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College students: Enjoy these student card perks

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College can come with a whole host of expenses outside of the cost of tuition—from books and rent payments to groceries and gas. If you’re paying for these costs with cash or a debit card, you may want to consider applying for a student credit card to earn rewards for your spending while establishing a credit history that you’ll inevitably need.

A student credit card is a normal credit card but they are intended for students who are new to credit. If used responsibly, student credit cards can help you build your credit history. They often have no annual fees, cardholder benefits and rewards programs.

Here are a few student card options that offer distinctive rewards structures, credit-building opportunities or student-specific perks that can ease your day-to-day life on campus.

Why should I get a student credit card?

Perhaps one of the best reasons to get a student credit card is to start your credit-building journey sooner than later. Once you graduate, you may have immediate needs for a car, housing or other large purchases which could require an established credit profile. A student credit card can be easier to get because the credit score requirements are usually not as stringent as with a prime credit card.

If you’ve got financial goals, like saving money or using credit for larger purchases, a student credit card could help. Some offer rewards like cash back or rewards points, which can help you save money on many college expenses. Other student credit cards may have introductory 0 percent offers for balance transfers and purchases.

On the flip side, you should know the limitations of student credit cards. The credit limit on these cards is often pretty low—around $300 or $400 to start. However, issuers may review your account and increase your credit limit after you’ve proven that you can use the card responsibly.

Also, interest rates on student cards can be much higher than the average credit card interest rates. With this in mind, do what you can to avoid carrying a large balance, which will keep your interest charges low. If you can pay your balance in full each month to avoid paying interest—even better.

Top student credit cards

If you’re interested in getting a credit card, there are more than a few out there to choose from. Here’s our take on the top student credit card based on your needs.

Capital One SavorOne Student Cash Rewards Credit Card

Details:

  • Rewards rate: Unlimited 3 percent cash back on dining, entertainment, popular streaming services and at grocery stores (excluding superstores like Walmart and Target); 8 percent cash back on Vivid Seats tickets (through January 2023); 1 percent cash back on all other purchases
  • Welcome offer: Earn $100 when you spend $100 in the first three months
  • Annual fee: $0
  • Regular APR: 15.24 percent to 25.24 percent variable

The Capital One SavorOne Student Cash Rewards card was brought on as a new addition to Capital One’s newly launched suite of student credit cards in August. Not only can you rack up rewards for spending on “food and fun,” but there are other benefits, too. The card offers extra perks like price protection, cellphone protection, rental car coverage and no foreign transaction fees. And after six months, you may qualify for an increased credit limit.

Capital One Quicksilver Student Cash Rewards Credit Card

Details:

  • Rewards rate: 1.5 percent cash back on all purchases
  • Welcome offer: Earn $100 when you spend $100 in the first three months
  • Annual fee: $0
  • Regular APR: 15.24 percent to 25.24 percent variable

Another card from the Capital One student suite, the Quicksilver Student card offers an unlimited 1.5 percent cash back on all purchases. Like the SavorOne card, you can be eligible for a credit limit increase after six months.

The Quicksilver Student Cash Rewards card has additional perks like extended warranty, price protection coverage and cellphone protection. It also comes with travel benefits like rental car insurance, 24/7 access to a pay-per-use roadside assistance program and complimentary concierge services.

It’s also worth noting that Capital One now has a pre-approval tool for its student credit cards, which includes the Capital One Quicksilver Student Cash Rewards, Capital One SavorOne Student Cash Rewards Credit Card and the Journey Student Rewards from Capital One.

Discover it® Student Cash Back

Details:

  • Rewards rate: 5 percent cash back on each quarter’s activated rotating categories (on up to $1,500 in combined purchases, then 1 percent) and 1 percent on all other purchases
  • Welcome offer: All cash back earned within the first 12 months will be matched
  • Annual fee: $0
  • Purchase intro APR: 0 percent for six months
  • Balance transfer intro APR: 10.99 percent for six months
  • Regular APR: 13.24 percent to 22.24 percent variable

The Discover it Student card offers plenty of cash back on rotating bonus categories that often include purchases students can spend tons on. Examples of cash back categories include grocery store spending, Walgreens, CVS, restaurants, PayPal, Amazon.com, Target.com and Walmart.com.

