Best Credit Cards for College Students

By Kira Brecht, Updated on Nov 27, 2021

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Best Credit Cards for College Students

*Editorial Note: This content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuer. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. This site may be compensated through a credit card issuer partnership.

Think you don’t need a credit card? Think again. Many college students rely on debit cards, mobile pay or cash. Here’s the problem. You aren’t building credit history when you pay those ways.

When you graduate from college, you will probably need a good credit score to rent an apartment, get a new cell phone plan or apply for a car loan. Many potential employers check your credit report too. The sooner you get a credit card, the earlier you’ll start building your credit score. Handling credit responsibly now could mean lower interest rates for you in the future.

There are easy-to-use that can really appeal to college students. We’ve made finding and applying for the right credit card hassle-free. You are juggling classes, parties and maybe the occasional midnight pizza run. We’ve done the research so you don’t have to.

Taking a few minutes to apply may be the last thing you want to do with homework looming and friends calling. But, in the long run this may be one of the most important things you do this semester. Read our review on each card below and find the perfect match for you.

Best Credit Cards for College Students

Discover is a credit card issuer that goes the extra mile for college students. They designed credit cards specifically for students that come with extra features that matter most to you.

The Discover it® Student Cash Back and Discover it® Student chrome are top-ranked college credit cards. Both Discover student cards pay cash rewards and have no annual fee. However, they reward spending on different things. Pick the card that rewards the items you buy most. 

Discover it® Student Cash Back

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Rated 4/5 stars by our editorial team

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3.7/5.0 from 43 Offer Ratings
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(43) Over the Past 60 Days!
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Why we like it:

• No annual fee • Great for building credit
• Up to 5% cash-back • Generous first-year bonus

Highlights: Start building your credit history with this card that pays generous cash-back on rotating categories. If you are on a tight budget, the cash-back you earn will be a welcomed gift. You can earn 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places each quarter like Amazon.com, grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations and when you pay using PayPal, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate, 1% unlimited cash back on all other purchases - automatically. Plus, enjoy Unlimited Cashback Match – only from Discover. Discover will automatically match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year! So you could turn $50 cash back into $100. Or turn $100 into $200. There’s no minimum spending or maximum rewards. Just a dollar-for-dollar match.

Need a new laptop or wondering how you’re going to afford textbooks? If you are planning a big purchase and want to pay it off interest-free over time, this card offers an intro APR of 0% intro apr for 6 months on purchases. After the intro period, the APR will be 12.99% - 21.99% Variable APR


Nice to have: Get a Credit Scorecard that includes your FICO® Credit Score for free. Monitor your credit building progress easily with the valuable tools on this card. You won’t be punished with a late fee on your first late payment.


Extra credit: Discover makes your first credit card easy. Redeem your rewards for cash in any amount, at any time and your cash back never expires. Use your rewards instantly at Amazon.com checkout too. Got a question? 100% U.S. based customer service is available 24/7. If you are studying abroad, there’s no foreign transaction fee.


Final grade: This is an amazing card for college students. There’s a robust line-up of features and perks that Discover created just for you.

Discover it® Student chrome

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3.9/5.0 from 23 Offer Ratings
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(23) Over the Past 60 Days!
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Why we like it:

• High cash rewards at gas stations and restaurants • Credit-building power
• No annual fee • Free FICO® Credit Score

Highlights: This is a great choice if you drive or eat out often. Discover will reward you with 2% cash back at Gas Stations and Restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter, 1% unlimited cash back on all other purchases - automatically. That means extra cash in your pocket to spend any way you want. Plus, enjoy Unlimited Cashback Match – only from Discover. Discover will automatically match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year! So you could turn $50 cash back into $100. Or turn $100 into $200. There’s no minimum spending or maximum rewards. Just a dollar-for-dollar match.


Charge your textbooks at the school bookstore and you’ll automatically earn cash back. If you want to pay off your purchase over time with no interest, take advantage of the intro APR of 0% intro apr for 6 months on purchases, then 12.99% - 21.99% Variable APR.


Extra credit: If you misplace your credit card, freeze your account in seconds with an on/off switch on the mobile app and website. No late fee on first late payment. No foreign transaction fees. Free FICO® Credit Score. $0 Fraud Liability. Redeem your rewards for cash in any amount, at any time and your cash back never expires. The list of features seems endless on both Discover student cards.


Final grade: This top card offers many of the same valuable benefits on Discover it® Student Cash Back. Both Discover cards are winners in the student credit card category. If you spend on gas and dining out, this may be the better choice for you.

Chase Freedom® Student credit card

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3.3/5.0 from 21 Offer Ratings
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Why we like it:

• Flexible everyday rewards • Rewards will never expire
• Solid sign-up bonus • Easily build your credit

This new card from Chase is an immediate favorite with its solid rewards program and cash back welcome offer.

Everyday rewards. Earn 1% cash back on all purchases plus $20 Good Standing Rewards after each account anniversary for up to 5 years.

No redemption minimums. Cash back rewards will never expire over the lifetime of the account and there’s no minimum threshold to redeem, so you have complete control over the rewards you’ve earned.

Standout welcome offer. New cardholders earn a $50 Bonus after first purchase made within the first 3 months from account opening.

No annual fee. Earn cash back and build your credit without worrying about a yearly usage fee.

Easily build your credit. Because you can earn a credit limit increase after making 5 monthly payments on time within 10 months from account opening when meeting credit criteria, this card can be a great steppingstone in your credit journey.

Journey Student Rewards from Capital One

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Rated 4/5 stars by our editorial team

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4.0/5.0 from 5 Offer Ratings
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(5) Over the Past 60 Days!
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Why we like it:

• No annual fee • No foreign transaction fee

This no-frills card offers 1% cash back on all purchases; 0.25% cash back bonus on the cash back you earn each month you pay on time.


Take note: This card comes with a steep 26.99% (variable) interest rate. That is almost double the base rate of the Discover cards. For students who might not pay their bill in full each month, the Discover cards offer better terms.


Final grade: The high interest rate is a drawback. The rewards rate is lower than the top rate on other student cards. College students can earn higher cash-back on gas, restaurants and category spending with one of the Discover student cards. There’s no first-year sign up bonus (like you can get with the Discover cards). There’s no introductory 0% interest period. There’s no extra benefits like free credit score, good grades bonus, or forgiveness on first late payment fee. Discover gives college students more robust features on their cards.

Your First Credit Card: An Important Financial Step

You might be late to class. Don’t be late on getting started building your credit. Your first credit card can help set you up for financial success. Make the smart money move and get a credit card now. Simply using your card and paying your bill every month will build your credit history. Do yourself a favor and apply now.

How to Apply

Student credit cards require little to no credit history. If you are 18 years or older, go to this page, http://www.comparecards.com/student, select your offer and click “apply now” to be taken to a secure application on the issuer’s website. You will need your Social Security number. Don’t have that handy? Bookmark this page now.

If you have a part-time job (like on campus), or independent assets you may qualify on your own. If you aren’t working, you may need a parent to co-sign. 
 

Methodology
 
Each month, the CompareCards team reviews over 100 credit card offers examining the features most valuable to consumers including rewards, sign-up bonus, the interest rate, fees and other features to identify the best offers shown here.