credit & debt

These Are the Best Credit Cards for College Students

Our picks offer benefits for paying on-time and generous penalty forgiveness.

In addition to buying textbooks, students heading to campus may want to add a credit card to their to-do list—as long as they plan to pay the balance in full each month. Student-card issuers may accept young applicants despite their thin credit histories. But by law, those younger than 21 must show proof of assets or income or have a cosigner (Discover and Capital One do not permit cosigners).

Our top pick: the Discover It Chrome for College Students card (annual percentage rate: 0% for six months, then 13.99% to 22.99%). Besides offering 2% back on gas and restaurant spending (up to $1,000 in combined purchases quarterly), the card gives students a $20 cash bonus each school year that they earn a GPA of 3.0 or higher. If you make a late payment, there’s no penalty rate increase and no late fee for the first missed payment. Redeem rewards as a statement credit or bank account deposit—or use them to pay for purchases directly on Amazon.com. The card charges no foreign-transaction fee.

The Capital One Journey Student card (24.99%) offers 1% back on all purchases, but Capital One increases the total payback to 1.25% each month that a student pays the bill on time. The card charges no penalty APR for late payments, although a late fee applies. Request cash back as a statement credit or check, or set up automatic redemptions. There’s no foreign-transaction fee.

The BankAmericard Cash Rewards for Students card (0% for 12 months, then 13.99% to 23.99%) offers 3% back on gas and 2% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs (on up to $2,500 spent quarterly). Redeem the rewards into a BofA checking or savings account and you get a 10% bonus. The card charges a 3% foreign-transaction fee and a late fee applies.

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