When you're establishing credit, it's very hard to get a credit card. It's a classic catch-22. Credit card companies don't have enough information about you so they're hesitant to give you a card. You can't build credit without having some credit… so what can you do?
Fortunately, credit card companies make allowances for students. They know you're a special case, but a common one, and so they have options available just for students. In many cases, they even have special features that can help you build and monitor your credit even faster.
Discover it® for Students
The Discover it® for Students is easily one of the best student credit cards because of all the features they offer without an annual fee.
First off, you get 5% cash back in categories that rotate every three months, which often includes Amazon.com, restaurants, and other popular places. You get a good grade rewards bonus of $20 each school year your GPA is over 3.0 for up to 5 years. You get a free FICO credit score plus they will monitor your Social Security Number and give you an alert if they find it on any of thousands of risky websites.
If you need it, 0% intro APR on purchases for 6 months plus the credit needed to be approved for this card is Fair. (According to Experian, “fair” on the FICO score model is 580-669)
The only two downsides to this card is that you have to activate the 5% bonus categories each quarter (set a calendar reminder) and Discover is not as widely accepted as other cards. My first credit card in college was a Discover card (I still have it!) and I didn't have much of an issue with acceptance, but it did pop up from time to time.
Discover it® chrome for Students
Discover it® chrome for Students is very similar to the Discover it® for Students card except the cash back bonuses are a little less generous but they do not rotate. Rather than rotating every quarter, the Discover it® chrome for Students gives you 2% cash back at restaurants and gas stations on up to $1,000 in purchases without a need to activate it. You get 1% on all other purchases.
There is still Social Security Number monitoring, a free FICO credit score, dollar for dollar match of cash back at the end of the first year, and 6 months of 0% intro APR on purchases. They're very similar cards with a difference on cash back. The credit score needs on this card is also Fair (580-669).
Also, Discover is not as widely accepted as other cards.
Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One®
The Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One® card will give you 1% cash back on all purchases that percentage is boosted up to 1.25% when you pay on time that month, with no limit to cash back amounts. You will also get access to a higher credit limit after you make your first 5 monthly payments on-time, so you won't even have to play the “request a credit line increase” game.
Another perk of this card is that there is no foreign transaction fee if you use this card internationally. Credit requirements on this card is Average credit.
Citi ThankYou® Preferred Card for College Students
The Citi ThankYou® Preferred Card for College Students is the only card on this list that gives you a sign up bonus – 2,500 bonus points after spending $500 within the first 3 months of opening your account. That is worth $25 in gift cards on the Citi ThankYou Netowrk.
You also get 2x points on dining out and entertainment, 1x on all others, with no annual fee and no expiration on those points. The credit needed for this card is Good (670-739).
BankAmericard Travel Rewards® for Students
The BankAmericard Travel Rewards® for Students gives you 1.5% rewards on all of your purchases plus a 10% bonus if you have a Bank of America savings or checking account. While Bank of America didn't make our list of the best bank accounts, we still use them because of the large geographic footprint. The bonus goes up depending on how much you have in the account, but the tiers get to be pretty high. It also has no foreign transaction fees and no annual fee.
You should be able to find a great credit card among this list to help you build credit while in college.