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
13.24% - 22.24% 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
15.24% - 25.24% (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
13.24%-27.24% (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
15.24% Variable
Recommended credit
Good to Excellent (670 - 850)
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
15.24% - 25.24% (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
13.24% - 22.24% 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
19.49% Variable
Recommended credit
No Credit History 

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
20.24%-29.74% (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 4.0 / 5
(Read full card review)
Chase Freedom Student credit card Student card for benefits $0 3.4 / 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)
Deserve EDU Mastercard for Students Students with no credit history $0 2.7 / 5
(Read full card review)
Petal 1 “No Annual Fee” Visa Credit Card Local cash back offers $0 3.6 / 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

  • This card is a good fit for: People with limited or no credit history who want to earn cash back.
  • This card is not a good choice for: Busy students who don’t want to keep track of changing bonus categories.
  • What makes this card unique? Instead of a traditional sign-up bonus, this card offers a Cashback Match. At the end of your first year, Discover will automatically match all of the cash back you’ve earned—so $300 in cash back for the year would become $600.
  • Is the Discover it Student Cash Back worth it? Yes, if you’re willing to put in the work to track rotating categories and enrollment dates.

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

  • This card is a good fit for: Students planning to study abroad and/or who want to earn more substantial cash back rewards.
  • This card is not a good choice for: Students who may be forgetful and miss a payment, as there is a late payment fee of up to $40.
  • What makes this card unique? The 1.5 percent flat cash back rewards rate is very high for a student credit card. Also, you can earn unlimited 5 percent cash back on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel (terms apply). There is no annual fee or foreign transaction fees, which can make maintaining this card on a student budget a bit easier.
  • Is the Capital One Quicksilver Student Cash Rewards Credit Card worth it? It depends. If you want the potential to earn even higher cash back rewards in certain spending categories, this card may fall short compared to some others. If you crave consistency in your cash back rewards rate, the Capital One Quicksilver student card offers one of the best returns.

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

  • This card is a good fit for: Someone who wants to manage their credit card transactions and history all in one simple, easy-to-use app.
  • This card is not a good choice for: Students with enough credit history to qualify for a card with higher cash back rates.
  • What makes this card unique? Cash back programs are harder to come by among credit-builder cards. The Petal 2 card’s barrier to entry is relatively low, but it also offers a modest amount of cash back rewards, making it a valuable find for students just starting out with credit cards.
  • Is the Petal 2 “Cash Back, No Fees” Visa Credit Card worth it? If you’re brand new to credit, the cash back program and lack of credit requirements could make this card a great fit. On the flip side, students with good credit can find higher cash back rates.

Read our full Petal 2 “Cash Back, No Fees” Visa Credit Card review.
Jump back to offer details.

Chase Freedom Student credit card

Best student card for benefits

  • This card is best for: Students who are looking for a good ongoing rewards rate and an easy-to-earn welcome bonus.
  • This card is not a great choice for: Someone with good to excellent credit who can qualify for a higher-earning Chase Ultimate Rewards card.
  • What makes this card unique? You’ll earn a credit limit increase after making five monthly payments on time within 10 months from account opening when meeting credit criteria. This feature encourages good financial habits and may help improve your credit score. ​​You’ll also earn a $20 Good Standing Reward after each account anniversary for up to 5 years.
  • Is the Chase Freedom Student credit card worth it? With no annual fee and a relatively good cash back rate, this card is worth getting for credit card newcomers. However, students with good to excellent credit may qualify for higher-earning Chase cards.

Read our full Chase Freedom Student credit card review.
Jump back to offer details.

Capital One SavorOne Student Cash Rewards Credit Card

Best overall student card

  • This card is a good fit for: Students who often indulge in live entertainment or love streaming services.
  • This card is not a good choice for: Students looking to earn consistent, high flat cash back rewards.
  • What makes this card unique? This card offers high rewards rates on some of students’ most popular spending categories like dining and popular streaming services. If you love live entertainment, the Capital One SavorOne student card offers a whopping 8 percent cash back on tickets at Vivid Seats.
  • Is the Capital One SavorOne Student Cash Rewards Credit Card worth it? Social butterflies will delight in this card’s generous cash back offerings on dining, popular streaming services, and entertainment. If you’re searching for a higher and more consistent cash back rate, you may find your fit in another card.

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

  • This card is a good fit for: Students who commute or take road trips often.
  • This card is not a good choice for: Students who live on campus or have a university meal plan.
  • What makes this card unique? Discover’s Cashback Match is a one-of-a-kind bonus that can offer even more value than a traditional sign-up bonus, depending on how much you use your card.
  • Is the Discover it Student chrome worth it? Yes, particularly for the student demographic, as the card is identical to the Discover it® chrome with less stringent credit requirements.

Read our full Discover it Student chrome review.
Jump back to offer details.

Deserve EDU Mastercard for Students

Best for students with no credit history

  • This card is a good fit for: Students who don’t have an established credit history or a Social Security number.
  • This card is not a good choice for: Students with good credit or better — the cash back rate is fair, but you can find better if you’ve got a good credit score.
  • What makes this card unique? If you spend $500 within the first three billing cycles of card membership, you’ll receive a one-year Amazon Prime Student subscription reimbursement, worth $59.
  • Is the Deserve EDU Mastercard for Students worth it? In general, this card has all the makings of a great credit card for students: virtually no credit score requirements, a steady cash back program and no annual fee. If you’re interested in building credit and earning rewards, this card is a great place to start.

Read our full Deserve EDU Mastercard for Students review.
Jump back to offer details.