The first-year cash back match and 0 percent purchase and balance transfer APRs can also be useful for students with large purchases to make. The intro APRs can help you save on interest, while the cash back match ensures you’re bringing in plenty of rewards on the purchase.

Discover it® Student chrome

Details:

  • Rewards rate: 2 percent cash back at gas stations and restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter; 1 percent cash back on all other purchases
  • Welcome offer: Match all cash back earned at the end of your first year
  • Annual fee: $0
  • Purchase intro APR: 0 percent for six months
  • Balance transfer intro APR: 10.99 percent for six months
  • Regular APR: 13.24 percent to 22.24 percent variable thereafter

Similar to the Discover it® Student Cash Back card, the Discover it® Student chrome card offers rewards, but in a slightly different way. The cash back categories are fixed rather than rotating. Cardholders earn cash back for spending on gas stations and restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter.

The Student chrome also has a welcome offer and options for a 0 percent introductory APR for purchases, as well as a reduced 10.99 percent offer for balance transfers for six months.

Deserve® EDU Mastercard for Students

Details:

  • Rewards rate: 1 percent cash back on all purchases
  • Welcome offer: An Amazon Prime Student subscription reimbursement after spending $500 in the first three months of card membership
  • Annual fee: $0
  • Regular APR: 19.49 percent variable

With the Deserve EDU card, you are reimbursed for one year of Amazon Prime Student after spending $500 in the first three billing cycles (lifetime value of $59). This card has no annual fee and can be a great option for international college students studying in the U.S. since no Social Security number is needed to apply.

Best perks on student credit cards

Perks for students can range from waived late fees to recognition for maintaining a good grade point average. Other perks of student rewards cards could include cash back or points for common spending categories.

Rewards on everyday purchases

Some student credit cards offer cash back rewards or points toward common purchases. For instance, you can earn 5 percent cash back on everyday purchases at different places each quarter like Amazon.com, grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations and when you pay using
Paypal (up to the quarterly maximum when you activate) with the Discover it® Student Cash back card. Additionally, cardholders earn unlimited 1 percent cash back on all other purchases automatically.

Introductory bonuses

Also known as welcome or sign-up bonuses, this can come in the form of cash, points or a statement credit once you meet certain spending requirements. One such example is the Chase Freedom® Student credit card, which offers a $50 bonus after making your first purchase within the first 3 months of account opening.

Introductory APRs

An introductory APR offer can be in the form of either a low APR or a 0 percent APR, which means you can pay little to no interest on your card balance for a specific length of time. This could apply to both purchases and balance transfers. Either way, it’s a card perk that can help you pay down a large purchase over time or reduce interest on any higher-interest debt you may have.

Credit-building education tools

One of the best things you can do as a student credit card owner is stay on top of your credit profile. The healthy credit habits you develop today can serve you down the road, so anything that can promote this goal can be a great asset to your student credit card. Capital One offers a suite of student credit cards that provide access to CreditWise, a service that helps you monitor your credit profile and protect you from identity fraud.

The Capital One SavorOne Student Cash Rewards Credit Card, Capital One Quicksilver Student Cash Rewards Credit Card and Journey Student Rewards from Capital One offer access to Experian and TransUnion credit report change alerts, as well as dark web scanning and Social Security number tracking.

The bottom line

While earning rewards for your spending is ideal and building credit is necessary, these benefits can be easily negated if you don’t use your credit card responsibly.

Once you choose and apply for a student card, make developing healthy credit card habits a priority. Be sure to spend only what you can afford with your card and pay off your balance each month. Carrying debt can cancel out any rewards you earn if you are paying interest charges. Also, carrying high balances relative to your credit limit could harm your credit score.

Use your student credit card to help support your credit-building journey and reach other financial goals. Once you master these concepts with your student credit card, you can apply your good credit management skills to other areas of your financial life, as well.

Written by
Aja McClanahan
Personal Finance Writer
Aja McClanahan is an author, blogger and speaker on personal finance and entrepreneurship. Aja is the author of "How a Mother Should Talk About Money with Her Daughter."
Edited by
Associate Editor