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8 Best Cards for College Students – Reviews & Comparison

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Advertiser Disclosure: This post includes references to offers from our partners. We receive compensation when you click on links to those products. However, the opinions expressed here are ours alone and at no time has the editorial content been provided, reviewed, or approved by any issuer.

Most college students have limited experience with credit cards and other forms of credit. Accordingly, their credit histories are often thin or nonexistent. Therefore, the single most important reason for students to apply for credit cards is to build a positive credit history.

Sign up for an account at Simple by 9/30/19 4:59 PM PT and get up to a $300 bonus and 2.02% APY (with qualified activities).

Students keen on building credit quickly need to look for cards that report timely payments to one or more (ideally all three) consumer credit reporting bureaus – and then keep up their end of the bargain by making in-full, on-time payments. The best student credit cards generally have low fees, reasonable APRs, and perks that specifically appeal to college students. A few even have cash back programs that reward spending on gas, groceries, dining out, and other routine purchases. Here’s a look at some of the best options on the market today.

Best Student Cards

These are the best student credit cards on the market today.

1. Deserve Edu Student Credit Card

Unlimited 1% Cash Back; Free Year of Amazon Prime Student ($59 Value)

Deserve Edu Card

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The Deserve Edu Student Credit Card is a no-annual-fee student credit card that earns unlimited 1% cash back on all eligible purchases. It’s the only card on this list that comes with a one-year complimentary subscription to Amazon Prime.

For students, a full-year Amazon Prime subscription (known as Amazon Prime Student) is worth $59. Make sure you maximize this perk by signing up for Amazon Prime Student and paying for a one-year membership — not a month-to-month membership — with your Deserve Edu Student Credit Card. You’ll see the reimbursement for the annual subscription fee on your Deserve Edu Card’s billing statement after your free trial (if any) ends. Due to its higher month-to-month cost, electing to pay for Amazon Prime Student on a monthly basis earns just nine monthly reimbursements.

  • Sign-Up Bonus: There’s presently no sign-up bonus here, but check with Deserve for information about limited-time promotions.
  • Earning Rewards: All eligible purchases earn an unlimited 1% cash back. There’s no limit to your earning potential.
  • Redeeming Rewards: You can redeem cash back in any amount for statement credits, direct deposits into a linked bank account, and credits against Amazon purchases.You can also redeem for gift cards, merchandise, and other items, but redemption values for those options may vary.
  • Introductory APR: None.
  • Key Fees: This card has no annual fee or foreign transaction fees.
  • Other Perks: Beyond the complimentary one-year subscription to Amazon Prime Student, this card has a slew of perks, including a generous price protection policy that reimburses the difference between the purchase price of certain covered items and any lower advertised price on identical items for 60 days from the date of purchase (some restrictions apply); cell phone protection up to $600 per claim; and extended warranties of up to 12 months on eligible products purchased with the card.

See our Deserve Edu Student Credit Card Review for more information. Learn more about this card and find out how to apply here.

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2. The Petal Cash Back Visa Card

Innovative Underwriting Procedures; Up to 1.5% Cash Back

Petal Cash Back Credit Card

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The Petal Cash Back Visa Card is not your typical student credit card, not least because it’s not specifically marketed to students. But, because it’s designed in part for users without significant credit histories — you can apply for this card with no credit score, in fact — it’s ideal for college students just starting out on the road to building credit.

After establishing a pattern of timely repayments, you can earn up to 1.5% cash back with your Petal Cash Back Visa Card — while avoiding fees commonly charged by other student cards, such as annual fees and foreign transaction fees.

Petal stands out for other reasons, including:

  • A non-traditional underwriting process that makes the card ideal for first-time credit card users and those without FICO credit scores — groups disproportionately represented in the college student population. Applicants without FICO scores are instead evaluated on the basis of non-credit factors, such as income. However, the Petal Card is not for applicants with impaired credit.
  • Credit limits ranging from $500 to $10,000. This is higher than what’s typical for entry-level credit cards.
  • Lower APRs than most other entry-level credit cards. Keep in mind that it’s always better to pay your balance in full.
  • No fees. The Petal Card doesn’t charge annual fees or foreign transaction fees, for instance.

