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.
If you have no credit and are a student, this list is for you. If, however, you have established credit but it’s bad, this list of credit cards for FICO scores of 500 – 599 may be a better one for you.
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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.
Wells Fargo Cash Back College Card
The Wells Fargo Cash Back College Card is designed to help students build credit history while they’re still in college. Best of all, you can earn 3% cash rewards on up to $2,500 spent on gas, grocery, and drugstore purchases for the first six months. You get 1% cash rewards on all other purchases and that’s the cash rewards rate with no limit.
The card also comes with a 0% APR on all purchases and balance transfers for six months. After that, the rate will be based on your creditworthiness.
This card doesn’t have any special sign up bonus but the card has no annual fee either. This is important because when I was in college, I had no money for annual fees.
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 be considered for a higher credit line in as little as six months, 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.
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.
State Farm Student Visa
I know you don’t usually think about State Farm when you’re talking about credit cards but State Farm is more than just insurance. They offer a credit card designed for students with a rewards program when you use it on purchases. You get 1 State Farm Loyalty Rewards point for every $2 spent on eligible purchases and 3 points for every $1 spent on insurance premiums. You can use the points to get gift cards from various retailers.
There’s no annual fee and no sign up bonus.
It’s not the sexiest of student credit cards but if you have limited credit, this is a good option.
You should be able to find a great credit card among this list to help you build credit while in college. And if you need a budgeting app to help you manage your psending, here are our choices for the best budgeting apps for new college graduates.
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Great overview Jim. We are opting for our two college bound kids to use their debit cards and avoid credit cards for now.
Jim Wang says
I’m still very far away from these types of decisions but my gut says I’d like my kids to get comfortable with the mechanics of managing credit as early as possible. Maybe that’s debit, where the experience at the register is the same, or maybe it’s credit with a small limit, where you have the entire process (spending and paying) but with lower stakes. Either way, that introduction is very important.
I use the citi dividend card when I was in college. Great way to build up credit. Even though I don’t use that card anymore, I still have it open as it continuously build my credit history’s length.