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Best student credit cards of November 2020

Rewards, perks and a chance to build your credit with responsible use of a credit card. CardRatings editors compare the best student credit cards.
Jennifer Doss, CardRatings Editor Last Updated, November 13, 2020

Our credit card articles, reviews and ratings maintain strict editorial integrity; however we may be compensated when you click on or are approved for offers (terms apply) from our partners. How we make money.

Best student credit cards of 2019


The relationships you build with banks during college can directly impact future life events such as the job offers you'll get, the kind of credit card deals you'll qualify for, and the amount of interest you'll pay on a home or car loan. Because of this, establishing a healthy credit history as a young adult has never been more important, and is why we are bringing you our top picks for the best student credit cards from our partners. 

Student credit cards often have low fees, reasonable APRs and perks that appeal specifically to college students. Some even offer cash-back or other rewards programs that can help with school expenses, accumulate miles toward a spring break trip or study abroad experience or just put more money in your pocket for the things that you love.

Choosing a student credit card can be overwhelming, but it doesn't have to be. You need to understand your goals, your current credit score/history as well as having a firm grasp on your budget. And it should go without saying, but it's important so we'll say it anyway: You also MUST have the responsibility and maturity to treat your credit card like cash; meaning that you only spend within your budget and don't go overboard trying to earn rewards or show off your spending power to impress your friends.


Citi Rewards+ Student Card

(This card is not currently available on CardRatings)
About Our Ratings

Why We Like It:  This card literally gives you something for nothing. That's because this card automatically rounds to the nearest 10 points for every purchase you make. Plus, you'll receive 10% of your points back for the first 100,000 points you redeem each year. (Citi is a CardRatings advertiser).

The Bonus: Earn 2,500 bonus ThankYou® Points after spending $500 within the first three months of opening an account. Plus, take advantage of seven months no interest on purchases; after the intro period, the APR will become 14.49% - 24.49% (Variable))

The Annual Fee: $0

Foreign Transaction Fees: 3%

The Rewards: Busy students need to eat and they need a trip home (or a road trip with friends) from time to time, so we like that this Citi® card offers two ThankYou® Points per $1 at supermarkets and gas stations (up to $6,000 spent each year), and offers one ThankYou® Point per $1 on all other purchases.

Credit Needed: Good


  • This card has no annual fee.
  • You'll receive a 0% introductory APR for purchases for a period of seven months then, 14.49% - 24.49% (Variable).
  • Your credit needs to be good, but at least it doesn't have to be excellent. Unlike other credit cards, this credit card is probably within reach for a lot of college students.


  • Studying abroad is more expensive with this card due to its 3% foreign transaction fee.
  • If you miss a payment, the penalty APR can go up to 29.99% (variable). So it's important that you make your payments 


About Our Ratings

Why We Like It: This card is loaded with extra perks that could come in handy for students, such as reimbursement of up to a lifetime total of $59 for your Amazon Prime Student membership as well as included cellular phone insurance up to $600.

The Bonus: Receive one year of Amazon Prime Student on Deserve after spending $500 in the first three billing cycles with your EDU card, plus enjoy complimentary cellphone insurance up to $600.

The Annual Fee: $0

Foreign Transaction Fees: None

The Rewards: Earn 1% cash back on every purchase you make.

Credit Needed: Excellent, Good, Limited History, No Credit History


  • Some helpful perks that come standard with Mastercard, including car rental collision damage waiver, price protection, extended warranty, travel assistance services and ID theft protection.
  • A high credit line is possible, as high as $5,000. Unless you're a big spender and make a lot of money, you're unlikely to be given that much credit. Still, if you want a high credit limit, this card may be able to give that to you.
  • No annual fee, which tends to be the case with student credit cards. Still, that's helpful to know and a good reason to get a student credit card rather than one for designed for people beyond their college years.


  • While the APR isn't insanely high, it isn't insanely low either. So be careful about carrying a balance with this card (or any card, for that matter)
  • Balance transfers and cash advances can't be done with this credit card, and they can with most credit cards. But balance transfers and cash advances are easy ways to wreck your credit if you aren't careful. So, really, take this as a win. You're better off without them.

