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Best Student Credit Cards for December 2022

Student credit cards are a great way to learn responsible habits and, in some cases, rewards.

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Student credit cards are a great way to start working on your credit score while building responsible habits like paying your statement bill on time. Having a credit card also means you have access to funds in the case of an emergency. Some student credit cards even offer rewards, like cash back for specific purchases.

Student credit cards are typically easier to qualify for than standard reward credit cards, which generally require good credit. Student cards are designed for students with limited or no credit. The trade-off is that the benefits of these cards will be less impressive. However, once you've established a better credit history and have responsible credit card habits, you can apply for credit cards that offer more.

Best credit card for students overall

9.5/10 CNET Rating
Card Highlights
Intro OfferIntro Offer: 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.
APR16.74% - 25.74% Variable
Intro Purchase APR0% for 6 months
Recommended Credit Fair/New to Credit
Reward Rates
  • Earn 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places each quarter like Amazon.com, grocery stores, restaurants, and gas stations, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate.
  • Earn 1% unlimited cash back on all other purchases – automatically.
Annual Fee$0
Additional Details
Intro Balance Transfer APR10.99% for 6 months
Balance Transfer APR16.74% - 25.74% Variable
Balance Transfer Fee 3% intro balance transfer fee, up to 5% fee on future balance transfers (see terms)*
Late Payment Fee None the first time you pay late. After that, up to $41.
Foreign Transaction Fees None
Rewards & Redemption Details
  • Earn 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places each quarter like Amazon.com, grocery stores, restaurants, and gas stations, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate.
  • Earn 1% unlimited cash back on all other purchases – automatically.

Our Take

The Discover it® Student Cash Back* has the best value proposition of any student credit card. It offers arguably the best cash-back rewards, best welcome bonus and a top-rate introductory APR. Though the flagship rewards category is rotating, it envelops common student expenditures like Amazon purchases, restaurants and gas stations. Discover cards offer an Unlimited Cashback Match in lieu of a typical welcome bonus, meaning that at the end of your first year as a cardholder, Discover will match your cash back earned, dollar for dollar, with no limitations. 

The introductory 0% APR on purchases for the first six months from account opening (16.74% to 25.74% variable APR after that) could buy you some peace of mind that emergency expenses can be carried interest-free for this period of time. Alternatively, it can also help mitigate the burden of frontloaded costs at the beginning of a semester, like dorm room furniture or books.

For more information, see our full review of the Discover it Student Cash Back.

Read our Discover It Student Cash Back review.

 

Intro Offer: N/A

APR: 15.99% - 29.99% (Variable)

Intro Purchase APR: N/A

Recommended Credit: Limited/Fair/Good/Excellent

Reward Rates:

  • Up to 1.5% cash back on eligible purchases after making 12 on-time monthly payments.
  • 1% cash back on eligible purchases right away.

Annual Fee: $0

Foreign Transaction Fees: $0

While it's not a student credit card, it does work the same way. The Petal 2 card, issued by WebBank, may be easier to qualify for than most credit cards and helps to build credit with responsible use while earning a return on your spending.

It also features very few fees. There are no foreign transaction fees, no annual fee, and no late fee, making it the perfect place to start for domestic students or for those planning to travel abroad. You'll even earn more rewards for paying on time for 12 consecutive months, meaning it's a great habit-forming card.

Find all the details in our Petal 2 card review.

For student commuters

9/10 CNET Rating
Card Highlights
Intro OfferIntro Offer: 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.
APR16.74% - 25.74% Variable
Intro Purchase APR0% for 6 months
Recommended Credit Fair/New to Credit
Reward Rates
  • Earn 2% cash back at Gas Stations and Restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter.
  • Earn 1% unlimited cash back on all other purchases – automatically.
Annual Fee$0
Additional Details
Intro Balance Transfer APR10.99% for 6 months
Balance Transfer APR16.74% - 25.74% Variable
Balance Transfer Fee 3% intro balance transfer fee, up to 5% fee on future balance transfers (see terms)*
Late Payment Fee None the first time you pay late. After that, up to $41.
Foreign Transaction Fees None
Rewards & Redemption Details
  • Earn 2% cash back at Gas Stations and Restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter.
  • Earn 1% unlimited cash back on all other purchases – automatically.

Our Take

If you commute to and from school, the Discover it® Student chrome* offers the best consistent cash-back rates available for student credit cards on gas station purchases and restaurants alike. You receive 2% cash back on gas stations and restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases per quarter, and 1% after that and on all other purchases. Not to mention, Discover's Unlimited Cashback Match also applies to this card, to be credited to your account after your account reaches its one-year anniversary. An introductory APR is available with this student card, too.