The Petal Card isn’t perfect, and it may not be for you. But if you’re looking for an entry-level credit card that doesn’t charge an annual fee, may consider non-credit factors, and offers cash back on everyday transactions, it’s worth a closer look. Again, remember that the Petal Card is not for people with bad credit, nor those looking to rebuild damaged credit.

  • Sign-up Bonus: There’s presently no sign-up bonus. Check with Petal for up-to-date information about limited-time promotions.
  • Earning Rewards: The Petal Card’s cash back program sets it apart from many other entry-level credit cards. Cardholders start out earning unlimited 1% cash back on all eligible purchases. After 6 monthly on-time payments, the cash back rate rises to 1.25% on all eligible purchases. After 12 monthly on-time payments, the cash back rate rises to 1.5% on all eligible purchases, where it remains indefinitely.
  • Redeeming Rewards: Cash back doesn’t expire as long as your account remains open and in good standing. You can redeem in any amount for a statement credit and for paper checks once your cash back balance hits $20 (the minimum redemption check size is $20).
  • Key Fees: The Petal Card does not charge any fees.
  • Introductory APR: None.
  • APR: The variable regular purchase APR ranges from 14.99% to 25.99%.
  • Other Perks: The Petal Card participates in the Visa Local Offers program with Visa and Uber. With Visa Local Offers, you earn Uber credits for spending with thousands of participating local merchants, such as restaurants, independent retailers, and chain stores. Petal also offers some complimentary Visa-backed benefits, including 24/7 roadside assistance and rental car insurance when you pay for the rental in full with your card.

Find out how you can apply for this card here.

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3. Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One®

1% Cash Back on All Purchases; 1.25% Cash Back Each Month When You Pay on Time

capital one journey student rewards credit card

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Journey Student Rewards is a low-fee student credit card that’s ideal for students with decent credit and a penchant for cash back rewards. Its biggest benefit is definitely the cash back program. You’ll earn 1% cash back on all purchases and get a 0.25% cash back bonus each month that you pay your statement on time. You can redeem your rewards as a statement credit or check at any time, in any amount.

Other perks include an automatic credit line increase after 5 months of on-time payments, minimal fees, and the perks associated with the Capital One CreditWise feature – a great credit education tool.

  • Early Spend Bonus: There’s no early spend bonus.
  • Rewards and Redemption: You’ll earn unlimited 1% cash back on all eligible purchases. When you pay your statement balance on time, you’ll get a 0.25% cash back bonus. Redeem your accumulated cash back in any amount, at any time. You can also set your rewards balance to redeem at $25, $50, $100, or $200, or on a pre-determined date.
  • Key Fees: There’s no annual fee or foreign transaction fee. Cash advances cost $10 or 3%, whichever is greater.
  • Introductory APR: There’s no introductory APR.
  • Other Perks: The Capital One CreditWise feature includes a “what-if simulator” that you can use to predict changes in your credit score and debt load based on hypothetical financial actions and events.

See our Capital One Journey Student Rewards Card Review for more information. Find out how you can apply for this card here.

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4. Citi Rewards+ Student Card

2X Points on Supermarket and Gas Station Purchases, Up to $6,000 in Combined Annual Category Spending

Citi Rewards Student Credit Card

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The Citi Rewards+ Student Card rewards students who spend heavily on gas and groceries – though, with points rounded up to the nearest 10 on every purchase and the first 100,000 points redeemed each year subject to a 10% bonus, other types of spending make out fine here too.

Don’t ignore the 7-month, 0% APR purchase promotion, either. Springing for school supplies is never easy, but carrying that spending interest-free takes out some of the sting.

