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Best student credit cards of 2019 from our partners

Last Updated, July 22, 2019

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Best student credit cards of 2019The 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.

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.

BEST CREDIT CARDS FOR STUDENTS

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.

CASH BACK | TRAVEL | FOREIGN STUDENTS

Now, with all that said, below you'll find a list of our editors' top picks for the best credit cards for college students to help you navigate this whole new world of exciting opportunity.

BEST STUDENT CREDIT CARDS FOR CASH BACK

Citi Rewards+ Student Card

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 16.49% - 26.49% (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

Discover it® Student Cash Back

Why We Like It: Thanks to 5 percent cash back each quarter in rotating categories, 1 percent on all other purchases, and 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.

The Bonus: Get a dollar-for-dollar match on all the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically, plus, a Good Grades Reward of $20 statement credit each school year your GPA is 3.0 or higher for up to five years.

The Annual Fee: $0

Foreign Transaction Fees: None

The Rewards: When you activate quarterly, earn 5 percent cash back on up to $1,500 spent each quarter in rotating categories like gas stations, restaurants, Amazon.com, or wholesale clubs. Earn 1 percent cash back on all other purchases and on purchases above the quarterly cap.

Credit Needed: Fair

Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One®

Why We Like It: With 1 percent cash back, and a potential for 1.25 percent cash back on all purchases as well as the opportunity to gain access to a higher credit line after making the first five monthly payments on time, 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 after making the first five monthly payments on time.

The Annual Fee: $0

Foreign Transaction Fees: None

The Rewards: Cardholders earn 1 percent cash back on every purchase, regardless of the category, and can boost cash back to a total of 1.25 percent each month just for paying on time. Read our full Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One® review.

Credit Needed: Average, Fair, Limited

Discover it® Student chrome

Why We Like It:  This cash-back credit card offers a cash-back rate of 2 percent on up to $1,000 per quarter in combined purchases at gas stations and restaurants. You'll earn 1 percent 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.

The Bonus: Get a dollar-for-dollar match on all the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically. Plus, earn a Good Grades Reward of $20 statement credit each school year your GPA is 3.0 or higher for up to five years.

The Annual Fee: $0

Foreign Transaction Fees: None

The Rewards: Two percent cash back at restaurants and gas stations on up to $1,000 in combined purchases every quarter, and 1 percent cash back on all other purchases.

Credit Needed: Fair


BEST STUDENT CREDIT CARD FOR TRAVEL REWARDS

Deserve Pro

Why We Like It: It can be tough building a U.S. credit history or getting a U.S. credit card if you're a foreign student here on a visa or a young professional from abroad just starting out. This card allows people who don't have Social Security numbers to apply and begin that credit building journey. Plus, it offers some sweet perks and rewards earning.

The Bonus: While not a traditional bonus, this card does offer cardholders a Priority Pass™ Select membership (valued at $99) after you make $1,000 in purhcases within the first 90 days. Access to airport lounges could certainly come in handy if you're traveling home or for business.

The Annual Fee: $0

Foreign Transaction Fees: None

The Rewards: Earn 3% cash back on travel and entertainment, 2% back at restaurants and 1% back on your other purchases.

Credit Needed:  Good


BEST CREDIT CARD FOR FOREIGN STUDENTS

Deserve Edu

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: There isn't a traditional rewards bonus, but that Amazon Prime Student membership reimbursement as well as the cellular phone insurance could certainly be considered a boost to your wallet.

The Annual Fee: $0

Foreign Transaction Fees: None

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

Credit Needed: No Credit History


OTHER OPTIONS TO CONSIDER

If your family has been banking with a small community bank or credit union, you can leverage that relationship in an attempt to qualify for a no-frills card that doesn't charge an annual fee. However, you don't have to sacrifice features or service when you sign up with a neighborhood bank. Most small financial institutions actually outsource their credit card servicing to companies with nationwide operations.

For instance, a company called Elan Financial Services manages student credit card programs for regional banks such as Comerica Bank, Susquehanna Bank, and Frontier Bank. ICBA Bancard manages similar programs for community banks across the country. Many of these programs use offers, rewards and even marketing collateral that's identical from bank to bank. Check the fine print on your application to learn whether agent banks like these are really issuing your prospective credit card.

BEST PRACTICES AND POINTERS FOR CHOOSING THE BEST CREDIT CARD FOR STUDENTS

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. Instead, look for cards with:

- 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.

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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