The Ultimate Guide to Credit Cards
Monday, March 8, 2021

The Best Credit Cards for Students (2021)

The Best Credit Cards For Students

credit card advice

CardRates.com Staff
By: CardRates.com Staff
Updated: October 1, 2019
Advertiser Disclosure

The best credit cards for students are only a few clicks away for certain secondary education pupils out there. Student credit cards are a great way to begin building credit history and start off on the right financial path. Wise credit use can establish a good credit score early that will help you get a job, rent an apartment, and get good rates on insurance.

But with so many to choose from, how do you begin your search for the best student credit card?

Here are some tips to make your search a little easier, along with some recommendations on credit card plans designed specifically with students in mind.

Qualifying

A few years ago, it was common for students graduating from high school to receive dozens of credit card offers in the mail.

That all changed when the Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act passed by Congress in 2009. This law says anyone applying for a credit card must demonstrate they have the means to pay back any debts they incur — this means showing you have a job and that your expenses don’t exceed your income.

Some cards allow for a co-signer who will help a student to qualify. However, if you have the means, try to get one in your name alone.

Plenty of lenders actually offer credit cards for people with no credit history or a limited history — perfect for students just starting out on their own.

Look for a Low Interest Rate

The interest rate for a first-time cardholder can be pretty hefty. Some cards charge as much as 25% for students. Fortunately, there are other cards with much lower APRs.  This may not mean a lot to someone who is just learning about interest charges, so let’s use a real money example.

Let’s say you charge $250 on your card and take six months to pay it back. On a card with a 12% interest rate, you’ll pay around $9 extra over that period, but a card with a 25% rate will cost you more than $22 in interest.

Keep in mind it can add up to even more if you delay paying it back for longer.

Be sure to check out our extensive collection of low APR credit cards to find the best rates currently available.

Earn Credit for Good Grades

Most credit cards offered to students come with some type of reward plan. This can take the form of cash back rewards for things like gas, food or other necessities.

Other rewards include on-time payment bonuses, cash certificates for use at retail stores, and discounts if you use your card for certain types of purchases. Additionally, many student cards reward good grades these days — generally considered a GPA of 3.0 or higher — with an annual statement credit.

Just be careful not to focus more attention on the rewards than the money you’re spending. After all, you have to pay that money back — with interest.

Check out our excellent selection of points and gift rewards credit cards to start earning goodies of your own.

Avoid the Annual Fee

There are so many cards out there for students that you shouldn’t even consider one that comes with an annual fee. Many card issuers hope first-time credit card holders will assume annual fees are a standard part of the process — this is not so.

There are far more cards out there with no annual fee than there are cards that charge one, so don’t fall for it. If you’re coming across student credit cards that require annual fees, just keep looking. It shouldn’t be too hard to find a card without this fee.

Top 3 Student Credit Card Recommendations:

Below are some of our expert’s favorite cards for students, all with no annual fee and nice rewards programs.

Discover now offers free FICO credit scores to its members, which is a nice way for students to track their credit. The issuer is also forgiving on late payments — another attractive feature for young adults new to managing their finances. This card has particularly generous cash back rewards, especially in quarterly rotating categories.

Discover it® Student Cash Back Review

at Discover Card'ssecure website

STUDENT RATING

★★★★★
4.6

OVERALL RATING

4.5/5.0
  • 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.
  • Good Grades Rewards: $20 statement credit each school year your GPA is 3.0 or higher for up to the next 5 years.
  • Earn rewards while building your credit history that can help you after graduation. And, get your free Credit Scorecard that includes your FICO® Credit Score and important details that help make up your score.
  • No annual fee. No late fee on first late payment. No APR change for paying late.
  • 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% for 6 months
10.99% for 6 months
12.99% - 21.99% Variable APR
$0
Fair/New to Credit

Another Discover card, the issuer’s student cards offer an annual statement credit for good grades, free FICO scores, no penalty for paying late, and cash back rewards. This card is a winning offer for anyone in school.

Discover it® Student chrome Review

at Discover Card'ssecure website

STUDENT RATING

★★★★★
4.6

OVERALL RATING

4.0/5.0
  • 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.
  • Good Grades Rewards: $20 statement credit each school year your GPA is 3.0 or higher for up to the next 5 years.
  • Earn rewards while building your credit history that can help you after graduation. And, get your free Credit Scorecard that includes your FICO® Credit Score and important details that help make up your score.
  • No annual fee. No late fee on first late payment. No APR change for paying late.
  • 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% for 6 months
10.99% for 6 months
12.99% - 21.99% Variable APR
$0
Fair/New to Credit

The following card offers cash back rewards with no limit to the amount of cash back you can earn, and your rewards never expire.

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
  • Pick the monthly due date that works best for you
  • 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
26.99% (Variable)
$0
Average, Fair, Limited

Make your first five payments on time and earn access to a higher credit limit — all with no annual fee or foreign transaction fees.

Photo source: swaphr.com

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