Skip to Main Content

Best student credit cards of September 2023

Updated September 11, 2023

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. 

Non-traditional and international students can also take advantage of these cards. Student credit cards aren’t limited to college-aged students. If you’re a non-traditional or international student, there are still credit cards that could work for you.

Student credit cards aren’t the only option. Sometimes a student credit card isn’t the best fit. We’ll explore what you need to know about student credit cards, how to choose the best card for your needs and offer up a few alternatives.

Here are some of our top picks and tips to make the most of a student credit card.

Image of Discover it® Student Cash Back

Best for rotating cash back bonus categories

Discover it® Student Cash Back

Apply now Lock
on Discover's secure site
Rating: 5 stars out of 5
5.0 Bankrate review

Intro offer


Annual fee

Recommended credit

No Credit History
Image of Discover it® Student Chrome


Discover it® Student Chrome

Apply now Lock
on Discover's secure site
Rating: 4 stars out of 5
4.0 Bankrate review

Intro offer


Annual fee

Recommended credit

No Credit History
Image of Capital One SavorOne Student Cash Rewards Credit Card
Apply now Lock
on Capital One's secure site
Rating: 4.6 stars out of 5

Intro offer


Annual fee

Recommended credit

Fair to Good (580 – 740)
Image of Capital One Quicksilver Student Cash Rewards Credit Card
Apply now Lock
on Capital One's secure site
Rating: 4.6 stars out of 5
4.6 Bankrate review

Intro offer


Annual fee

Recommended credit

Fair to Good (580 – 740)
The information about the Deserve® EDU Mastercard for Students has been collected independently by The card details have not been reviewed or approved by the card issuer.

Compare Bankrate’s top student credit cards

Card name Best for Annual fee Bankrate review score
Discover it® Student Cash Back Rotating cash back bonus categories $0 5.0 / 5
(Read full card review)
Discover it® Student Chrome Gas and dining $0 4.0 / 5
(Read full card review)
Capital One SavorOne Student Cash Rewards Credit Card Overall student card $0 4.6 / 5
(Read full card review)
Capital One Quicksilver Student Cash Rewards Credit Card Flat-rate cash back $0 4.6 / 5
(Read full card review)
Petal 2 “Cash Back, No Fees” Visa Credit Card Credit-building incentives $0 4.5 / 5
(Read full card review)
Petal 1 “No Annual Fee” Visa Credit Card Local cash back offers $0 4.4 / 5
(Read full card review)
Chase Freedom Student credit card* Student card for benefits $0
3.4 / 5

A closer look at the best credit cards for students

Image of

Discover it® Student Cash Back

Best for rotating cash back bonus categories

Caret Down
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.
Read our full Discover it® Student Cash Back review or jump back to offer details.
Image of

Discover it® Student Chrome

Best for gas and dining

Caret Down
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

Best overall student credit card

Caret Down
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

Best for flat-rate cash back

Caret Down
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

Best for credit-building incentives

Caret Down

The Petal 2 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

Best for local cash back offers

Caret Down

The Petal 1 Visa 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

Best student card for benefits

Caret Down
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 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 are student credit cards?

Student credit cards are a type of credit card specifically for students, particularly 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.

A few characteristics set student cards apart from regular credit cards. Oftentimes, people with little or no credit history can 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 rewards structures that fit well into student spending behaviors, with popular bonus categories including streaming, dining, groceries and entertainment.

How do they work? 

Student cards work similarly to regular credit cards. If you pay your credit card bills on time and don’t use too much of your available credit, you can begin to build up a positive credit history and increase your credit score. These actions will go a long way toward showing creditors that you know how to use credit responsibly. Once you graduate, the hard work you’ve put into building and maintaining good credit can pay off in a number of ways.

More from our experts: 7 credit card tips for beginners

Benefits of a student credit card

Student credit cards give you a chance to get a head start on building credit, which can help you overcome some financial obstacles. The earlier you start building credit, the longer your credit history will be. The length of your credit history is also a significant contributing factor to your credit score. Here are more benefits that come with using a student card:

  • Credit Fair
    Credit building

    A student credit card is a great tool to use to start building credit early and responsibly. Student credit card issuers often report card activity to the three credit bureaus, which is an essential part of measuring your efforts while building credit. 

  • Moneybag

    Funds for school expenses

    This access to funds is especially useful when returning to school and purchasing necessary supplies, covering moving costs or funding an emergency expense. Remember that you are always borrowing money on a credit card and you must repay that money. It’s important to monitor your spending and make sure you only spend what you can afford to pay back.

  • Lightbulb

    Financial knowledge development

    When you use your student credit card responsibly, you’re practicing the good credit habits that show creditors you can be trusted to pay back the money you borrow. Many student cards also come with features that can improve your financial literacy skills.

Why building credit as a student is important

Building credit as a student is important because it gives you a head start on establishing the score and habits that could qualify you for the best rates on some key milestones. 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

How to compare student credit cards

Since there are many student cards to consider, ask yourself these questions to help you compare your options. 

Can you earn a sign-up bonus?

While most offers are modest on student cards, many do have a welcome offer after meeting a spending requirement. Unlike regular credit cards, the spending requirements to earn a sign-up bonus may not be as high with a student card. Not all sign-up bonuses are the same and some could be more valuable than others, depending on your spending habits, so it’s best to look closely at different kinds of sign-up bonuses to see what card could be the right fit.

