Best Student Credit Cards of September 2022

·25 min read
Money
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  1. Best for Rewards on Dining

    Capital One SavorOne for Students

    Our Partner

    • Reward Rates:

      3% cash back on dining, entertainment, select streaming services and grocery stores 8% on Capital One Entertainment purchases and tickets at Vivid Seats 5% on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel 1% on all other purchases

    • Perks:

      No foreign transaction fees, extended warranty protection, travel accident insurance

    Learn More

  2. Best for Flat-Rate Cash Back on Everyday Purchases

    Capital One Quicksilver Rewards for Students

    Our Partner

    • Reward Rates:

      1.5% cash-back rate on all purchases 5% back on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel 8% cash back on Vivid Seats (through January 2023)

    • Perks:

      No foreign transaction fees, extended warranty protection, travel accident insurance

    Learn More

  3. Best for Automatic Credit Limit Increase

    Chase Freedom(R) Student

    Our Partner

    • Reward Rates:

      1% cash back on all purchases

    • Perks:

      Credit limit increase after making 5 on-time payments, purchase protection, extended warranty protection, trip cancellation/interruption insurance

    Learn More

  4. Best for International Students

    Deserve(R) EDU Mastercard for Students

    Our Partner

    • Reward Rates:

      1% cash back on all purchases

    • Perks:

      No foreign transaction fees, cell phone protection plan, reimburses one year of Amazon Prime Student annual fee

    Learn More

  5. Best for Customizable Bonus Categories

    U.S. Bank Altitude(R) Go Secured Visa(R)

    Our Partner

    • Reward Rates:

      4x points per dollar on dining and takeout 2x points at grocery stores, gas stations and streaming services 1x point on all other purchases

    • Perks:

      $15 annual streaming service credit, no foreign transaction fees

    Learn More

A student credit card can be a convenient financial tool to help you build your credit history and establish good debt management skills.

These cards are typically easier to get approved for, even if you have limited or no credit history. Sometimes all that’s required for approval is proof of enrollment at a college or university and a stable income. They also may offer a high rate of rewards for popular bonus categories like dining, gas and travel.

Read on for our list of the best student credit cards, how they work and how to pick the best one for you.

Our Top Picks for Best Student Credit Cards of September 2022

  • Capital One SavorOne Rewards for Students: Best for dining and entertainment rewards

  • Capital One Quicksilver Rewards for Students: Best for flat-rate cash back on everyday purchases

  • Chase Freedom® Student: Best for credit limit increases

  • U.S. Bank Altitude® Go Secured Visa®: Best secured credit card

  • Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards for Students: Best for customizable bonus categories

  • Discover it® Student Cash Back: Best for rotating bonus categories

  • Deserve® EDU Mastercard for Students: Best for international students

Best Student Credit Cards Reviews

Capital One Savor One for Students Credit Card
Courtesy of Capital One

Pros

  • No annual or foreign transaction fees

  • 3% cash back on dining, entertainment, grocery stores and streaming services

  • Rewards can be used on PayPal and Amazon checkout

Cons

  • No introductory APR offer, unlike some competitors

Why we chose it: The Capital One SavorOne Rewards for Students offers high rewards on dining, entertainment and other popular bonus categories without charging any annual or foreign transaction fees.

This card earns unlimited 3% cash back on purchases at restaurants, bars, movie theaters and concert venues, to name a few. There’s also a 3% reward rate on grocery stores (excluding stores like Walmart and Target) and popular streaming services.

This credit card offers 8% cash back on tickets bought through Vivid Seats (an online ticket marketplace) and the Capital One Entertainment portal, which gives cardmembers exclusive offers to sporting and music events. You also get 5% back on hotels and rental cars booked through the Capital One Travel portal and 1% on all other purchases.

Beyond its generous reward categories, the SavorOne Rewards for Students comes with travel accident insurance, a feature that no-annual-fee cash-back credit cards typically don’t include. It also offers extended warranty protection for select items, which lengthens the original manufacturer’s warranty by up to two additional years if the original warranty lasts two years or less.

