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Best student credit cards of February 2024

Updated February 07, 2024

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 to  build 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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2024 Bankrate Awards Winner
Best for rotating cash back bonus categories

Discover it® Student Cash Back

Rating: 5 stars out of 5
5.0
Info
Apply now Lock
on Discover's secure site
No Credit History
Info
Recommended Credit

Intro offer

Info

1% - 5%

Rewards Rate

Info

Annual fee

Regular APR

BEST FOR INTRO APR OFFER

Bank of America® Unlimited Cash Rewards credit card for Students

Rating: 3.4 stars out of 5
3.4
Info
Apply now Lock
on Bank of America's secure site
Good to Excellent (670 – 850)
Info
Recommended Credit

Intro offer

Info

1.5%

Rewards Rate

Info

Annual fee

Regular APR

Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card for Students

Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card for Students

Rating: 4.2 stars out of 5
4.2
Info
Apply now Lock
on Bank of America's secure site
Good to Excellent (670 – 850)
Info
Recommended Credit

Intro offer

Info

1.5X

Rewards Rate

Info

Annual fee

Regular APR

BEST FOR GAS AND DINING

Discover it® Student Chrome

Rating: 4.1 stars out of 5
4.1
Info
Apply now Lock
on Discover's secure site
No Credit History
Info
Recommended Credit

Intro offer

Info

1% - 2%

Rewards Rate

Info

Annual fee

Regular APR

Best overall student card

Capital One SavorOne Student Cash Rewards Credit Card

Rating: 4.6 stars out of 5
4.6
Info
Apply now Lock
on Capital One's secure site
Fair to Good (580 – 740)
Info
Recommended Credit

Intro offer

Info

1% - 8%

Rewards Rate

Info

Annual fee

Regular APR

Best for flat-rate cash back

Capital One Quicksilver Student Cash Rewards Credit Card

Rating: 4.6 stars out of 5
4.6
Info
Apply now Lock
on Capital One's secure site
Fair to Good (580 – 740)
Info
Recommended Credit

Intro offer

Info

1.5% - 10%

Rewards Rate

Info

Annual fee

Regular APR

The information about the Deserve® EDU Mastercard for Students has been collected independently by Bankrate.com. The card details have not been reviewed or approved by the card issuer.
 
 

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

Unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases

3.4 / 5

Apply now Lock
on Bank of America's secure site

Travel

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
  • 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

A closer look at the best credit cards for students

Image of Discover it® Student Cash Back

Discover it® Student Cash Back

Best for rotating cash back bonus categories

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Students can build credit, earn top-of-the-line rotating cash back rewards and take advantage of one of the best sign-up offers around.
Students who want to earn cash back in Discover's rotating cash back calendar categories — such as dining, online shopping and gas. Back-to-school shoppers who need to stock up on college supplies can also take advantage of a modest intro APR offer on purchases.
If you want a simpler way to earn rewards, a flat-rate credit card like the Capital One Quicksilver Student Cash Rewards Credit Card or the Petal 2 “Cash Back, No Fees” Visa Credit Card could be easier to keep up with while still offering you consistent cash back on all of your purchases.
Image of Bank of America® Unlimited Cash Rewards credit card for Students

Bank of America® Unlimited Cash Rewards credit card for Students

Best for intro APR offer

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It has an intro APR offer that competes with even the best non-student credit cards, offering cardholders a solution for financing a purchase or transferring a balance.

Students who want a break from interest for a little more than a year but don’t want to give up the opportunity to earn rewards.

If you want more rewards and can stomach a shorter APR offer, the Discover it® Student Cash Back balances a decent APR offer and a great cash back rate.

Image of Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card for Students

Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card for Students

Best for travel

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It lets cardholders redeem travel rewards for eligible travel purchases on statements within the past 12 months.

Students who want a low-cost, low-maintenance travel rewards card.

While the Capital One SavorOne Student Cash Rewards Credit Card earns cash back instead of points you can redeem for travel, its a solid student card that comes with some cardholder perks notably missing on the Bank of America card.

Image of Discover it® Student Chrome

Discover it® Student Chrome

Best for gas and dining

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Instead of forcing you to deal with rotating categories, this Discover card lets you earn cash back year round on gas station purchases and dining — two popular spending categories for students.
Students who want to focus on building credit while also earning cash back on everyday essentials. If you need to make a large purchase, this card offers a great intro APR for purchases. 
If you want more of a say in where you earn the most with your credit card, the Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards Credit Card for Students lets you choose your top spending category from the available options.
Read our full Discover it® Student Chrome review or jump back to offer details.
Image of Capital One SavorOne Student Cash Rewards Credit Card

Capital One SavorOne Student Cash Rewards Credit Card

Best overall student credit card

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Students can build credit without sacrificing rewards on food, entertainment and more.
Students, social butterflies and homebodies alike who want a single card that earns rewards on staples like groceries (excluding superstores like Walmart® and Target®) and dining as well as extras like concert tickets, travel and streaming services.
If you’re looking for even more category variety or spend heavily outside the food and entertainment category, you might have an easier time racking up rewards with a rotating cash back card like the Discover it® Student Cash Back Card.
Image of Capital One Quicksilver Student Cash Rewards Credit Card

