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Best Student Credit Cards of April 2020

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Best Student Credit Cards of April 2020

*Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any credit card issuer. This site may be compensated through a credit card issuer partnership.

This article was last updated Apr 01, 2020. Terms and conditions may have changed. For the most accurate information, please consult the issuer website.

While you’re in college, you may be so bombarded with homework and exams that building a credit history isn’t on top of your to-do list — but it should be. It’s important to build a good credit score so you have the best odds when leasing an apartment or applying for a car loan after graduation. Both brokers and lenders check your credit prior to approval, and a lack of a credit score or a poor score lowers your approval odds.

A simple way you can build credit during college is to open a student credit card. You can add a small recurring charge, such as a Netflix or Hulu subscription, and pay it off on time and in full each month to build credit. Just know that you have to at least 18 years old to apply for a card and be able to include a steady source of income on the application in order to qualify.

We’ll review the best student cards with no annual fees, so you can choose the card that’ll best fit your needs.

Best student credit cards

Best overallDiscover it® Student Cash Back
Best for commuter studentsDiscover it® Student chrome
Best flat-rate student cardJourney® Student Rewards from Capital One®
Best for small purchasesCiti Rewards+℠ Student Card

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 benefits 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® Student Cash Back

  • 0% for 6 Months*

  • Earn 5% cash back at different places each quarter up to the quarterly maximum, when you activate*

  • 12.99% - 21.99% Variable*

Highlights
  • INTRO OFFER: Discover will match ALL the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically. There's no signing up. And no limit to how much is matched.
  • Earn 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places each quarter like grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations, select rideshares and online shopping, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases – automatically.
  • Good Grades Rewards: $20 statement credit each school year your GPA is 3.0 or higher for up to the next 5 years.
  • No annual fee. No late fee on first late payment. No APR change for paying late.
  • Get 100% U.S. based customer service & get your free Credit Scorecard with your FICO® Credit Score, number of recent inquiries and more.
  • Freeze It® on/off switch for your account that prevents new purchases, cash advances & balance transfers in seconds.
  • Get an alert if we find your Social Security number on any of thousands of Dark Web sites.* Activate for free.
  • 0% intro APR on purchases for 6 months, then the standard variable purchase APR of 12.99% - 21.99% applies.
  • See Rates & Fees

See additional details for Discover it® Student Cash Back

More Info


Best for: The Discover it® Student Cash Back 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. Earn 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places each quarter like grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations, select rideshares and online shopping, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate. 1% unlimited cash back on all other purchases - automatically. Just remember to activate the bonus categories each quarter. And for new cardmembers, Discover will match ALL the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically. There's no signing up. And no limit to how much is matched.

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 12.99% - 21.99% variable APR.

Other benefits: There are money-saving perks including a foreign transaction fee of none, 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® Student Cash Back.

Best for commuter students: Discover it® Student chrome

  • 0% for 6 months

  • 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

  • 12.99% - 21.99% Variable*

Highlights
  • INTRO OFFER: Discover will match ALL the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically. There's no signing up. And no limit to how much is matched.
  • Earn 2% cash back at Gas Stations and Restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases – automatically.
  • Good Grades Rewards: $20 statement credit each school year your GPA is 3.0 or higher for up to the next 5 years.
  • No annual fee. No late fee on first late payment. No APR change for paying late.
  • Get 100% U.S. based customer service & get your free Credit Scorecard with your FICO® Credit Score, number of recent inquiries and more.
  • Freeze It® on/off switch for your account that prevents new purchases, cash advances & balance transfers in seconds.
  • Get an alert if we find your Social Security number on any of thousands of Dark Web sites.* Activate for free.
  • 0% intro APR on purchases for 6 months, then the standard variable purchase APR of 12.99% - 21.99% applies.
  • See Rates & Fees

See additional details for Discover it® Student chrome

More Info

Best for: Students who commute to school and dine out for meals can see the most benefit with the cashback program the Discover it® Student chrome offers, versus the quarterly bonus categories characteristic of the Discover it® Student Cash Back.

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 gas stations and restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter. 1% unlimited cash back on all other purchases - automatically. This rate can be more beneficial if you drive to class or work and often buy meals on the go. Plus, for new cardmembers, Discover will match ALL the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically. There's no signing up. And no limit to how much is matched.

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 12.99% - 21.99% variable APR. So, try and pay off purchases as quickly as possible.

Other benefits: This card can save you money on fees some other cards charge. Benefits include a foreign transaction fee of none, no penalty APR, and no late fee on your first late payment.

Read our review of the Discover it® Student chrome.

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, this card has a foreign transaction fee of none. 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.

Read our review of the Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One®.

Best for small purchases: Citi Rewards+℠ Student Card

  • 0% for 7 months on Purchases then 14.49% - 24.49% (Variable)

  • 2X ThankYou® Points at Supermarkets and Gas Stations for the first $6,000 per year and then 1X Points thereafter. Plus, earn 1X Points on All Other Purchases

  • Earn 2,500 bonus points after you spend $500 in purchases with your card within 3 months of account opening; redeemable for a $25 gift card at thankyou.com

Highlights
  • The Citi Rewards+℠ Student Card – the only credit card that automatically rounds up to the nearest 10 points on every purchase – with no cap
  • Earn 2,500 bonus points after you spend $500 in purchases with your card within 3 months of account opening; redeemable for a $25 gift card at thankyou.com
  • 0% Intro APR on purchases for 7 months. After that, the variable APR will be 14.49% - 24.49%, based on your creditworthiness.
  • Earn 2X ThankYou® Points at Supermarkets and Gas Stations for the first $6,000 per year and then 1X Points thereafter. Plus, earn 1X Points on All Other Purchases.
  • The standard variable APR for Citi Flex Plan is 14.49% - 24.49%, based on your creditworthiness. Citi Flex Plan offers are made available at Citi's discretion.
  • No annual fee 

See additional details for Citi Rewards+℠ Student Card

More Info

Best for: Students who frequently shop for groceries or make small transactions can benefit from Citi Rewards+℠ Student Card’s unique rewards program tailored to these purchases.

Why we like it: Cardholders earn 2X ThankYou® Points at Supermarkets and Gas Stations for the first $6,000 per year and then 1X Points thereafter. Plus, earn 1X Points on All Other Purchases. This card maximizes the points earned on all purchases by rounding up to the nearest 10 points. For example, if you spend $1 on a bag of chips, you earn 10 points, and if you spend $12 on lunch, you earn 20 points. This feature isn’t available on any other student card, creating great value for all the little transactions you’re bound to make. Another notable perk is the ability to receive 10% points back on redemptions up to 100,000 ThankYou Points per year. Cardholders can also finance new purchases, such as textbooks and dorm room furnishings, with the intro 0% for 7 months on purchases. After, a 14.49% - 24.49% (variable) APR applies.

Other benefits: Citi Entertainment provides special access to purchase tickets for events like concerts, sporting events and dining experiences.

Read our review of the Citi Rewards+℠ Student Card.

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%.

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