Best College Student Credit Cards of 2018

Melissa Lambarena

Last updated on December 11, 2018

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We adhere to strict standards of editorial integrity. Some of the products we feature are from our partners. Here’s how we make money.

Using one of these cards responsibly while still in school is a giant step toward building great credit.

Our pick for

Cash-back rewards

Discover It for Students Credit Card

on Discover's secure website, or call (800) 347-0264

Rates & Fees

on Discover's secure website, or call (800) 347-0264

Rates & Fees
Annual Fee

$0

Regular APR

14.99% - 23.99% Variable APR

Intro APR

0% on Purchases for 6 months and 10.99% on Balance Transfers for 6 months

recommended credit score

Our pick for

Incentives for responsible use

Capital One Journey Student Rewards Credit Card

on Capital One's secure website

on Capital One's secure website

Annual Fee

$0

Regular APR

26.46% Variable APR

Intro APR

N/A

recommended credit score

Our pick for

Gas and restaurant rewards

Discover it Chrome for Students Credit Card

on Discover's secure website, or call (800) 347-0264

Rates & Fees

on Discover's secure website, or call (800) 347-0264

Rates & Fees
Annual Fee

$0

Regular APR

14.99% - 23.99% Variable APR

Intro APR

0% on Purchases for 6 months and 10.99% on Balance Transfers for 6 months

recommended credit score

Our pick for

International students

Deserve® Edu Mastercard for Students

on Deserve's secure website

on Deserve's secure website

Annual Fee

$0

Regular APR

20.74% Variable

Intro APR

N/A

recommended credit score

Our pick for

Limited credit

State Farm Student Visa Credit Card Credit Card

on State Farm's secure website

on State Farm's secure website

Annual Fee

$0

Regular APR

17.24% - 25.24% Variable

Intro APR

N/A

recommended credit score

Summary of Best College Student Credit Cards of 2018

Credit CardBest ForIntro APRRegular APRAnnual FeeLearn More
Discover It for Students Credit Card

Discover it® Student Cash Back

on Discover's secure website, or call (800) 347-0264

Cash-back rewards

0% on Purchases for 6 months and 10.99% on Balance Transfers for 6 months

14.99% - 23.99% Variable APR

$0

on Discover's secure website, or call (800) 347-0264

Capital One Journey Student Rewards Credit Card

Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One®

on Capital One's secure website

Incentives for responsible use

N/A

26.46% Variable APR

$0

on Capital One's secure website

Discover it Chrome for Students Credit Card

Discover it® Student chrome

on Discover's secure website, or call (800) 347-0264

Gas and restaurant rewards

0% on Purchases for 6 months and 10.99% on Balance Transfers for 6 months

14.99% - 23.99% Variable APR

$0

on Discover's secure website, or call (800) 347-0264

Deserve® Edu Mastercard for Students

Deserve® Edu Mastercard for Students

on Deserve's secure website

International students

N/A

20.74% Variable

$0

on Deserve's secure website

State Farm Student Visa Credit Card Credit Card

State Farm® Student Visa® Credit Card

on State Farm's secure website

Limited credit

N/A

17.24% - 25.24% Variable

$0

on State Farm's secure website

Credit CardBest ForIntro APRRegular APRAnnual FeeLearn More
Discover It for Students Credit Card

