Student credit cards often provide deep discounts on common student spending categories, such as restaurants or gas. Or student cards can pay out a healthy flat rate of cash back on every purchase. Students looking for a rewards credit card will find that many issuers have designed cards aimed at their age group.
Using a credit card wisely can be a great way for a student to build a credit history. But opening and managing a credit card is new territory for most students, so it’s especially important to make sure you understand how to avoid paying interest and boost your credit score. To protect your credit and avoid late fees, be sure to pay your bill on time each month. And to avoid high interest rates, pay your bill in full instead of just making the minimum payment.
To help you choose a student card, we’ve listed some great options here. For each, we’ve calculated a typical annual rebate that assumes $3,000 is charged to the card annually.
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Once you’ve chosen a card, make sure you’re in a good position to get approved for credit. Opening a new credit card account will temporarily lower your credit score, so you want to make sure you can get approved for the credit card you want. One way to avoid this impact on your credit score is to get pre-approved first. We’ve indicated in the description of each card whether pre-approval is an option.
If you’re instead looking for a card that offers strong cash back rewards for users of all ages, check out Best Cash Back Credit Cards. And if you’re looking to open a card that offers points or miles for travelers, check out The Best Travel Rewards Credit Cards.
For each card below, we’ve calculated a typical annual rebate that assumes $3,000 per year is charged to the card. Interest rates, fees, rewards and other terms stated in this article are subject to change. Before applying for a credit card, check its current terms with the issuer.
Bank of America Unlimited Student Visa Cash Rewards, $245
- Interest rate: 0% for 18 months, then 17.74% to 27.74%
- Annual fee: No one
- Prior approval is available: Not
- Highest Reward Rate: 1.5% back on all spend
- Salvation: Cash back can be redeemed in any amount as a statement credit, a one-time deposit to a Bank of America checking or savings account, or a one-time credit to an eligible Merrill cash management account (automatic redemption on such accounts comes with a $25 minimum)
- Signup Bonus: $200 back if you spend $1000 in the first 90 days
- Typical annual rebate: $45
Capital One SavorOne Student Rewards Mastercard, $170
- Interest rate: 17.99% to 27.99%
- Annual fee: No one
- Pre-approval available: Yes
- Highest reward rate: 3% back on restaurant, entertainment, streaming and grocery purchases
- Other benefits: Get 8% cash back on purchases through the Capital One Entertainment ticketing platform, as well as Vivid Seats ticket purchases and 5% back on hotel and car rental reservations through Capital One Travel; all other spending earns 1% back; if you plan to study abroad, take this card with you – it doesn’t charge a foreign transaction fee
- Salvation: Get cash back in any amount as a check or statement credit
- Signup Bonus: $100 back if you spend $100 in the first three months
- Typical annual rebate: $70
Discover It Student Chrome, $44
- Interest rate: 0% for six months, then 16.74% to 25.74%
- Annual fee: No one
- Prior approval is available: Yes
- Highest Reward Rate: 2% back at gas stations and restaurants (on up to $1,000 in combined quarterly spending) and 1% on other purchases
- Other benefits: The card is forgiving for young people who get used to managing a credit card: Never charges late payment interest, and waives the late fee for the first missed payment; you get one hit – not three, but it’s better than zero
- Salvation: Cashback can be redeemed in any amount as an account credit, bank account deposit or charitable gift; you can also apply cash back to purchases at select retailers, such as Amazon, or to purchasing gift cards
- Signup Bonus: Cashback earned after one year, doubling your rewards; most other cards require you to spend a certain amount in the first few months to earn the bonus, which can be a steep hill to climb (and also encourage less prudent spending)
- Typical annual rebate: $44