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Best student credit cards
|Best overall||Discover it® for Students|
|Best for commuter students||Discover it® chrome for Students|
|Best flat-rate student card||Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One®|
|Best for entertainment and dining||Citi ThankYou® Preferred Card for College Students|
How we chose the best student credit cards
We chose student cards that have no annual fee, offer rewards and benefit different types of students. Cards with additional perks like no foreign transaction fees or rewards bonuses for paying on time or maintaining a good GPA were ranked higher.
Best overall student card: Discover it® for Students
Best for: The Discover it® for Students is a great choice for students beginning their credit journey, providing the chance to build credit while earning rewards and student-centric perks.
Why we like it: If you maintain a 3.0 or higher GPA during the school year, you can receive a Good Grade Reward — valid for up to five consecutive years from the date your account is opened. This gives you more of an incentive to maintain good grades. The cashback program for this card suits students who don’t mind quarterly bonus categories with 5% cash back at different places each quarter like gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, Amazon.com, or wholesale clubs up to the quarterly maximum each time you activate. 1% unlimited cash back automatically on all other purchases. Just remember to activate the bonus categories each quarter. In addition, Discover will automatically match all the cash back you earn at the end of your first year.
Good intro period for purchases: Textbooks are expensive, and you may not have the money available to pay for them upfront, and that’s where the intro 0% for 6 Months on purchases comes in handy. But make sure you pay off your balance before the intro period ends — any remaining balances will be charged a 14.49% - 23.49% Variable APR.
Other benefits: There are money-saving perks including no foreign transaction fees, no late fee on your first late payment, and no penalty APR. These features allow you to avoid some of the fees other cards may charge.
Read our review of the Discover it® for Students here.
Best for commuter students: Discover it® chrome for Students
Best for: Students who commute to school and dine out for meals can see the most benefit with the cashback program the Discover it® chrome for Students offers, versus the quarterly bonus categories characteristic of the Discover it® for Students.
Why we like it: This card offers a Good Grade Reward when you maintain a GPA of 3.0 or higher during the school year (offer valid for up to five consecutive years from date of account opening). Instead of quarterly bonus categories, this card earns 2% cash back at restaurants and gas stations on up to $1,000 in combined purchases every quarter--no sign-ups needed. 1% cash back on all your other purchases. This rate can be more beneficial if you drive to class or work and often buy meals on the go. Plus, Discover will automatically match all the cash back you earn at the end of your first year.
Good intro period for purchases: There is an intro 0% for 6 Months on purchases that’s helpful if you need to buy textbooks or school supplies and need a few months to pay off the purchases. Keep in mind any lingering balances will incur a 14.49% - 23.49% Variable APR. So, try and pay off purchases as quickly as possible.
Read our review of the Discover it® chrome for Students here.
Best flat-rate student card: Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One®
Best for: Students looking for a straightforward credit card that earns cash back at an OK rate can see value with the Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One®.
Why we like it: This is a flat-rate card, meaning you earn a consistent cash back rate on all purchases made with your card — 1% Cash Back on all purchases; 0.25% Cash Back bonus on the cash back you earn each month you pay on time. That means there are no quarterly categories to keep track of or activate. And, the bonus you receive from paying on time is an added perk. Similar to the two Discover credit cards mentioned earlier, there are no foreign transaction fees with this card. So, you can travel abroad without worrying about the typical 3% fee charged to foreign purchases.
Other benefits: If you make your first five monthly payments on time, you can access a higher credit line; this is helpful, as you most likely won’t be approved for a high credit line as a student. It’s a good incentive to practice responsible credit behavior.
Best for entertainment and dining: Citi ThankYou® Preferred Card for College Students
Best for: If you’re an food and entertainment junkie, the Citi ThankYou® Preferred Card for College Students has a rewards program tailored to those purchases and other added perks to potentially help you score hard-to-get event tickets.
Why we like it: This card offers a decent rewards program where you can earn Earn 2X Points on Dining Out & Entertainment and Earn 1X Points on All Other Purchases. There is also a sign up bonus where you can earn 2,500 bonus points after spending $500 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening. Notably, this card offers an intro 0% for 7 months on Purchases* on purchases that can be helpful if you make a purchase after opening your card that requires you to carry a balance; we recommend paying balances as quickly as possible. Once the intro period ends, an APR of 15.99% - 25.99%* (Variable) applies.
Other benefits: Citi® Private Pass® provides special access to purchase tickets for events like concerts, sporting events and dining experiences. Citi Price Rewind performs a 60-day search for a lower price on eligible purchases you make with your card. If a lower price is found, you may be reimbursed the difference between what you paid and the price found.
Read our review of the Citi ThankYou® Preferred Card for College Students here.
Learn more: How to use a student credit card to build credit
When you graduate from college, you’ll most likely need a good credit score to qualify for renting an apartment or purchasing a car — lenders pull credit reports during the application process. Opening a credit card as a college student is a great way to jumpstart your credit history build.
We recommend the following credit building practices that can put you on the path to a good credit score:
- Charge one recurring bill to your card each month and pay it off in full. This is a sure-fire way to get a stellar credit score by the time you graduate.
- Pay on time. Making on-time payments not only lets you avoid late payment fees, but also reports good payment history to the credit bureaus. Set up autopay so you don’t miss a payment.
- Pay your bill in full. A good habit to get in to is paying your bill in full. This allows you to avoid interest charges that would accrue if you carried a balance.
- Don’t overspend. Maxing out your card or using a high percentage of your credit limit hurts your credit score. It shows lenders you’re risky and can also lead you to fall into debt. The percentage of your credit limit you use is known as your utilization rate, and we recommend keeping a utilization rate below 30%.