Best Credit Cards For College Students In 2022
Dan Miller10-minute read
July 13, 2022
It’s no secret that college is expensive. From hefty tuition fees to textbooks and school supplies to normal daily expenses, it’s easy for costs to add up. For most college students, managing these expenses can prove difficult, in part because they are newly independent and need help to become self-sufficient.
Enter student credit cards, which can provide some much-needed financial relief along with bonus perks and rewards. With smaller credit limits and rewards targeted specifically at college students, these cards can help you navigate your college expenses while building reliable financial habits for your future.
Keep reading to learn more about the best credit cards for college students in 2022.
Best Student Credit Cards
Student credit cards are good for college students with little or no credit as they offer unique rewards and help them build their credit history. But due to varying rates and rewards across cards, we always recommend shopping around for card offers, considering what fits best with your needs and budget.
If you are wondering what the best credit card for college students is, the following are our top choices for student credit cards in 2022 based on their APRs, fees, cash back and reward offerings.
Discover it® Student Cash Back
With no annual fee and 0% APR on purchases for the first 6 months, the Discover It Student Cash Back card is one of the most popular student credit cards on the market. After 6 months, the regular APR is 13.24% – 22.24% variable.
Earn 5% cash back on purchases at different locations each quarter, including grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations and Amazon.com, up to the quarterly maximum. After reaching your maximum, earn an additional 1% cash back automatically on all purchases. Plus, with the cashback match feature, you will also receive an unlimited dollar-for-dollar match of all cash back earned by the end of your first year!
Discover also offers additional incentives for students to excel academically. With Discover's good grade rewards feature, students can receive a $20 statement credit each school year if their GPA is 3.0 or higher.
Recommended Credit Score: 630 – 689
Discover it® Student Chrome
Like the Student Cash Back card, the Discover It Student Chrome card has no annual fee, 0% Intro APR on purchases for 6 months, and a regular APR of 13.24% to 22.24% variable. This card offers the same good grade and cash back match benefits; however, it differs in its cash back rates.
Earn 2% cash back automatically at gas stations and restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter. Then earn an unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases like books, groceries or college staples.
Recommended Credit Score: 630 – 689
Chase Freedom® Student Credit Card
The Chase Freedom Student Credit Card is another great option for students who are looking for a student card that also offers good rewards. You'll earn 1% cashback on all purchases. Your cashback rewards will not expire as long as your account is open, and there is no minimum amount that you need to redeem.
Additionally, you'll earn a one-time $50 bonus after your first purchase made within the first 3 months of opening your account. And as long as your account is in good standing, you'll get a $20 bonus reward each year on your card anniversary.
Recommended Credit Score: No credit history required
Capital One SavorOne Student Cash Rewards Credit Card
The Capital One SavorOne Student Cash Rewards Credit Card is another credit card that comes with no annual fee. You'll also get unlimited 3% cash back on dining, entertainment, popular streaming services and at grocery stores. You can redeem the rewards you earn either for gift cards, to cover recent purchases, as a statement credit or check.
Unlike some other student credit cards, Capital One does require applicants to be either currently enrolled or admitted and planning to enroll in the next 3 months at an accredited university, community college or other higher education institution. The SavorOne card does come with a 27.24% variable APR, so you'll want to make extra sure that you are paying your balances in full each month.
Recommended Credit Score: 630 – 689
Bank of America® Unlimited Cash Rewards For Students
With the Bank of America® Unlimited Cash Rewards For Students card, you will earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases. The Unlimited Cash Rewards card has no annual fee and an introductory 0% APR for 15 months. After the introductory period, the APR rises to a 14.24% - 24.24% rate.
You can also earn a healthy welcome bonus on the card by making at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days that you have the card. You'll get a $200 cash rewards bonus credited to your account. This can make it an excellent student credit card.
Recommended Credit Score: Good to excellent credit (670 or above)
Capital One Quicksilver Student Cash Rewards Credit Card
With the Quicksilver Student Cash card, you'll earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day. There is no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees, which makes it a great card to use if you're studying abroad. The APR is 27.24% variable, which is on the high side for a credit card. But if you pay your balance off in full, there's no need to worry as you won't be charged any interest.