All in all, the SavorOne Rewards for Students is a competitive card, featuring some of the top rewards and benefits usually available only with conventional rewards cards.

Capital One Quicksilver Rewards for Students Credit Card
Courtesy of Capital One

Pros

  • No annual or foreign transaction fees

  • 1.5% cash back on all purchases

  • Rewards can be used on PayPal and Amazon checkout

  • Lock your card in the Capital One Mobile app if it's lost or stolen

Cons

  • Limited bonus categories

Why we chose it: The Capital One Quicksilver Rewards for Students is an excellent cash-back credit card for everyday spending. It boasts a 1.5% cash back rate on all purchases — one of the highest base reward rates among student cards.

Many cards without an annual fee offer high rates on bonus categories (like 3% back at restaurants or gas stations). However, they usually earn only 1% on general spending.

This card’s 1.5% reward rate is unlimited, which means you’ll get 1.5% back on all kinds of purchases — from food, clothes, gas and more — without monthly caps. The Quicksilver Rewards for Students also earns 5% back on hotels and rental cars booked through the Capital One Travel portal and 8% cash back on Vivid Seats (through January 2023).

This card has no annual or foreign transaction fees and includes extended warranty protection and travel accident insurance. You can redeem your rewards for cash, statement credits, gift cards and for purchases through Amazon or Paypal.

However, note that you might get more value out of a card that has bonus categories that better suit your spending habits.

Chase Freedom Student Credit Card
Courtesy of Chase

Pros

  • Credit limit increase after five on-time payments

  • Includes trip cancellation insurance

  • Points can be redeemed in Amazon

  • $20 after each account anniversary for the first five years

Cons

  • Foreign transaction fees

  • Limited bonus categories

Why we chose it: Chase Freedom® Student can help you boost your credit score by increasing your credit limit after making five on-time monthly payments within the first 10 months after account opening.

Getting a credit limit increase can be tricky when you’re a student. Usually, lenders like to see you have a long track record of on-time payments or that you’re earning a higher income.

A credit increase just for paying your bills on time gives students with low incomes and a short credit history a chance to lower their credit utilization ratio. Your credit utilization ratio measures how much credit you use compared to your available total. The lower your utilization ratio, the higher your credit score.

Note, however, that a credit limit increase is only beneficial if you continue spending about the same amount you used to per billing cycle. If you start spending more, your utilization ratio will rise.

In addition, the Chase Freedom® Student is one of the few no-annual-fee cards that includes trip cancellation insurance. It also offers purchase protection (which covers new purchases against damage or theft for 120 days) and extended warranty protection (which extends eligible warranties for up to one additional year).

On the downside, the card’s rewards system is lacking compared to competitors, offering only 1% cash back on all purchases. It also charges foreign transaction fees, so it’s not ideal if you plan to study abroad or travel internationally during semester breaks.

US Bank Altitude Go Credit Card
Courtesy of US Bank

Pros

  • $15 annual credit for qualifying streaming services

  • 4x points per dollar spent on dining and takeout

  • No foreign transaction fees

Cons

  • Credit line depends on your initial deposit

  • Higher minimum deposit requirement than other secured cards

Why we chose it: U.S. Bank Altitude® Go Secured Visa® offers high rewards and is ideal for students with a less-than-stellar credit history or those who don’t meet the usual eligibility requirements of student cards.

Student card issuers typically require proof of income and a credit check to assess your financial habits. If you don’t have enough income to report or have a poor record, you might have better approval odds with a secured card, which requires a deposit in order for you to open an account.

Secured credit cards usually offer little in the way of rewards. The U.S. Bank Altitude® Go Secured Visa®, on the other hand, earns 4x points per dollar spent on dining and takeout. It also offers 2x points at grocery stores, gas stations and streaming services, as well as 1 point on all other purchases.

