You'll probably owe more than $24,000 by the time you graduate college, according to student debt statistics from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. That's just one reason why your student credit card should help you learn how to save money instead of how to dig a deeper money hole.
Under today's financial regulations, you'll need to jump a few hurdles to qualify for a student credit card. Unless you're a very rare case, banks can't consider you for a card in your own name until you turn 21. After that, you'll need to state your annual income, so a prospective bank can calculate your credit limit. Finally, you'll need to show that you've been responsible with your credit so far.
Banks use student credit cards as proving grounds to determine whether you're a safe bet for riskier loans in the future. That's why most student credit cards start out with middle-of-the-road APRs, low credit limits (usually around $300-500), and limited feature sets. However, we've found four cards that offer a variety of features for example one may help you organize your expenses or another card offers rewards for making your payments on time, every month:
Citi Forward Card for College Students
Editor's Note: This offer expired and is no longer available.
With one ThankYou rewards point for every dollar you spend, you can quickly earn the equivalent of a 1 percent cash back. Use the Citi Forward® Card for College Students for this card's most compelling feature where you can lower your purchase APR up to 2 percent (by a quarter of a percentage point each quarter for a maximum of eight times) when you make a purchase, keep your balance under your credit limit and make your monthly minimum payment three months in a row on time. Over the course of two years, your responsible maintenance of this account can get you one of the lowest variable APRs among all rewards credit cards, not just among student cards.
Discover it for Students
Having grown its portfolio of private student loans over the past few years, Discover has upped the ante with the Discover it® for Students card that operates almost exactly like the flagship version of the Discover it Card. No annual fee, no foreign transaction fee, make this a great starter rewards card. On your purchases, along with 1 percent cash back, you can score bonus rewards of up to 5 percent cash back by opting in each quarter to quarterly promotions, subject to quarterly spend caps.
However, Discover's top-tier customer service can make the biggest difference in your financial life, especially if you're just getting used to paying your own monthly bills. U.S.-based customer service agents can process last-minute payments by phone, talk you through cash-back reward redemption and even arrange travel assistance.
BankAmericard Cash Rewards for Students
Bank of America's student credit card includes the longest introductory APR of the bunch. Along with a standard 1 percent cash rebate, this BankAmericard extends a 2 percent rebate on grocery purchases and a 3 percent rebate on gas, with a combined grocery and gas bonus cap of $1,500 per quarter.
BankAmericard Cash Rewards for Students also includes a sign-up bonus, an extreme rarity among student credit cards. Spend $500 within your first 90 days, and the bank will credit your rewards balance with an extra $100. Transfer your rewards balance into a qualifying Bank of America checking or savings account, and you'll earn an extra 10 percent cash reward.
Journey Student Rewards from Capital One
Known for easy-to-use rewards cards, Capital One's entry on this list is no exception. Every dollar you spend on purchases with Journey℠ Student Rewards from Capital One® you get 1 percent cash back. For every month you pay on time, you can earn a 25 percent bonus on the cash back you earn each month.
The only caveat: this card doesn't include an introductory interest rate offer, so you'll start accruing finance charges at the high end of the APR scale if you don't pay off your purchase before the end of its grace period.
None of these four cards carries an annual fee, making each one ideal for building credit without spending any money on annual fees. Whichever card you choose, make use of your bank's website and text alerts to keep track of your account status. Consistent payments and the age of your account will comprise two of the largest portions of your credit score, making good management of your first credit card crucial to your future financial life.