Like the Capital One SavorOne, you will need to be either currently enrolled or admitted and planning to enroll in the next 3 months at an accredited university, community college or other higher education institution to apply for the Quicksilver Student Cash card.
Recommended Credit Score: 630 – 689
Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card For Students
If you’ve got the travel bug, the Bank of America Travel Rewards Credit Card for Students offers unique rewards you may find appealing. Earn unlimited 1.5 points for every $1 spent on purchases and use those points towards your next vacation! You can earn an additional 25,000 bonus points when you make at least $1,000 in purchases within the first 90 days of account opening, which can then be redeemed for a $250 statement credit towards your travel purchases.
Unlike some rewards programs, your points won’t expire, so you can use them as you see fit. And with unrestricted airline rewards, you can avoid tricky blackout dates, allowing you to book with any hotel or airline at any time.
This card comes with no annual fee and 0% Intro APR for 15 billing cycles before entering the regular APR of 14.24% – 24.24% variable.
Recommended Credit Score: 670 – 850
Deserve® EDU Mastercard For Students
The Deserve EDU Mastercard For Students is another one of the best credit cards for college students. You'll get 1% cash back on all purchases, with no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees. If you pay for your cell phone with your DeserveEdu card, you'll also qualify for cell phone protection if your phone is damaged or stolen. Rather than a cash welcome bonus, new DeserveEDU cardmembers will get Amazon Prime Student for free for a year.
Recommended Credit Score: 630 – 850
Understanding Your Student Credit Card
At their core, student credit cards function very similarly to any other credit card; however, they are specifically marketed toward college students as that demographic typically has trouble being approved for other types of credit. Student credit cards usually require lower credit scores than their non-student counterparts, making it easier to be approved.
These cards also offer features that may be uniquely appealing to students on a tight budget and have many costs to consider, from textbooks and studying materials to furnishing your dorm. Some of the primary features of these cards include:
- No annual fees.
- Cash back and bonus reward points.
- Low credit limits.
- Medium to high annual percentage rates (APR).
When considering a student credit card, it’s important to remember credit cards cannot legally be issued to anyone under 21 – unless they can prove their independent income or get a parent or guardian to co-sign. If you do not have your own income, or cannot prove it to the card company’s standards, we recommend discussing the benefits of student credit cards with your parent or guardian.
Benefits Of Having A Student Credit Card
The biggest advantage of having a student credit card is the opportunity to build credit. Here are a few reasons why it’s important to establish a line of credit in college, use the credit card responsibly and maintain a good credit score:
- Borrow money and take out a loan: Most college students don’t have a credit history, which is a key piece of being approved for other financial endeavors such as loans and mortgages. It takes time to build credit, so it’s never too early to get started! Building credit now can help your future ability to do things like buy a home.
- Rent an apartment and sign up for utilities: Renting can be very competitive, so it’s important to have a strong rental application. Higher credit scores tend to mean more reliable tenants, so building your credit history can help you get approved.
- Get a job: Some employers will do a credit check on potential applicants. Showing that you can responsibly use credit can help you stand out from other applicants.
- Get more favorable insurance policies: In many states, insurance companies use credit reports to determine rates for car insurance. Lower credit scores may lead to higher rates.
- Cardholder rewards: When using the right card for your needs, you can earn rewards and cash back on purchases you would be making anyway, effectively saving you money in the long run.
How To Compare The Best Credit Cards For College Students
When looking at the best student credit cards, it can be challenging to decide which is the right one for you. There are many credit cards for college students, each with their own pros and cons. When you are comparing credit cards, you can look at factors like the annual fee, different rewards and benefits, credit card fees, foreign transaction fees and credit limits. Looking at how different student credit cards stack up can help you make the right choice for your unique financial situation.
How Do You Apply For A Student Credit Card?
