The Ultimate Guide to Credit Cards
Thursday, February 22, 2024

6 Credit Cards for Students with Fair Credit (Feb. 2024)

Credit Cards For Students With Fair Credit
Eric Bank

Written by: Eric Bank

Eric Bank
Eric Bank

Eric Bank is an M.B.A. who has covered financial and business topics since 1985, appearing regularly on Credible, eHow, WiseBread, The Nest, Zacks, Chron, BadCredit.org and dozens of other outlets. Eric specializes in taking complex subject matters and explaining them in simple terms for consumer audiences, particularly in the world of personal finance. Eric holds a masters in business administration from New York University and a masters in finance from DePaul University.

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Edited by: Lillian Guevara-Castro

Lillian Guevara-Castro
Lillian Guevara-Castro

Lillian Guevara-Castro brings more than 30 years of editing and journalism experience to the CardRates team. She has written and edited for major news organizations, including The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the New York Times, and she previously served as an adjunct journalism instructor at the University of Florida. Today, Lillian edits all CardRates content for clarity, accuracy, and reader engagement.

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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

★★★★★

4.8

OVERALL RATING

  • INTRO OFFER: Unlimited Cashback Match for all new cardmembers – 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 cash back 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 you shop each quarter like grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations, and more, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases—automatically.
  • Redeem your rewards for cash at any time.
  • No credit score required to apply.
  • Discover could help you reduce exposure of your personal information online by helping you remove it from select people-search sites that could sell your data. It’s free, activate with the mobile app.
  • 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 18.24% - 27.24% applies.
  • Terms and conditions apply.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% Intro APR for 6 months
10.99% Intro APR for 6 months
18.24% - 27.24% 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.

Discover it® Student Chrome Review

at Discover Card'ssecure website

STUDENT RATING

★★★★★
4.7

OVERALL RATING

  • INTRO OFFER: Unlimited Cashback Match for all new cardmembers – 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 cash back 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, automatically. Plus earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases.
  • Redeem your rewards for cash at any time.
  • No credit score required to apply.
  • Discover could help you reduce exposure of your personal information online by helping you remove it from select people-search sites that could sell your data. It’s free, activate with the mobile app.
  • 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 18.24% - 27.24% applies.
  • Terms and conditions apply.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% Intro APR for 6 months
10.99% Intro APR for 6 months
18.24% - 27.24% 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

★★★★★
4.7

OVERALL RATING

  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day
  • Early Spend Bonus: Earn $50 when you spend $100 in the first three months
  • Earn 10% cash back on purchases made through Uber & Uber Eats, plus complimentary Uber One membership statement credits through 11/14/2024
  • Enjoy peace of mind with $0 Fraud Liability so that you won't be responsible for unauthorized charges
  • Enjoy no annual fee, foreign transaction fees, or hidden fees
  • Lock your card in the Capital One Mobile app if it's misplaced, lost or stolen
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
19.99% - 29.99% (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

★★★★★
4.7

OVERALL RATING

  • 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
  • Early Spend Bonus: Earn $50 when you spend $100 in the first three months
  • Earn 10% cash back on purchases made through Uber & Uber Eats, plus complimentary Uber One membership statement credits through 11/14/2024
  • Enjoy peace of mind with $0 Fraud Liability so that you won't be responsible for unauthorized charges
  • Enjoy no annual fee, foreign transaction fees, or hidden fees
  • 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
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
19.99% - 29.99% (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.

5. Chase Freedom® Student credit card

This card is currently not available.

Student Rating

★★★★★
N/A

OVERALL RATING

N/A
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A

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.

Deserve® EDU Mastercard Review

at the issuer'ssecure website

STUDENT RATING

★★★★
4.4

OVERALL RATING

4.2/5.0
  • New applications are temporarily paused as Deserve redesigns this card.
  • Earn 1% cash back on all purchases + Amazon Prime Student on us for 1 year
  • Cash back earned is automatically redeemed as a statement credit in $25 increments
  • Cellphone protection up to $600
  • Prequalify in just seconds with no impact on your credit score
  • Collision Damage Waiver through Mastercard
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
23.24% (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.

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.

The other honorable mention is:

  • 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 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.

Advertiser Disclosure

CardRates.com is a free online resource that offers valuable content and comparison services to users. To keep this resource 100% free, we receive compensation for referrals for many of the offers listed on the site. Along with key review factors, this compensation may impact how and where products appear across CardRates.com (including, for example, the order in which they appear). CardRates.com does not include the entire universe of available offers. Editorial opinions expressed on the site are strictly our own and are not provided, endorsed, or approved by advertisers.