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Best student credit cards of June 2024

Updated May 23, 2024

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Student credit cards are meaningful tools in your early financial journey. A student card creates a solid starting point for people with limited credit histories as they begin building credit. Undergraduate, non-traditional and international students all can benefit from student cards geared toward their unique needs. Here are some of our top picks and tips to make the most of a student credit card.

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Best for rotating cash back bonus categories

Bankrate score

Rating: 5 stars out of 5
5.0
Info
N/A
Apply now Lock
on Discover's secure site

Intro offer

Info

Rewards Rate

Info

1% - 5%

Annual fee

Regular APR

Best for intro APR offer

Bankrate score

Rating: 3.4 stars out of 5
3.4
Info
Recommended credit score: 670 - 850
Info
Apply now Lock
on Bank of America's secure site

Intro offer

Info

Rewards Rate

Info

1.5%

Annual fee

Regular APR

Bank of America® travel rewards credit card for students

Bankrate score

Rating: 4.2 stars out of 5
4.2
Info
Recommended credit score: 670 - 850
Info
Apply now Lock
on Bank of America's secure site

Intro offer

Info

Rewards Rate

Info

1.5X

Annual fee

Regular APR

Best for gas and dining

Bankrate score

Rating: 4.1 stars out of 5
4.1
Info
N/A
Apply now Lock
on Discover's secure site

Intro offer

Info

Rewards Rate

Info

1% - 2%

Annual fee

Regular APR

Best overall student card

Bankrate score

Rating: 4.6 stars out of 5
4.6
Info
N/A
Apply now Lock
on Capital One's secure site

Intro offer

Info

Rewards Rate

Info

1% - 8%

Annual fee

Regular APR

Best for flat-rate cash back

Bankrate score

Rating: 4.6 stars out of 5
4.6
Info
N/A
Apply now Lock
on Capital One's secure site

Intro offer

Info

Rewards Rate

Info

1.5% - 10%

Annual fee

Regular APR

Compare Bankrate’s top student credit cards

Card name Best for Rewards highlights Bankrate review score

Rotating cash back bonus categories

  • 5% cash back on up to $1,500 per quarter of rotating category purchases (activation required), then 1%
  • 1% cash back on all other purchases 
 

5.0 / 5

Info
(Read card review)
Apply now Lock
on Discover's secure site

Intro APR offer

Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases

3.4 / 5

Apply now Lock
on Bank of America's secure site

Travel

Earn 1.5X points on all purchases

4.2 / 5

Info
(Read card review)
Apply now Lock
on Bank of America's secure site

Gas and dining

  • 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter (then 1%)
  • 1% cash back on all other purchases
 

4.1 / 5

Info
(Read card review)
Apply now Lock
on Discover's secure site

Overall student card

  • 10% cash back on purchases made through Uber & Uber Eats, plus complimentary Uber One membership statement credits through 11/14/2024
  • 8% cash back on Capital One Entertainment purchases
  • 5% Cash Back on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel (terms apply)
  • 3% cash back on dining, grocery store purchases (excluding superstores like Walmart® and Target®), popular streaming services and entertainment
  • 1% cash back on all other purchases
 

4.6 / 5

Info
(Read card review)
Apply now Lock
on Capital One's secure site

Flat-rate cash back

  • 10% cash back on purchases made through Uber & Uber Eats, plus complimentary Uber One membership statement credits through 11/14/2024
  • 1.5% cash back on all other purchase
 

4.6 / 5

Info
(Read card review)
Apply now Lock
on Capital One's secure site

What is a student credit card?

Student credit cards are a type of credit card specifically for students with little to no credit history. Like traditional credit cards, student cards give you access to a line of credit to make purchases.

Most regular credit cards recommend at least a good credit score for the best approval odds, which you may not have if you’re a student just getting started with credit. Student cards present college students with an opportunity to establish credit so they can eventually qualify for better cards. Also, student cards usually have reward structures that fit well into student spending behaviors, with popular bonus categories including streaming, dining, groceries and entertainment.

Why it’s important to build credit as a student

You should start building credit as early as possible because the length of your credit history is a significant factor in your credit score. A good credit score early could make it easier for you to: 

  • Rent an apartment 
  • Get a more rewarding credit card 
  • Buy a car
  • Start a small business
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More from our experts 7 credit card tips for beginners
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What people say about student credit cards

It can be hard to gauge what is the best way to start building a credit history, especially as a student. A big factor that can affect what cards students are eligible for is their credit history. When asked if student credit cards were worth getting over a standard unsecured credit card, Reddit users in the r/CreditCard community say it depends.

One Reddit user remarks that “what matters is that you start your OWN revolving credit history. [Authorized user] accounts can help, but they aren't nearly as meaningful as your own accounts.” This is a common sentiment that echoes advice found in other communities and subreddits, too.

For instance, a user in the r/personalfinance community writes, “You should open your own credit card to start building independent credit history if you ever need to take yourself off as an [authorized user] on your parents' card.”  Several reasons can cause your time as an authorized user to an end, but if you open your own card as soon as you’re able you can still establish a lengthy credit history without relying on someone else's account.

Overall, most users agree that student credit cards can help young adults achieve financial independence and break away from relying on their parents’ or guardians' credit cards or from using debit cards.

Although you may not be able to open a decent credit card right away, a student card can be a gateway to better rewards and higher credit limits. If you’re interested in exploring your options, check which ones you’re a potential match for by using tools like Bankrate’s CardMatch™

*The quotes and citations included on this page have been verified by our editorial team and are accurate as of the posting date. Be sure to check the issuer's website/terms and conditions for all up to date content. Outlinked content may contain views and opinions that do not reflect the views and opinions of Bankrate.

