credit cards for college students

If you’re a student, you’re no stranger to the harsh reality of student loan payments. You’re also no stranger to dinners of rice and beans while you pour your energy into your studies. If you’re like most students, your savings for incidentals is most likely close to nil.

Sound familiar?

It can be difficult to make a decent living for yourself while in school. Enter: credit cards. As long as you stay on top of them, credit cards can open up a whole world of better living for you while you study your heart out.

Read on for a list of the best credit cards for college students.


Are you an international student having a hard time getting your hands on a credit card in the United States? You’re not alone.

It can be hard to acquire a credit card in the United States without a Social Security number. Deserve founder Kalpesh Kapadia was an international student himself, so he knew the daily struggles of getting around town without plastic.

That’s why he created a credit card where no Social Security number is needed. Currently, students from 66 countries who study at more than 400 colleges hold one.

It can be tough to get approved, but if you are, the card comes with some serious perks. The biggest one: free Amazon Prime Student membership for cardholders.

Discover It for Students

Discover It is one of the best credit cards for college students who want the most rewards, or cash back.

Discover It offers 5% cash back every quarter at designated places, like restaurants, gas stations, or supermarkets. is even on the list. In addition to these quarterly five-percenters, you’ll also score 1% unlimited cash back on all your other purchases.

At the end of the year, Discover It will match all the cash back you earned throughout the year.

Bonus for students: if you keep your GPA above a 3.0 all year, Discover It will throw you $20 at the end of the year. They’ll do this for a total of five years. That’s $100 in your pocket for doing your homework.

Discover It Secured

Discover It Secured is similar to the normal Discover It card, but it’s a secured credit card. Secured cards ask for a deposit as collateral from applicants with no established credit or bad credit.

Secured cards are a great way to begin to build your credit if you don’t have any yet, or to repair damaged credit from too many years blowing off student loan payments!

The great thing about Discover It Secured is that starting at eight months in, they’ll regularly review your account to see if they can transfer your card over to an unsecured card. That means a potentially higher line of credit without having to fund the card yourself.

You’ll also get 1% cash back on all your purchases, and 2% at gas stations and eating out. Like the unsecured Discover It card, they’ll also match your cash back rewards at the end of the year.

Citi ThankYou Preferred Card for Students

Citi’s ThankYou Preferred card is one of the best credit cards for college students who like incentives. This card uses a point system rather than a cash back system. They have a website where you can log in and choose what you want to redeem your points for.

You’ll get 2,500 points after spending $500 in the first three months. Those points can be traded in for electronics, up to $25 worth in gift cards, and more.

You’ll also get double the points for eating out and entertainment. Points vary according to what you’re cashing in on, too. You’ll get less cash back from your points than you’d get if you traded them in for a gift card or a product.

If you’re an international student, keep in mind that there’s a 3% foreign transaction fee. That means you might want to restrict the use of your student card to just when you’re in the States studying.

Journey Student Rewards Capital One

This is a great card for students who need a little incentive to make their payments on time. That’s okay; you have to start somewhere.

Journey Student Rewards offers 1% cash back on all purchases. If you pay your bill on time each month, that 1% will be anted up to 1.25%. There’s no limitation and the rewards will never expire.

After your first five on-time payments, the card will grant you access to more credit.

While this is one of the best credit cards for college students, you don’t have to be a student to request a card. That means once you graduate and you still need a little help, you’ll be able to keep this card.

OpenSky Secured Visa Credit Card

This is a secured card, which means you’ll essentially be funding your own line of credit. It’s a good way to spend within your means as you grow your credit and learn about why it’s important.

There’s no credit check necessary to request this one. That makes it perfect for first-time students who want to start building their credit early and can’t get an unsecured card yet.

Your deposit is refundable, and they report to the three main credit bureaus. That means your credit will build quickly; not one of your on-time payments will go unreported.

With each statement, you’ll receive a free report of your FICO credit score to check up on how you’re doing.

Bank of America Cash Rewards for Students

This is a great card for a student who’s already a Bank of America customer. You get 1% cash back for every purchase, 2% cash back on supermarket purchases, and 3% cash back on gas.

Every time you cash in on your rewards directly to your Bank of America savings or checking account, they’ll give you an extra 10% bonus.

You also get $150 if you spend $500 in your first 90 days as a cardholder.

The unchanging categories are great because you don’t have to worry about quarterly changes. You’ll know exactly where you’re earning cash back consistently all year. The rewards never expire, either.

Which One of the Best Credit Cards for College Students is For You?

Now that you’ve read up on all the different cards that are out there for you, you can go forth and request a card with confidence.

We know that it’s a lot to take in. Feel free to get in touch with any questions you may have about the world of credit, or if you need help finding the perfect card for you.