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Student Credit Cards: Best Picks for Fall 2019

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any credit card issuer.

On Discover's Secure Website

Discover it® Student Cash Back

On Discover's Secure Website
Discover will match ALL the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year, automatically.
  • INTRO OFFER: Discover will match ALL the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically. There's no signing up. And no limit to how much is matched.
  • Earn 5% cash back at different places each quarter like gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, Amazon.com and more up to the quarterly maximum, each time you activate. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - automatically.
  • Good Grades Rewards: $20 statement credit 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.
  • Get an alert if we find your Social Security number on any of thousands of Dark Web sites.* Activate for free.
  • 0% intro APR on purchases for 6 months, then the standard variable purchase APR of 14.74% - 23.74%.
  • Click "APPLY NOW" to see rates, rewards, FICO® Credit Score terms, Cashback Match™ details & other information.
  • INTRO OFFER: Discover will match ALL the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically. There's no signing up. And no limit to how much is matched.
  • Earn 5% cash back at different places each quarter like gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, Amazon.com and more up to the quarterly maximum, each time you activate. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - automatically.
  • Good Grades Rewards: $20 statement credit 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.
  • Get an alert if we find your Social Security number on any of thousands of Dark Web sites.* Activate for free.
  • 0% intro APR on purchases for 6 months, then the standard variable purchase APR of 14.74% - 23.74%.
  • Click "APPLY NOW" to see rates, rewards, FICO® Credit Score terms, Cashback Match™ details & other information.
Annual Fee
$0
Regular APR
14.74% - 23.74% Variable
Credit Needed
{"onCurrent":true,"message":"There are various types of credit scores. Each creditor uses a variety of different types of credit scores to make lending decisions."}
Fair/New to Credit
Editor's Rating
{"onCurrent":true,"message":"Our team rates credit cards objectively based on independent research, the features the credit card offers users, and how it compares with other available cards in its category. The ratings are the opinion of our editors, and are not influenced by any outside factors, including any compensation the site may receive from certain advertisers."}
Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card for Students
Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card for Students

Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card for Students

Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card for Students
Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card for Students
$200 online cash rewards bonus after you spend at least $1,000 on purchases in the first 90 days of account opening
  • 1% cash back on every purchase, 2% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs and 3% on gas for the first $2,500 in combined grocery/wholesale club/gas purchases each quarter
  • 0% APR for first 12 months
  • 1% cash back on every purchase, 2% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs and 3% on gas for the first $2,500 in combined grocery/wholesale club/gas purchases each quarter
  • 0% APR for first 12 months
Annual Fee
No Annual Fee
Regular APR
16.24% - 26.24% Variable
Credit Needed
{"onCurrent":true,"message":"There are various types of credit scores. Each creditor uses a variety of different types of credit scores to make lending decisions."}
Fair
Editor's Rating
{"onCurrent":true,"message":"Our team rates credit cards objectively based on independent research, the features the credit card offers users, and how it compares with other available cards in its category. The ratings are the opinion of our editors, and are not influenced by any outside factors, including any compensation the site may receive from certain advertisers."}

The information related to the Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card for Students has been collected by ValuePenguin and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card prior to publication.

Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card for Students
Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card for Students

Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card for Students

Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card for Students
Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card for Students
25,000 online bonus points if you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days - that can be a $250 statement credit towards travel purchases
  • 25,000 bonus points if you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of your account opening - which can be redeemed for a $250 statement credit toward travel purchases
  • Redeem points to pay for flights, hotels, vacation packages, cruises, rental cars, or baggage fees with no restrictions or blackouts
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Smart chip technology provides greater acceptance and added security
  • No limits or expiration dates on points earned
  • 25,000 bonus points if you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of your account opening - which can be redeemed for a $250 statement credit toward travel purchases
  • Redeem points to pay for flights, hotels, vacation packages, cruises, rental cars, or baggage fees with no restrictions or blackouts
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Smart chip technology provides greater acceptance and added security
  • No limits or expiration dates on points earned
Annual Fee
No Annual Fee
Regular APR
17.24% - 25.24% Variable
Credit Needed
{"onCurrent":true,"message":"There are various types of credit scores. Each creditor uses a variety of different types of credit scores to make lending decisions."}
Fair
Editor's Rating
{"onCurrent":true,"message":"Our team rates credit cards objectively based on independent research, the features the credit card offers users, and how it compares with other available cards in its category. The ratings are the opinion of our editors, and are not influenced by any outside factors, including any compensation the site may receive from certain advertisers."}