Read our full Deserve EDU review.


About Our Ratings

Why We Like It:  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 and unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases automatically. You can also earn a dollar-for-dollar match on all the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year, this card makes it easy for students to put more money in their pockets for school expenses or to treat themselves to the things they love.

  • INTRO OFFER: Unlimited Cashback Match - only from Discover. Discover will automatically match all the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year! There's no minimum spending or maximum rewards. Just a dollar-for-dollar match.
  • 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. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - automatically.
  • Good Grades Rewards: $20 statement credit each school year your GPA is 3.0 or higher for up to the next 5 years.
  • Get 100% U.S. based customer service & get your free Credit Scorecard with your FICO® Credit Score, number of recent inquiries and more.
  • Freeze It® on/off switch for your account that prevents new purchases, cash advances & balance transfers in seconds.
  • Get an alert if we find your Social Security number on any of thousands of Dark Web sites.* Activate for free.
  • No annual fee. No late fee on first late payment. No APR change for paying late.
  • Discover is accepted nationwide by 99% of the places that take credit cards.
  • 0% intro APR on purchases for 6 months, then the standard variable purchase APR of 12.99% - 21.99% applies.
See More


  • The on/off switch that the credit card provides, which prevents new purchases, cash advances or balance transfers, instantly, is a nice touch, if you're worried about identity theft.
  • And if you're really worried about identity theft, you may appreciate that the card will send you an alert (if you activate the feature to send alerts) if your Social Security number is found on any Dark Web site.
  • You can earn cash back with this card, which is rare with student cards, especially at 5%.


  • If you're understandably more focused on school than saving money, you might forget to activate your cash back bonus categories.
  • It's hard to find much to gripe about with this card, so we'll "complain" about the cash advance. They charge $10 or 5% of the amount of each cash advance. Some cards charge a bit less. (Overall, it's a bad idea, though, to do cash advances on any credit card.)

Read our full Discover it® Student Cash Back review.


About Our Ratings

Why We Like It:  This cash-back credit card offers a cash-back rate of 2% on up to $1,000 per quarter in combined purchases at gas stations and restaurants. You'll earn 1% cash back on all other purchases. You can stash your rewards until it's time to pay for textbooks, or just use those credits toward a semester's-end splurge.

  • INTRO OFFER: Unlimited Cashback Match - only from Discover. Discover will automatically match all the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year! There's no minimum spending or maximum rewards. Just a dollar-for-dollar match.
  • Earn 2% cash back at Gas Stations and Restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - automatically.
  • Good Grades Rewards: $20 statement credit each school year your GPA is 3.0 or higher for up to the next 5 years.
  • Get 100% U.S. based customer service & get your free Credit Scorecard with your FICO® Credit Score, number of recent inquiries and more.
  • Freeze It® on/off switch for your account that prevents new purchases, cash advances & balance transfers in seconds.
  • Get an alert if we find your Social Security number on any of thousands of Dark Web sites.* Activate for free.
  • No annual fee. No late fee on first late payment. No APR change for paying late.
  • Discover is accepted nationwide by 99% of the places that take credit cards.
  • 0% intro APR on purchases for 6 months, then the standard variable purchase APR of 12.99% - 21.99% applies.
See More


  • You can pay the bill up until midnight on the day it's due. It's never pleasant paying a credit card bill at, say, 5:37 p.m., only to realize that you were supposed to pay it by 5 p.m. and now have a late fee.
  • You can earn cash back on purchases you likely make quite often. 
  • If you have a credit score that's considered fair (somewhere in the 600s), you'll probably be able to get this card.


  • Discover isn't as widely accepted as Visa and Mastercard, and so that's always something to consider.
  • This is a really good student credit card, and so it's hard to find much to criticize. The late fee can be up to $40, while most credit cards charge up to $39.

Read our full Discover it® Student chrome review.


About Our Ratings

Why We Like It: With 1% cash back, and a potential for 1.25% cash back on all purchases as well as the opportunity to gain access to a higher credit line in as little as six months, this is a great first card for students. And with no annual fee, no foreign transaction fee, and easy redemption tools, this card makes a great companion on campus and on the road.