The U.S. Bank Altitude® Go Secured Visa® requires a minimum security deposit of $300 and has a maximum of $5,000. This initial deposit determines your credit limit. To get your deposit back, you must make a series of on-time payments, usually for six months or more. This shows the issuer you’re financially responsible and could lead to an upgrade to a regular, unsecured card.

Best for customizable bonus categories: Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards for Students

Bank America Customized Cash Rewards for Students Credit Card
Courtesy of Bank of America

Pros

  • 3% cash back on the spending category of your choice

  • FICO score access

  • Change your preferred bonus category monthly

  • 0% intro APR period

Cons

  • 3% foreign transaction fee

  • Limited extra benefits

Why we chose it: Most credit cards either have set bonus categories or quarterly rotating ones. The Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards for Students, on the other hand, is the only student card that lets you pick your bonus categories and change them monthly.

This offers sizable rewards, with 3% cash back on a spending category you select each month. You can choose between gas, online shopping, dining, travel, drug stores or home improvement/furniture.

The freedom to pick your bonus category each month can help you maximize your reward earnings throughout the year. For example, you could set gas as your preferred category in June if you’re planning a summer road trip or pick travel in April if you’ll be booking a flight and hotel for spring break.

Besides the 3% customizable bonus category, you’ll also get 2% cash back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs, along with 1% back on all other purchases.

Keep in mind that the 3% and 2% bonus rates are limited to $2,500 in combined purchases per quarter. Once the cap is met, you’ll only earn 1% back on your chosen category and at grocery stores and wholesale clubs.

It’s also worth noting that the Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards for Students lacks some of the benefits included with other student cards. For example, it doesn’t have travel accident insurance, extended warranty coverage and purchase protection, while plenty of other student cards do.

However, the card does provide some useful perks for students, including monthly FICO score updates, which can help you better understand your creditworthiness. Most cards offer the VantageScore, a credit score model that lenders don’t use as widely compared to FICO.

Best for rotating bonus categories: Discover it® Student Cash Back Card

Discover It Student Cash Back Card
Courtesy of Discover

Pros

  • 5% cash back in quarterly rotating categories

  • No late fee on your first late payment

  • Free Social Security number tracking

Cons

  • Superstores and wholesale clubs are ineligible for 5% grocery store bonus

  • 5% reward rate caps at $1,500 per quarter

Why we chose it: The Discover it® Student Cash Back is the only student-aimed card that earns an outstanding 5% cash back on popular rotating categories, including grocery stores and gas.

Most student cards have fixed spending categories that earn bonus rewards. The categories offered by this card, on the other hand, change every three months.

For example, in the first quarter of 2022 (January through March), cardmembers could get 5% back with grocery store, fitness club and gym membership purchases. The bonuses for other quarters included purchases at gas stations and Target (April to June), restaurants and PayPal (July to September) and Amazon and digital wallets (October to December).

It’s important to note that the 5% cash-back rate is capped at $1,500 per quarter. Once you hit that threshold, you’ll earn only 1% back on all other purchases until the next quarter. Also, cardmembers must activate bonus categories before each quarter begins. If they don’t, they’ll fail to earn bonus rewards until the next quarter.

Besides its competitive reward system, this card features access to Discover® Identity Alerts, which includes daily monitoring of your Experian report and Social Security number monitoring across the dark web. You also get an unlimited cash-back match at the end of your first year as a cardmember — so if you earn $100 in cash back from your purchases, Discover will double it for a total of $200.

Overall, the Discover it® Student Cash Back is an excellent choice if your spending habits align with its cash-back calendar. If not, you might be better off with a card that has fixed reward categories and no spending caps, like the Capital One SavorOne Rewards for Students.

