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Choosing a student credit card

Consider card rewards and fees before deciding which is best for you

Summary

Student credit cards offer a great opportunity to test out card features and see if they align with your lifestyle, so make sure to pick one with features that match your spending habits.

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Chase recently debuted its first credit card designed for students – the Chase Freedom® Student – adding a new competitor to the space. This new addition can be a great choice for certain cardholders, but it makes choosing a starter credit card even harder.

For students new to credit cards, it can be hard to know what kind of card is best for your spending. Student credit cards offer a great opportunity to test out card features and see if they align with your lifestyle, but they can vary greatly. So how do you decide which one is best for you?

Student cards are built with those new to credit in mind, so they often come with more modest earning rates and higher interest rates. Nevertheless, many offer valuable benefits that can help you learn how to make on-time payments, build your credit history and score and start earning points or cash back.

Decide what feature is best for you

The first step before choosing a student card is deciding what feature is most important to you. Since student credit cards are designed for new cardholders, they are built to help users get the hang of rewards and monthly payments. Some offer introductory rewards programs that let you rack up points or cash back and others have more manageable interest rates and fees – as a baby step into credit card payments. Unfortunately, student cards typically excel in one of these areas and not both.

Depending on which card features make the best sense for your spending – whether you are seeking practice budgeting and making monthly payments or the ability to stockpile rewards – you can then narrow down your options.

See related: Student credit cards: The definitive guide

Best student cards for low rates and fees

If you are looking for an introduction to credit card ownership that won’t charge you steep rates and fees while you get accustomed to making monthly payments, the following student cards might be best for you.

CardRewards rateOther things to know
Discover it® Student chrome
  • 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants (on up to $1,000 in purchases per quarter, 1% thereafter)
  • 1% cash back on general purchases
  • Matches cash back at end of first year
  • $20 statement credit every year for good grades (3.0+ GPA, up to 5 years)
  • No penalty APR
  • 0% intro APR on new purchases and 10.99% on balance transfers for first 6 months (12.99% – 21.99% variable APR thereafter)
  • No fee for the first late payment (up to $40 thereafter)
BankAmericard for StudentsNone
  • 0% APR on balance transfers made within 60 days of account opening and new purchases for 15 billing cycles (14.49-24.49% variable APR thereafter)
  • No penalty APR
Wells Fargo Cash Back College Visa card
  • 3% cash back on gas, groceries and drugstore purchases for first 6 months (on up to $2,500 in purchases)
  • 1% cash back on general purchases
  • 0% intro APR on new purchases and balance transfers for 6 months (13.4-23.4% variable APR thereafter)
  • No penalty APR
  • Budget management tools

All of these cards offer good introductory APRs so you can get used to making payments without worrying about racking up significant interest charges. Additionally, none of them charge a penalty APR, so your rate won’t skyrocket if you miss a payment. However, while some of these cards do offer a rewards program, none of them are particularly lucrative.

Best student cards for rewards

If you aren’t as worried about the rates and fees and are excited to begin earning card rewards, there are also plenty of cards that introduce students to the rewards card space. Whether you prefer flexible Chase Ultimate Rewards, Citi ThankYou points or cash back, there are plenty of student cards that offer good earning rates.

CardRewards rateOther things to know
Chase Freedom® Student1% cash back on every purchase
  • $50 bonus after first purchase within 3 months of account opening
  • $20 good standing rewards after each account anniversary for first 5 years
  • Automatic credit limit increase after 5 on-time payments in first 10 months of account opening
Discover it® Student Cash Back
  • 5% cash back on rotating categories that you must enroll in each quarter (on up to $1,500 in purchases per quarter, then 1%)
  • 1% cash back on other purchases
  • Matches cash back at end of first year
  • $20 statement credit every year for good grades (3.0+ GPA, up to 5 years)
Citi Rewards+℠ Student Card
  • 2 points per dollar at supermarkets and gas stations (up to $6,000 in purchases per year, then 1 point per dollar)
  • 1 point per dollar on other purchases
  • Every purchase rounded up to nearest 10 points ($2 soda earns 10 points, $13 movie ticket earns 20 points)
  • 10% points back on ThankYou points you redeem (up to 100,000 points per year)
  • 2,500 bonus points if you spend $500 in first 3 months
Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One®1% cash back on all purchases
  • 25% bonus cash back when you pay your bill on time
  • No foreign transaction fee

These cards are all great options for rewards seekers as they offer good rewards rates or an introduction into some of the most valuable card rewards programs. On the downside, many have higher APRs or fees than cards without a rewards program.

What if you don’t qualify for a student card?

If you are brand new to credit and don’t qualify for one of these student credit cards, you still have a few other options. If a parent is willing to add you to one of their credit cards as an authorized user, that is one way to boost your credit history without qualifying for a credit card for yourself.

See related: What’s the minimum age to be an authorized user?

Many secured credit cards are also available to users with no credit history. While these cards usually don’t have any sort of rewards program and require a deposit, they can help steadily improve your credit history, so you can qualify for a better card down the line.

See Related: First credit card dilemma: Student card vs. secured card

Final thoughts

While there aren’t as many cards available for students as there are general rewards cards, there are still plenty of good options for new cardholders. Whether you are looking for a card that teaches good credit habits and goes easier on the fees or one that lets you start racking up rewards, you can find a student card that matches your lifestyle.

See related: When, why, how should you graduate from a student credit card to a regular card?

The Bank of America content in the post was updated on Dec. 2, 2019. 

Editorial Disclaimer

The editorial content on this page is based solely on the objective assessment of our writers and is not driven by advertising dollars. It has not been provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. However, we may receive compensation when you click on links to products from our partners.

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Credit Card Rate Report Updated: November 25th, 2020
Business
13.91%
Airline
15.50%
Cash Back
15.85%
Reward
15.75%
Student
16.12%

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