The Bonus: Cardholders can get access to a higher credit line in as little as six months.

The Annual Fee: $0

Foreign Transaction Fees: None

The Rewards: Cardholders earn 1% cash back on every purchase, regardless of the category, and can boost cash back to a total of 1.25% each month just for paying on time. Also, if you pay on time, you can earn $5 per month for 12 months on select streaming subscriptions.

Credit Needed: Average, Fair, Limited


  • Renting a car? If you rent one with this card, you'll get auto rental insurance.
  • You can set the date you want to make your monthly payments. Many other credit cards will choose the due date for you.
  • Earn $5 per month for 12 months on select streaming subscriptions when you pay on time.


  • Like many cards, this card has a fairly high APR and is not a card you want to carry a balance on. That said, you really don't want to carry a balance on any credit card. It's not great for your credit score, if you do that, and it's expensive.
  • This card has no sign up bonuses.

Read our full Journey Student Rewards from Capital One review.


Potentially, yes - if you're over 21. Times have changed. It used to be that if you were an 18-year-old college freshman, you'd be walking around campus, and you'd see a student credit card information table with two or three people manning it and handing out free T-shirts, hats, coupons and more to get everyone's attention - and, hey, would you like to sign up for a credit card?

You would, because that sounded like a good idea even though you didn't have a job, but, hey you worked over the summer, so that counts, right? Or maybe you had a part-time job at the dorm store.

So college students, many of them freshmen, signed up for credit cards en masse without really thinking about it, and soon it became common to graduate not only with student debt but credit card debt as well - and lots of it.

So… are you saying college students shouldn't get credit cards?

Not at all. But you learn how to drive a car before you're given free rein on the interstate. If you take a summer job at a restaurant or in an office setting or anywhere, you generally get some training first. You get lessons before you swim. Universities are all about education and for decades college kids were being handed credit cards without any financial education on how to use them. Fortunately, colleges are offering more personal finance courses that provide student credit card information than they used to.

Things began changing in a big way with the Credit CARD Act of 2009 (CARD stands for Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure). Now, if you're under the age of 21, you have to prove that you have the independent income (your own job), or you have to get a co-signer, like a parent, who will be responsible for getting the debt paid if you fall behind. The CARD Act also forbids credit card companies from marketing to anyone under the age of 21.

Of course, none of this means that you can't be a college student and still get in trouble with credit cards - but at least it's a bit harder to get in trouble.


If you're responsible with money, there are a lot of good arguments for getting a student credit card when you're still in college - the central one being that you can get a jump on building good credit, which will help you get better terms on loans down the road, not just for additional credit cards but a mortgage, a car loan, a business loan and so on.

"I definitely recommend that responsible college students open up a low-limit credit card account in their freshman year," says Lyn Alden, the owner of Lyn Alden Investment Strategy in Atlantic City, N.J. "Spend with it occasionally, never carry a balance and pay every bill on time. That way, by the time they graduate college in four years or so, they'll have a 4-year-old account with a perfect payment history and that will give them a great head start for building their credit score."

Jeff White, a finance writer at the business website Fit Small Business, agrees. In fact, he says: "Every college student should have a credit card, regardless of their financial situation."


We've mentioned two ways already, but let's go into a bit more detail about credit cards available to you and the information you need to know about each option: 

Apply directly for a credit card. If you have a job, even a part-time one, you can apply for a credit card and depending on the issuer, you may be granted one. Just do yourself a favor, and only apply if you feel like you're going to have this income for quite awhile. There's a reason for the CARD Act's existence, after all. If you have a credit card, but you don't have steady income, and you use that credit card, you're going to make it awfully easy to get yourself in financial trouble.

Now, if you're denied for your first-choice card, you might want to consider applying for a secured credit card. Those can be excellent vehicles for building credit, but they do require you to put down a cash deposit - and if you're a college student, extra cash may be in short supply.