The information related to the Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card for Students has been collected by ValuePenguin and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card prior to publication.

On Capital One's Secure Website

Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One®

On Capital One's Secure Website
  • 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
  • Enjoy no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees
  • Get a head start and build your credit with responsible use
  • Get Eno®, your Capital One® assistant, to manage your account via text, receive alerts, and shop safer online
  • Pick the monthly due date that works best for you
  • Get access to a higher credit line after making your first 5 monthly payments on time
  • $0 fraud liability if your card is ever lost or stolen
  • Monitor your credit profile with the CreditWise® app, free for everyone

Note: The information in this box was provided by Capital One and is not part of our independent analysis.

  • 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
  • Enjoy no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees
  • Get a head start and build your credit with responsible use
  • Get Eno®, your Capital One® assistant, to manage your account via text, receive alerts, and shop safer online
  • Pick the monthly due date that works best for you
  • Get access to a higher credit line after making your first 5 monthly payments on time
  • $0 fraud liability if your card is ever lost or stolen
  • Monitor your credit profile with the CreditWise® app, free for everyone
Annual Fee
$0
Regular APR
26.46% (Variable)
Credit Needed
{"onCurrent":true,"message":"There are various types of credit scores. Each creditor uses a variety of different types of credit scores to make lending decisions."}
Average, Fair, Limited
Editor's Rating
{"onCurrent":true,"message":"Our team rates credit cards objectively based on independent research, the features the credit card offers users, and how it compares with other available cards in its category. The ratings are the opinion of our editors, and are not influenced by any outside factors, including any compensation the site may receive from certain advertisers."}
On Deserve's Secure Website

Deserve® Edu Credit Card

On Deserve's Secure Website
  • No SSN required for International students-Available to students (enrollment verification is required)
  • Amazon Prime Student on us (get reimbursed for subscription fees up to a lifetime total of $59)
  • 1% unlimited cash back on all purchases
  • Credit limits up to $5,000
  • $0 annual fee & no foreign transaction fees
  • No security deposit or co-signer required
  • Helps students build credit history and gain financial independence
  • Use anywhere in the world where Mastercard is accepted
  • Includes Mastercard Platinum Benefits like Car Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Roadside Assistance, Travel Assistance Services, Price Protection, Extended Warranty and ID Theft Protection
  • Complimentary cellphone insurance up to $600
  • No SSN required for International students-Available to students (enrollment verification is required)
  • Amazon Prime Student on us (get reimbursed for subscription fees up to a lifetime total of $59)
  • 1% unlimited cash back on all purchases
  • Credit limits up to $5,000
  • $0 annual fee & no foreign transaction fees
  • No security deposit or co-signer required
  • Helps students build credit history and gain financial independence
  • Use anywhere in the world where Mastercard is accepted
  • Includes Mastercard Platinum Benefits like Car Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Roadside Assistance, Travel Assistance Services, Price Protection, Extended Warranty and ID Theft Protection
  • Complimentary cellphone insurance up to $600
Annual Fee
No Annual Fee
Regular APR
20.49%
Credit Needed
{"onCurrent":true,"message":"There are various types of credit scores. Each creditor uses a variety of different types of credit scores to make lending decisions."}
Fair
Editor's Rating
{"onCurrent":true,"message":"Our team rates credit cards objectively based on independent research, the features the credit card offers users, and how it compares with other available cards in its category. The ratings are the opinion of our editors, and are not influenced by any outside factors, including any compensation the site may receive from certain advertisers."}
On Citi's Secure Website