Are there intro APR offers?

A defining feature of student credit cards is lenient credit requirements, but this detail doesn't mean student cards are particularly inexpensive. Many student card issuers tend to charge a fairly high ongoing APR or interest rate in exchange for a line of credit. Though sometimes hard to come by, a few student cards have intro APR offers. These offers often aren’t anything near what you’d find on a traditional credit card for good credit, but they can be a helpful addition to consider when comparing student cards.

Is there a chance to upgrade?

Many student cards have a “graduated” version of the same credit card that you could upgrade to once you’re ready to move beyond student credit cards. Upgrading your credit card could be an ideal path, especially if you already enjoy the student card you have. An upgrade would mean you’d likely be able to get more out of the same card, thanks to your responsible credit use. If you upgrade with the same issuer, you might be able to skip putting in a new application and risk a new hit to your score. If upgrading is something you think you’ll want to pursue in the future, compare cards that have these kinds of opportunities. 

How to choose the best student credit card

Picking the right credit card as a college student isn’t always an easy task. When evaluating different student credit cards, here are a few questions to ask yourself:

Do I qualify for a student credit card?

Issuers typically reserve student credit cards for people in college who have little or no credit history. If you have a history of making late payments or have defaulted on a credit card in the past, your best option may be a credit card for bad credit.

What's my credit score?

Your credit score does more than show lenders your creditworthiness. It also shows you the credit cards you may qualify for. Knowing your credit score can help you avoid applying for a credit card you have little chance of getting approved for or a card you’re overqualified for and isn’t worth your time.

Will I have to put down a security deposit?

If you’re new to credit cards, you should know the difference between secured and unsecured credit cards. If you can’t qualify for an unsecured credit card, you may have to get a secured card, which requires a refundable security deposit. This deposit often acts as your credit limit, though you can’t use it to make payments. Instead, issuers hold on to the deposit in case you are unable to pay off your debt (and will return it to you when you close your account or upgrade to an unsecured card).

What features matter most to me?

Your student card can do more for you than help you build credit. For example, some will have student card perks like free credit score access or the chance to earn cash back on your purchases. Or if you plan to study or travel abroad, you might like a credit card that charges no foreign transaction fees.

What are the fees?

Each credit card will come with its own set of credit card fees. It may be impossible to avoid all of them, but picking the right card for you and using it responsibly can help you avoid many of these charges. Typical fees to watch out for include annual fees, late fees, cash advance fees and balance transfer fees.

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

What you need for a student card application

If you’ve picked out the credit card that best suits your student lifestyle, then the next step is to get it. When you’re ready, here’s what you’ll need to apply for a student credit card.

  1. Your credit score

    Determining your credit score will let you know which cards you are likely to be approved for.
  2. The application for the card you want

    Simply head to the issuer’s website and find the application. You may be able to check if you prequalify for the card before you apply (with no impact to your credit score), which can give you some extra confidence in submitting an application.
  3. Personal information

    Be sure to have all of your application information ready before getting started. Some student card issuers let applicants use an ITIN or passport instead of an SSN, which allows international students to apply for the card they want. 
  4. A budget and repayment plan

    Responsible credit use starts with a stable budget and a concrete plan to repay what you spend. Once you’re approved, make note of your payment due date so you can always pay on time.

How to make the most of your student credit card and avoid credit card debt

Once you have your student credit card, it’s best to find the balance between maximizing this new financial tool and avoiding falling into excess credit card debt. Here are a few tips to help you maximize your student card and avoid credit card debt.

  • Credit Card Reviews

    Choose the right card for you

    Your credit history, finances and lifestyle will all play a role in helping you narrow down your choices for a student credit card. If possible, pick a card that has a low ongoing APR in case you end up carrying a balance
  • Dollar
    Have a budget
    If you know how to budget, you can avoid some of the common missteps that lead to debt. A budget will also help you keep track of how much you’re spending on your credit card so you can keep your credit utilization in check and only spend what you can afford to pay back.
  • Calendar
    Pay on time
    Your payment history has the greatest influence on your credit score. Paying your credit card bill on time as a student will greatly affect how your credit profile looks in the future. Late payments wind up as negative marks on your credit report and can come with late fees. They also trigger penalty APRs, which could lead to more debt.
  • Badge
    Pay off your balance in full whenever possible
    Paying more than the minimum payment due and even trying to pay in full each month will help you avoid excessive interest charges that push people deep into credit card debt. This action also signals to lenders that you’re using your credit responsibly and could lead to credit line increases and other perks down the road.
  • Remove Card

    Avoid cash advances

    cash advance creates an unnecessary burden on your finances, because of its excessively high interest rates that add on to your debt the moment you withdraw funds.
  • Rewards
    Build a strategy to maximize rewards
    If you pick a student card that offers rewards on certain purchases, strategize your spending to get the most out of your rewards rates. Many student cards also have sign-up bonuses that offer a decent windfall of rewards after you spend a certain amount.

Bankrate Insight

It’s best to not use your credit card to pay for tuition, but some schools will allow you to do it. However, be aware that you may be charged a convenience fee, and interest will stack up quickly if you don’t pay it off right away.

Alternatives to student credit cards

Whether you struggle to gain access to credit or don’t want to deal with the disadvantages of using a credit card, there are a number of alternative options out there that can help

How we asses the best cards for students

Credit Card Reviews
perks evaluated
data points analyzed
fees tracked
Dollar Coin
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