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In college, many students may feel that using a debit card is safer or easier than using a credit card. But it would be wise for students to pay attention to their credit scores early on so they can set themselves up for financial success. By starting out with credit slowly, and by learning positive financial habits along the way, students have the potential to build a strong credit history and an impressive score — which will come in handy when they apply for an apartment or a loan.
While there are plenty of financial products that can help students build credit from scratch, students who already have some credit history may be wondering which credit cards are available to them. While many card issuers like Discover and Capital One offer several credit cards for students, Chase has just one dedicated student credit card. However, it has some other credit cards that would work well for students, which we’ll explore below.
Best Chase credit cards for students
Chase Freedom Student credit card*: Best for a starter card
The Chase Freedom® Student credit card is the only credit card Chase offers that is specifically geared toward students. This card comes with no annual fee and 1 percent cash back on general purchases. You can redeem rewards at any time for statement credits, direct deposits, gift cards, travel or shopping at Amazon.com. As a new cardholder, you’ll earn a $50 welcome bonus after you make your first purchase (must be within the first three months of account opening). Each year your card remains in good standing, you’ll receive $20 after your account anniversary (for up to five years).
Other perks include unlimited access to your credit score and an automatic credit limit increase after making five months of on-time payments within the first 10 months. Additionally, this card comes with an automatic lock/unlock feature that lets you block new purchases, cash advances and balance transfers if your card is lost or stolen. Note that this card is for students with a good to excellent credit score (670 to 850), meaning it’s not a good choice for those who don’t yet have a credit history.
Chase Freedom Unlimited*: Best for bonus category rewards
If you’re a student who has already built up your credit score, you may want to consider the Chase Freedom Unlimited®, which is a no-annual-fee card that lets you earn a higher rate of rewards. With this card you’ll earn 5 percent cash back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards, 5 percent cash back on Lyft purchases (through March 2025), 3 percent cash back on dining and drugstore purchases and 1.5 percent cash back on all other purchases.
You’ll also be able to earn a welcome offer of 1.5 percent cash back on top of all purchases’ original cash back rate (on up to $20,000) for the first year (exclusive offer through Bankrate). Other Chase Freedom Unlimited benefits students may appreciate include a free DoorDash DashPass subscription for three months (after which you’ll get 50 percent off for nine months; must activate before Dec. 31, 2024), purchase protection, extended warranty protection and trip cancellation/interruption insurance.
This card is also worth considering if you need to charge a large purchase or carry a balance and want to avoid interest for a limited time. It comes with a 0 percent intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months (balance transfers must be made within the first 60 days and an intro balance transfer fee of 3 percent (min. $5) applies). Just note that your interest rate will reset to a variable APR of 19.74 percent to 28.49 percent once the introductory APR offer ends.
Chase Freedom Flex: Best for rotating category rewards
If you’re willing to put a bit more effort into earning rewards, the Chase Freedom Flex℠ is another great no-annual-fee rewards card to consider. You’ll earn 5 percent cash back on activated rotating category purchases each quarter (on up to $1,500 in purchases, then 1 percent back), 5 percent cash back on Chase Ultimate Rewards travel purchases, 5 percent cash back on Lyft rides (through March 2025), 3 percent cash back on dining and drugstore purchases and 1 percent cash back on all other purchases.
This card comes with a welcome offer of $200 cash back after spending $500 within the first three months of account opening, which is attainable even for students on a strict monthly budget. You’ll also get a 0 percent intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months (balance transfers must be made within the first 60 days), after which a variable APR of 19.74 percent to 28.49 percent will apply.
The Chase Freedom Flex also comes with a free DoorDash DashPass subscription for three months, then 50 percent off for nine months (must activate by Dec. 31, 2024). Other valuable perks include cellphone protection, purchase protection, extended warranty protection, trip cancellation/interruption insurance and Mastercard World Elite benefits. Some current Mastercard World Elite benefits include a $5 Lyft credit every month when you take three or more Lyft rides, a complimentary ShopRunner membership for one year and a $5 Fandango credit when you spend $20 on Fandango.
Is a Chase credit card right for you?
Chase credit cards are generally for consumers with good to excellent credit — and that includes all of the cards mentioned above. You may already have good to excellent credit if your parents added you as an authorized user on one of their credit cards.
Regardless, be sure to check your credit score before you apply for a credit card. If you have a limited credit history or a lower credit score, you’ll likely need to start your credit journey with a student card that doesn’t require a credit history, such as the Discover it® Student Cash Back or the Discover it® Student Chrome. Or, consider a credit card that requires a lower credit score range, like the Capital One SavorOne Student Cash Rewards Credit Card, which recommends that applicants have a fair to good credit score.
How to choose a Chase credit card as a student
Compare Chase card options
Start the process by comparing the above Chase card options until you find a card that’s ideal for your goals. Make sure to compare rewards programs, credit card fees and cardholder benefits that may be important to you.
Additionally, it’s worth noting that Chase offers some of the best travel credit cards on the market, including co-branded hotel and airline credit cards. For example, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card may be a better fit for your needs and lifestyle if you’re a student with a lucrative side hustle who also travels a lot.
Consider 0% APR offers
If you have high interest debt to pay off or if you’re hoping to pay for a large purchase over time without paying interest — maybe you need to furnish your first apartment or you’re hoping to book a trip abroad next semester — you may want to look for a Chase credit card with a 0 percent introductory APR. Both the Chase Freedom Unlimited and Chase Freedom Flex include 0 percent intro APR offers on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months (variable APR of 19.74 percent to 28.49 percent thereafter).
Otherwise, the Chase Slate Edge℠ has a longer 0 percent intro APR for purchases and balance transfers at 18 months (20.24 percent to 28.99 percent variable APR after), but it doesn’t come with rewards, a welcome offer or competitive perks.
Look at rewards structures
If you are angling to earn rewards on your spending, see which cards offer a rewards structure that makes sense with your spending. The Chase Freedom Unlimited offers boosted rewards on certain category purchases and at least 1.5 percent cash back on everything you buy, but the Chase Freedom Flex offers 5 percent cash back in rotating categories each quarter. Although the categories change every few months, they frequently include grocery stores, select streaming services, gas stations and other popular spending categories.
The bottom line
Chase offers several credit cards that would work well for students who already have a good credit history. No-annual-fee cash back cards like the Chase Freedom Unlimited and Chase Freedom Flex are wallet staples for many consumers, so you won’t need to worry about upgrading a student card once you graduate. And for students who are already in the market for an entry-level travel card, the Chase Sapphire Preferred could be worth considering, if they’re open to paying an annual fee.
*The information about the Chase Freedom® Student credit card and Freedom Unlimited® has been collected independently by Bankrate.com. The card details have not been reviewed or approved by the card issuer.