Best for rotating cash back bonus categories

Apply now
On Discover's secure site
Rewards rate
  • 5% Earn 5% 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.
  • 1% Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - automatically.
Intro offer
Cashback Match™ 
Annual fee
$0
Regular APR
14.49% - 23.49% Variable
Recommended credit
No Credit History 
Apply now
On Capital One's secure site
Rewards rate
  • 5% Earn unlimited 5% cash back on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of trip options. Terms apply
  • 1.5% Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day
Intro offer
$100 
Annual fee
$0
Regular APR
16.49% - 26.49% (Variable)
Recommended credit
Fair to Good (580 - 740)
Apply now
On Petal's secure site
Rewards rate
  • 1.5% Up to 1.5% cash back on eligible purchases after making 12 on-time monthly payments.
  • 1% 1% cash back on eligible purchases right away.
Intro offer
N/A
Annual fee
$0
Regular APR
13.74% - 27.74% (Variable)
Recommended credit
No Credit History 
Apply now
On Capital One's secure site
Rewards rate
  • 8% Earn 8% cash back on Capital One Entertainment purchases and tickets at Vivid Seats
  • 5% Earn unlimited 5% cash back on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of trip options. Terms apply
  • 3% Earn unlimited 3% cash back on dining, entertainment, popular streaming services and at grocery stores (excluding superstores like Walmart® and Target®)
  • 1% Earn 1% on all other purchases.
Intro offer
$100 
Annual fee
$0
Regular APR
16.49% - 26.49% (Variable)
Recommended credit
Fair to Good (580 - 740)

Best for gas, dining & large purchases

Apply now
On Discover's secure site
Rewards rate
  • 2% Earn 2% cash back at Gas Stations and Restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter.
  • 1% Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - automatically.
Intro offer
Cashback Match™ 
Annual fee
$0
Regular APR
14.49% - 23.49% Variable
Recommended credit
No Credit History 

Best student card for benefits

Apply now
On Chase's secure site
Rewards rate
  • 1% Earn 1% cash back on all purchases plus $20 Good Standing Rewards after each account anniversary for up to 5 years
Intro offer
$50 Bonus 
Annual fee
$0
Regular APR
15.74% Variable
Recommended credit
Good to Excellent (670 - 850)

Best for local cash back offers

Apply now
On Petal's secure site
Rewards rate

N/A

Intro offer
N/A
Annual fee
$0
Regular APR
20.74% - 30.24% (Variable)
Recommended credit
No Credit History 

Best for students with no credit history

Apply now
On Deserve's secure site
Rewards rate
  • 1% Earn 1% Cash Back on all purchases with your Deserve EDU Mastercard
Intro offer
N/A
Annual fee
$0
Regular APR
20.24% Variable
Recommended credit
No Credit History 

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 4.1 / 5
(Read full card review)
Capital One Quicksilver Student Cash Rewards Credit Card Flat-rate cash back $0 3.3 / 5
(Read full card review)
Petal 2 “Cash Back, No Fees” Visa Credit Card Student starter card $0 4.5 / 5
(Read full card review)
Capital One SavorOne Student Cash Rewards Credit Card Overall student card $0 3.6 / 5
(Read full card review)
Discover it Student chrome Gas, dining and large purchases $0 4.1 / 5
(Read full card review)
Chase Freedom Student credit card Student card for benefits $0 3.4 / 5
(Read full card review)
Petal 1 “No Annual Fee” Visa Credit Card Local cash back offers $0 5 / 5
(Read full card review)
Deserve EDU Mastercard for Students Students with no credit history $0 2.7 / 5
(Read full card review)

A closer look at the best credit cards for students

Discover it Student Cash Back: Best for rotating cash back bonus categories

  • What we love about the Discover it Student Cash Back: The Cash Back Match feature replaces a traditional sign-up bonus with this card. At the end of your first year as a cardholder, Discover will match all the cash back you earned dollar for dollar, so $300 earned cash back becomes $600 with no extra work on your part.
  • Who this card is good for: Students with limited credit histories who want to earn cash back. Cash back strategizing could be complicated for someone with no experience with rewards cards. If you’ve built up a bit of credit history with a less complex card and are looking for a way to earn more, this card is a good choice for you.
  • Alternatives: If you’re a student who’s new to the world of credit cards and you worry about keeping track of confusing rotating bonus categories, you should consider the Deserve EDU Mastercard. The Deserve EDU offers a flat 1 percent cash back rate on all purchases, with no categories to keep track of.

