The 5 Best Credit Cards for College Students

By Jason Steele. Last updated 22 May 2018. 2 comments

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When I was in college, my mom seemed to call me nearly every week to confirm that I was paying my entire credit card balance in full and on time. It was as if she knew that credit cards and college students do not have a good history together. At the time, banks were employing every tactic possible to get large amounts credit into the hands of young adults. So much so that many felt these banks were acting more like predatory lenders than respectable financial institutions. In response, Congress passed the CARD Act of 2009. This groundbreaking piece of legislation set limits on banks' on-campus marketing efforts and required young adults who applied for credit cards to show some means of paying off loans.

Nevertheless, students continue to obtain and abuse credit cards. They tend to incur debt and struggle to make payments on time. While these are bad practices at any stage of life, starting these habits at a young age sets a terrible precedent for how students will continue to manage their finances after graduation. Therefore it is critical that parents work closely with students to carefully guide them into financial independence. (See also: 40+ College Resources for Parents and Students)

Choosing the Best Student Credit Card

So what should parents and students look for in a credit card? Look for simple terms, no annual fees, and if possible, maybe some cash back rewards. You don't want to get in the habit of paying interest on your credit card balance, but if you have to, it shouldn't be well outside the market rates. Also, opening up a credit card account at the same bank that the student holds their checking account is a great idea. This way, timely payments are just a transfer between accounts rather than a transaction between separate institutions.

Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One®

The Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One® is marketed to students and features 1% cash back on all purchases, every month, with no annual fee. In fact, Capital One offers an additional 0.25% cash reward on the cash back earned each month when cardholders pay on time.

Click here to learn more and apply for the Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One® today!

Barclaycard Ring™ Mastercard®

While not a card targeted specifically for students, the Barclaycard Ring™ Mastercard® is a great card for them nevertheless. It offers a low variable APR of 10.49% for purchases and balance transfers with no balance transfer fees. This is also the first card to introduce crowdsourcing into its terms. The Ring MasterCard allows user feedback to affect the terms and conditions of the credit card. Cardmembers can discuss issues and vote on new ideas in an official community portal. It also has a Giveback™ feature which allows cardmembers to receive a percentage of the company's profits. There is no annual fee. See Terms.

Click here to learn more and apply for the Barclaycard Ring™ Mastercard® today!

Citi ThankYou® Preferred Card for College Students

The Citi ThankYou® Preferred Card for College Students from our partner Citi offers 2X points on dining out and entertainment and 1X point on all other purchases. There is no expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card. They currently offer a sign up bonus of 2,500 points after spending $500 within the first 3 months of account opening, and 0% intro APR for 7 months on purchases from the date of account opening. After that, the APR ranges from 15.99%-25.99% (variable), based on creditworthiness*. There is no annual fee.

Click here to learn more and apply for the Citi ThankYou® Preferred Card for College Students.

Discover it® for Students

College students who are working on building credit can earn 5% cash back on rotating categories that you activate, up to the quarterly maximum, with the Discover it® for Students card. You also get 1% unlimited cash back automatically on all other purchases. Through Discover’s Cashback Match™ program, all the cash back you earn in your first year will be matched at the end of the year. Further, if your GPA is 3.0 or higher, you can get a bonus of a $20 statement credit each school year for up to the next five years. There is an introductory APR of 0% for six months on purchases and 10.99% on balance transfers for six months. After the intro period, the variable APR is 14.49% - 23.49%. There is no annual fee or foreign transaction fee. See rates and fees.

Click here to learn more and apply for the Discover it® for Students card today!

Discover it® chrome for Students

Instead of bonus quarterly categories, the Discover it® chrome for Students awards 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter. You also get 1% cash back on all other purchases. Discover also matches the cash back you earn in your first year at the end of the year for new cardholders. You can earn a bonus of a $20 statement credit each year your GPA is 3.0 or higher, for up to the next five years. There is a 0% introductory APR on purchases for six months and 10.99% for six months on balance transfers. Then, a variable APR of 14.49% - 23.49% will apply. There is no annual fee or foreign transaction fee for this card. See rates and fees.

Click here to learn more and apply for the Discover it® chrome for Students card today!

No matter which card they choose, students face treacherous path on their road to financial independence and responsibility. By working together to choose the best card for their needs, parents and students can smooth out this critical path to adulthood.

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Guest's picture

Student credit card is very difficult to get in india specially if you are below 18 there are few tips which you can use to get it for your online purchases and as always another informative post liked it

Guest's picture

When I was in college, some of the cheapest students clothed themselves entirely in giveaway t-shirts that CC companies gave out if you filled out an application. Not great for short term credit scores, but it kept them in T-shirts.