Petal 1 “No Annual Fee” Visa Credit Card

Best for local cash back offers

  • This card is a good fit for: Aspiring credit builders who want to avoid security deposits or annual fees.
  • This card is not a good choice for: Someone looking for a consistent cash back program.
  • What makes this card unique? In the Petal 1 mobile app, you can find local offers near you that earn 2 percent to 10 percent cash back at select merchants.
  • Is the Petal 1 “No Annual Fee” Visa Credit Card worth it? Yes, primarily because of the card’s credit-building features. If your focus is building healthy credit habits, this card makes it easy.

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

Credit card basics: Terms students should know

  • Annual fees: Fees you pay each year to keep holding a card. Some credit cards have annual fees of $50 or more, though most student cards don’t. Be sure to check the fees before applying for any card.
  • Annual Percentage Rate (APR): A measure of what a card’s interest rate will be. Interest charges will accumulate and must be paid on balances carried from one billing period (month) to the next.
  • Credit bureau: Research entities that compile all of your credit history reporting to generate your credit score. In the U.S., there are 3 major bureaus—Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.
  • Credit utilization ratio: This ratio is a measurement of the total debt you have compared to the total credit available to you. If you have a $5,000 credit limit and usually stick to a $500 per month budget, your ratio is at 10 percent. The lower your credit utilization, the better. If you use up a large chunk (or all) of your available credit every month, your credit score may decrease.
  • FICO: The entity that creates the scoring model used to calculate credit scores. FICO credit scores range from 300 to 850. Credit scores are one factor in determining your creditworthiness.
  • Penalty APR: The highest APR that will be applied to your account. Penalty APR is usually applied after you miss consecutive payments. To return to your original APR, you’ll need to make several consecutive on-time payments.
  • Balance: The amount of money you have spent on your credit card, plus any interest and fees. Your balance is the total amount of money you need to pay back on your credit card. If you have a credit limit of $5,000 and you spend $100, the $100 is now your balance, or the money you owe on the card. It’s always best practice to pay off your balance in full each month to avoid extra charges.
  • Minimum payment due: The minimum amount of money that you are required to pay back on your payment due date at the end of your card’s billing cycle. Minimum payments are usually calculated as a flat percentage of your total balance. To find out your minimum payment, consult your card’s terms and conditions. It’s a best practice to pay off balances each month, or, at the very least, make more than the minimum monthly payment to avoid incurring interest.
  • Available credit: The amount of money that is available for you to spend on your card. Your available credit changes with your spending. If you have a $5,000 credit limit and you haven’t made any charges to the card, your available credit is still $5,000. If you spend $100 on this card, then your available credit will drop to $4,900. Once you pay off your balance of $100, your available credit will return to the full $5,000.

If you run into a term that’s not on this list, don’t worry. Look for it in Bankrate’s personal finance glossary.

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:

Do I fully understand what I’m signing up for?

Running up a sky-high balance or missing payments regularly can negatively impact your credit score and make it difficult to accomplish future financial goals like getting a mortgage. Be sure that you’re fully aware of the responsibilities that come with carrying a credit card and that you understand the basics of how credit cards work before you apply.

How am I affected by the CARD Act of 2009?

The Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act, also known as the CARD Act requires cardholders to be at least 21 years old. This restriction applies to student credit cards as well, but you can bypass this requirement by having a cosigner on your card or by proving your ability to independently pay your bills.

What products and services will I spend the most on?

Popular student expense categories included gas, restaurants, grocery stores, entertainment, school supplies and streaming services. Some student cards offer higher rewards rates on these spending categories, so it’s good to know which categories you spend, and can therefore earn, the most on.

Am I looking to keep it simple, or maximize rewards?

Some cards on the market offer simple, flat-rate rewards on all purchases while others have rotating spending categories that usually require you to keep track of these changes and enrollment dates. Know what you want most out of your student card and apply or adjust accordingly.

Am I aware of all possible extra charges and fees?

The main charge to know about is interest, as any interest charges will be applied to whatever balance you carry month-to-month unless your card has a promotional 0 percent interest offer. Other extra fees include foreign transaction fees, late payment fees and penalty APRs.

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.

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.

Building credit

You can start to build credit as a college student, and it’s a fairly good idea to start building credit early if you can. You can read our full guide for all of the reasons why your credit score matters, but essentially, good credit gives you access to larger loans, like a mortgage or auto loan, with better interest rates.

Paying necessary expenses

You can start with using your card to pay for everyday purchases like your rent or groceries. Or maybe you only want to use it to buy a laptop that would make your school work easier. The point is even little purchases here and there are effective at building credit over time.

Developing good financial habits

Used responsibly, a student credit card can help you develop good habits that will come in handy later in life. Setting a routine of being on time with payments and budgeting within your means will lead you to success.

In case of emergency

A credit card can be a great resource in an emergency. If your car breaks down, if you need a hotel room after your flight gets canceled or if you get a big bill after a trip to urgent care, your student card can provide a much-needed cushion.

Avoid foreign transaction fees

Planning on studying abroad? Unless you like the idea of paying an extra 3 percent on top of every card transaction, you should have a credit card that waives foreign transaction fees, which a lot of student cards do.

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.

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
Former Senior Editor Barry Bridges has been writing about credit cards, personal loans, mortgages and other personal finance products since 2017. Before joining Bankrate, he was an award-winning newspaper journalist in his native North Carolina.
about the editor
Mariah Ackary is a personal finance writer who specializes in small businesses and credit. Mariah is a lifelong writer, but joined the Bankrate team in 2019, excited by the opportunity to help people make good financial decisions. Send your questions to mackary@bankrate.com

* 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.