Top Student Credit Cards
College students who are over eighteen are able to take advantage of a range of credit card options. Along with the convenience of having a card, this can help students get started with the important task of building their credit. Provided they utilize careful spending habits and pay off their balance promptly, student card holders should have a solid credit history by the time they graduate. And that will help launch them into the adult world of employment background checks, and then car loans, housing rentals, and mortgages.
Many of the cards designed for students have a rewards system and other incentives for students who produce good grades and pay their balances off on time. That may be as attractive to parents as it is to the student cardholders. Some also have a point system, or offer 0% introductory APR on purchases, allowing you to maintain a balance for a certain period without incurring interest.
We have reviewed the offerings in the student credit card space, and have come up with our top six credit cards picks for students. If you or your student offspring is in the market for a credit card, a quick review of these student-oriented cards will let you know what is available.
- CitiBank Thank You Preferred Card for College Students
The people at CitiBank have put together the CitiBank Thank You Preferred Card for College Students that offers 2,500 bonus Thank You points, provided that you spend $500 on the card within the first three months of card ownership. You will earn two points per dollar spent on restaurants and entertainment, and one point per dollar spent on everything else. The card offers a 0% promotional APR rate for the first seven months that you have it, and after that charges variable APR between 13.99% and 23.99%. The card has no annual fee.
- Discover It Student Card
The folks at Discover Financial have produced their Discover It Student Card, which features 5% cash back on the first $1,500 you spend each quarter on rotating categories of goods. The categories include gas, restaurants, entertainment and other options. You will need to sign up each quarter to enjoy that feature, while for all other purchases, you will receive 1% cash back.
The promotional 10.99% APR rate applies to balance transfers for the first six months, and thereafter, a variable APR of 12.99% to 21.99% applies. For purchases, a 0% APR applies for the same six-month, and a variable APR of 12.99% to 21.99% applies thereafter. The ability to choose your own card design is a student-oriented feature, and the card involves no annual fee.
- Discover It For Students with $20 Cash Back Bonus.
The Discover people also offer the Discover IT for Students cash back card, which provides cardholders with a $20 cash back bonus provided that they make a purchase using the card during the first three months of ownership. The card imposes no annual fee, and you can earn up to 5% cash back for the first $1,500 in combined purchases you make each quarter in rotating categories. You will also need to sign up each quarter in order to activate that very attractive 5% cash back feature.
For all other purchases, cardholders receive 1% cash back. The cash back is unlimited, and the card imposes no foreign transaction fees. Late payments do not result in an increase in your APR rate, and your first late payment will not result in a late fee.
The card provides a free FICO credit score to cardholders both online and on monthly statements, and this should assist students who are new to maintaining credit to keep their credit ratings where they need to be. Discover assures cardholders that its customer service is entirely US-based, and is open 24/7. The introductory APR for balance transfers is 10.99% for the first six months. After that, a variable APR of 12.99% to 21.99% applies.
- Discover It Chrome For Students With $20 Cash back Bonus
Discover’s third offering in this space, its Discover IT Chrome card, allows you to earn $20 cash back simply by using the card to make any purchase within the first three months you own it. You will then get 2% cash back on all restaurant and gas purchases up to $1,000 in combined purchases per quarter, and you will receive 1% cash back on all additional purchases. This double cash back requires no rotating categories, and there is no need to enroll.
The card imposes no annual fee, and has no fees for foreign transactions or for over-limits. Late payments do not raise the cardholders APR, and the late fee on your first late payment is waived. Discover will make your FICO score viewable online and in monthly statements. This will help newcomers to credit understand this brave new world of credit scores and their impact on employment background checks, car loans, apartment rentals, and more. This card is an attractive option for students who want to earn a sign-up bonus, rewards, and cash back.
- Capital One’s Journey Student Rewards Card
Capital One’s offering in this space is their Journey Student Rewards Card, which gives cardholders 1% cash back on all purchases. The card also provides a 25% cash back bonus, which can be earned each month, provided that you make timely bill payments. The cash back will not expire, and Capital One does not limit the amount that can be earned. The cash back is also redeemable at any time, and a special automatic redemption feature is provided as well.
As with some other student cards, you receive the educational feature of free access to your credit scores, and your credit line will be lifted after you make the first five monthly payments in a timely manner. All in all, a good card for acquainting newcomers to the credit world.
- Wells Fargo Cash Back College Visa Card
Wells Fargo has produced its Cash Back College Visa Card, which lets cardholders earn 3% cash back on supermarket, drugstore and gas purchases for the first six months that they hold the card, with 1% cash back for all other purchases. Student cardholders will be able to redeem their cash back $25 at a time by deposit into their bank accounts or by check, with credit and awards also offered.
The introductory APR on both purchases and balance transfers is between 5.90% and 13.90% depending on credit scores, and that rate will be extended for six months. After that the variable APR is between 11.15% and 21.15%. The card features 0% fraud liability and imposes no annual fee.
By making timely payments with this card, student newcomers to credit will be able to build a strong credit history and drive their credit scores upwards, but of course the opposite applies if their payments are not timely. And because the card incorporates chip-based technology, students who plan to travel overseas will be able to use the card during their trip in those other countries that have adopted this technology, which is particularly widespread in Europe.
Advice for Student Cardholders
While students generally receive more advice than they can remember, we would be remiss if we did not provide an overview of what it means to begin building your credit history with your first credit card. By making timely payments on a card, student cardholders will be able to establish a credit history and build high credit scores. This, in turn, will open doors to car loans, apartment rentals, and later, mortgages, all on far more preferable terms than would be available with weaker credit. Over a lifetime, tens of thousands of dollars in interest are at stake.
Equally important is the fact that employers often pull the credit history of their job applicants, using that information as a proxy for the applicant’s reliability. If they don’t like what they see, the job will be going to someone else. When you add in the cash back and other benefits that these cards offer, getting and carefully using your first credit card does make sense.
Beyond that, read the fine print. Remember that many cards offer a 0% promotional APR for purchases, but that the promotional rate expires after a certain number of months, and that the interest will be kicking in after that unless you can clear your balance each month. These cards, therefore, cannot be used as an addition to your student loans, which are offered at much lower interest. So be careful, and enjoy!