Still in school? These are the best credit cards for students
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As a student, you may not have the credit history or income to jump in and apply for one of the best travel credit cards, but there are plenty of cards designed for students to build their credit history. Some of them earn lucrative travel rewards or straightforward cash back.
Let’s look at the best credit cards for students, including ones with no credit history requirement and others with rock-solid, easy-to-earn welcome offers.
- Citi® Double Cash Card: Best for cash back
- Citi Rewards+℠ Student Card: Best for small purchases
- Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card: Best for travel rewards
- Capital One Platinum Secured Credit Card: Best for less-than-perfect credit
- Chase Freedom Unlimited®: Best welcome offer
The information for the Citi Rewards Student card and the Citi Double Cash Card has been collected independently by Million Mile Secrets. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
Comparison of the best credit cards for students
Should I get a student credit card or a regular credit card?
Student credit cards are tailored for young students lacking a robust and lengthy credit score. They’re more of a stepping stone to other more useful cards. You’ll find that the benefits of a student card pale in comparison to any of the best rewards credit cards, such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card (which, incidentally is our pick for the best credit card for beginners in the miles and points hobby).
Additionally, student cards usually offer a relatively small line of credit, as the banks are unwilling to provide access to thousands and thousands of dollars to someone who has not proven themselves responsible with credit.
If you’re a student, it’s worth noting that these cards do occasionally come with perks just for you. Examples include:
- One-time late payment forgiveness
- Annual statement credit to students with a GPA of 3.0 or higher
- Free year of Amazon Prime
If your credits core is 700 or above, there are better credit cards you should open. If not, and you don’t want to open a student credit card, you can improve your credit score by becoming an authorized user on the account of someone with good credit. Check out our post on the best credit cards for authorized users.
Citi® Double Cash Card
Best for cash back
No current intro bonus
Earn 2% cash back: 1% cash back when you make a purchase and another 1% cash back when you make a payment.
One of the hidden benefits of this card comes from pairing it with certain Citibank credit cards that earn ThankYou points, so the rewards you earn become more valuable. If you have either the Citi Prestige® Card or Citi Premier® Card, you can convert the cash back from the Double Cash card into transferrable ThankYou points at a rate of one cent to one point. So you could earn cash back with your Double Cash card and later, when you can get a more valuable rewards credit card, you can power up those rewards.
The information for the Citi Prestige has been collected independently by Million Mile Secrets and has not been reviewed by the card issuer.
Citi Rewards+℠ Student Card
Best for small purchases
Earn 2,500 points after spending $500 in purchases in the first three months after opening your account.
With the Citi Rewards+ Student card you’ll earn 2 ThankYou points per dollar on the first $6,000 you spend at supermarkets and gas stations each year (then 1 point per dollar), and 1 ThankYou point per dollar on all other purchases. The card has a unique benefit, which rounds the points up to the nearest 10 points. So a $3 coffee purchase earns 10 ThankYou points. This card is an excellent choice for small purchases because you’ll never earn fewer than 10 points for a purchase.
The points can be redeemed for rewards like gift cards or used to book travel through the Citi travel site at a rate of 1 cent per point. This card earns a 10% points rebate on the first 100,000 points you redeem each year.
The Citi Rewards+ Student card is a great no-annual-fee starter card with some interesting perks. Like the Citi Double Cash card, you can increase the value of your points if you pair it with a Citi Prestige or Citi Premier card to transfer the points you’ve earned to one of Citi’s many airline partners.
Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card
Best for travel rewards
Earn 20,000 Capital One miles (worth $200 in travel) after spending $500 in the first three months from account opening.
The Capital One VentureOne credit card earns an unlimited 1.25x miles on every purchase. The miles you earn can be transferred to Capital One airline partners at a 2:1.5 ratio and another three partners at a 2:1 ratio. You can also redeem your miles for 1 cent each toward eligible travel purchases.
The Capital One VentureOne credit card benefits aren’t as valuable as those you get with the more popular Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card, but the VentureOne doesn’t have an annual fee, which makes it one of the few cards that earns rewards you can transfer to travel partners without pairing with a card that has an annual fee. That fact alone makes it the best option for students looking to earn travel rewards.
Capital One Platinum Secured Credit Card
Best for less-than-perfect credit
This card currently has no intro bonus offer.
The Capital One Platinum Secured Credit Card doesn’t earn any rewards or have any valuable benefits.
Although this card doesn’t earn any rewards, it is a good card for those with no credit or those who are rebuilding a credit history. The card requires a refundable minimum security deposit of $49, $99 or $200 dollars. You’ll have a credit line of at least $200 and it will be higher if you make a larger security deposit before the account opens. Be automatically considered for a higher credit line in as little as six months. So even though you won’t earn anything for opening or spending on this card, it can set you up to open more lucrative cards in the future.
Chase Freedom Unlimited®
Best welcome offer
Earn a $200 cash bonus after spending $500 in purchases in the first three months from opening your account.
The Chase Freedom Unlimited earns 1.5% cash back on purchases.
You can increase the Chase Freedom Unlimited cash-back benefits by converting to Chase Ultimate Rewards points if you pair this card with an annual-fee Ultimate Rewards card (Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, Chase Sapphire Reserve® or Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card). Then you can transfer your points to many valuable Chase transfer partners.
Getting a head start with the best credit cards for students
College students with limited credit histories can find a credit card with benefits. There are plenty of cards out there with intro bonuses and ongoing rewards for everyday purchases. Many of them have no annual fee, so they’re great for students on a tight budget. You may already qualify for a top rewards credit card if you’re a student with a good credit score and income. For example, if you’re a graduate student or have returned to school part-time while you continue to work.
Some of the cards on this list have great welcome bonuses to jump-start your rewards, but you need to meet the minimum spending requirements. One strategy is to time your credit card applications with large upcoming expenses like textbooks, a new computer, or other school-related expenses. It’s important to always pay your credit card bill in full and on time. This will help you build a good credit score, so that when you graduate, you’ll be able to get a great rate for that car loan or mortgage, saving you thousands of dollars in interest over the life of the loan.
There are many credit monitoring services you can use to get an idea of your current credit score. Just remember that while your credit score can give you an indication of how likely you are to be approved, each bank has its own criteria and can look at more than your credit score in making their decision.
To get your own credit card, you must be at least 18 years old — but again, that doesn’t mean you can’t start building your credit history sooner. You can get a head start on credit by having your parents or another family member add you as an authorized user. If your loved ones have a high credit score, you can piggyback on their good credit and develop your own history with the banks.
Being an authorized user will not prevent you from earning a valuable welcome bonus from the same card in the future. However, it may count against you with banks like Chase, which includes authorized user accounts when they calculate your “5/24” count.
Let us know if you’re in the market for a student credit card! And subscribe to our newsletter for more miles and points info, as well as general credit card advice.
Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)