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Best Student Credit Cards of 2023

Compare the top cards for students
  • Find special credit card offers just for students
  • Earn incentives for good grades
  • Learn why building your credit while in school is important for your future
  • Get advice on choosing a card from our credit experts
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Holly D. Johnson - Contributor Updated: 1 February 2023 12 Min Read
Reviewed By Bestcovery - Editorial Team
Why Trust Us?

A student credit card is an invaluable first step towards achieving a solid credit history as you pay for textbooks or emergency expenses.

Worrying about your credit might be the last thing on your mind while studying late at night, but you’ll be happy you established it once you graduate, especially when you are applying for important milestones like being pre-approved to finance a car, buy a house, or excellent credit card deals.

Try to consider factors like annual percentage rates, cash rewards, and cash back, among other things. Credit card issuers can offer attractive incentives for signing up with them, including sign-up bonuses.

While you may not currently have much credit history, building it now can improve your odds for approval of larger ticket items in the future.

Our picks for the best student credit cards

Best Student Credit Cards of 2023

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Capital One SavorOne Student Cash Rewards

Best Overall Student Credit Card

Why we like it

Capital One SavorOne Student Cash Rewards Credit Card offers no annual fee, great cash-back rewards, and no foreign transaction fees. This card could help you establish great credit, but only if you pay your bills on time and don’t carry a balance.

Capital One SavorOne Student Cash Rewards

PROS

  • No annual fee
  • Base rewards rate of 1%, 3% in select categories
  • No fees
  • Cash back match for one year

CONS

  • High APR
  • Limited bonus categories may not appeal to all
  • No introductory bonus

Earning rewards

The good news is that no annual fee means you don’t have to worry about high yearly costs.

Plus, it allows students to stack unlimited 3% cash back for purchases they tend to make anyway including eligible groceries, restaurants, streaming services, and entertainment. All other purchases receive 1% cash back. Capital One also matches your cash back for the first year.

As a college student, you want to look for a card with low, low fees. This card doesn’t charge a foreign transaction fee, annual fee, balance transfer fee, or hidden fees.

Deserve® EDU Mastercard for Students

Best for Students with No Credit History

Why we like it

This is a solid student credit card for those with zero credit history. Those who don’t normally qualify for credit cards or international students may find this a viable alternative to a secured credit card, which requires a deposit. This student card has no annual fees and offers a sign-up bonus that includes cellphone protection, along with a rewards program. While it might be a little basic, it is a good first credit card. Keep in mind that it doesn’t allow any cash advances or balance transfers. This is a great starter student credit card to help build your credit with a few useful rewards.

Deserve® EDU Mastercard for Students

PROS

  • No foreign transaction fees
  • No annual fee
  • Social security number not needed
  • No security deposit or co-signer required
  • Refer a Friend benefits

CONS

  • Cash back is lower than some cards at 1%
  • Fewer rewards than some other student cards

Earning rewards

This first-time card for students comes with a few rewards that might interest you. International students or those who plan on studying abroad don’t have to pay international transaction fees, and students can apply for this card without having to provide a social security number, making this an ideal starter card for domestic and international students alike. Plus, you automatically receive 1% back on every purchase!

Discover it® Student Cash Back

Best for Student Cash Back

Why we like it

The Discover it® Student Cash Back tops the list for students who are starting their credit journey and are interested in building credit while earning bonus rewards with zero annual fees. Along with the rewards, students receive a free FICO score, forgiveness for the first late payment, and low fees.

This may be one of the most forgiving student cards with no penalty APR, no foreign transaction fees, no fee for your first late payment (which could set you back $40 - not a small sum if every dollar counts), and no annual fee. You can enjoy incredible rewards without sacrificing affordability. This is a first-choice credit card for college students learning about credit. You can get the benefits of a high-tier card without having to pay high fees.

Discover it® Student Cash Back

PROS

  • 5% cash back on selected bonus categories
  • Cash back match for the first year
  • Great introductory APR
  • No annual fee
  • Incentives for good grades

CONS

  • Limited international acceptance
  • Lower 1% reward rate on all other categories
  • Need to track and enroll in bonus categories yourself

Earning rewards

Students can enjoy 5% cash back up to $1,500 quarterly on things they buy during the school year in select categories including gas, groceries, restaurants, Amazon, and purchases through PayPal. It’s important to remember to activate the categories each quarter because they rotate, and you may want to pick different ones based on your spending habits. If you don’t remember to activate them, you won’t earn rewards on purchases in those categories.