  • Sign-up Bonus: When you spend at least $500 in eligible purchases on your card within 3 months of opening your account, you’ll earn 2,500 bonus ThankYou points. That’s enough to redeem for a $25 gift card.
  • Rewards and Redemption: Earn 2X points on eligible supermarket and gas station purchases, up to $6,000 in combined category spending per year. All other eligible purchases earn unlimited 1X points, including supermarket and gas station purchases above the category caps. Citi rounds up to the nearest 10-point increment on every purchase (for instance, turning a 46-point purchase into a 50-point purchase) and boosts redemptions by 10%, up to the first 100,000 points redeemed.
  • Key Fees: There’s no annual fee or foreign transaction fee.
  • Introductory APR: 0% purchase APR for 7 months from your account opening date.
  • Regular APR: Following the end of the promotional period, the regular purchase APR is16.49% to 26.49% variable, depending on your creditworthiness. The balance transfer APR is 16.49% to 26.49% variable from day one.

See our Citi Rewards+ Student Card Review for more information. Find out how you can apply for this card here.

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5. Capital One® Secured Mastercard®

No annual fee; Credit-building benefits with responsible card use

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As a secured credit card, Capital One® Secured Mastercard® is different from the credit cards listed above – and not just because membership isn’t limited to registered students. Before you start spending, you need to make a cash deposit of $49, $99, or $200. The deposit entitles you to a credit limit of anywhere from $200 to $1,000, depending on your creditworthiness. You can subsequently raise your credit limit by making an additional deposit.

However, deposits can’t be credited against your purchases – you still need to pay your bill every month, just as you would with a normal credit card. If you demonstrate a pattern of timely payments over several months, Capital One may raise your credit limit without requiring an additional deposit.

The biggest drawback of this card is its purchase APR, which is significantly higher than many other student credit cards. However, its fees are manageable, it’s available to students with poor or spotty credit, and the value-added benefits of Capital One CreditWise are definitely useful for students who want to track and build their credit over time.

  • Early Spend Bonus: There’s no early spend bonus.
  • Rewards and Redemption: This card has no rewards program.
  • Key Fees: There’s no annual fee or foreign transaction fee. Cash advances cost the greater of $10 or 3%.
  • Introductory APR: There’s no intro APR.
  • Other Perks: This card also comes with Capital One CreditWise.

See our Capital One Secured Mastercard Review for more information. Find out how you can apply for this card here.

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6. Citi® Secured Mastercard®

Reasonable APR and Fees; Relatively High Credit Limit; Good for Students With Poor Credit

Citi Secured Card

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Citi Secured Mastercard is another secured credit card with benefits for students – and, with no annual fee, it’s pretty cost effective.

Before you can use this card, you need to first make a deposit of as little as $200 or as much as $2,500, subject to credit approval. That deposit is equal to your credit limit and can’t be credited against your purchases. If you exhibit timely payment patterns for 18 months, Citi may return your deposit and allow you to continue using your card as an unsecured, “normal” credit card.

Citi Secured Mastercard has relatively lax credit approval standards. If you have poor or spotty credit, this is probably the best student card for you. And because Citi automatically reports your payment patterns to the 3 major consumer credit reporting bureaus, it’s also a great card for building credit. If you make timely payments, your credit score is likely to rise over time.

  • Sign-up Bonus: There’s no sign-up bonus.
  • Rewards and Redemption: This card has no rewards program.
  • Key Fees: There is no annual fee. Foreign transactions cost 3%.
  • Introductory APR: There’s no introductory APR.
  • Regular APR: The regular purchase APR is 24.49% APR variable.
  • Other Perks: This card’s perks are similar to the Citi Rewards+ Student Card‘s, including Citi Private Pass.

See our Citi Secured Mastercard Review for more information. Find out how you can apply for this card here.

