to make small minimum payments and carry the rest of the balance month-to-month, but it comes with a tradeoff. When you carry a balance, you’ll have to pay interest (measured by annual percentage rate, or APR) on the total amount.

A student credit card has a lot in common with other types of cards, except for a few factors that make them better suited for younger consumers:

Less strict credit requirements

If you’re in high school, college or graduate school, you probably don’t have a long, extensive credit history or a high credit score. More relaxed strict credit requirements make student credit cards easier to qualify for.

Lower cost of ownership

A student is less likely to have the same amount of income and overall wealth as someone who’s been in the workforce for years and buying houses, cars and other property. Lower annual fees (sometimes even zero annual fees) make student credit cards less expensive to own and use.

Specialized benefits

The typical college freshman probably has little use for a credit card that offers a welcome bonus of 50,000 airline miles. On the other hand, the Discover it® Student Cash Back offers a yearly $20 statement credit for each year you maintain a 3.0 GPA, for up to five years.

Why get a student credit card?

Some people start out using their parent’s cards as an authorized user to help them ease into the credit world and kickstart a credit history. However, that’s not an option for everyone.

Getting your own student credit card allows you to take a step toward financial independence.

If you don’t have the resources to cover all your expenses up-front with cash, a student credit card offers the convenience of buying the things you need now and repaying your credit card issuer before the next billing cycle.

You don’t even have to be a big spender. You can start by paying your rent or internet bill or even buying next semester’s books. Expenses for college students obviously go far beyond tuition. The College Board reports that the average on-campus student at a public, four-year, in-state university spent $1,250 on books and supplies in 2017-18.

Used responsibly, a student credit card can also help you develop good habits that will come in handy later in life. Paying your balances and managing your account will be good practice for the years ahead when your financial obligations could include everything from car payments to mortgages to retirement accounts.

In addition, a credit card can be a great resource in an emergency. If your car breaks down, if you need a hotel room after your flight gets canceled or if you get a big bill after a trip to urgent care, your student card can provide a much-needed cushion. As always, make sure to pay your bill in full before you begin incurring interest.

Credit card terms that students should know

  • Annual fees: Some credit cards have annual fees of $50 or more, though most student cards don’t. Be sure to check the fees before applying for any card.
  • Annual Percentage Rate (APR): Interest rate paid on balances carried from one billing period (month) to the next.
  • Credit bureau: Research entities that compile all of your credit history reporting to generate your credit score. In the U.S., there are 3 major bureaus — Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.
  • Credit utilization ratio: This ratio is a measurement of how much of your available credit you are using. If you have a $5,000 credit limit and usually stick to a $500 per month budget, your ratio is at 10%. The lower your credit utilization, the better. If you use up a large chunk (or all) of your available credit every month, your credit score may decrease.
  • FICO: The entity that creates the scoring model used to calculate credit scores. FICO credit scores range from 300 to 850. Credit scores are one factor in determining your creditworthiness.
  • Penalty APR: The highest APR that will be applied to your account. Penalty APR is usually applied after you miss consecutive payments. To return to your original APR, you’ll need to make several consecutive on-time payments.

If you run into a term that’s not on this list, don’t worry. Look for it in Bankrate’s personal finance glossary.

How students can avoid credit card debt

If you’re spending time gathering information on credit cards for college students, you’re already using the first good strategy for avoiding credit card debt:

  1. Choose the right card for your finances and lifestyle. If you don’t own a car and you rarely dine out, it’s not a good idea to apply for a rewards card that offers cash back on gas and dining purchases.
  2. Pay off your balance in full every month. It may seem obvious, but the only way to avoid paying more than you have to is by paying in full every month. Make sure you note when your credit card bill is due and stick to your payment schedule.
  3. Use caution when paying tuition with your credit card. It’s best to not use your credit card to pay for tuition, but some schools will allow you to do it. However, be aware that you may be charged a convenience fee.
  4. Use your card for everyday convenience. Use your card to pay for food, utility bills, movie tickets, and other small purchases. Having a credit card is incredibly convenient and a positive thing when you use it properly.

How to apply for a student credit card

The first thing to consider before applying for a student credit card is your credit history. Start by answering the following questions:

  • Have you ever had a credit card?
  • Have you ever taken out a loan?
  • Do you have a steady work/income history?

If you’ve never had a credit card and you currently have no loans or steady income, your best option for getting your own credit card account is to become an authorized user on a pre-existing account.

If you already have a credit history, it’s important to know what your score is. Determining your credit score will let you know which cards you are likely to be approved for.

Also, request copies of your credit report, which you can do for free once a year from each of the three credit bureaus. You can also get access to free credit tools by signing up with Bankrate.

Before you start filling in any blanks, be sure to look for pre-qualified offers. Every time you apply for a credit card, your score will briefly drop by about 5 points, so it’s best to do it as few times as possible. If you’re denied, take steps to improve your credit (pay down other cards, loans, etc.) and apply for another card in a few months.

Additional reviews and research

Need to do more reading before you make a decision? No worries, choosing the right credit card as a college student is a big deal. We’ve reviewed pretty much every major student credit card on the market today, with all the latest offer information and in-depth analysis. Check out all of our latest reviews below.


Barry Bridges is a senior editor for Bankrate. Before he started writing about personal finance, he was an award-winning newspaper journalist in his native North Carolina. Send your questions about credit cards (and fantasy baseball) to bbridges@bankrate.com.

Have more questions for our credit cards editors? Feel free to send us an email, find us on Facebook, or Tweet us @Bankrate.

* See the online application for details about terms and conditions for these offers. Every reasonable effort has been made to maintain accurate information. However all credit card information is presented without warranty. After you click on the offer you desire you will be directed to the credit card issuer's web site where you can review the terms and conditions for your selected offer.

Editorial Disclosure: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed or approved by any advertiser. The information, including card rates and fees, is accurate as of the publish date. All products or services are presented without warranty. Check the bank’s website for the most current information.