Read our full Discover it Student Cash Back review.

Jump back to offer details.

Capital One Quicksilver Student Cash Rewards Credit Card: Best for flat-rate cash back

  • What we love about the Capital One Quicksilver Student Cash Rewards Credit Card: The rewards rate—1.5 percent flat cash back (Cardholders also earn an unlimited 5 percent cash back on hotels and car rentals booked through Capital One Travel, terms apply)—is high for a student card. Also, there’s no annual fee, making maintaining the card easier on students with limited budgets.
  • Who this card is good for: Students who plan to study abroad. The card will be a cost-saver while overseas as it carries no foreign transaction fees.
  • Alternatives: The Capital One SavorOne Student Cash Rewards Credit Card is a good alternative choice for students who are looking to earn elevated rewards in categories like dining out and streaming services. SavorOne cardholders will earn 3 percent cash back in those categories.

Read our full Capital One Quicksilver Student Cash Rewards Credit Card review.

Jump back to offer details.

Petal 2 “Cash Back, No Fees” Visa Credit Card: Best student starter card

  • What we love about the Petal 2 “Cash Back, No Fees” Visa Credit Card: The Petal 2 has a relatively low barrier to entry, so it’s an excellent credit-building tool. It’s also among the more lucrative credit-building cards with a cash back rate of up to 1.5 percent (after 12 on-time monthly payments, 1 percent flat cash back before that). It’s a valuable find for students just starting out with credit cards.
  • Who this card is good for: Students who are seeking a simple way to manage their cards. The Petal 2 app makes managing your card and checking card transactions easy.
  • Alternatives: If you’re a student looking for an easier credit card to acquire and more lucrative cash back consider the Discover it Secured Credit Card. This secured card touts a solid cash back rate—2 percent cash back on up to $1,000 in combined gas station and restaurant purchases and 1 percent cash back on all other purchases—and the notable Cashback Match as a welcome offer.

Read our full Petal 2 “Cash Back, No Fees” Visa Credit Card review.

Jump back to offer details.

Capital One SavorOne Student Cash Rewards Credit Card: Best overall student credit card

  • What we love about the Capital One SavorOne Student Cash Rewards Credit Card: Cardholders get high rewards rates on some of students’ most popular spending categories like dining and popular streaming services. Concert goers can get a whopping 8 percent cash back on tickets purchased at Vivid Seats. Cardholders also get an unlimited 5 percent cash back on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel (terms apply).
  • Who this card is good for: This card is a solid choice for students with at least a fair credit score. With it, a student can earn rewards in several everyday categories.
  • Alternatives: If your credit score isn’t quite up to par, the Petal 2 “No Annual Fee” Visa might be a better choice. Cardholders can earn a 1 percent flat-rate cash back (up to 1.5 percent cash back after making 12 on-time monthly payments).

Read our full Capital One SavorOne Student Cash Rewards Credit Card review.

Jump back to offer details.

Discover it Student chrome: Best for gas, dining, and large purchases

  • What we love about the Discover it Student Chrome: The Cashback Match sign-up bonus can be very lucrative when used with a clear strategy because Discover matches all cash back earned dollar for dollar. For example, if you spend $1,000 furnishing your first apartment, you’ll get 1 percent cash back or $10, and with the Cashback Match, you’ll get an additional $10.
  • Who this card is good for: Students who commute or take road trips often. Your rewards earnings are elevated: 2 percent cash back at gas stations and restaurants on up to $1,000 per quarter in combined spending, then 1 percent.
  • Alternatives: If you’re looking to boost your rewards earnings a bit beyond the Student chrome’s 1 to 2 percent cash back, the Discover it Student Cash Back card is a solid choice. Cardholders are rewarded with 5 percent cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases per quarter (then 1 percent, enrollment required) in rotating categories  like Amazon.com, restaurants, gas stations and PayPal.

Read our full Discover it Student chrome review.

Jump back to offer details.

Chase Freedom Student credit card: Best student card for benefits

  • What we love about the Chase Freedom Student credit card: This card encourages students to develop good financial habits with its features. Cardholders can receive a credit limit increase after making five monthly on-time payments within 10 months of account opening (if you meet the score requirements). Cardholders also earn a $20 Good Standing Reward each anniversary of your account opening for up to five years.
  • Who this card is good for: Students who want to earn a straightforward welcome bonus. Cardholders will get $50 for making a purchase within the first three months from account opening.
  • Alternatives: If you have several streaming service subscriptions, the Journey Student Rewards from Capital One credit card might be a good alternative. Cardholders will get $60 in 12 monthly streaming service credits (when you pay on time, exclusions apply.)

