Credit newbies

Discover it® for Students
Apply Now on Discover's secure site

Discover it® for Students

Apply Now on Discover's secure site

Socializers

Citi ThankYou® Preferred Card for College Students
Apply Now on Citibank's secure site

Citi ThankYou® Preferred Card for College Students

Apply Now on Citibank's secure site

Responsible students

Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One®
Apply Now on Capital One's secure site

Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One®

Apply Now on Capital One's secure site
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

Discover it® for Students

Discover it® for Students

Apply Now on Discover's secure site

Intro APR Promotions

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

APR

  • APR: 13.99% - 22.99% Variable APR
  • Cash Advance APR: 25.99%, Variable

Annual Fee

$0

Bonus Offer

Get a dollar-for-dollar match of all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year, automatically.

  • Get a dollar-for-dollar match of all the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically.
  • Earn 5% cash back at Amazon.com and Target now through December 2017, on up to $1,500 in purchases when you activate. Plus, 1% cash back on all other purchases.
  • Good Grades Rewards: $20 cash back each school year your GPA is 3.0 or higher for up to the next 5 years.
  • No annual fee. No late fee on first late payment. No APR change for paying late.
  • Get 100% U.S. based customer service & get your free Credit Scorecard with your FICO® Credit Score, number of recent inquiries and more.
  • Freeze It® on/off switch for your account that prevents new purchases, cash advances & balance transfers in seconds.
  • New! Receive FREE Social Security number alerts-Discover will monitor thousands of risky websites when you sign up.
  • 0% intro APR on purchases for 6 months, then the standard variable purchase APR of 13.99% - 22.99%.
  • Click "APPLY NOW" to see rates, rewards, FICO® Credit Score terms, Cashback Match™ details & other information.
Annual fee
$0
Rewards Rate
1.00%
Recommended credit score
630
689
Average
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

Citi ThankYou® Preferred Card for College Students

Apply Now on Citibank's secure site

Intro APR Promotions

0% on Purchases for 7 months

APR

  • APR: 15.49% - 25.49% Variable APR
  • Penalty APR: Up to 29.99%, Variable
  • Cash Advance APR: 26.24%, Variable

Annual Fee

$0

Bonus Offer

Earn 2,500 bonus points after spending $500 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening*

  • Earn 2,500 bonus points after spending $500 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening*
  • 2,500 ThankYou® Points are redeemable for $25 in gift cards, electronics and other great rewards when redeemed at thankyou.com
  • Earn 2X Points on Dining Out & Entertainment
  • Earn 1X Points on All Other Purchases
  • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
  • Travel with ease and enjoy global acceptance with Chip Technology
  • No annual fee*
Annual fee
$0
Rewards Rate
1 point per Dollar
Recommended credit score
690
719
Good
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 points after spending $500 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening* 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®

Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One®

Apply Now on Capital One's secure site

Intro APR Promotions

N/A

APR

  • APR: 24.99% Variable APR
  • Cash Advance APR: 24.99%, Variable

Annual Fee

$0

Bonus Offer

Get access to a higher credit line after making your first 5 monthly payments on time

  • Earn 1% cash back on all your purchases. Pay on time to boost your cash back to a total of 1.25% for that month
  • There's no limit to the amount of cash back you can earn, and rewards won't expire for the life of the account
  • Get access to a higher credit line after making your first 5 monthly payments on time
  • Pay no annual or foreign transaction fees
  • Fraud coverage if your card is lost or stolen
  • Pick the monthly due date that works best for you
Annual fee
$0
Rewards Rate
1.00%
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

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.