Discover it® Student Cash Back

on Discover's secure website, or call (800) 347-0264

Cash-back rewards

0% on Purchases for 6 months and 10.99% on Balance Transfers for 6 months

14.99% - 23.99% Variable APR

$0

on Discover's secure website, or call (800) 347-0264

Capital One Journey Student Rewards Credit Card

Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One®

on Capital One's secure website

Incentives for responsible use

N/A

26.46% Variable APR

$0

on Capital One's secure website

Discover it Chrome for Students Credit Card

Discover it® Student chrome

on Discover's secure website, or call (800) 347-0264

Gas and restaurant rewards

0% on Purchases for 6 months and 10.99% on Balance Transfers for 6 months

14.99% - 23.99% Variable APR

$0

on Discover's secure website, or call (800) 347-0264

Deserve® Edu Mastercard for Students

Deserve® Edu Mastercard for Students

on Deserve's secure website

International students

N/A

20.74% Variable

$0

on Deserve's secure website

State Farm Student Visa Credit Card Credit Card

State Farm® Student Visa® Credit Card

on State Farm's secure website

Limited credit

N/A

17.24% - 25.24% Variable

$0

on State Farm's secure website

HOW STUDENT CARDS STACK UP

Card Our pick for ... Key benefits
Discover it® Student Cash Back Cash-back rewards • 5% cash back in rotating categories that you activate, on up to $1,500 per quarter in spending
• 1% cash back on all other purchases
• $20 annual statement credit available for good grades
Citi ThankYou® Preferred Card for College Students Entertainment rewards • 2 points per $1 spent on dining out and entertainment
• 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One® Incentives for responsible use • 1% cash back on all purchases
• 1.25% cash back for any month when you pay on time
Discover it® Student chrome Gas and restaurant rewards • 2% cash back at restaurants and gas stations on up to $1,000 in combined purchases per quarter
• 1% cash back on all other purchases
• $20 annual statement credit available for good grades
Deserve® Edu Mastercard for Students International students • 1% cash back on all purchases
State Farm® Student Visa® Credit Card Limited credit • 3 points per $1 spent on insurance premiums
• 1 point per $2 spent on other purchases

Understanding student cards

Simply being enrolled as a college student isn’t enough to qualify for a student credit card. The Credit Card Act of 2009 prohibits issuers from providing cards to people under 21 unless they have proof of independent income or a co-signer — someone willing to put their good credit on the line to help you build yours. This can be a roadblock since most major credit card issuers don’t allow co-signers. You might have another path to credit if you have a parent with a good credit score who is willing to add you to their credit card account as an authorized user.

Even after you turn 21 and have a full-time income, it can still be hard to qualify for a credit card if you lack a credit history. Secured credit cards can offer a gateway to establishing credit. They are easier to qualify for because they require a security deposit, which reduces the risk for credit card issuers.

How to choose a student credit card

If you can meet the requirements to qualify for a student credit card, consider these factors in your search:

  • Annual fee: When a card has no annual fee, it doesn't cost you anything to keep the account open after you move on to better offers. That can have a positive effect on the portion of your credit score tied to the length of your credit history.
  • Sign-up bonus and rewards: Rewards and bonuses on student cards, when offered at all, may be smaller than on regular cards, but every little bit helps as a student.
  • Reporting to all three credit bureaus: You want your good payment history to show up on credit reports produced by Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. That can happen only if your issuer reports to all three.
  • Foreign transaction fees: If you plan to travel or study abroad, look for a card that doesn’t charge extra fees on purchases made abroad.
  • Upgrade opportunities: Check whether the issuer allows student cardholders to upgrade to a "regular" card when ready.

For more, see our guide to choosing a student credit card

Other cards to consider

If you can’t qualify for a credit card because you lack a credit history, consider a secured credit card if you’re over 21 and have a full-time income. They are easier to qualify for because they require a security deposit. The deposit is typically equal to your credit line, and you’ll get the money back when you close the card or upgrade to a regular credit card with the same issuer.

If you’re already on the credit track and you have an independent income, you might qualify for a credit card that offers better rewards, a generous sign-up bonus or lower interest. If you’re not, these are some of the options you can look forward to as you establish good credit.

Methodology

NerdWallet's credit cards team selects the best cards in each category based on overall consumer value. Factors in our evaluation include fees, promotional and ongoing APRs, and sign-up bonuses; for rewards cards, we consider earning and redemption rates, redemption options and redemption difficulty. A single card is eligible to be chosen in multiple categories.

Last updated on December 11, 2018

To recap our selections...

NerdWallet's Best College Student Credit Cards of 2018