Deserve EDU Mastercard for Students
Courtesy of Deserve

Pros

  • No annual or foreign transaction fees

  • Social Security number not required to apply

  • Includes cell phone protection plan

Cons

  • No bonus categories

  • Low introductory offer compared to other cards

  • Limited redeeming options

Why we chose it: The Deserve® EDU Mastercard for Students is one of the few credit cards that doesn’t require a Social Security number (SSN), making it ideal for international students.

Most credit card applications ask for your SSN or at least an individual taxpayer identification number (ITIN). The Deserve® EDU Mastercard for Students requires neither. However, note that you do need to have a passport, U.S. bank account and student visa.

This card includes a cell phone protection plan, covering up to $600 per claim (with a $50 deductible) and $1,000 per year. It also reimburses you for the full $69 cost of an annual Amazon Prime Student subscription when you sign up with the card.

Having said that, the card’s ongoing reward rates are lackluster compared to others, earning a flat 1% cash back on all purchases. It also doesn’t offer transfer balances or cash advances — although the latter might be advantageous since it’s good practice to avoid cash advances due to their high interest rates.

Other student credit cards we considered

Capital One Journey Student Rewards

Capital One Journey Credit Card
Courtesy of Capital One

Pros

  • No annual or foreign transaction fees

  • Pay on time to get an extra 0.25% back (for a total of 1.25%)

  • 5% cash back on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel

Cons

  • No sign-up bonus

The Journey Student Rewards from Capital One grants an extra 0.25% cash back for paying your monthly bill on time, for a total of up to 1.25% cash back on all purchases. This is an excellent incentive for anyone trying to establish healthy credit habits. The card also earns an unlimited 5% cash back on hotels and rental cars booked through the Capital One Travel portal.

However, the card doesn’t include a welcome bonus or common perks, like extended warranty coverage and price protection.

Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card for Students

Bank of America Travel Rewards Credit Card for Students Credit Card
Courtesy of Bank of America

Pros

  • Unlimited 1.5x points per dollar on all purchases

  • No annual or foreign transaction fees

Cons

  • Can't transfer your points to travel partners

  • Limited benefits

Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card for Students is the only travel card designed for students. It doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees and earns an unlimited 1.5x points per dollar on all purchases. It also offers 0% intro APR on purchases during your first 18 billing cycles, while most other student cards don’t have an introductory period.

However, it doesn’t offer extra benefits, like travel accidents or cancellation insurance. It also doesn’t let you transfer your points to airline and hotel partners.

If you’re interested in a solid travel credit card, you could consider first building your credit history with a card that features general benefits and rewards. Later, after your credit is more established, you can apply for one of the best travel cards and have better odds of being approved.

Student Credit Cards Guide

A student credit card can help you establish personal finance habits early on and allow you to build up your credit score — which can pay off later when getting a car loan, renting an apartment or buying a house.

Before applying, check out our guide on how these cards work and how to use them responsibly.

What is a student credit card?

Student cards are designed to help kick-start a student’s credit journey. For this reason, they usually have great approval odds than most cards, even if you have little to no credit history or limited income.

These cards generally have lower credit limits and fewer perks than traditional ones. However, some include valuable features, like travel or cellphone insurance and extended warranty protection on select purchases. They also offer high reward rates for purchases like takeout, groceries, gas, and more.

Once you graduate, your issuer might upgrade your card to a non-student version with better features, as long as your credit report shows a history of timely payments.

How do student credit cards work?

Student cards are not that different from standard ones. They give you access to a line of credit, which means you can borrow up to a set amount and are expected to pay it back each monthly billing cycle.

To avoid interest charges and late fees, you should pay your bill in full on time every month. If you can’t pay the full amount, you should at least meet the card’s minimum payment to avoid late payment fees of up to around $40.

Do note that if you choose to pay the minimum amount, your remaining balance will still accrue interest at your card’s annual percentage rate (APR). Most student cards have a variable APR between 16% and 26%, which can change because of late payments made by the cardholder or even general economic conditions in the U.S.