Best student card for dining and entertainment

8.5/10 CNET Rating
Card Highlights
Intro OfferLimited Time Offer: Earn $100 when you spend $100 in the first three months
APR17.99% - 27.99% (Variable)
Intro Purchase APRN/A
Recommended Credit Average, Fair, Limited
Reward Rates
  • Earn 10% cash back on purchases made through Uber & Uber Eats, plus complimentary Uber One membership statement credits through 11/14/2024
  • Earn 8% cash back on entertainment purchases when you book through the Capital One Entertainment portal
  • Earn unlimited 5% cash back on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of trip options. Terms apply
  • Earn unlimited 3% cash back on dining, entertainment, popular streaming services and at grocery stores (excluding superstores like Walmart® and Target®)
  • Earn 1% on all other purchases.
Annual Fee$0
Additional Details
Intro Balance Transfer APRN/A
Balance Transfer APR17.99% - 27.99% (Variable)
Balance Transfer Fee $0 at this Transfer APR
Late Payment Fee Up to $40
Foreign Transaction Fees None
Penalty APR None
Rewards & Redemption Details
  • Earn 10% cash back on purchases made through Uber & Uber Eats, plus complimentary Uber One membership statement credits through 11/14/2024
  • Earn 8% cash back on entertainment purchases when you book through the Capital One Entertainment portal
  • Earn unlimited 5% cash back on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of trip options. Terms apply
  • Earn unlimited 3% cash back on dining, entertainment, popular streaming services and at grocery stores (excluding superstores like Walmart® and Target®)
  • Earn 1% on all other purchases.

Our Take

If you're studying in a city where there's lots to do, the Capital One SavorOne Student Cash Rewards Credit Card will be a great choice for you. This card offers unlimited 3% cash back on dining, entertainment and popular streaming services, and at least 1% cash back on all other purchases -- this is competitive with our picks for nonstudent credit cards for restaurants and dining

Entertainment includes ticket purchases made at movie theaters, sports promoters (professional and semiprofessional live events), theatrical promoters, amusement parks, tourist attractions, aquariums, zoos, dance halls, record stores, pool halls or bowling alleys.

Travel rewards for students

8/10 CNET Rating
Card Highlights
Intro Offer25,000 online bonus points if you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of your account opening – which can be redeemed for a $250 statement credit toward travel purchases
APR17.74% - 27.74% Variable
Intro Purchase APR0% Introductory APR for the first 18 Statement Closing Dates following the opening of your account.
Recommended Credit No Credit
Reward Rates
  • Earn unlimited 1.5 points for every $1 you spend on all purchases everywhere, every time and no expiration on points
Annual Fee$0
Additional Details
Balance Transfer APR17.74% - 27.74% Variable
Balance Transfer Fee Either $10 or 3% of the amount of each transaction, whichever is greater.
Late Payment Fee See Terms
Penalty APR Up to 29.99% Variable
Rewards & Redemption Details
  • Earn unlimited 1.5 points for every $1 you spend on all purchases everywhere, every time and no expiration on points

Our Take

The Bank of America Travel Rewards Credit Card for Students* offers higher risks and rewards than most other student cards. You get a higher rewards rate -- 1.5 points per dollar on all purchases -- but fewer of the relaxed requirements for credit novices. 

Bank of America will grant you 25,000 online bonus points, equivalent to a $250 statement credit toward travel and dining purchases, when you sign up and spend $1,000 during the first 90 days. That's a higher threshold than you'll find with other student cards, but also a higher reward. Bank of America is also one of the few card issuers that allows cosigners, who can be a parent, guardian -- or anyone with a good credit score who's willing to share the legal liability.

Relaxed requirements for international students

7/10 CNET Rating
Card Highlights
Intro OfferN/A
APR22.49% Variable
Intro Purchase APRN/A
Recommended Credit Limited/No Credit
Reward Rates
  • Earn 1% Cash Back on all purchases with your Deserve EDU Mastercard
Annual Fee$0
Rewards & Redemption Details
  • Earn 1% Cash Back on all purchases with your Deserve EDU Mastercard

Our Take

The Deserve® EDU Mastercard for Students doesn't offer the best rewards rates -- it offers the standard 1% on all purchases. But the rewards aren't the appeal for this card. This card is designed for students enrolled in a US college that do not have social security numbers to use on their application. There are no foreign transaction fees, either, so you can use this card in the US or abroad without extra costs. But you don't have to be an international student to apply for this card, as US citizens are welcome to apply as well. Either way, you don't need to worry about having a credit history, as the Deserve EDU card accepts applicants with limited or no credit.