Capital One Quicksilver Student Cash Rewards Credit Card

Best for flat-rate cash back

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The card’s competitive flat-rate on all purchases is one of the highest base rates available on a student card. This card is also one of the few that offers more than 1 percent back on general purchases as well as bonus rewards in other categories.
Student travelers looking for a hassle-free way to earn rewards on all purchases. Students who plan to study abroad or make online purchases with foreign merchants will also love that this card skips foreign transaction fees.
If you typically spend more on food and entertainment than hotels and rental cars, the Capital One SavorOne Student Cash Rewards Credit Card is a good alternative thanks to its impressive rewards rate in popular categories like grocery stores (excluding superstores like Walmart® and Target®), restaurants and streaming services.
Image of Petal® 2 "Cash Back, No Fees" Visa® Credit Card

Petal® 2 "Cash Back, No Fees" Visa® Credit Card

Best for credit-building incentives

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The Petal 2 (issued by WebBank) is fairly accessible to students and people with a limited credit history, and it offers great incentives to help credit-builders practice responsible card habits. However, some cardholders have reported unexpected downgrades to other Petal cards with less desirable terms. While Petal claims it has no plans to downgrade future cardholders, there are no guarantees, so be sure to read the terms and conditions of your Petal card carefully. 

People with no credit or a limited credit history who want to avoid a security deposit and annual fees. 
If you can’t qualify for an unsecured student rewards credit card, the Discover it® Secured Credit Card is a good option that will help you build credit and earn rewards in the popular everyday categories of gas and restaurants.
Image of Petal® 1 "No Annual Fee" Visa® Credit Card

Petal® 1 "No Annual Fee" Visa® Credit Card

Best for local cash back offers

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The Petal 1 Visa (issued by WebBank) is an unsecured credit building card that skips the annual fee and other monthly service fees, which is a rare perk for an unsecured card geared toward credit builders. The Petal 1 “No Annual Fee” Visa shouldn’t be confused with the Petal 1 Rise, which does include some of these extra costs. Some Petal 2 cardholders previously reported unexpected downgrades to cards like the Petal 1 Rise, so it’s important to stay aware of your account terms.

Credit builders who prefer an unsecured credit card and could benefit from an approval process that factors in alternative data like their income, bill payment and banking history in addition to their credit report.
If you have negative marks on your credit report and struggle to qualify for student cards, there are a number of secured and unsecured credit cards for bad credit that have more lenient credit score requirements and can help you build your credit.
Image of Chase Freedom® Student credit card

Chase Freedom® Student credit card

Best student card for benefits

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Notable benefits on this card include a good standing bonus on your account anniversary, trip cancellation insurance and trip interruption insurance. 
*The information about the Chase Freedom® Student credit card has been collected independently by Bankrate.com. The card details have not been reviewed or approved by the card issuer.  
Students more interested in being rewarded for their solid financial habits than for spending money.
The Petal 2 is another great credit-building card that rewards good financial habits, boosting your rewards rate after you make 12 on-time monthly payments.

What to know about student credit cards

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 you can use to make purchases.

Often, people with little or no credit history still have feasible chances of approval for a student credit card. Most regular credit cards will recommend at least a good credit score for the best chances of approval, which you may not have if you’re a student just getting started with credit. 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

The earlier you start building credit, the longer your credit history will be. The length of your credit history is a significant factor in your credit score. Building 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

When should you get a student credit card? 

You should get a credit card when you believe you can maintain it responsibly. However, the Credit CARD Act of 2009 restricts credit card issuers from granting new accounts to people younger than 21. You could get a credit card earlier if you can demonstrate that you have a source of independent income or have a cosigner, but it depends on the issuer.

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Tips on choosing the best student credit card for you

Picking the right credit card as a college student can be a challenging task. When evaluating different student credit cards, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Make sure you qualify. Issuers typically reserve student credit cards for college students with little or no credit history.
  • Know your credit score. Knowing your credit score can help you avoid applying for a credit card you have little chance of qualifying for or a card you’re overqualified for and isn’t worth your time.
  • Look for credit-building tools. The best student cards have built-in features that help you build a good credit score. Features like reporting to all three credit bureaus, offering credit line increases and providing free credit score reports are all helpful tools.
  • Prioritize features that matter to you. Most student cards have student-centric perks like purchase protection or the chance to earn cash back on your purchases.
  • Consider your interest in studying abroad. If you plan to study or travel abroad, you might need a card that doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees. You should also check if merchants will accept the card you want at your destination since only some card networks are widely accepted.
  • Be aware of all fees. Credit cards come with their own set of credit card fees. It may be impossible to avoid all of them, but picking the right card and using it responsibly can help you avoid many of these charges.
  • Explore cards with upgrade potential. Many student cards have a “graduated” version that you could upgrade to once you’re ready to move beyond student credit cards. If you upgrade with the same issuer, you could skip putting in a new application and a hit to your score.

Here’s how a Bankrate expert chose her student card

Bankrate editor Ashley Parks was reluctant to apply for her first credit card. But looking back, she’s grateful she got a student card and started 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 much 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.

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 overcome some financial obstacles. Here are some tips to ensure you use your student card to its fullest potential. 

  • Loan

    Keep credit utilization ratio low

    Since students typically have less experience with credit cards, issuers tend to offer low starting credit limits on student cards. 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 the second-largest influence on your credit score — below 30 percent.

  • 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. 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 payments more than the minimum due to reduce added 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, 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, further boosting your score by helping your credit utilization ratio.

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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.

Alternatives to student credit cards

Whether you need help gaining access to credit or want to avoid dealing with the disadvantages of using a credit card, you have several alternative options that can help.

How we assess the best cards for students

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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