Even so, paying the minimum amount is better than nothing at all. Creditors will report your account to the credit bureaus if you miss a payment for 30 days or more, which will damage your credit record and lower your score. If your payment is delayed for 60 days or more, lenders could charge a penalty APR of up to 30%, which can make credit card debt even harder to pay off.

How to apply for a credit card as a student

The general requirements to apply for a card as a student are:

  • College enrollment. Most card issuers state that you must be a part-time or full-time student at a college or university to be eligible.

  • Age. You must be at least 18 years old to apply for any card.

  • Income. If you’re under 21, you must show proof of personal income from a job or financial aid. If you’re over 21, you may list additional income sources, such as earnings from a spouse.

  • Social Security number (SSN). You need a SSN to apply for most cards. Some lenders also let you use a tax identification number (TIN) instead of a SSN. However, some cards (like the Deserve® EDU Mastercard for Students) don’t require either and only ask for a U.S. bank account, student visa and passport.

  • Credit check. If you have other credit accounts, lenders will verify that they’re in good standing before you’re approved.

What to put as income on student credit card application

You may list personal income from full-time, part-time or freelance employment. You can also include regular allowances (from family or others), scholarships and grants — provided that you can show proof of that income with a bank statement or other verifiable document.

Note that if you’re over 21, you can include a spouse or domestic partner’s income if you have regular access to it.

Why should college students have credit cards?

Getting your first credit card during college and using it responsibly can help you establish strong credit early on. Having a long track record of responsible credit usage increases your odds of getting better terms on loans and insurance policies long after you graduate. Even many landlords run credit checks nowadays on potential renters.

A long record of on-time payments shows you have experience managing debt and are trustworthy. In fact, one of the main factors used to calculate your credit score is the length of your credit history, with most experts agreeing that a substantial credit file is at least seven years old.

Student credit cards pros and cons

Pros

  • Better approval odds for students with short or no credit history.

  • Some offer cash-back rewards in popular spending categories, like dining, gas and streaming services.

  • They usually carry no annual fees. Some don't charge foreign transaction fees either.

Cons

  • Lower credit limits and higher interest rates on average when compared to traditional cards.

  • Ongoing benefits are lackluster compared to standard cards.

  • Like with any other card, you risk falling into debt if you don't use it responsibly.

How many credit cards should a college student have?

There’s no specific number that’s right for every student. The number of cards a person should have depends on their ability to make timely payments and meet other financial obligations. That said, new cardholders should focus on one card until they get familiar with how it works and establish responsible budgeting habits.

However, having multiple cards has some benefits, like increasing your credit limit — that is, the maximum amount of money you can charge to your cards. For example, if you have three cards and can borrow up to $1,000 on each, your total credit limit is $3,000.

If you increase your credit limit without spending more, you reduce your overall credit utilization ratio. This ratio represents the percentage of your credit limit that’s currently in use. Reducing your ratio to 30% or less can boost your credit score significantly. It can also help you avoid compiling more debt from your spending.

Keep in mind that applying for several cards over a short period can impact your credit score. Each time you apply for a card, a hard credit inquiry is listed on your credit report, and too many of those might lead lenders to think you’re overspending or experiencing economic hardships. (Do note that credit inquiries drop from your file after two years.)

How to choose a student credit card?

Here are some factors to keep in mind when choosing the best student credit card for you:

Fees

Most student cards don’t have annual fees. However, some charge foreign transaction fees, which can be a hassle if you’re a frequent flier or will be studying abroad. You should also compare late payment fees. Although you should avoid missing bill due dates at all costs, it’s good to know you’ll get charged as little as possible if the situation arises. Some issuers might even not charge late fees the first time you slip up.

Credit bureau reporting

Most major credit card issuers report your payment activity to all three major bureaus: Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. However, if you open a credit card account with a regional bank or credit union, you should make sure they do as well. This will be an important step in building your credit history.