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7. Wells Fargo Cash Back College Card

3% Cash Back on Gas, Grocery, and Drugstore Purchases for the First 6 Months; Then Unlimited 1% Cash Back 

The Wells Fargo Cash Back College Card is a student-friendly cash back card with, arguably, the most valuable rewards program of any card on this list. For six months after you open your account, you’ll earn 3% cash back on gas, grocery, and drugstore purchases, 1% cash back on all other eligible purchases. After the introductory period expires, you’ll earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other eligible purchases.

That’s not the only introductory promotion for the Cash Back College Card. For 12 months after you open your account, you’ll enjoy 0% APR on all eligible purchases – the longest 0% APR introductory promotion on this list.

  • Sign-up Bonus: There’s no sign-up bonus.
  • Rewards and Redemption: Earn 3% cash back on gas, grocery, and drugstore purchases for the first 6 months your account is open. Earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other eligible purchases from day one. You can redeem your cash back for statement credits, bank account deposits, paper checks, and non-cash items such as travel and entertainment, generally at a $0.01-per-point rate. Cash redemptions must occur in $25 increments.
  • Key Fees: There’s no annual fee. See Wells Fargo’s terms and conditions statement for additional fees.
  • Introductory APR: 0% purchase APR for 12 months.
  • Other Perks: Wells Fargo banking customers enjoy special account holder perks. See Wells Fargo’s website for details.

8. State Farm® Student Visa®

3 Points Per $1 Spent on Insurance Premiums, Up to $4,000 Annually; 1 Point Per $2 Spent on All Other Eligible Net Purchases

State Farm Student Visa is a rewards credit card from State Farm, the ubiquitous insurer. If you’re looking for a spending aid that can meaningfully reduce your premiums costs for your auto and renters’ insurance policies, this card should be high on your list.

Although there’s no sign-up bonus here, the rewards program is pretty nice for State Farm policyholders: you’ll earn 3 points per $1 spent on insurance premiums, up to $4,000 annually. Earnings on other purchases aren’t impressive at all – just 1 point per $2 spent.

  • Sign-up Bonus: There’s no sign-up bonus.
  • Rewards and Redemption: Earn 1 State Farm Loyalty Rewards point for every $2 spent on eligible net purchases. Earn 3 points per $1 spent on insurance premium payments with State Farm, up to $4,000 annually. Points are redeemable for gift cards, general merchandise, travel, and eligible State Farm products.
  • Key Fees: There’s no annual fee. Foreign transactions cost 3% of the total transaction amount. Cash advances cost the greater of $10 or 5%. Balance transfers cost the greater of $10 or 3%.
  • Introductory APR: There’s no introductory APR.
  • Other Perks: This card comes with Visa-backed benefits such as complimentary loss and damage coverage for rental cars paid in full with the card.

 

Final Word

You’ve heard all the clichés about starving students. While you’re hopefully not actually going without regular meals as you work and study your way through school, you probably don’t have as much disposable income as you’d like.

Credit card issuers know that, on average, college students have less money than older people with full-time jobs. Accordingly, they tend to tightly restrict how much their student customers can spend on their cards. Don’t expect your first student credit card to come with an exceedingly high credit limit, particularly if your only source of income is a stipend or work-study job.

The good news is that if you make regular payments, build a positive credit history, and look for ways to earn extra income on the side, your credit limit – and spending power – is likely to increase over time. Years from now, when you think back to your time as a student, you might just identify your first-ever student credit card approval as a decisive milestone on your personal finance journey.

What’s your preferred student credit card?

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided by any bank, credit card issuer, airline, or hotel chain, and has not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are the author's alone, not those of the bank, credit card issuer, airline, or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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Brian Martucci
Brian Martucci writes about credit cards, banking, insurance, travel, and more. When he's not investigating time- and money-saving strategies for Greekalphabets readers, you can find him exploring his favorite trails or sampling a new cuisine. Reach him on Twitter @Brian_Martucci.

Comments Disclosure: The below responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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