Read our full Chase Freedom Student credit card review.

Jump back to offer details.

Petal 1 “No Annual Fee” Visa Credit Card: Best for local cash back offers

  • What we love about the Petal 1 “No Annual Fee” Visa Credit Card: The Petal 1 mobile app gives cardholders access to local offers near them that earn 2 percent to 10 percent cash back at select merchants.
  • Who this card is good for: Aspiring credit builders who want to avoid security deposits or annual fees. Unlike secured cards, the Petal 2 allows you to skip security deposits while keeping the barrier to entry low. Other financial indicators like your income and bill payment behavior are considered, making the card easier to obtain.
  • Alternatives: The Petal 2 “No Annual Fee” Visa offers many of the same great features, like no annual fee and more lenient credit score requirements, while offering up 1 to 1.5 percent cash back rewards.

Read our full Petal 1 “No Annual Fee” Visa Credit Card review.

Jump back to offer details.

Deserve EDU Mastercard for Students: Best for students with no credit history

  • What we love about the Deserve EDU Mastercard: Cardholders who spend $500 in their first three billing cycles will receive a credit for a one-year Amazon Prime Student subscription, valued at $59. It’s also accessible for international students as it doesn’t require a social security number to apply.
  • Who this card is good for: Students who don’t have an established credit history or a Social Security number. There is no minimum credit score requirement for this card, and a Social Security number isn’t required for the application.
  • Alternatives: If you want to boost our rewards earnings, the Discover it Student Cash Back card might be a better choice for you. Cardholders are rewarded with 5 percent cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases per quarter (then 1 percent, enrollment required) in rotating categories—whereas EDU Mastercard holders earn just 1 percent cash back on all purchases.

Read our full Deserve EDU Mastercard for Students review.

Jump back to offer details.


What are student credit cards and how do they work?

A credit card for students, whether you’re a college student, international student or a non-traditional student, is exactly what it sounds like: a credit card geared specifically toward students and their needs. Student credit cards work essentially like how other credit cards work, but they’re easier for credit beginners to obtain. A student credit card offers a line of credit, and if you pay off the balance in full and on time every month, you’ll never owe more than what you spent.

Why should I get a student credit card?

If you’re unfamiliar with carrying your own credit card, choosing a student option is a great way to get started. Along with letting you spend conveniently, student cards will give you the opportunity to establish a credit score while learning how to manage an account.

Why building credit important is for a college student

A credit card is an excellent tool for students to learn good financial behaviors while still in college. Credit cards are an excellent way to learn to manage your monthly budget and will help you with your finances in the future by building your credit score. Student credit cards often start with lower credit limits to make it easier for students to learn the skill of managing their credit card effectively while preventing splurging and overspending.

As you continue practicing positive credit behavior by making regular on-time payments and keeping your balance low, the issuer may offer you a higher credit limit. This will boost your credit score higher by decreasing your credit utilization ratio. A credit card can also be a helpful tool in the event of an emergency and used to save you money in foreign transaction fees if you decide to study abroad.

Pros and cons of student credit cards

Pros

  • Less strict credit requirements— Student credit cards are designed for those who are just starting out, so a lack of credit history is less likely to prevent you from approval.
  • Student-centric rewards—While some credit cards with lower credit requirements are lacking in the rewards department, plenty of student cards offer cash back or points in popular student spending categories.
  • Specialized benefits—Student credit cards often feature perks designed to appeal to credit beginners, like lenient late fee policies, automatic review for a credit line increase, and credit education tools.
  • Low cost—Many students want to avoid credit cards that cost money to carry. Luckily, many of the top student credit cards are free of annual fees.

Cons

  • Less robust rewards programs—While plenty of student credit cards offer modest rewards, the highest-earning rewards cards generally require good-to-excellent credit.
  • Potential for high interest rates—In general, lower credit requirements tend to mean higher interest rates.
  • Lower credit limits—Students are often considered a higher-risk borrower for lenders and these lenders may offer lower credit limits until student borrowers prove creditworthiness with responsible card use.
  • Borrowed funds—Remember that money on a credit card is borrowed and must be repaid, so it’s important to carefully monitor credit card spending.