Citi Rewards+℠ Student Card

On Citi's Secure Website
Earn 2,500 bonus points after you spend $500 in purchases with your card within 3 months of account opening
  • The Citi Rewards+℠ Student Card - the only credit card that automatically rounds up to the nearest 10 points on every purchase - with no cap
  • Earn 2,500 bonus points after you spend $500 in purchases with your card within 3 months of account opening; redeemable for a $25 gift card at thankyou.com
  • 0% Intro APR on purchases for 7 months. After that, the variable APR will be 16.24% - 26.24%, based on your creditworthiness
  • Earn 2X ThankYou® Points at Supermarkets and Gas Stations for the first $6,000 per year and then 1X Points thereafter. Plus, earn 1X Points on All Other Purchases.
  • The standard variable APR for Citi Flex Plan is 16.24% - 26.24% based on your creditworthiness. Citi Flex Plan offers are made available at Citi's discretion.
  • No annual fee
  • The Citi Rewards+℠ Student Card - the only credit card that automatically rounds up to the nearest 10 points on every purchase - with no cap
  • Earn 2,500 bonus points after you spend $500 in purchases with your card within 3 months of account opening; redeemable for a $25 gift card at thankyou.com
  • 0% Intro APR on purchases for 7 months. After that, the variable APR will be 16.24% - 26.24%, based on your creditworthiness
  • Earn 2X ThankYou® Points at Supermarkets and Gas Stations for the first $6,000 per year and then 1X Points thereafter. Plus, earn 1X Points on All Other Purchases.
  • The standard variable APR for Citi Flex Plan is 16.24% - 26.24% based on your creditworthiness. Citi Flex Plan offers are made available at Citi's discretion.
  • No annual fee
Annual Fee
$0
Regular APR
16.24% - 26.24% (Variable)
Credit Needed
{"onCurrent":true,"message":"There are various types of credit scores. Each creditor uses a variety of different types of credit scores to make lending decisions."}
Good
Editor's Rating
{"onCurrent":true,"message":"Our team rates credit cards objectively based on independent research, the features the credit card offers users, and how it compares with other available cards in its category. The ratings are the opinion of our editors, and are not influenced by any outside factors, including any compensation the site may receive from certain advertisers."}
On Discover's Secure Website

Discover it® Student Cash Back

On Discover's Secure Website
Discover will match ALL the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year, automatically.
  • INTRO OFFER: Discover will match ALL the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically. There's no signing up. And no limit to how much is matched.
  • Earn 5% cash back at different places each quarter like gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, Amazon.com and more up to the quarterly maximum, each time you activate. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - automatically.
  • Good Grades Rewards: $20 statement credit 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.
  • Get an alert if we find your Social Security number on any of thousands of Dark Web sites.* Activate for free.
  • 0% intro APR on purchases for 6 months, then the standard variable purchase APR of 14.74% - 23.74%.
  • Click "APPLY NOW" to see rates, rewards, FICO® Credit Score terms, Cashback Match™ details & other information.
  • INTRO OFFER: Discover will match ALL the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically. There's no signing up. And no limit to how much is matched.
  • Earn 5% cash back at different places each quarter like gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, Amazon.com and more up to the quarterly maximum, each time you activate. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - automatically.
  • Good Grades Rewards: $20 statement credit 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.
  • Get an alert if we find your Social Security number on any of thousands of Dark Web sites.* Activate for free.
  • 0% intro APR on purchases for 6 months, then the standard variable purchase APR of 14.74% - 23.74%.
  • Click "APPLY NOW" to see rates, rewards, FICO® Credit Score terms, Cashback Match™ details & other information.
Annual Fee
$0
Regular APR
14.74% - 23.74% Variable
Credit Needed
{"onCurrent":true,"message":"There are various types of credit scores. Each creditor uses a variety of different types of credit scores to make lending decisions."}
Fair/New to Credit
Editor's Rating
{"onCurrent":true,"message":"Our team rates credit cards objectively based on independent research, the features the credit card offers users, and how it compares with other available cards in its category. The ratings are the opinion of our editors, and are not influenced by any outside factors, including any compensation the site may receive from certain advertisers."}

Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card for Students
Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card for Students

Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card for Students

Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card for Students
Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card for Students
$200 online cash rewards bonus after you spend at least $1,000 on purchases in the first 90 days of account opening
  • 1% cash back on every purchase, 2% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs and 3% on gas for the first $2,500 in combined grocery/wholesale club/gas purchases each quarter
  • 0% APR for first 12 months
  • 1% cash back on every purchase, 2% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs and 3% on gas for the first $2,500 in combined grocery/wholesale club/gas purchases each quarter
  • 0% APR for first 12 months
Annual Fee
No Annual Fee
Regular APR
16.24% - 26.24% Variable
Credit Needed
{"onCurrent":true,"message":"There are various types of credit scores. Each creditor uses a variety of different types of credit scores to make lending decisions."}
Fair
Editor's Rating
{"onCurrent":true,"message":"Our team rates credit cards objectively based on independent research, the features the credit card offers users, and how it compares with other available cards in its category. The ratings are the opinion of our editors, and are not influenced by any outside factors, including any compensation the site may receive from certain advertisers."}

The information related to the Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card for Students has been collected by ValuePenguin and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card prior to publication.


Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card for Students
Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card for Students

Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card for Students

Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card for Students
Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card for Students
25,000 online bonus points if you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days - that can be a $250 statement credit towards travel purchases
  • 25,000 bonus points if you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of your account opening - which can be redeemed for a $250 statement credit toward travel purchases
  • Redeem points to pay for flights, hotels, vacation packages, cruises, rental cars, or baggage fees with no restrictions or blackouts
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Smart chip technology provides greater acceptance and added security
  • No limits or expiration dates on points earned
  • 25,000 bonus points if you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of your account opening - which can be redeemed for a $250 statement credit toward travel purchases
  • Redeem points to pay for flights, hotels, vacation packages, cruises, rental cars, or baggage fees with no restrictions or blackouts
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Smart chip technology provides greater acceptance and added security
  • No limits or expiration dates on points earned
Annual Fee
No Annual Fee
Regular APR
17.24% - 25.24% Variable
Credit Needed
{"onCurrent":true,"message":"There are various types of credit scores. Each creditor uses a variety of different types of credit scores to make lending decisions."}
Fair
Editor's Rating
{"onCurrent":true,"message":"Our team rates credit cards objectively based on independent research, the features the credit card offers users, and how it compares with other available cards in its category. The ratings are the opinion of our editors, and are not influenced by any outside factors, including any compensation the site may receive from certain advertisers."}

The information related to the Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card for Students has been collected by ValuePenguin and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card prior to publication.


On Capital One's Secure Website

Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One®

On Capital One's Secure Website
  • 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
  • Enjoy no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees
  • Get a head start and build your credit with responsible use
  • Get Eno®, your Capital One® assistant, to manage your account via text, receive alerts, and shop safer online
  • Pick the monthly due date that works best for you
  • Get access to a higher credit line after making your first 5 monthly payments on time
  • $0 fraud liability if your card is ever lost or stolen
  • Monitor your credit profile with the CreditWise® app, free for everyone

Note: The information in this box was provided by Capital One and is not part of our independent analysis.

