The Ultimate Guide to Credit Cards
Thursday, May 19, 2022

9 Credit Cards for Students with Fair Credit

Credit Cards For Students With Fair Credit

credit card advice

Eric Bank

Written by: Eric Bank

Eric Bank

Eric Bank has been covering business and financial topics since 1985, specializing in taking complex subject matters and explaining them in simple terms for consumer audiences. In addition to his work on CardRates.com, Eric has appeared regularly on Credible.com, eHow, WiseBread, The Nest, Get.com, Zacks, Chron and dozens of other outlets. A former software engineer, Eric holds an M.B.A. from New York University and an M.S. in finance from DePaul University.

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Edited by: Lillian Guevara-Castro

Lillian Guevara-Castro

Lillian is a Content Editor who brings her journalism experience in business and consumer finance to ensure CardRates news articles and reports have been edited for overall clarity, accuracy, and reader engagement. Her primary goal is to assure editorial content meets the highest level of quality and precision.

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Advertiser Disclosure

Many students have had little interaction with the credit industry. Some have no credit scores at all, while others have fair or poor credit. We’ve reviewed the following nine credit cards for students with fair credit, which offer students a great opportunity to build their credit.

No doubt about it, a good credit score will help students down the road, when they look to lease an apartment and apply for a job after graduation. In addition, owning a credit card is an object lesson in personal finance that will help round out a student’s education.

Read on to see the surprisingly wide variety of student credit cards — one or more may be a perfect fit for you.

Best Overall | Student Cards | FAQs

Best Overall Card for Students with Fair Credit

The Discover it® Student Cash Back card is our top choice for its bonus cash back rate, up to the quarterly limit, on rotating categories of merchants that you activate each quarter. All other purchases earn a fixed cash back rate.

Discover it® Student Cash Back Review

at Discover Card'ssecure website

STUDENT RATING

★★★★★

4.6

OVERALL RATING

  • No credit score required to apply.*
  • INTRO 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.
  • 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. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases – automatically.
  • No annual fee and build your credit with responsible use.
  • 0% intro APR on purchases for 6 months, then the standard variable purchase APR of 13.24% - 22.24% applies.
  • Refer-a-Friend: Once you become a Discover it® Student cardmember, you can earn a statement credit each time you refer a friend and they’re approved. Over half a million students got Discover Cards from their friends' recommendations.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% Intro APR for 6 months
10.99% Intro APR for 6 months
13.24% - 22.24% Variable APR
$0
Fair/New to Credit

Students can earn statement credits when they refer friends who are approved for the card. Students also receive important security features, including instant account freeze and unfreeze, activity and fraud alerts, and $0 liability if your card is lost, stolen, or used fraudulently.

In addition, your first late payment won’t trigger a fee, and late payments won’t raise your APR.

Other Top Cards for Students with Fair Credit

The following eight cards are well-suited for students with fair credit. Each offers features that students will appreciate.

Always understand a credit card’s terms and conditions before applying, including its APR, the number of days in the interest-free grace period, and the various fees that can mount up.

STUDENT RATING

★★★★★
4.6

OVERALL RATING

4.2/5.0
  • 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
  • Earn $5 per month for 12 months on Select Streaming Subscriptions when you pay on time. *Exclusions Apply
  • Enjoy no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees
  • You can help build your credit with responsible use of a card like this
  • Be automatically considered for a higher credit line in as little as 6 months
  • $0 fraud liability if your card is ever lost or stolen
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
26.99% (Variable)
$0
Average, Fair, Limited

The Journey Student Rewards from Capital One lets you earn cash back on all purchases while charging no annual fee. When you pay your bill on time, however, you can boost your cash back rate for the month.

The card lets you build your credit by reporting your payments to at least one credit bureau. Furthermore, you can bump up your credit limit when you make your first six monthly payments on time.

Discover it® Student chrome Review

at Discover Card'ssecure website

STUDENT RATING

★★★★★
4.6

OVERALL RATING

  • No credit score required to apply.*
  • INTRO 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.
  • 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.
  • No annual fee and build your credit with responsible use.
  • 0% intro APR on purchases for 6 months, then the standard variable purchase APR of 13.24% - 22.24% applies.
  • Refer-a-Friend: Once you become a Discover it® Student cardmember, you can earn a statement credit each time you refer a friend and they’re approved. Over half a million students got Discover Cards from their friends' recommendations.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% Intro APR for 6 months
10.99% Intro APR for 6 months
13.24% - 22.24% Variable APR
$0
Fair/New to Credit

The Discover it® Student chrome card lets you earn a higher cash back rate on restaurant and gas purchases up to a quarterly limit. You also receive free Social Security number alerts and FICO scores.

