Student credit cards often provide high rebates in common spending categories for college students, such as dining out or gas. Or student cards may pay a healthy flat rate of cash back on every purchase. College students who are on the hunt for a rewards credit card will find that many issuers have designed cards aimed toward their age group.
Using a credit card wisely can be a great way for a college student to build a credit history. But opening and managing a credit card is new territory for most college students, so it’s especially important to make sure that you understand how to avoid paying interest and boost your credit score. To protect your credit and steer clear of late fees, make sure to pay your bill on time each month. And to sidestep hefty interest charges, pay your bill in full rather than making only the minimum payment.
To help you select a student card, we’ve listed some great options here. For each one, we’ve calculated a typical annual rebate that assumes $3,000 charged to the card annually.
Once you have selected a card, make sure that you are well-positioned to get approved for credit. Opening a new credit card account will temporarily lower your credit score, so you want to be sure you can get approved for a credit card you want. One way to avoid this ding to your credit score is to get pre-approved first. We have noted in each card description if pre-approval is an option.
If you’re instead looking for a card that provides strong cash-back rewards for users of all ages, see The Best Cash Back Credit Cards. And if you’d like to open a card that offers points or miles for travelers, see The Best Travel Rewards Credit Cards.
Interest rates, fees, rewards and other terms listed in this article are subject to change. Before you apply for a credit card, check its current terms and conditions with the issuer.
Capital One SavorOne Rewards for Students Mastercard
Capital One SavorOne Rewards for Students Mastercard (opens in new tab)
Capital One offers a student version of its dining rewards credit card, and the maximum-rebate categories may fit well into a typical college student’s budget. The $100 spending requirement to earn an initial bonus is relatively low, making it manageable for many college students.
- Interest rate: 17.99% to 27.99%
- Annual fee: None
- Pre-approval avaliable: Yes
- Top rewards 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 on Vivid Seats ticket purchases and 5% back on hotel and rental-car bookings through Capital One Travel; all other spending earns 1% back; if you plan to study abroad, take this card with you—it charges no foreign transaction fee
- Redemption: Redeem cash back in any amount as a check or statement credit
- Sign-up bonus: $100 back if you spend $100 in the first three months
- Typical annual rebate: $70
Discover It Student Chrome
- Interest rate: 0% for six months, then 16.74% to 25.74%
- Annual fee: None
- Pre-approval available: Yes
- Top rewards 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 to young folks who are getting the hang of managing a credit card: It never charges a penalty interest rate after a late payment, and it waives the late fee for the first missed payment; you get one strike – not three, but it’s better than zero
- Redemption: Cash back is redeemable in any amount as an account credit, bank-account deposit or charitable gift; you can also apply cash back to make purchases with select merchants, such as Amazon, or to buy gift cards
- Sign-up bonus: A match of cash back earned after one year, doubling your rewards; most other cards require you to spend a certain amount within the first few months to capture a bonus, which may be a steep hill to climb (and also encourage less-prudent spending)
- Typical annual rebate: $44
Bank of America Unlimited Cash Rewards for Students Visa
Bank of America Unlimited Cash Rewards for Students Visa (opens in new tab)
This card is well-suited to students who want a simple flat rate of cash back on all spending.
- Interest rate: 0% for 18 months, then 17.74% to 27.74%
- Annual fee: None
- Pre-approval available: No
- Top rewards rate: 1.5% back on all spending
- Redemption: Cash back is redeemable in any amount as a statement credit, a one-time deposit into a Bank of America checking or savings account, or a one-time credit to a qualifying Merrill cash management account (automatic redemptions into such accounts come with a $25 minimum)
- Sign-up bonus: $200 back if you spend $1,000 in the first 90 days
- Typical annual rebate: $45
Lisa has spent more than15 years with Kiplinger’s Personal Finance and heads up the magazine’s annual rankings of the best banks, best rewards credit cards, and financial-services firms with the best customer service. She reports on a variety of other topics, too, from retirement to health care to money concerns for millennials. She has shared her expertise as a guest on the Today Show, CNN, Fox, NPR, Cheddar and many other media outlets around the nation. Lisa graduated from Ball State University and received the school’s “Graduate of the Last Decade” award in 2014. A military spouse, she has moved around the U.S. and currently lives in the Philadelphia area with her husband and two sons.
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