  • 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
  • Enjoy no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees
  • Get a head start and build your credit with responsible use
  • Get Eno®, your Capital One® assistant, to manage your account via text, receive alerts, and shop safer online
  • Pick the monthly due date that works best for you
  • Get access to a higher credit line after making your first 5 monthly payments on time
  • $0 fraud liability if your card is ever lost or stolen
  • Monitor your credit profile with the CreditWise® app, free for everyone
Annual Fee
$0
Regular APR
26.46% (Variable)
Credit Needed
{"onCurrent":true,"message":"There are various types of credit scores. Each creditor uses a variety of different types of credit scores to make lending decisions."}
Average, Fair, Limited
Editor's Rating
{"onCurrent":true,"message":"Our team rates credit cards objectively based on independent research, the features the credit card offers users, and how it compares with other available cards in its category. The ratings are the opinion of our editors, and are not influenced by any outside factors, including any compensation the site may receive from certain advertisers."}

On Deserve's Secure Website

Deserve® Edu Credit Card

On Deserve's Secure Website
  • No SSN required for International students-Available to students (enrollment verification is required)
  • Amazon Prime Student on us (get reimbursed for subscription fees up to a lifetime total of $59)
  • 1% unlimited cash back on all purchases
  • Credit limits up to $5,000
  • $0 annual fee & no foreign transaction fees
  • No security deposit or co-signer required
  • Helps students build credit history and gain financial independence
  • Use anywhere in the world where Mastercard is accepted
  • Includes Mastercard Platinum Benefits like Car Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Roadside Assistance, Travel Assistance Services, Price Protection, Extended Warranty and ID Theft Protection
  • Complimentary cellphone insurance up to $600
  • No SSN required for International students-Available to students (enrollment verification is required)
  • Amazon Prime Student on us (get reimbursed for subscription fees up to a lifetime total of $59)
  • 1% unlimited cash back on all purchases
  • Credit limits up to $5,000
  • $0 annual fee & no foreign transaction fees
  • No security deposit or co-signer required
  • Helps students build credit history and gain financial independence
  • Use anywhere in the world where Mastercard is accepted
  • Includes Mastercard Platinum Benefits like Car Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Roadside Assistance, Travel Assistance Services, Price Protection, Extended Warranty and ID Theft Protection
  • Complimentary cellphone insurance up to $600
Annual Fee
No Annual Fee
Regular APR
20.49%
Credit Needed
{"onCurrent":true,"message":"There are various types of credit scores. Each creditor uses a variety of different types of credit scores to make lending decisions."}
Fair
Editor's Rating
{"onCurrent":true,"message":"Our team rates credit cards objectively based on independent research, the features the credit card offers users, and how it compares with other available cards in its category. The ratings are the opinion of our editors, and are not influenced by any outside factors, including any compensation the site may receive from certain advertisers."}

On Citi's Secure Website

Citi Rewards+℠ Student Card

On Citi's Secure Website
Earn 2,500 bonus points after you spend $500 in purchases with your card within 3 months of account opening
  • The Citi Rewards+℠ Student Card - the only credit card that automatically rounds up to the nearest 10 points on every purchase - with no cap
  • Earn 2,500 bonus points after you spend $500 in purchases with your card within 3 months of account opening; redeemable for a $25 gift card at thankyou.com
  • 0% Intro APR on purchases for 7 months. After that, the variable APR will be 16.24% - 26.24%, based on your creditworthiness
  • Earn 2X ThankYou® Points at Supermarkets and Gas Stations for the first $6,000 per year and then 1X Points thereafter. Plus, earn 1X Points on All Other Purchases.
  • The standard variable APR for Citi Flex Plan is 16.24% - 26.24% based on your creditworthiness. Citi Flex Plan offers are made available at Citi's discretion.
  • No annual fee
  • The Citi Rewards+℠ Student Card - the only credit card that automatically rounds up to the nearest 10 points on every purchase - with no cap
  • Earn 2,500 bonus points after you spend $500 in purchases with your card within 3 months of account opening; redeemable for a $25 gift card at thankyou.com
  • 0% Intro APR on purchases for 7 months. After that, the variable APR will be 16.24% - 26.24%, based on your creditworthiness
  • Earn 2X ThankYou® Points at Supermarkets and Gas Stations for the first $6,000 per year and then 1X Points thereafter. Plus, earn 1X Points on All Other Purchases.
  • The standard variable APR for Citi Flex Plan is 16.24% - 26.24% based on your creditworthiness. Citi Flex Plan offers are made available at Citi's discretion.
  • No annual fee
Annual Fee
$0
Regular APR
16.24% - 26.24% (Variable)
Credit Needed
{"onCurrent":true,"message":"There are various types of credit scores. Each creditor uses a variety of different types of credit scores to make lending decisions."}
Good
Editor's Rating
{"onCurrent":true,"message":"Our team rates credit cards objectively based on independent research, the features the credit card offers users, and how it compares with other available cards in its category. The ratings are the opinion of our editors, and are not influenced by any outside factors, including any compensation the site may receive from certain advertisers."}