Bonus rewards

Consider your everyday spending habits and pick a card with bonus categories that can help you maximize your rewards. Some cards give cardholders extra rewards for spending on restaurants, supermarkets, streaming services, gas and more.

Ongoing benefits

Student cards don’t usually offer outstanding benefits, but some do include handy perks like extended warranty and price protection coverage.

Credit health

If you’ve missed payments on other cards or loans, you might be better off getting a secured credit card or becoming an authorized user on someone’s account (usually a parent).

Latest News in Student Credit Cards

  • Establishing a solid credit record takes time, but there are some steps that can get you there faster. Find out more in How to Build Credit Fast.

  • Refinancing your student loan can help you secure better terms, such as lower interest rates or more affordable monthly payments; however, it’s important you evaluate your credit score before refinancing. We explain why in A Guide to Credit Scores and Student Loan Refinance.

Student Credit Cards FAQ

What is the best student credit card?

The best student card for you largely depends on your spending habits and the ongoing benefits you prefer. Our list of the best student credit cards includes the Capital One SavorOne Student Cash Rewards Credit Card, Chase Freedom(R) Student, Discover it(R) Student Cash Back and more.

How to get a credit card as a student

To get a card as a student, you must submit an application with personal information such as your name, address, phone number, Social Security number and income. You might also have to share your school's name, the year you're in and whether you're a full-time or part-time student.

You must be 18 years or older to apply for a student credit card. If you're under 21, you'll generally have to prove you have a steady income, or you'll need a cosigner.

How to get a credit card as an international student?

International students without a Social Security number (SSN) or an individual taxpayer identification number (ITIN) have limited options when it comes to U.S. credit cards, since most issuers require at least one of the two. However, some cards (like the Deserve(R) EDU Mastercard for Students) don't require a SSN and only ask for proof of a student visa, passport, school documents and U.S. bank account.

Note that international students who are eligible to work on campus, in a curricular practical training or have a work permit from the Department of Homeland Security may qualify for a SSN.

What happens to a student credit card when you graduate?

You can continue using your student credit card indefinitely once you graduate. However, consider notifying your bank or credit card issuer of your graduation. Sometimes they upgrade your account to a non-student version, which may give you access to better terms, extra benefits and a higher credit line.

How to get a student credit card with no income

Most credit card companies require that you list a source of income on your application. Students can list income from full- or part-time jobs, scholarships, grants or even allowance money. However, if you don't have enough income to qualify, consider getting a secured credit card or ask to become an authorized user on a parent's credit card. These options can help you establish your credit history and get a card with better terms once you have more income to apply for a new one.

How We Chose the Best Student Credit Cards

Our research methodology consisted of evaluating dozens of cards based on their bonus categories, ongoing benefits, fees and redemption options.

Rewards program. We preferred cards with bonus points or cash back on popular spending categories like dining, gas or groceries.

Ongoing benefits. Welcome bonuses and introductory 0% interest periods are attractive. However, we preferred cards with long-term perks like extended warranties and travel accident coverage, to name a few.

Fees. We compared annual, foreign transaction, cash advance and balance transfer fees. We also considered the cards’ annual percentage rate (APR), although most issuers have similar rates (between 16% and 26% based on your creditworthiness).

Redemption flexibility. We favored cards that let you redeem your rewards in more ways than a statement credit or a direct deposit to your bank account. Some of our picks also allow you to use your points during Amazon or Paypal checkout, for example.

Summary of Money’s Best Student Credit Cards of September 2022

  • Capital One SavorOne Rewards for Students: Best for dining and entertainment rewards

  • Capital One Quicksilver Rewards for Students: Best for flat-rate cash back on everyday purchases

  • Chase Freedom® Student: Best for credit limit increases

  • U.S. Bank Altitude® Go Secured Visa®: Best secured credit card

  • Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards for Students: Best for customizable bonus categories

  • Discover it® Student Cash Back: Best for rotating bonus categories

  • Deserve® EDU Mastercard for Students: Best for international students

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