Ask a parent to co-sign a credit card for you. You and your parents really want to think about this for awhile. Especially your parents. If things go south because you've spent more on the card than you can pay back, your co-signer is just as much on the hook as you are to pay the bill. If they don't have deep pockets, you could get them in a financial mess, which is presumably the last thing you want to do. Again, it really comes down to how responsible you are with money.

Ask your parents to make you an authorized user of one of their cards. This is probably the best strategy - again, provided you're responsible with money. Just as it sounds like, instead of applying for your own, you're able to use your parents' credit card. Your parents may feel a little less pressure in this scenario than they might co-signing a credit card.This is their card, and they can monitor every purchase you make. It helps everyone - it's kind of your version of training wheels for a credit card. You can learn how to use a credit card and get the benefits of your parents' credit score. Assuming they have a healthy credit score, that may help yours, too. It doesn't necessarily make it much easier to get your own credit card down the road, since future lenders recognize that authorized credit card users (you, in this case) aren't actually responsible for paying the bills. But being an authorized user will usually benefit your credit score, especially if up until this point, your credit score and history were basically non-existent.

"By becoming an authorized user on my father's credit card when I was in high school, and then opening my first credit card account right before my freshman year of college, I had a credit score over 800 by the time I graduated," says Alden, who is 29.

Generally, the worst credit scores can be as low as 300. The best is 850.


The Citi Rewards+ Student Card offers college students a credit card that not only comes with a bonus of 2,500 ThankYou Points just for spending $500 in the first three months, but you can also take advantage of a 0% intro period on purchases for seven months (then, 14.49% - 24.49% (Variable)). Not only that, you can earn points on purchases made at supermarkets and gas stations, which can add up, especially since these are fairly common expenses for students. Because of these reasons, CardRatings experts often rank this card as the best credit card for students.

However, the best credit card for you will depend on your situation and the types of purchases you’ll make with the card. Some of the features to look for when choosing a credit card for students include the following:

  • No annual fee. According to credit scoring experts at FICO, the length of your oldest active line of credit can impact your credit score. You can keep a no-annual-fee card open without impacting your household budget for years after you graduate, especially if you don't use it for regular transactions.
  • No co-signer requirement. Although some parents eagerly co-sign on lines of credit with their college-age kids, these arrangements can lead to awkward situations and credit report damage. It's better to take a smaller line of credit on your own than to share a larger pool of potential debt with a loved one. Some banks use proprietary data models – based on your home zipcode, your school or even your major – to estimate your earning potential over the next few years. Remember that if you're under 18, you'll have to find a co-signer. Even if you are 18, you'll need to show proof of income or have a co-signer.
  • Clear communication. College students move frequently and change routines often. Therefore, banks with proactive payment reminders and transaction alerts help keep student borrowers from triggering late fees and penalties (and thereby damaging that baby credit you're trying to nurture).
  • Bonus perks and privileges. Instead of settling for the first offer you see, hunt for special deals that can earn rewards for the types of purchases you make often.
  • Rewards or rebates. It's a great time to learn how to use credit cards as tools for financial security instead of getting into debt. Rack up the biggest rebates when you behave as though your credit card is a debit card and pay your balance off in full every month.
  • A "graduation" program. The best student credit cards offer paths for cardholders to graduate into their full-service products after a year or two of responsible usage.


If you're wondering if you can get a regular, non-student credit card if you are a college student, you can. There's no rule prohibiting that.

That said, a student credit card is designed for first-time users who are in college. Some of these cards offer cash back rewards for good grades, many have lower fees or even waive some fees when you're late, and they generally don't have an annual fee, whereas many of the best regular credit cards do.

In other words, a student credit card generally factors in the fact that you've just started using credit cards - and they tend to be a little easier on you if you make a mistake.


Under current banking regulations, students must wait until after they reach age 18 (in most cases) to apply for a credit card in their own name. Even then, a student must show that he or she has access to enough income to pay the card's potential balance before they will qualify for an offer. Therefore, even the best credit card for students might not have the highest limit or the lowest annual percentage rate.


Good question, but it's the wrong question to ask. Much of the "easy factor" with applying for a student credit card depends on your credit history, credit score and your financial situation. What might be an easy student credit card for you to get - could be a difficult reach for somebody else.