Expert advice on student credit cards

Student credit cards give you a chance to get a head start on building credit, which could help you with future financial goals. Here are some tips to ensure you use your student card to its fullest potential. 

Here’s how a Bankrate expert chose her student card

Former Bankrate editor Ashley Parks was reluctant to apply for her first credit card. But she’s grateful for her student card because it enabled her to start building credit early — and she’s still reaping the benefits today. 

“I didn’t put a lot of thought into choosing my student card when I was younger because I was afraid of credit cards and lacked a lot of knowledge about these products at the time. As a result, I missed out on some perks, but I still see some benefits from building my credit early. Thanks to my long credit history and track record of responsible habits, it's been easier to apply and get approved for credit cards with higher credit limits and better reward rates.

I also inadvertently picked a student card with a graduated version. I easily made the transition from the Discover it® Student Chrome to the Discover it® Chrome, which came with better reward rates and a much higher credit limit. I’m glad I faced my fears and got my student card. I’m still seeing the choice pay off seven years later.”

— Ashley Parks, editor, Bankrate

Still deciding if a student credit card is right for you? Check out our Credit Card Spender Type Tool to get personalized credit card recommendations based on your credit score, spending habits and daily needs.

How to make the most of your student credit card

Using your student credit card to its full potential could set you up for success on your credit journey. Pair responsible habits with some of the following tips and you’ll be off to a great start on your credit-building journey.  

  • Dollar Reload

    Keep credit utilization ratio low

    Since students typically have less experience with credit cards, issuers tend to offer them lower starting credit limits. A low credit limit could make it easy to use a lot of your available credit and hurt your credit score. A budget will help you track how much you’re spending on your credit card so you can keep your credit utilization ratio below 30 percent, which will help your score.

  • Credit Card Time

    Pay on time and in full whenever possible

    Remember that you’re borrowing money on a credit card and you must pay that money back. Do your best to avoid using your card for big purchases. Only spend what you can afford to pay back immediately, and always aim to pay your balance in full every month. Paying your bill on time and in full is the best way to avoid interest charges.

    If you have to carry a balance, try to make more than the minimum payment to reduce interest costs. Your payment history also has the greatest influence on your credit score, so paying your credit card bill on time as a student affects how your credit profile looks in the future.

  • Credit Good

    Focus on building credit, not rewards

    While many student cards earn rewards on your spending, earning rewards shouldn’t be your priority. Managing your credit responsibly over time is what ultimately leads to a more rewarding financial future. By focusing on responsible credit habits first, you can reap the benefits of the best rewards rates, interest rates and other perks as you go.

  • Clock Wait

    Don’t close your card immediately

    The length of your credit history is another big contributor to your credit score. Closing your card could reduce your credit age and limit the benefits of building credit early. Even if you don’t use your old student card anymore, keeping the account open could be a helpful way to keep your score in a good place. You would also benefit from the extra available credit the card would provide.

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Bankrate Insight

Using something other than your credit card to pay for tuition is best, but some schools will allow you to do it. However, your institution may charge a convenience fee, and interest will stack up quickly if you wait to pay it off.

Our data: Do students want flat-rate or bonus-category rewards?

Students can have busy schedules that make strategizing and maximizing credit card rewards feel like another extracurricular. We analyzed our proprietary data to determine if Bankrate users who viewed student credit cards on our site in 2023 wanted flat-rate or rotating-category student credit cards. Are students more drawn to cards that earn boosted cash back rates in certain categories like the Discover it® Student Cash Back or do they want straightforward cash back like what the Capital One Quicksilver Student card offers?

We looked at the cards that the most users viewed on our site in 2023 and found that the top three most popular student cardsChase Freedom® Student credit card, Bank of America® Unlimited Cash Rewards credit card for Students and the Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card for Studentsall have flat-rate rewards.

The Capital One SavorOne Student Cash Rewards Credit Card, which users were 16.3 percent less likely to be interested in, has four bonus categories to take advantage of — but this may make it less appealing to busy students.

What are some alternatives to student credit cards?

College is a great time to try new things and take risks, but that’s not an ideal approach to your finances. Some students may feel as though credit cards are too overwhelming or they aren’t eligible for the card that they want just yet. 

Whether you need help gaining access to credit or want to avoid dealing with the disadvantages of using a credit card, you have several alternatives that can help. Some of the most common alternatives to student credit cards are:

  • Secured credit cards: These cards may require a security deposit but have more safeguards than a traditional credit card.
  • Credit-builder loans: You can build credit through fixed monthly payments and show lenders you can handle different types of credit, also known as a credit mix.
  • Alternative credit scoring models: Tools like UltraFICO and Experian Boost can help establish a credit score and take into consideration other information.
  •  Becoming an authorized user: You’ll receive your own line of credit that is connected to a primary cardholder's account. You have to be careful because each user’s actions affect the other.

How we assess the best cards for students

Credit Card Reviews
40+
perks evaluated
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500+
data points analyzed
Debt
250+
fees tracked
Dollar Coin
1.2M
quotes analyzed

When evaluating the best cards for students, we consider a mix of factors, including how cards score in our proprietary card rating system and whether cards offer features that make it easy to build credit history while minimizing costs.

We analyzed over 50 of the most popular cards designed for students and rated each based on its cost, APR, credit-building features and more to determine whether it belonged in this month’s roundup.

Here are some of the key factors that we considered: 

For Capital One products listed on this page, some of the above benefits are provided by Visa® or Mastercard® and may vary by product. See the respective Guide to Benefits for details, as terms and exclusions apply

Frequently asked questions about student credit cards