STUDENT RATING

★★★★★
4.6

OVERALL RATING

4.6/5.0
  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn $100 when you spend $100 in the first three months
  • Enjoy no annual fee, foreign transaction fees, or hidden fees
  • No rotating categories or sign-ups needed to earn cash rewards; plus, cash back won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how much you can earn
  • You can help build your credit with responsible use of a card like this
  • Be automatically considered for a higher credit line in as little as 6 months
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
15.24% - 25.24% (Variable)
$0
Average, Fair, Limited

The Capital One Quicksilver Student Cash Rewards Credit Card offers simple flat-rate cash back because students already have enough to worry about. Cash back can be redeemed for a check or as a statement credit to help pay your balance, among other options like gift cards.

STUDENT RATING

★★★★★
4.6

OVERALL RATING

4.6/5.0
  • Earn unlimited 3% cash back on dining, entertainment, popular streaming services and at grocery stores (excluding superstores like Walmart® and Target®), with 1% on all other purchases. Plus, earn 8% cash back on Capital One Entertainment purchases and tickets at Vivid Seats
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn $100 when you spend $100 in the first three months
  • Enjoy no annual fee, foreign transaction fees, or hidden fees
  • No rotating categories or sign-ups needed to earn cash rewards; plus, cash back won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how much you can earn
  • You can help build your credit with responsible use of a card like this
  • Be automatically considered for a higher credit line in as little as 6 months
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
15.24% - 25.24% (Variable)
$0
Average, Fair, Limited

It makes sense that Capital One decided to debut a version of the Savor card for students, considering college students spend a decent amount of money on food and entertainment. This card is a solid addition to any student’s wallet who loves to eat out and order in.

STUDENT RATING

★★★★★
4.5

OVERALL RATING

  • $50 Bonus after first purchase made within the first 3 months from account opening
  • Earn 1% cash back on all purchases
  • No annual Fee
  • $20 Good Standing Rewards after each account anniversary for up to 5 years
  • Earn a credit limit increase after making 5 monthly payments on time within 10 months from account opening when meeting credit criteria
  • No minimum to redeem for cash back. Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
15.24% Variable
$0
See website for Details*

The Chase Freedom® Student credit card charges no annual fee, and you can earn a signup bonus by using your card for at least one purchase during the first three months. In addition, you earn cash back on all purchases and an annual Good Standing reward for up to five years.

Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards Credit Card for Students Review

at the issuer'ssecure website

STUDENT RATING

★★★★★
4.6

OVERALL RATING

  • Earn a $200 cash rewards bonus after making at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of your account opening
  • Earn 3% cash back in the category of your choice: gas, online shopping, dining, travel, drug stores, or home improvement/furnishings and 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, then earn 1%
  • Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases
  • 0% Introductory APR on new purchases and balance transfers for 15 billing cycles (balance transfer fee applies), then a variable APR applies
  • Optional overdraft protection option helps prevent declined purchases, returned checks, or other overdrafts when you link your eligible Bank of America® checking account to your credit card. Transfer fees may apply.
  • $0 Annual fee
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 15 billing cycles
0% for 15 billing cycles
14.24% - 24.24% Variable
$0
None/Limited

The Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards Credit Card for Students lets you earn 3% on purchases in the category of your choice, including online shopping, travel, dining, gas, drug stores, and home furnishings. The limit on bonus cash back is for the first $2,500 of combined purchases each quarter. And there’s no annual fee.

Deserve EDU Mastercard Review

at the issuer'ssecure website

STUDENT RATING

★★★★★
4.5

OVERALL RATING

  • Earn 1% cash back on all purchases + Amazon Prime Student on us for 1 year
  • Cellphone protection up to $600
  • Prequalify in just seconds with no impact to your credit score
  • Collision Damage Waiver through Mastercard
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • No Social Security number required for international students to apply
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
18.74% (variable)
$0
None/Limited

The Deserve EDU Mastercard lets you earn 1% cash back on all purchases and charges no annual fee. The card does not offer cash advances or balance transfers. You’ll get free protective coverage of your cellphone if you use the card to charge your monthly bill. You’ll also get one free year of Amazon Prime Student, and there is no fee for international transactions.

Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card for Students Review

at the issuer'ssecure website

STUDENT RATING

★★★★
4.4

OVERALL RATING

  • Earn 25,000 bonus points ($250 value) if you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening
  • Earn unlimited 1.5 points for every $1 you spend on all purchases everywhere
  • No blackout dates or restrictions apply, and points never expire
  • 0% introductory APR on new purchases for 15 billing cycles, then a variable APR applies
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • $0 Annual fee
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 15 billing cycles
N/A
14.24% - 24.24% Variable
$0
None/Limited

The Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card for Students provides points on all purchases, which can be redeemed as a statement credit for travel purchases made with the card. The grace period for this card is 25 days. There are no annual or foreign transaction fees, and you can earn bonus points if you make the required amount of purchases during the first 90 days.

What is the Easiest Credit Card to Get with Fair Credit?

The Deserve EDU Mastercard for Students may be the easiest card for international students to obtain because it doesn’t require a Social Security number. It is for students with no previous credit history or with a fair score.