Everything else will earn 1% cash back. With the Cash Back Match, students get an unlimited dollar-for-dollar match at the end of the first year. Plus, if you do great in school, you can get a $20 statement credit every year you earn a 3.0 or higher!

Discover it ® Student Chrome

Best for Building Good Credit Habits

Why we like it

If you’re a student trying to establish credit, the Discover it® Student chrome is an excellent launch point. You’ll gain access to a good rewards program and reasonable APR, with no pesky annual fee payment.

Discover it ® Student Chrome

PROS

  • Students can build credit while earning rewards
  • Automatic cashback match at the end of the first year
  • Great introductory APR
  • No annual fee

CONS

  • Rewards are limited to $1,000 per quarter
  • Lower reward rate of 1%

Earning rewards

As far as rewards rates go, this card has pretty decent ones. First of all, any time you make a purchase, you get 1% cash back. Discover also offers no annual fees (remember, the fewer fees, the better), no penalty APR, 0% introductory APR for the first six months, and they match everything you’ve earned during the first year.

Also, you can get 2% cash back up to $1,000 each quarter when you gas up your car or eat out at restaurants, without needing to activate these categories every quarter. This is one of the best credit cards for students to build credit and earn awesome rewards.

Quicksilver Student Cash Rewards Credit Card

Best for Student-Friendly Categories

Why we like it

First-time student credit card owners looking for a simple cash back card that can help them raise their credit while avoiding a security deposit or annual payments should consider the Capital One Quicksilver Student Cash Rewards Credit Card. If you’re good about your monthly payments, you could get a higher credit line within six months.

This is a wonderful option for students with a fair to average credit score or limited credit history, and it offers a solid 1.5% cash back on every purchase. While this first credit card does not offer a sign-up bonus, this rewards rate is higher than some other student cards. On top of that, you don’t have to worry about paying foreign transaction fees, annual fees, or hidden fees.

Bear in mind that while the Quicksilver Student carries a no penalty APR, students should be aware of its 26.99% APR - which is pretty steep and can get you in trouble if you do not pay your balance in full each month. If you are carrying a balance, you may want to consider cards with lower rates.

Quicksilver Student Cash Rewards Credit Card

PROS

  • 1.5% cash back on all purchases
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Allows you to check your eligibility without a hard inquiry on your credit
  • Unlimited cash back
  • 0% intro APR first 15 months on balance transfers and purchases

CONS

  • High variable APR
  • No welcome offer
  • $40 late payment fee
  • No waived first-time late fee

Earning rewards

As far as student rewards cards go, this one is hard to look past. For example, you automatically receive 1.5% cash back any time you make a purchase. For students who just have too much going on to keep up with quarterly changes: you don’t have to sign up for cash rewards or rotating categories! Quicksilver cash back doesn’t expire and there’s no set limit for how much you can stack.

Best Student Credit Cards

Compare the top cards side-by-side
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All five of our top selections are credit cards with no annual fees, which can save students quite a bit of money. Student budgets are notoriously tight, so saving yourself annual fee payments can make a big difference when you are starting out.

What is a student credit card?

Student-specific credit cards are designed to help students build credit, especially when they have no credit history.

These cards provide the same benefits as standard credit cards, but they often have fewer incentives and lower credit limits.

Not all student credit cards expect you to be a student, but there are eligibility requirements that you will have to meet, including age.

Why get a student credit card?

You might be considering a student credit card because you’re interested in benefits like cash back rewards, travel points, or are simply looking ahead.

There are many cautionary tales about students who fall behind on their minimum payments, rack up late fees or any other kind of fee, and dig themselves into a financial hole. However, when used correctly, a student credit card can help you establish a line of credit that can help you after graduation.

If you’re considering getting a head start on establishing credit, student credit cards are easy-to-earn and come with limits that can keep you from diving too deep into debt. Consider this the training wheels of the credit world. Having good credit can be instrumental later on in life when you are trying to qualify for a car loan, rent an apartment, or apply for a mortgage.