Flexible student rewards

8.5/10 CNET Rating
Card Highlights
Intro OfferOnline $200 cash rewards bonus after making at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of your account opening
APR17.74% - 27.74% Variable APR on purchases and balance transfers
Intro Purchase APR0% Introductory APR on purchases for 18 billing cycles
Recommended Credit Excellent/Good Credit
Reward Rates
  • 3% cash back in the category of your choice: gas, online shopping, dining, travel, drug stores, or home improvement/furnishing on the first $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club purchases each quarter
  • 2% cash back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs on the first $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club purchases each quarter
  • 1% cash back on all other purchases
Annual FeeNone
Additional Details
Intro Balance Transfer APR0% Introductory APR on purchases for 18 billing cycles
Balance Transfer APR17.74% - 27.74% Variable APR on purchases and balance transfers
Balance Transfer Fee Either $10 or 3% of the amount of each transaction, whichever is greater.
Late Payment Fee See Terms
Foreign Transaction Fees 3% of the U.S. dollar amount of each transaction (1) made in a foreign currency, or (2) made in U.S. dollars if the transaction is made or processed outside of the United States
Penalty APR Up to 29.99% Variable
Rewards & Redemption Details
  • 3% cash back in the category of your choice: gas, online shopping, dining, travel, drug stores, or home improvement/furnishing on the first $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club purchases each quarter
  • 2% cash back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs on the first $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club purchases each quarter
  • 1% cash back on all other purchases

Our Take

The Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards Credit Card for Students* is perfect for students thanks to its low spending limit, flexible rewards program and lack of annual fee.

Its 3% choice category and 2% grocery store/wholesale club category is limited to the first $2,500 spent in combined purchases each quarter before rewards fall to 1%, but most students likely won't be spending that much. The custom rewards you can choose from include gas, online shopping and dining -- all things students regularly spend on. It has an intro APR offer to help you avoid interest charges and a welcome bonus which shouldn't be too hard to reach so long as you're using the card for your necessary purchases.

Students can stay in control of their finances and make easy payments using the app, plus monitor their FICO credit score to make sure their building credit with responsible habits.

Earn more by paying on time

5.5/10 CNET Rating
Card Highlights
Intro OfferN/A
APR28.49% (Variable)
Intro Purchase APRN/A
Recommended Credit Average, Fair, Limited
Reward Rates
  • Earn 1% cash back on all your purchases. Pay on time to boost your cash back to a total of 1.25% for that month
Annual Fee$0
Additional Details
Intro Balance Transfer APRN/A
Balance Transfer APR28.49% (Variable)
Balance Transfer Fee $0 at this Transfer APR
Late Payment Fee Up to $40
Foreign Transaction Fees None
Penalty APR None
Rewards & Redemption Details
  • Earn 1% cash back on all your purchases. Pay on time to boost your cash back to a total of 1.25% for that month

Our Take

The Journey Student Rewards card is a good choice for students traveling abroad and for credit card newcomers who are looking to be rewarded for paying their bill on time, in addition to building a healthy credit score with responsible use.

It's important to note that this card has a higher APR than most of the other cards on this list, so you'll want to pay your bill in full each month to avoid large interest charges (a good habit to get in regardless). And if you pay on time, your rewards may increase from 1% to 1.25% cash back for that month.

There aren't many bells and whistles, which could be good for students looking for a good place to start while learning the credit card ropes.

You can learn more in our Journey Student Rewards card review.

A less rewarding way to build credit

5.25/10 CNET Rating
Card Highlights
Intro Offer$50 Bonus after first purchase made within the first 3 months from account opening
APR17.99% Variable
Intro Purchase APRN/A
Recommended Credit Excellent/Good Credit
Reward Rates
  • Earn 1% cash back on all purchases plus $20 Good Standing Rewards after each account anniversary for up to 5 years
Annual Fee$0
Additional Details
Balance Transfer APR17.99% Variable
Balance Transfer Fee Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Foreign Transaction Fees 3% of each transaction in U.S. dollars
Penalty APR Up to 29.99%
Rewards & Redemption Details
  • Earn 1% cash back on all purchases plus $20 Good Standing Rewards after each account anniversary for up to 5 years

Our Take

The Chase Freedom Student card is a little more restrictive and less rewarding than others on this list, but it still offers a welcome bonus and a way for students to build credit through responsible use. It has no annual fee, but if you plan to travel abroad, consider another credit card as this one features foreign transaction fees.

It's pretty simple: Use the card for all of your purchases to earn 1% cash back, with a small $20 bonus for being in good standing after each account anniversary for up to five years. There are cards here that offer more in terms of rewards, but it could be a good way to incentivize responsible behavior thanks to its $20 bonus.

You can also monitor your credit score for free to see how well you're building credit. There's not much to keep track of, so it's a good first credit card

You can learn more about the card in our Chase Freedom Student card review.

