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Best credit cards for students with no credit

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Building credit isn’t easy when you’re first starting out, and that’s even more true for students who have minimal credit history on their profiles. When you have no credit at all, finding a credit card with good approval odds is even harder.

However, some credit cards are geared to students with no credit history, as well as to those who have a thin credit profile they would like to build upon. While plenty of cards in this niche are secured, meaning they require a security deposit, there are unsecured credit cards for students, too.

If you want to get approved for a student card but you haven’t started building credit, there’s no reason to despair. Our card recommendations below were made with people like you in mind, so compare them to find the right fit.

Best credit cards for students with no credit

The best credit cards for students with no credit make it easy to get approved. Read on to learn which cards we recommend, their greatest attributes and who they’re best for.

Bank of America® Unlimited Cash Rewards credit card for Students: Best for 0% APR

The Bank of America® Unlimited Cash Rewards Credit Card for Students is great for people in college because it helps build credit and offers rewards. This card lets users earn a flat 1.5 percent cash back on all their spending with no annual fee. A $200 cash bonus offer is also available to those who can spend $1,000 on new purchases within 90 days of account opening.

Cardholders also get a free FICO score, as well as access to 0 percent APR on purchases and balance transfers made within 60 days of account opening for 15 months (3 percent balance transfer fee applies, minimum $10). After that, a variable APR of 13.99 percent to 23.99 percent applies.

Capital One SavorOne Student Cash Rewards Credit Card: Best for fair credit

The Capital One SavorOne Student Cash Rewards Credit Card is available for students with fair credit, which entails having a FICO score from 580 to 669. This card doesn’t charge an annual fee, yet you get the chance to earn 3 percent back on dining, entertainment, popular streaming services and grocery store spending and 1 percent back on other purchases.

There are no foreign transaction fees and you can redeem your rewards for cash back in any amount.

Discover it® Secured Credit Card: Best for bad credit

If you’re a student who has made mistakes with credit in the past, you may have to start rebuilding your credit with a secured credit card. With this type of card, you have to put down a refundable cash deposit as collateral but you get to improve your credit score with responsible credit use.

The Discover it® Secured Credit Card requires at least $200 to get started, but it reports your payments to the three credit bureaus to help build your credit profile. There’s no annual fee, and you get to earn 2 percent back on up to $1,000 spent at gas stations and restaurants each quarter (then 1 percent back) and 1 percent back on other purchases. Through its Cashback Match program, Discover will also double all the rewards you earned after 12 months.

Chase Freedom® Student credit card: Best for rewards and low APR

The Chase Freedom® Student credit card stands out because it lets credit newcomers earn 1 percent back on all their purchases with a reasonably low variable APR of 15.24 percent. Cardholders can also earn a $50 cash bonus when they make a first purchase within three months of account opening, as well as an annual $20 Good Standing Reward when they keep their account in good standing each year (for up to five years).

You may even be eligible for a credit limit increase with at least five on-time payments on this card, and you can monitor your credit score for free with the Chase Credit Journey program.

Discover it® Student chrome: Best for first-year rewards

Finally, consider the Discover it® Student chrome with no annual fee. This card is unsecured, and it lets you earn 2 percent back on up to $1,000 spent at gas stations and restaurants each quarter (then 1 percent back) and 1 percent back on all other purchases. Discover will also match all the rewards you earn after the first year.

This card also comes with a 0 percent APR on purchases for six months, after which a variable APR of 13.24 percent to 22.24 percent applies. That makes it a good option for students who need to buy college textbooks or other school supplies then pay them down without interest over time.

Is a student credit card right for you?

Student credit cards are geared toward individuals who have limited credit history or no credit history, as well as limited incomes. For the most part, you should consider applying for a student card if you are currently in school, you don’t earn a lot of money and you have limited credit history on your credit reports. If you have never had a credit card or any type of loan before, these factors likely apply in your case.

With that being said, you should note that students ages 18 to 20 can only report their own personal income on their credit card applications, which can include income from jobs or income derived from scholarships or financial aid. As a result, it can be difficult to get approved for a student card if you don’t earn much of an income. If you’re 21 or older you may be able to include household income on your application.

If you have fair credit or better and a regular income, on the other hand, you’re more likely to get approved. You may not even have to choose a student credit card at all. The fact is, there are many credit cards for fair credit or good credit you may be eligible for if you have a job and you pay your own bills.

How can you decide on your next steps? Your best bet is checking your credit score to see where you stand. You can also take steps to build your credit history, including taking out a credit builder loan or using an app like Experian Boost to get credit for subscription services you have or utility bills you pay.

How to choose a student credit card without a credit history

If you are looking at credit cards for no credit, there are several important factors to keep in mind. Here’s everything you need to look at before you choose a new student credit card:

  • Interest rates: Check whether cards you’re considering offer introductory rates on purchases. You’ll also want to know your new card’s ongoing APR, which will impact how much interest you’re charged if you carry a balance.
  • Fees: Look for student credit cards that charge minimal fees or no fees. Don’t settle for cards that charge an annual fee.
  • Rewards: If rewards are interesting to you, compare student cards to find one that offers more rewards in categories you spend a lot in. Conversely, you can also opt for a card that offers a higher flat rate of rewards on everything you buy.
  • Credit reporting: Finally, make sure cards you’re considering report your credit balances and payments to the three credit bureaus—Experian, Equifax and TransUnion.

Frequently asked questions

Can I get a student credit card at age 18?

Students may be approved for a student credit card if they’re at least 18 years of age and they have their own income. However, qualifying for a student credit card before the age of 21 can be a challenge if you don’t have independent income to report on your application.

Do student credit cards offer rewards?

Many student credit cards offer rewards, although the amount of points or cash back you can earn varies from card to card.

Do student credit cards build credit?

Student credit cards help build credit as long as they report your balances and payments to the three credit bureaus. With enough time and responsible use, users can build credit history and increase their credit scores.

The bottom line

Student credit cards were built specifically with students in mind, and that’s part of the reason they’re easier to get approved for. As a result, you may be able to get a student credit card with a low credit score or no credit history at all.

Still, it’s possible you might have to apply for a secured credit card at first, which you can use to build credit until you’re eligible for an unsecured credit card. Whatever steps you have to take, building credit will be worth it in the long run.

Written by
Holly D. Johnson
Author, Award-Winning Writer
Holly Johnson writes expert content on personal finance, credit cards, loyalty and insurance topics. In addition to writing for Bankrate and CreditCards.com, Johnson does ongoing work for clients that include CNN, Forbes Advisor, LendingTree, Time Magazine and more.
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