A student credit card can help you earn rewards and enjoy short-term, interest-free financing. What’s more, a student card is a great first step toward establishing a good credit history, which is crucial for obtaining favorable rates on future loans, renting your own apartment and getting low insurance premiums. Keep in mind that simply being a college student may not be enough to qualify you for a “student” card. You’ll generally need access to income, and if you have shaky credit or no credit history at all, you may find it hard to get approved. In that case, consider a secured credit card. These cards require you to put down a cash deposit as collateral. The deposit protects the issuer in case you fail to pay your bill, which reduces the risk of approving you for a card.If you’re in the market for a new card, here are some of our favorite student card offers.

Our pick for

Credit newbies


This card offers 5% cash back (on up to $1,500 in spending per quarter) in categories that change every three months. Recent categories have included Amazon, gas stations and restaurants. It pays 1% cash back on all other spending. New cardholders will get their cash back matched at the end of their first 12 billing periods, and students who maintain a 3.0 GPA are eligible for an annual $20 reward. There’s no annual fee or foreign transaction fee and no fee for paying late once. Late payments will never increase your annual percentage rate.

You have to activate the bonus cash-back categories every quarter. And Discover isn’t as widely accepted as Visa and MasterCard, particularly overseas, so beware if you’re studying abroad.
This is a good card for a student learning to handle credit. You’ll receive a free FICO score, you won’t be punished for a late payment, you won’t pay many fees, and you’ll earn rewards.

Our pick for

Responsible students


The cash-back rewards are easy to understand and might help you develop good credit habits. You earn 1% cash back on all purchases, and when you pay your bill on time, you’ll receive an extra 0.25% cash back as a bonus. Make your first five payments on time, and you may gain access to a higher credit line. There are no annual fees and no foreign transaction fees. And you don’t even have to be a student to apply.

The maximum rewards rate of 1% or 1.25% is lower than the top rate on some other student cards.
This card rewards you for paying on time and has an easy flat-rate rewards structure. Because you don’t have to be a student, those with average credit might want to consider it.


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 Jan. 1, 2018.

NerdWallet staff writer Ellen Cannon contributed to this article. Virginia C. McGuire is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: virginia@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @vcmcguire.