Things to consider when choosing a student credit card

There are a number of different factors you should consider while looking for your first credit card, including the annual percentage rate (APR), any fees and the rewards program.

An APR is the interest rate your unpaid credit card balance will accrue. Because college students are seen as slightly riskier borrowers, most student cards have higher-than-average APRs. That means you should pay off your statement balance in full each month to avoid having to pay any interest charges. It's also a good way to get in the habit of paying your bill on time to avoid any late fees or penalty APRs.

Speaking of, it's important to look at your credit card statement to find your APR and fees. It'll outline whichever fees -- meaning annual fee, late fee, penalty fee, balance transfer fee, or foreign transaction fee -- that your card includes.

Lastly, consider whether or not the card you're interested in offers rewards. Rewards can be a good way to offset spending and earn a return for necessary purchases such as gas and groceries. Not every student credit card offers rewards, and they can add another level of complexity to a card, but the benefits outweigh the negatives.

How to responsibly maximize your card benefits

Some student credit cards will reward you for using the card responsibly, either in the form of an annual bonus or by increasing the rate at which it earns rewards. To do so, be sure you're paying your monthly bill on time, which  can also help youavoid interest charges that would otherwise cut into your profit. 

It's rare, but sometimes student cards include statement credits for certain purchase types. Some cards offer bonuses for good grades or even streaming purchases. Be sure you're taking advantage of these when you can.

Student credit cards often offer a way for you to keep track of your credit score. It's a good way to see how paying on time and keeping your credit card usage low can lead to healthy credit scores. It's also a good idea to keep your credit card account open as long as you can. The age of credit accounts will contribute to better credit scores.

Why it's important to build credit

Your credit score determines what kind of terms you get on loans, whether it be an auto loan, a mortgage on a house, your credit card APR or even sometimes your rent payment. A good credit score is how you show borrowers you're not a risk.

Having a lower credit score will lead to getting less favorable terms when it comes time to apply for credit products. The better the credit score, the lower the interest rate will be on credit products and the less you'll have to pay over time. If you want to lead a good financial life, it starts with building a solid credit history through on-time payments.

Are you ready for a credit card?

If you're responsible with your money, it might be time to consider a credit card. If you consistently save and budget well, you're likely ready to begin building credit via a credit card.

An emergency credit card can be a great way to have an extra source of funding in times of trouble -- especially if you're going away to school for the first time.

The key to being a successful cardholder is to stay organized. Track what you're spending on, pay your bill in full each month and pay attention to the rewards program to maximize the value you get from the card.

Alternatives to a student credit card

If you're under the age of 18 and therefore not old enough to have your own credit card, you could be added as an authorized user on a parent or other family member's account. It's a good way to learn the basics of a credit card without having to have one of your own.

If you're looking to start building credit but feel you're not ready for a credit card, there are some third-party companies that will report your rent payment -- for a fee -- to the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, TransUnion and Experian) as a way to build your credit. Paying your student loans on time will also contribute to building credit.

If you're worried about using an unsecured credit card, you could also consider a secured credit card. In exchange for a one-time security deposit (that's usually refundable after showing responsible use) to form your credit limit, you could start building credit while learning with less risk of overspending.

How to apply for a student credit card

To apply for a credit card, you can follow one of the links at the top of the page. Once you're on the credit card issuer's website, you can securely fill out an application with all the required personal and financial information.

Credit card issuers are usually prompt about getting back to you unless they need more information or clarification.

FAQs

Do I need to be employed to get a student credit card?

No, you can apply for a student credit card if you're unemployed. However, you will need enough income to cover any balances you accrue with your card.

How old do I have to be to get a credit card?

Most credit cards require you to be at least 18 years old to apply. But there are debit cards designed for younger people available.

Do student credit cards work internationally?

Yes, but you'll want to make sure your credit card doesn't have any foreign transaction fees. A foreign transaction fee will result in a fee each time you need to make a purchase in another currency.

Our methodology

CNET reviews credit cards by exhaustively comparing them across set criteria developed for each major category, including cash-back credit cards, welcome bonus credit cards, travel rewards credit cards and balance transfer credit cards. We take into consideration the typical spending behavior of a range of consumer profiles -- with the understanding that everyone's financial situation is different -- and the designated function of a card. 

*All information about the Discover it Student Cash BackDiscover it Student chrome, Bank of America Travel Rewards Credit Card for Students, Bank of America Customized Cash Rewards credit card for Students has been collected independently by CNET and has not been reviewed by the issuer.

The editorial content on this page is based solely on objective, independent assessments by our writers and is not influenced by advertising or partnerships. It has not been provided or commissioned by any third party. However, we may receive compensation when you click on links to products or services offered by our partners.