Young people who want to set themselves up for financial success would be wise to pay attention to their credit scores early on. 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 they can be proud of before they really need it.
While there are plenty of financial products that can help build credit early on, student credit cards can be especially helpful. With a student credit card in hand, young people can charge small purchases and build a history of on-time payments, and they may even be able to earn rewards in the process.
While many card issuers offer their own cards geared to students, Chase has a dedicated student credit card and several other options that work well for young people.
Here are Bankrate’s top picks for Chase credit cards for students:
- Best overall: Chase Freedom® Student credit card
- Best for rewards: Chase Freedom Unlimited®
- Best for debt consolidation: Chase Slate®
- Earn a $50 bonus when you make your first purchase within three months of account opening
- Earn 1% back on all purchases, and $20 in rewards each year your card remains in good standing
- No annual fee
- Geared to students with limited credit history
Why it’s the best overall Chase card for students
The Chase Freedom® Student credit card is likely the best Chase credit card for students based on the simple fact this card is geared to young people who haven’t yet had time to build their credit history. This means you may be able to qualify for this card when other credit cards deny you, yet this card still comes with some lucrative benefits and you won’t have to pay an annual fee.
Keep in mind that the Chase Freedom® Student credit card isn’t available online, so you’ll have to apply in a branch. When you do, however, you’ll earn a $50 statement credit when you make a first purchase within the first three months, and you’ll also earn a flat 1 percent back for each dollar you spend. Each year your card remains in good standing, you’ll receive another $20 in bonus rewards (up to 5 years).
Cardholders will also receive unlimited access to their credit score, which can help them monitor their progress toward better credit over time. As an added bonus, 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 or you simply need a break.
Best for rewards
- Earn a $150 cash bonus when you spend $500 on your card within three months of account opening
- Earn a flat 1.5% back on all purchases, plus 5% back on Lyft rides (through March 2022)
- No annual fee
- 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for a full 15 months, followed by a variable APR of 16.49% – 25.24%
Why it’s the best Chase card for rewards for students
If you’re a student who has already built up your credit score, you may want to consider a Chase credit card that lets you earn a higher rate of rewards. The Chase Freedom Unlimited® is extremely popular due to the fact cardholders can earn a flat 1.5 percent back for each dollar they spend, and it comes with no annual fee.
You’ll earn an initial bonus when you spend $500 on your card within three months of account opening, which should be easy to do since that only works out to $167 per month for three months in a row. If you need to charge a large purchase and want to avoid interest for a limited time, you’ll get 15 months with zero percent APR on purchases and balance transfers. Just note that a 5 percent balance transfer fee applies (minimum of $5) for transferred balances, and that your interest rate will reset to a much higher variable rate once the introductory APR offer ends.
Best for debt consolidation
- 0% intro APR for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers, followed by a variable APR of 16.49% – 25.24%
- No balance transfer fees for transfers initiated within 60 days of account opening
- No annual fee
- Free access to your credit score
Why it’s the best Chase card for debt consolidation for students
While plenty of credit cards offer zero percent APR on balance transfers for a limited time, the Chase Slate® extends an introductory zero percent APR on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months, followed by a variable APR of 16.49 to 25.24 percent. However, you’ll pay no balance transfer fees on transfers made within the first 60 days of account opening, which could easily lead to hundreds of dollars of savings upfront.
This card doesn’t offer rewards, but that’s another reason it’s ideal for debt consolidation. This card is a solid option if you need to secure an introductory APR so you can chip away at your balances without being tempted to spend. The fact there’s no annual fee is also a big bonus, and you’ll be able to monitor your credit score for free, too. That’s a big benefit if your goal is paying down debt and improving your credit score over time.
How to choose the best Chase credit card for students
The best Chase credit card for students is the one that helps you reach your goals. These tips can help you figure out which option might work best for your wallet.
Check your credit score
Since most Chase credit cards are geared to consumers with good or excellent credit, you should check your credit score before you apply. If you have limited credit history or your credit score is on the low side, you’ll likely need to start your credit journey with the Chase Freedom® Student credit card, which is geared to students who are building credit for the first time.
Compare 0% APR offers
If you have high interest debt to consolidate or you’re hoping to save money on interest for a large purchase, check which credit cards from Chase offer an introductory APR. Quite a few of them do, but offers vary and most Chase credit cards with a zero percent APR offer on balance transfers charge a balance transfer fee.
Look for rewards
If you are angling to earn rewards on your spending, also check to see which cards offer a rewards scheme that makes sense with your spending. The Chase Freedom Unlimited® offers a flat 1.5 percent back on everything you buy, but you can also check out the Chase Freedom®, which grants cardholders 5 percent back on up to $1,500 spent in quarterly bonus categories (then 1 percent), as well as 1 percent back on all other purchases. Chase also offers hotel credit cards and airline credit cards, so make sure to compare all your rewards options before you decide.
How to apply for a student credit card
Compare card options online
Start the process by comparing credit card options online 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.
Take steps to “apply now”
Once you find a card you want to apply for, simply hit the “apply now” button. Card issuers offer secure websites that make applying for a credit card online as safe as it is in-person, although you can also apply for Chase credit cards in your local branch.
Input your personal information and hit the “submit” button
Your credit card application will ask for information such as your name, address, Social Security number, email address and date of birth. If your credit history is limited, you may need to provide additional information to prove your identity, such as your driver’s license or Social Security card.
Make sure to include all sources of income on your credit card application
If you’re a student with limited income (or no income), you may be wondering what to put for income on your credit card application. Fortunately, you can include in your application any income you receive, such as any help you receive from your parents, or even financial aid you receive for school.
Frequently asked questions about student credit cards
What do I need to qualify for a student credit card?
Card issuers tend to be secretive when it comes to minimum requirements for their credit cards. With that being said, student credit cards are geared to consumers with minimal credit history and income. As a result, they are naturally easier to get approval for.
Do student credit cards offer rewards?
Some student credit cards offer rewards based on how much you spend, and it may even be possible to earn an initial signup bonus. Make sure to compare student credit cards and other cash-back credit cards to see which ones you might qualify for.
Are student credit cards unsecured?
Most student credit cards are unsecured, meaning they don’t require an initial deposit as collateral. However, student cards tend to come with lower credit limits than traditional credit cards.
What is a balance transfer fee?
A balance transfer fee is a fee charged upfront when you transfer a balance from one credit card to another, usually to secure an introductory zero percent APR. This fee is often 3 or 5 percent of your balance, although the amount can vary.
How can I use a student credit card to improve my credit score?
Using a student credit card to improve your credit score is a smart idea. For the best results, only charge purchases you can afford to pay off each month and keep debt levels at a minimum. Also make sure you pay your credit card bill early or on time each month and refrain from opening or closing too many lines of credit in a short span of time.