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8 Best Credit Cards for College Students – Reviews & Comparison


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The best student credit cards are a lot like the best credit cards for nonstudents.

They 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.

So it should come as no surprise that finding them is pretty easy. Read on to learn our top picks.

Best Credit Cards for College Students of 2022

These are the best student credit cards on the market this year. Each one does at least one thing really well, whether that’s delivering outsize rewards on everyday spending or setting unusually high credit limits for the category.

Our top pick offers the best overall value of any card in the space, in our humble opinion.


Best Overall: Petal® 2 “Cash Back, No Fees” Visa® Credit Card

Petal credit cards are issued by WebBank, Member FDIC.

Petal 2 Floating Final Affiliate

The Petal® 2 “Cash Back, No Fees” Visa® Credit Card is not your typical student credit card, not least because it’s not specifically marketed to students. But it has a slew of features that make it a fantastic choice for college students and recent graduates:

  • You can apply for this card with no credit score — applicants without FICO scores are instead evaluated on the basis of non-credit factors, such as income
  • Petal reports to all three major consumer credit bureaus
  • Earn 1% to 1.5% when you pay on time
  • You may earn up to 10% cash back on purchases with select merchants
  • No fees — no annual or foreign transaction fees
  • Credit limits ranging from $300 to $10,000

Additional features:

  • Start earning 1% cash back as soon as you open your account
  • Cash back doesn’t expire as long as your account is open and in good standing
  • Petal’s mobile app makes it easy to manage your money, track your spending, and automate payments

Learn More About the Petal 2 Card


Best for Value-Added Perks: Deserve EDU Student Credit Card

Deserve Edu

The Deserve EDU Student Credit Card is a no-annual-fee student credit card that earns unlimited 1% cash back on all eligible purchases. But what really stands out about it is its impressive lineup of value-added perks:

  • A one-year complimentary subscription to Amazon Prime for new cardholders who spend at least $500 in purchases in the first 3 billing cycles — that’s a $69 value, free
  • Complimentary cellphone protection, less deductible and subject to coverage limits
  • Other Mastercard-backed benefits

Additional features:

  • Unlimited 1% cash back on all eligible purchases
  • Redeem for statement credits, direct deposits into a linked bank account, credits against Amazon.com purchases, and more
  • No annual fee
  • No foreign transaction fees

Learn More About the Deserve EDU Card


Best Cash-Back Student Card: Capital One SavorOne Student Cash Rewards Credit Card

Capital One Savorone Student Card Art 1 25 22

The Capital One SavorOne Student Cash Rewards Credit Card is the best cash-back credit card for students because it delivers up to 3% cash back on eligible purchases indefinitely — plus 8% cash-back earnings on eligible Vivid Seats and Capital One Entertainment purchases.

Here’s how the rewards program works:

  • Earn unlimited 3% cash back on dining purchases, entertainment purchases, purchases with popular streaming services, and grocery store purchases (excluding purchases at Target and Walmart)
  • Earn 1% cash back on most other purchases, except 8% cash back on purchases with Vivid Seats and Capital One Entertainment and 5% cash back on eligible hotel and rental car bookings through Capital One Travel

Additional features:

  • For a limited time, earn $100 when you spend $100 in the first 3 months.
  • No annual fee
  • No foreign transaction fee
  • Use your card responsibly and pay your bill on time to be considered for a credit line increase in as little as 6 months after opening your account

Learn More About the SavorOne Student Cash Rewards Card


Best for Raising Your Spending Limit: Capital One Quicksilver Student Cash Rewards Credit Card

Capital One Quicksilver Student Card Art 1 25 22

Like its stablemate, the SavorOne Student Cash Rewards Credit Card, Capital One Quicksilver Student Cash Rewards Credit Card can earn you a credit line increase in as little as 6 months with responsible use.

Along with this card’s flat, unlimited 1.5% cash-back rate, that’s good enough to nab a spot on this list as the best student card to increase your spending limit quickly.

Additional features: 

  • For a limited time, earn $100 when you spend $100 in the first 3 months.
  • Earn 5% cash back on eligible hotel and rental car bookings through Capital One Travel
  • As the student version of the ever-popular Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card, Quicksilver Student Cash Rewards earns unlimited 1.5% back on all other eligible purchases, with no caps or restrictions
  • No annual fee
  • No foreign transaction fee

Learn More About the Quicksilver Student Cash Rewards Card


Best for Applicants With Fair Credit: Jasper Mastercard

Jasper Mastercard Card Art 8 18 21

The Jasper Mastercard is another fantastic entry-level card that, while not marketed specifically for students, is an ideal credit-building choice for learners of any age.

With no credit history required to apply if you don’t already have one and lenient underwriting requirements for applicants with fair credit, it’s the best choice for would-be cardholders whose credit scores could use some work.

Additional features:

  • After three consecutive on-time payments, receive cash back automatically as a statement credit as long as your account is in good standing
  • Earn up to 6% cash back by referring friends (terms apply)
  • No annual fee
  • Enjoy a credit limit as high as $5,000 with no security deposit required
  • Take advantage of all the perks of a premium Mastercard without the stringent underwriting requirements

Learn More About the Jasper Mastercard


Best for Rebuilding Credit: Indigo® Platinum Mastercard

Indigo Platinum Mastercard Card Art

The Indigo® Platinum Mastercard® is a great credit-building tool for students and graduates eager to bounce back from credit setbacks. With no security deposit required and an easy-peasy application process, Indigo Platinum really shines in the credit-building space. 

