Simply being a college student is not enough by itself to qualify for most college student credit cards. In general, you must be at least 21 years old or you have to be able to show significant income. If neither of these applies to you, consider being added as an authorized user on a relative’s credit card or asking someone to act as a co-signer. Learn more about college students and credit cards. If you do meet the requirements, though, check out these cards.
 
Our pick for

Credit newbies

Discover it® for Students

Apply Now

on Discover's secure website

Annual fee
$0
Rewards Rate
1.00%
Recommended credit score
630
850
Average - Excellent
We like it for
Cash-back rewards No annual fee Low fees New cardholder bonus Bonus for good grades

Benefits

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.

Drawbacks

Bottom line


Our pick for

Socializers

Citi ThankYou® Preferred Card for College Students

Apply Now

on Citibank's secure website

Annual fee
$0
Rewards Rate
1 point per Dollar
Recommended credit score
690
850
Good - Excellent
We like it for
Rewards for spending on going out Multiple rewards redemption options Sign-up bonus No annual fee

Benefits

This card pays you 2 ThankYou points per $1 spent on restaurants and entertainment and 1 point per dollar for all other spending. Plus, new cardholders earn a sign-up bonus: Earn 2,500 bonus ThankYou® Points after spending $500 within the first 3 months of cardmembership. You can redeem ThankYou points for merchandise, travel, gift cards and cash — or you can use them to pay down a student loan. There is no annual fee.

Drawbacks

Bottom line


Our pick for

Responsible students

Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One®

Apply Now

on Capital One's secure website

Annual fee
$0
Rewards Rate
1.25%
Recommended credit score
630
689
Average
We like it for
On-time payment bonus Flat-rate rewards Ability to earn higher credit line Nonstudents allowed No annual fee

Benefits

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.

Drawbacks

Bottom line


Our pick for

Secured card for students

U.S. Bank Secured Visa® Card

Apply Now

on US Bank's secure website

Annual fee
$29
Rewards Rate
N/A
Recommended credit score
350
850
Poor - Excellent
We like it for
Path to upgrading Low annual fee Deposit earns interest

Benefits

To get started with this card, you’ll make a security deposit of $300 to $5,000 which will become your credit line. The deposit remains in an interest-bearing savings account. You may be upgraded to an unsecured card after 12 months of good credit management. During that time, the issuer reports your card activity to all three credit bureaus, so you’ll be building your credit. Unlike many secured cards, this one doesn’t charge activation fees.

Drawbacks

Bottom line


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 Jan. 27, 2017.

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.