A starter credit card is the most common way to establish credit when you’re first starting out.

There are typically two main classifications for starter credit cards:


Like any other credit card, neither one is better than the other, merely ones that are better for your circumstances or goals.

Student credit cards

Student cards often require you to be an enrolled student, while non-students can access secured credit cards. They also require that you have a source of income or a co-signer.

Some benefits of student cards include:

Secured credit cards

Secured credit cards can be good for non-students or those who do not have a source of income. You must provide a security deposit, which is essentially your credit limit. This allows credit card issuers to accept applicants with little or bad credit history.

Some benefits of secured cards include:


Still, not everyone has $200 or more for a deposit, which would typically be required. Applicants can expect annual fees and may need a bank account. Few secured cards offer rewards, but with responsible use, you may qualify for other credit cards.

Balance transfers

Students who have high-interest debt can transfer their balance to a credit card with 0% APR.

Known as a balance transfer, this can be an amazing way to save money on interest charges. Balance transfers allow students to apply for a student credit card with a low introductory APR. Students can then initiate a balance transfer and pay it off. The goal of a balance transfer is saving money, so you want to choose a card that helps you minimize your costs.

The ideal balance transfer credit card comes with three significant features:

How to choose a student card

One of the things you should look for when shopping for your first credit card is a plan that doesn’t saddle you with hefty fees like foreign transaction fees, balance transfer fees, annual fees, etc.

Plus, you want to look for creditors that are more forgiving, especially if you miss a payment. Finally, you want your money to work for you. If you already spend money on gas and food, why not find a card that gives you money back?

Less-than-stellar credit card issuers can easily tempt unknowing students into taking a perilous financial plunge into deep debt, which is why students must understand things like credit scoring, CardRatings, regular APR, billing cycles, interest rate, and more.

Choosing the right student credit card for you depends on what is most important to you, including:

Rewards

Incentives like points, sign-up bonuses, cash back, or airline miles are all great reasons to use your card responsibly. You can easily earn rewards by purchasing everyday necessities like gas or groceries.

No foreign transaction fees

Students studying abroad or traveling frequently can save money by investing in a card with zero foreign transaction fees.

No late payment fees

Most major credit card issuers charge a late fee if you miss a payment, but student credit cards often waive these fees at least once.

No-penalty APR

Speaking of late payment fees, many credit cards issue a penalty APR if you are late, which is often higher than the regular APR. This type of student credit card can protect you from late payments.

Auto-pay

If you have difficulty remembering important dates, payment reminders can take the stress out of building your credit.

0% introductory APR

Want to live worry-free without interest charges for a few months, especially if you’re paying off a large purchase? Student cards with a 0% intro APR could be the very thing you need.

Automatic credit line increase

Many student cards start with a low line of credit of under $1,000. However, after some time has passed, many credit card issuers will automatically review your account to see if you qualify for a credit limit increase, which can improve your credit score.

Credit card tips for students

College can be a transformative experience that allows you to think about your future and work towards your goals. For many young adults, excellent credit and rewards are often among them.

Applying for a student card can help you learn about good spending habits and what building credit looks like. The more responsible you are, the likelier you will be to qualify for better loans and other cards.

It is absolutely key that students understand how credit cards work and what responsible card use means.

Below are some tips that students can follow to help them avoid this debt spiral and really build their credit responsibly:

Pay your credit card off every month

Your credit history depends on your payment history. Missing even one payment can set you back, so it’s important that you can afford monthly payments and aren’t overwhelmed. Paying your bill on time is a priority in building credit. If you tend to be forgetful, you can set up automatic payments to avoid missing due dates.

Don’t spend more than you actually have

The whole concept of buying something expensive now and paying it off in time can be deceptive, especially when you want to go on a trip with friends or buy a new wardrobe. However, not paying an item off immediately means you’re now facing high-interest rates. It is important to note that debt can roll over very quickly and can be very hard to dig yourself out of. Avoid that by understanding how credit card interest works.

Don’t use your card too often

Even if you use your card responsibly, being too close to your credit limit can also impact your credit score. It’s best to keep your available credit below 30%.

