Credit & Debt

6 Student Credit Cards That Make the Grade

These cards offer reasonable rates, generous rewards and no annual fee.

Not so long ago, any college student who could sign his name could qualify for a credit card. But the Credit Card Reform Act mandates that applicants be evaluated on their own ability to pay the bill -- meaning they must have income or savings. Issuers can no longer look at overall household income when they consider an application.

Here are six credit cards that offer good deals -- reasonable rates, generous rewards and no annual fee. All the rates are variable and will increase if the Prime Rate goes up. Each sends text and e-mail alerts to remind students to pay on time -- and some include tips to help them develop good money management habits. Some issuers permit cosigners for student credit cards, but before you agree to that, see Kiplinger editor Janet Bodnar’s note of caution.

See our 6 Student Credit Cards That Make the Grade slide show.

Bank of America Student Platinum Plus VisaInterest rate: 14.24% (variable)Cosigner permitted? YesWeb site: www.bankofamerica.com

Financial education is an important part of this card. It comes with a financial-literacy handbook and an interactive Web site with useful information about building a good credit history, budgeting and identity theft. The card offers access to the bank’s Add It Up program, where cardholders can earn up to 20% cash back on online purchases at participating retailers. Bank of America looks at summer and/or part-time jobs when it evaluates whether a student is creditworthy. The card comes with a 14.24% interest rate, and the average credit limit is a little over $1,000.

Capital One Journey Student RewardsInterest rate: 19.8%Cosigner permitted? NoWeb site: www.capitalonejourney.com

This card offers 1% cash back on all purchases plus a 25% bonus on the amount you earn each month that you pay on time. You can earn an extra 15% cash back for purchases on Capital One’s Perk Central network. The interest rate is a steep 19.8%, and students generally receive only a $300 to $500 credit limit. Students are eligible for a credit increase after six months of paying on time and staying under their credit limit.

Citi Dividend Platinum Select Visa Card for College Students Interest rate: 12.99% to 20.99%Cosigner permitted? NoWeb site: https://creditcards.citi.com/credit-cards/citi-dividend-platinum-select-visa-card-for-college-students/

Students can earn 5% cash back on purchases at supermarkets, drugstores, gas stations and utilities for the first six months. They earn 2%, on a rotating basis, for spending at department stores, hotels and restaurants, and other categories, and 1% on everything else. Shop at retailers that participate in the Citi Bonus Cash Center and you earn an average 5% cash back with no cap. After a seven-month 0% introductory rate, interest rates range from 12.99% to 20.99%, depending on creditworthiness.

Citi ForwardInterest rate: 12.99% to 21.99%Cosigner permitted? NoWeb site: www.citibank.com

This card rewards students for good financial behavior. Pay on time and stay under the credit limit three months in a row and your interest rate (0% introductory rate for seven months, then 12.99% to 21.99%, depending on creditworthiness) drops 0.25 percentage point. You can reduce your rate as much as two percentage points overall. You earn five ThankYou points for every dollar spent at restaurants and on books and music, and one point for all other spending. You get an extra 100 points each month for paying on time and staying under the credit limit. ThankYou points can be used for travel, statement credits, gift certificates or merchandise.

Discover Student MoreInterest rate: 12.99% to 19.99%Cosigner permitted? YesWeb site: www.discovercard.com/student

Discover offers a 5% cash-back bonus in categories, such as restaurants, travel and groceries, that change quarterly and up to 1% on everything else. Shop at the online mall and earn a 5% to 20% cash-back bonus. The interest rate ranges from 12.99% to 19.99% after a six-month 0% introductory rate, and the average credit limit is $1,000.

Discover Student Open RoadInterest rate: 12.99% to 19.99%Cosigner permitted? YesWeb site: www.discovercard.com/student-open-road

Students with cars on campus might like this card. You receive 2% cash back on up to $250 a month spent at gas stations and restaurants. On everything else, you get 0.25% back on up to $3,000, then 1% back. After a six-month 0% introductory rate, the interest rate is 12.99% to 19.99%, depending on your credit history. You can receive your reward as a gift card, merchandise or cash, or donate it to charity. The average credit limit is $1,000.

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