As a college student, you can apply for a credit card in much the same way as any other credit card applicant. After you have compared cards and decided on the right one for you, you'll want to make sure you have any necessary documentation and information. This includes your Social Security number (SSN) or individual taxpayer identification number (ITIN), any source(s) of income, monthly rent or housing costs and personal information. Credit card applications can typically be filled out online or at a local bank branch.
If you have no existing credit or income, the application may require a co-signer or joint account holder. By law, you can't be approved for a credit card if you're under 21 unless you have a parent or guardian co-sign or you can prove your own independent source of income. One other option is to become an authorized user on someone else's credit card.
How To Use Your Student Credit Card
Here are some of the best practices for using a student credit card:
- Spend what you can afford. The smartest thing you can do as a new cardholder is limit your spending. Although it can be tempting to splurge, aim to buy only what you can afford to pay back to avoid interest and fees.
- Maintain a good credit utilization ratio. Your credit utilization ratio is the percentage of your available credit that you use each month, and is one of the biggest factors that impacts your credit score. Keep the total amount of credit that you use well below your total credit limit to keep your utilization ratio low – a good rule of thumb is to keep this below 30% of your overall limit.
- Make credit card payments on time. Missing a payment can cause a big negative hit to your credit score. One way to avoid this is by setting automatic payments and tracking them on a calendar so you’re paying on the same day month after month.
- Pay more than the minimum if you can’t pay the full balance. By paying your full balance on time each month, you will avoid interest and late fees. If you find you are unable to pay in full, make sure you at least pay more than the minimum amount due.
- Check your account frequently for fraudulent purchases: Unfortunately, millions of Americans have their identity stolen every year. To protect yourself, be sure to check your account regularly and report any charges you did not make.
What happens on your credit report stays with you for at least the next 7 years.
This means you can directly impact your financial future in a positive or negative way based on how you handle your credit card. Because of this, it is crucially important for students to use their first credit card responsibly to avoid the negative impacts of credit card debt.
What To Do With Your Student Card After Graduation
After you graduate, you have a few options for what to do with your student credit card. In most cases you can continue to use your credit card even after you graduate. If you've responsibly used your credit card while in school, you may be able to contact your issuer to upgrade your card to one with a higher credit limit or better rewards. Or, consider replacing the credit card entirely with a credit card that better fits your post-college situation.
Student Credit Card FAQs
What makes a student card different from other credit cards?
Student credit cards are targeted towards students and others with a limited credit history. Because of this, issuers are not expecting applicants for student credit cards to have an extensive credit history or significant income. Many student credit cards also give perks targeted towards students, like statement credits for good grades.
Do I need a job to get a student credit card?
If you're over 21, you won't need a job or even necessarily income to get a student credit card. Most issuers of student credit cards understand that applicants may not have any income or credit history. If you're under 21, the CARD Act requires that you be able to prove that you have independent income or have a co-signer.
Can international students apply for student credit cards?
Yes, international students can apply for student credit cards, but it can be a bit more difficult. Some credit card applications may require a Social Security number, so if you don't have one, you may not be able to apply for that card. Other applications allow you to apply with an International Tax Identification Number (ITIN).
What can I do if I don’t qualify for a student credit card?
If you don't qualify for a student card, you have a couple of options. You can become an authorized user on the account of a close friend or family member. You might also consider a secured credit card, where you make an initial security deposit to access a credit line. As you work to improve your credit score, you can look to apply for a student card in the future.
The Bottom Line
When used properly, the right student credit card can fund your daily expenses and help you build a foundation for your financial future. There are many options when it comes to credit cards for college students, but before taking the leap, we recommend learning more about credit cards. Be sure to consider all credit card features, fees and rewards before signing up.
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How To Get A Credit Card With No Credit
Credit companies may view you as a risk if you don’t have a credit history. Read our guide for ways to get a credit card with no credit.
How Many Lines Of Credit Should I Have?
When determining how many lines of credit you should have, it’s important to know that there is no formula or magic number. Because the number of credit scores one has can vary from person to person, you should consider your spending habits and ability to manage credit before deciding whether to add another line of credit or not.