How to choose the best student credit card

Picking the right credit card as a college student can be a bit overwhelming. When evaluating different student credit cards, here are a few questions to ask yourself:

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.

How students can avoid credit card debt

Learning experiences can be painful, especially when they involve learning how bad decisions can hurt your personal finances. Here’s a list of four tips for staying out of debt trouble with credit cards:

  1. Choose the right card for your finances and lifestyle. If you don’t own a car and you rarely dine out, it’s not a good idea to apply for a rewards card that offers cash back on gas and dining purchases.
  2. Pay off your balance in full every month. It may seem obvious, but the only way to avoid paying more than you have to is by paying in full every month. Make sure you note when your credit card bill is due and stick to your payment schedule.
  3. Pay on time. Late payments are a huge drag on your credit score and can activate expensive penalty APRs. In addition to paying in full each month, always pay on time or pay over the minimum due when possible.
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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

A starter credit card is one of the best ways to build your credit. Starter cards geared towards students can be difficult for someone not enrolled in school to obtain. They also typically require you to show proof of independent income or require a co-signer if you’re under 21. If you’re searching for a way to build your credit with a lower barrier to entry, secured credit cards provide a good alternative. The best secured credit cards have much more lenient requirements (they often don’t require people applying to have a credit score at all) than the typical student card. This means students looking to get a credit-building card will have a much easier time, so long as they can afford to put down the security deposit.

How to apply for a student credit card

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 how to apply for a student credit card.

  1. Check your credit score. If you’ve never had a credit card and you currently have no loans or steady income, your best option for getting your own credit card account is to become an authorized user on a pre-existing account. If you already have a credit history, it’s important to know what your score is. Determining your credit score will let you know which cards you are likely to be approved for.
  2. Go to the issuer’s website and find the card’s application. Once you know what card you like, simply head to the issuer’s website and find the application for that card. You may have to create an account before you can start the application.
  3. Fill out the application. Once you’ve completed your thorough research on what card works best for your needs, fill out the application with your name, address, identifying information and more. Be sure to have all of your application information ready before getting started.
  4. Receive the application decision. Once you submit your application, you will receive a decision on whether you are approved or denied for your credit card. Sometimes issuers will send out an instant decision or it may take a few days. If your application is denied, the issuer is legally required to send a letter explaining the denial.
  5. Have your budget and repayment plan ready. Responsible credit use starts with a stable budget and a concrete plan to repay what you spend. Make note of your payment due date and your minimum payment amount so you can always pay on time.
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Bankrate insight
Want to know which credit cards you may prequalify for and unlock special offers from our partners? Use our CardMatch™ tool to find your personalized matches in 60 seconds or less with no impact on your credit score.

How we chose our top picks for student credit cards

Credit cards reviewed by Bankrate receive scores based on a unique 5-star rating system. Our evaluation of best student credit cards focuses closely on specific qualities and benefits including:

Credit requirements

The typical person shopping for a student credit card might not have excellent credit or even much credit history at all. Most of the cards on our list are open to new-credit, fair-credit or limited-credit applicants.

Fees

If you don’t yet have a full-time career, obviously you would be better served by a credit card that goes easy on the fees and charges. Annual fees, foreign transaction fees and other charges make the card more expensive to own, especially if it doesn’t have a rewards program that helps offset those costs.

Rewards

Some of our top student credit cards have rewards programs that earn cash back for gas, groceries and other everyday purchases. Rewards offer a surefire way to get more value from your card.

Additional reviews and research

Need to do more studying before you make a decision? No worries. Choosing the right credit card as a college student is a big deal. Check out these resources from Bankrate.

Learn more: Easiest credit cards to get in 2022


Have more questions for our credit cards editors? Feel free to send us an email, find us on Facebook, or Tweet us @Bankrate.

Frequently asked questions about student credit cards

about the author
As a staff writer for Bankrate.com, Sarah offers sound advice that will improve your financial life and help simplify topics like travel hacking and credit card rewards.
about the editor
Courtney Mihocik is an editor at Bankrate Credit Cards and CreditCards.com specializing in credit card news and personal finance advice. Previously, she led insurance content at Reviews.com and worked as the loans editor at The Simple Dollar.

* See the online application for details about terms and conditions for these offers. Every reasonable effort has been made to maintain accurate information. However all credit card information is presented without warranty. After you click on the offer you desire you will be directed to the credit card issuer's web site where you can review the terms and conditions for your selected offer.