However, all the cards in this review are fairly easy for students with fair credit to get, and many offer better benefits and rewards.

Our favorite card is the Discover it® Student Cash Back, in which you can earn bonus cash back on rotating quarterly merchant categories you activate.

The card also offers several other student-friendly features, including friendly introductory terms and more. If you’d rather not deal with quarterly rotating categories that you have to activate, the Discover it® Student chrome offers the same benefits as the Discover it® Student Cash Back card except for the reward program.

Two other honorable mentions are:

  • The Journey Student Rewards from Capital One offers 1.25% cash back if you pay your monthly bill on time and an automatic credit limit increase if you make your first five payments on time.
  • The Chase Freedom® Student card with easy-to-obtain bonuses and 1% cash back on all purchases. Chase cards are highly regarded for their generous benefits and rewards.

The other cards reviewed are also available to students with fair credit but do not score as high when it comes to benefits of importance to students.

Can I Get a Student Credit Card with Bad Credit?

Student cards are unusually flexible when it comes to poor or scant credit history. We believe the credit card companies are willing to take more chances on student cardholders for the chance of establishing a long-term rapport. The hope is that today’s student cardholders will graduate to the better cards offered by the same issuer.

Should You Get an Unsecured or Secured Card?

We haven’t concentrated on secured credit cards for bad credit in this review. These are the easiest cards to get because you must deposit cash collateral equal to your credit limit.

While these cards are not necessarily geared toward students, they allow students to easily acquire a card with a modest credit limit. Examples of top secured cards include the Discover it® Secured Credit Card and the Capital One Platinum Secured Credit Card.

Whichever card(s) you choose, be sure they report your card activity to at least one (and preferably all) of the three national credit bureaus, Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax. All of the cards mentioned in this article report to the credit bureaus.

By paying your bills on time and keeping your credit usage under control, using cards that report your transactions can help boost your credit score.

Whether your credit is bad, thin, or non-existent, a student credit card can be an excellent way to introduce you to the world of credit. By learning how to responsibly use your credit, you’ll have a financial skill that will pay dividends throughout your lifetime.

How Old Do I Have to Be to Get a Student Card?

The minimum age to get a credit card in your own name is 18. However, if you are between 18 and 21, you will also have to demonstrate you earn individual income. This is a result of the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility, and Disclosure (CARD) Act of 2009.

The goal is simple enough — to prove that young people have the means to pay their credit card bills. After age 21, you are free to own credit cards as you choose. There is no maximum age for card ownership.

Young adults can increase their chances of getting a credit card by recruiting a cosigner. The cosigner should be at least 21 years old and preferably have good credit. Cosigners are equally liable for all debts charged to the card, and both can use the card to make purchases on credit.

Minimum Age for Authorized Users by IssuerIf you are under age 18, you may still get to use a credit card by becoming an authorized user on someone else’s card. Some credit cards require authorized users to be 18 or older. However, several have no minimum age, while the minimum age for American Express is 15, and 13 for Barclays.

Authorization is different from cosigning. As an authorized user, you get to use the card but are not ultimately liable to pay your bill — that responsibility rests with the card owner.

In most cases, the card owner cannot set a spending limit for the authorized user. However, American Express permits this, as does Citigroup for the Costco Anywhere Card. Capital One allows the cardholder to freeze the card at any time.

How are Student Cards Different from Regular Cards?

Let’s say the obvious part first: Student credit cards are aimed at students, while regular cards are for the public. The better student cards offer benefits especially appealing to college students. For example:

  • The two Discover student credit cards offer a reward in the form of statement credit for students after referrals to friends become successful applications. They also provide Freeze it®, which allows cardholders to immediately freeze or unfreeze card use. Furthermore, there are cash back rewards.
  • The Deserve EDU Mastercard for Students offers a free year of Amazon Prime Student. This provides free two-day shipping, unlimited streaming of Prime TV shows and movies, unlimited photo storage, and 20% off newly released video games. It also provides cards to international students who lack a Social Security number.
  • These cards provide easier acceptance of students who happen to have fair, poor, or thin credit. Generally, they also feature low credit limits, limited rewards, and are unsecured.
  • The Journey Student Rewards from Capital One rewards timely payments with higher rewards and a higher credit limit.
  • The Chase Freedom® Student card offers several protections, including $0 liability, purchase protection, extended warranty protection, fraud protection and alerts, and an immediate lock/unlock feature.

For all these reasons, it makes sense for students to get their own student credit cards once they turn 18. You can pick an issuer that permits you to become an authorized user, or you can recruit a cosigner.

Choose the Card with the Best Rates, Terms, and Benefits

Student credit cards are a natural choice for students with less-than-perfect credit. To that end, we reviewed here nine credit cards for students with fair credit. Each one has features that may appeal to students, and all charge no annual fee.

When selecting a credit card, students should ensure they understand all the card’s fees and benefits. Then, choose the one that provides the best interest rate, terms, and other benefits.

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