Like some comparable cards, Indigo Platinum Mastercard does reserve the right to charge an annual fee, creditworthiness depending.

Additional features:

  • The annual fee ranges from $0 to $99, depending on your creditworthiness and other factors — see terms and conditions
  • Rapid prequalification with no credit score impact
  • Free custom card design

Learn More About the Indigo Platinum Mastercard


Best Unsecured Card for Students With Impaired Credit: Indigo® Unsecured Mastercard®

Indigo Unsecured Mastercard Card Art

Not sure your credit qualifies you for the Indigo Platinum Mastercard? No problem. Set your sights on the Indigo® Unsecured Mastercard® instead. 

This entry-level unsecured credit card is specifically designed for people with bad credit, including students in the process of building or rebuilding their credit. Though it does reserve the right to levy an annual fee — up to $99, depending on creditworthiness — it doesn’t require a security deposit. That’s a big advantage over competing secured credit cards.

Additional features:

  • The annual fee ranges from $0 to $99, depending on your creditworthiness and other factors — see terms and conditions for a comprehensive list of card fees
  • Indigo automatically reports your account history to the three major consumer credit reporting bureaus

Learn More About the Indigo Unsecured Mastercard


Best Secured Card for Students: Citi® Secured Mastercard®

Citi Secured Mastercard 12 4 19

Citi Secured Mastercard is a secured credit card with great benefits for students.

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.

Additional features:

  • Very lenient credit approval standards — poor credit is okay
  • Citi automatically reports your payment patterns to the 3 major consumer credit reporting bureaus
  • No annual fee
  • 3% foreign transaction fee

Learn More About the Citi Secured Mastercard


Methodology: How We Choose the Best Student Credit Cards

We use several key factors to assess student credit cards and build this list. Most relate in some way to these cards’ overall value — how well they reward cardholders while helping them build credit and make the leap to post-college life.

Eligibility and Qualification

Some student credit cards are very easy to qualify for. If you’re a student at a U.S. university and you have a U.S. bank account, you’re in.

Others are stricter. They’re more like traditional credit cards in the sense that you need a good credit score and decent income to pass underwriting.

And some fall in the middle. Most of the cards on this list fit that bill. But we do our best to uncover products that aren’t overly strict.

Spending Limits

Your credit card’s spending limit is a function of your income, your credit score, and your perceived ability to repay. Accordingly, most student credit cards have low spending limits — students just aren’t a wealthy, well-qualified bunch.

That said, some next-generation cards have impressively high spending limits, at least by the category’s standards. We prefer cards that let you charge up to $5,000 (or more) without going overlimit. Because let’s face it, school is expensive.

Rewards

Many student credit cards don’t have rewards programs. Those are for grown-up credit cards, they say. 

But some do reward users for everyday purchases. Those are the ones we like — though not offering a return on spending is not necessarily a dealbreaker for us.

Secured Status

Most of the student credit cards on this list are unsecured, meaning they don’t require a security deposit as a condition of approval. That ensures student users don’t have to tie up cash for months or years at a time.

That said, we do include a couple of secured cards on this list because they excel in other ways and because they’re easier to qualify for than some pickier unsecured cards. We just urge students to understand what they’re getting into.

Fees

The fewer fees, the better. Most of the cards on this list don’t charge annual fees, which is good news for frugal students. Where possible, we look for cards that cut students breaks on other fees — particularly foreign transaction fees, which put students studying abroad at a disadvantage.


Student Credit Card FAQs

You have questions about student credit cards. We have answers.

How Do You Qualify for a Student Credit Card?

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.

But don’t worry — you don’t need much income to qualify for a student credit card. Many student credit cards don’t even require you to have a credit score. As long as you’re a U.S.-based student on track to earn your degree, you can probably find a card that’ll accept you.

And if not, consider asking a parent or older sibling to cosign your application. That way, the credit card issuer can fall back on their financial firepower if you stop making payments.

Why Do You Need a Student Credit Card?

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.

If you’re keen on building credit quickly, you need to look for cards that report timely payments to one or more (ideally all three) consumer credit reporting bureaus. Then, you need to keep up your end of the bargain by making in-full, on-time payments.

What’s the Spending Limit on a Student Credit Card?

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. 

So 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.


How to Select the Best Student Credit Card

To choose the best student credit card, you need to look inward.

Don’t laugh. Understanding which cards you’re likely to qualify for is an important first step in your credit journey — and helps protect your valuable time, which you have far too little of as a full-time student.

If you’ve never had a credit card before and don’t have any student loans in your name, you might not have sufficient credit history to qualify for a traditional student card. In that case, you’ll need to look for cards that use nontraditional factors in their underwriting process.

If you do have a credit score, you’ll have more choice. If your credit is good and you have some income, you’ll likely have your pick of any card on this list. If your credit isn’t so good, you may need to settle for a secured card, at least at first.

From there, look for cards that suit your spending habits. That might mean choosing a rewards program that offers higher returns on the types of spending you do most often, or finding a slate of perks that aligns with your lifestyle.

Chances are, you’ll find the card that works best for you. It just might take some time.

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

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