So rather than focus on looking for the easiest credit card to apply for, you'll want to think about the various factors that a lender will consider - and then look for a student credit card that seems like a good fit for you. What are those factors?

Your job history. Credit card issuers like to loan money when they know they'll get it back. It's a weird pet peeve of theirs. We laugh about that now, but for several generations, credit card companies would give a credit card to pretty much any 18-year-old with a pulse, regardless of whether they had an income. Then that 18-year-old would rack up credit card debt and get into serious financial trouble. The government eventually got involved with something called the Credit Card Act of 2009, which made the rules for lending more strict. This is a good thing though as there's a good chance you're already going to be in debt with student loans. Piling credit card debt on top of that won't help anything. So if you're going to get a credit card, you either need a job that pays enough that you can pay off the credit card every month - or your parents need to agree to pay it off every month. You simply don't want a credit card without a source of income.

Your credit score and credit history. Have you ever borrowed money from a financial institution? If the answer is no (the Bank of Mom and Dad doesn't count, in this case), you may not have a credit score or credit history. If you were an authorized user on one of your parent's credit cards, however, you do have a credit history, and if your parent's credit history is good, yours probably isn't too bad either. If your parents were constantly missing payments while you were an authorized user, on the other hand, your credit history may not be so hot. In any case, if you have a good credit score and history, you'll probably have an easy time getting a student credit card. If you have a bad credit score and spotty history, you'll likely have a tougher time. If you have no credit history, it really depends. Some student credit cards take that into account, and if you have a way to pay them back it may not matter if you don't have a credit history.


In short, any student credit card that doesn't charge a foreign transaction fee.

If you're going to study abroad and your student credit card does have a foreign transaction fee, then you really should think about applying for a for a different credit card, one without this fee. Foreign transaction fees are usually around 3%, and are charged on any purchase made in a foreign currency. This may not seem like much, but say you spend three months in Rome, and use your credit card for dining and grocery store purchases, spending $500 with your card each month that you're there. On those purchases alone you're looking at an extra $45 in fees. That's $45 that could instead go towards say, your next moped rental, or several extra cups of gelato.


You've probably heard this over and over from your parents, but it bears repeating. And, sure, this is important for everyone to consider, but it's especially important to remember for a college student who may often be cash-strapped:

Don't overspend. To help you do that, it's best if you look for credit cards with small credit limits, White says.

And then, he adds, "Use the card to pay for something every month that you're going to paying for, anyway. If you have a utility bill that can be paid online with a credit card, then use yours. It's a great way to build credit by showing that you don't maximize credit limits and that you make payments on time."

Don't get too many credit cards. You may feel as if you can apply for more than one card if your credit is good and you have a pretty decent stream of income. Certainly, every college student's situation will be different, but as a general rule, you'd do well to follow White's advice.

"You don't want to get yourself in financial trouble with a credit card, which is why I don't recommend getting as many cards as you can qualify for," he says.

Even if you get several credit cards and pay off the cards every month, you could see your credit score go down, for a variety of reasons. One of the biggest reasons you could see your credit score drop is due to what's known as the credit utilization ratio. Let's say you have a credit card that you're often getting close to maxing out - say you have a $500 credit limit, and you spend about $480 a month on it. To the credit card bureaus, that looks like you're possibly going to get in trouble with your loan at some point. They like to see credit card users borrowing 30 percent or less of the credit limit. If you have multiple cards that you're coming close to the limit on, you look like an even bigger risk.

However, that credit utilization ratio is one reason consumers do get multiple credit cards: to keep the credit utilization ratio down. But, again, you're in college. If you don't have a full-time job yet, your goal is simply to build your credit, so when you get out into the real world, you have a healthy credit score and credit report. Most college students aren't going to need more than one or possibly two credit cards. Plus access to more credit just might be more temptation to spend money you don't have.

Don't sign up for a card that charges an annual fee to use it and read the terms of the card before applying. You wouldn't believe how many people don't know what an APR is. Seek out information on finding the best rated student credit card offers. Read reviews of cards and get the lowdown on perks of various credit cards.