Don’t have too many credit lines

It can be tempting to apply for multiple credit cards, but this can be detrimental to the very credit you are trying to build. Besides, it can be very easy to lose track of payment dates and credit limits, so it’s better to have one or just a few, especially if you’re new to credit.

Avoid fees, like annual fees

Some credit cards carry annual fees and other fees for things such as foreign transactions, but it might be better to stay away from these when you’re first starting out in order to avoid additional spending.

Applying for a student credit card

Applying for a student credit card is not complicated.

You typically need to provide some information like yourself along with proof that you are currently enrolled in college and that you have some kind of income. Some credit cards are also available to non-students who meet credit requirements, as well.

Here is what you need to know to apply for a student card:

1

You must be at least 18 years old

To apply for a student credit card in your own name, you have to be 18 or older. If you do not have your own independent income, you must have a cosigner who is older than 21.

2

Be enrolled in college at the current time

Check with your credit card issuer to determine how they define this, or if they even require it. Not every credit card has the same requirements on this.

3

Pass a credit check

Any time you apply for credit, your credit history will be checked to see if you have defaulted on any payments, etc. If you have poor or no credit you could possibly become an authorized user on your parent’s credit card.

4

Be a citizen of the U.S.

You will have to provide your current home address and social security number to apply for most cards. Some exceptions on certain cards make it easier for international students, so check with your card issuer.

5

Have income

Last, but not least, anyone under the age of 21 applying for a student credit card without a cosigner but show that they have enough income to repay their credit card statement on time every month. Some credit card issuers have a minimum monthly income amount in order to qualify.

How to apply

One of the most important steps, before you apply for a credit card, is making sure it’s the best one for your situation and that you meet the minimum requirements.

This gives you the best odds of being approved. Once you are satisfied with your selection, all you need to do is apply directly on their website. They will ask for personal information like your contact information, social security number, annual income, and monthly rent. Approval could either be immediate or in a few days by mail.

What if you get denied?

Getting denied after applying for a student card could mean that you don’t have sufficient credit. However, you can ask the card issuer for an adverse action letter to go over the reasons that you were denied credit.

A good step is to then look at your credit report to see if there are any long-standing bills or accounts you didn’t open. Don’t apply to multiple cards, especially if you don’t meet their requirements. Remember, hard credit inquiries can bring your credit score down.

If you can’t get a student card at this time, you might be a good candidate for a secured credit card. This uses a cash deposit, say $250, that is used as your credit limit. This can help you build your credit and could put your foot in the door for qualifying for a traditional card later on.

Student cards are useful for building your credit while you’re starting off in life, but don’t just go diving headfirst into them without first looking at your own circumstances. They are only a good option if you can be fiscally responsible and pay your debts off in time. Otherwise, you could set yourself up for a very shaky start.

Applying with a co-signer

A co-signer essentially tells your credit card issuer that they will pay the bill if you cannot.

This allows students or those with poor credit to open a credit card account backed by the co-signers credit history and income. However, not every credit card offers this option, so it’s good to shop around.

How we selected our top cards for students

Your main goal with a student credit card is to build credit. It’s easy to get distracted by incentives and cash rewards, but they shouldn’t be your only deciding factor. We selected the best credit cards for students based on several factors including rewards, APR, ease of use, and additional fees among other things.

Best credit cards for students FAQ

Holly D. Johnson
Holly D. Johnson Contributor

Holly D. Johnson is an award-winning personal finance writer who covers topics like insurance, investing, credit and family finance. As a leading voice in the travel and loyalty space, Johnson has traveled with her family to more than 50 countries over the last decade. 

The author has also written extensively on the power of household budgeting, and she even co-authored a book on the topic. Zero Down Your Debt: Reclaim Your Income and Build a Life You’ll Love was originally published in 2017, and it teaches families how to use zero-sum budgeting to reach their financial goals. She is also the co-owner and founder of the family finance and travel website, ClubThrifty.com.

Johnson’s 10+ years of writing have focused on helping families make important financial decisions at each stage of their lives. The author also applies the financial principles she teaches to her own life, and she is currently on track to retire in her late 40’s with her partner. She currently lives in Central Indiana with her husband and children, and she is a regular contributor for Bankrate, CNN, Forbes, U.S. News and World Report Travel and many other notable publications.