Find credit cards with a low interest rate. This can be kind of tricky. As a college student, you don't have much of a credit history and low rates are typically doled out to consumers with high credit scores. Still, if you can find a credit card with at least a lower interest rate than 25 percent, try to do that. If you don't make your payment within a month, you'll start compiling revolving debt, and you could find it hard to pay it back.

>MORE: Play around with our "Revolving Balance Interest Calculator" so you understand EXACTLY how quickly interest adds up.

That's why White advises looking for student credit cards versus the ones for the general public.

"While you don't plan on getting charged interest rate because you'll pay it off within 30 days, it's still a perfect time to get a low interest rate by getting a special college student card rate, just in case," he says.


You should know how they work. Sure, that sounds obvious, and we all know to an extent, but plenty of consumers don't really understand the inner workings of the credit cards. It isn't like you're required to take a test before being given a credit card.

For instance, you'll manage credit cards better if you know…

When to pay. Obviously, your credit card statement has a due date, and you want to be pay by then. But, still, you may need to drill it in your head. Pay by the due date, which is generally 21 to 25 days after your credit card statement's closing date. If you pay before the due date, that's an interest-free loan you've been given. If you miss that due date, then there's interest to pay and possibly a late fee. And while that may seem like math that even a 5-year-old could figure out, plenty of frazzled, harried cash-strapped adults have missed their credit card payment deadline. It's easy to imagine a busy college student forgetting a credit card payment deadline as well.

How credit card bureaus come up with your credit score. You know that paying bills on time is important, and you probably won't be surprised to know that it's the most important factor in how your credit score is scored. But it's not the only factor.

Credit utilization ratio, which was mentioned earlier, is the second most important factor. You can pay everything on time, but have credit cards that are essentially maxed out, and your credit score will be dinged.

And the length of your credit history is the third most important factor, which is why many personal finance experts suggest getting a credit card in college, so you don't leave college, and, say, want to buy a car but are hindered in getting a loan because you don't have any sort of credit history.

There are other factors involved - like if you've applied to a slew of credit card and loan offers, the various inquiries for credit, even if you don't take all of them, can lower your score - but the factors above are the most significant to be aware of.

>MORE: Don't just wonder! Find out "How do credit cards work?"

Be aware of the fees that sometimes come with credit cards. The annual fee is the main one to be concerned about. You really want to be careful about getting a credit card with an annual fee. Some credit cards have hefty ones, as much as $300, $400 or even more. A consumer can completely justify spending that amount on an annual fee to use their own credit card if they use their credit card in a way that allows them to take advantage of the perks and amenities that come with rewards credit cards (like collecting airline miles). But if you're a college student with a part-time job, or a full-time job that doesn't pay well, you simply don't need a credit card with an annual fee. (Fortunately, as noted, most credit cards designed for college students are annual-fee-free.) And then, of course, student credit card or not, if you pay late, or you spend over your limit, you may see fees piled onto what you owe.

Cash advances should be avoided. Credit cards offer cash advances, where you can go to an ATM and take out cold hard cash. But the interest payments for them are much higher than what you're buying - and the interest starts right away rather than after a grace period which is what's typical with standard charges.

So you may wonder, why do credit cards offer cash advances if they're so bad, and why would anyone take one?

Well, you could be in a situation in which you're in an emergency - your car is broken down somewhere and you need money for a tow or a mechanic, for instance. There may be some rare times when, yes, it's worth it to get a cash advance, and you'll be glad they exist. But as a general rule, stay far, far away.

But a credit card itself? As long as you've studied up on how to use a credit card and have a stream of income to fund your payments, through a job or an amicable arrangement with the Bank of Mom and Dad, there's no reason to not consider getting one.

Disclaimer: The information in this article is believed to be accurate as of the date it was written. Please keep in mind that credit card offers change frequently. Therefore, we cannot guarantee the accuracy of the information in this article. Reasonable efforts are made to maintain accurate information. See the online credit card application for full terms and conditions on offers and rewards. Please verify all terms and conditions of any credit card prior to applying.

This content is not provided by any company mentioned in this article. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed here are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any such company. CardRatings.com does not review every company or every offer available on the market.


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