1. Discover it® Student Cash Back

Out of all the cards available in the U.S., the Discover it® Student Cash Back comes with the highest cash back rewards for students that we've seen. In fact, the card's extremely generous rewards rate overshadows cards in all other categories, which is why we recommend this for most students. Cardholders earn 5% cash back cash back in categories that change each quarter, up to a quarterly maximum each time you activate.

Whether you're living at home or in a dorm, the card's rotating cash back shopping categories will save you the most money out of all the cards on the market. These are common and useful shopping groups that include gas, groceries and restaurant dining. For 2019, the categories include grocery stores (January-March), gas stations, Uber & Lyft (April-June), restaurants and PayPal (July-September), Amazon.com, Target, and Walmart.com (October-December).

Occasionally, the card also provides industry-leading cash back rewards on Amazon.com, which is especially great for students who use the site to buy school supplies or textbooks. The Discover it® Student Cash Back rewards students in some other unique ways too. For instance, students are able to earn a $20 statement credit for getting good grades.

There's one problem some students may have only with this card. You must keep track of the rotating categories to maximize your cash earnings. If you don't, you'll likely only earn a measly 1% cash back rate (compared to this card's optimal 5% rewards). If you're too busy throughout the semester to remember the bonus calendar, or to activate your rewards online, you'll get better results with a simpler cash back card like the Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card for Students.

2. Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card for Students

Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card for Students
Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card for Students

For college students who want to save on the essentials — groceries and gas — the Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card for Students is the best choice. The card provides the highest cash back rates we've seen for these two categories: 2% cash back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs, and 3% on gas.

The Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card for Students also has one of the highest cash back bonuses we've seen on a student card. Most offers geared towards college students offer either a meager bonus or none at all. The Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card for Students gives a bonus three times bigger than the norm — awarding $200 to those who make at least $1,000 in purchases within the first 90 days of their account opening.

3. Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card for Students

Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card for Students
Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card for Students

Whether you're studying abroad or want a credit card for spring break, the Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card for Students is the best student credit card option for travel. The card provides a respectable 1.5% rewards rate on all purchases, which is the highest rewards you can get on everyday purchases from a student card. More importantly, this is one of the only student cards to have no foreign transaction fees, making it ideal for travel. This helps you save on a 3% fee with every transaction overseas versus other options.

The Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card for Students also comes with chip & pin technology, making it well suited for international use. Other credit cards in the U.S. use a chip & signature, which may not work in small towns throughout places like England or South America.

4. Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One®

If you're having difficulty qualifying for the Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card for Students, or if you prefer banking with Capital One over Bank of America, the Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One® is another decent student travel card. This card has a worse rewards rate (1.25% versus the 1.5% you get with the Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card for Students) and your card will be chip & signature instead of chip & pin, so you might have trouble using it in off-the-beaten-path towns.

If you're about to spend a semester abroad, try to find out whether the place you're traveling to uses one or the other, as this may be a huge determining factor of which card you should apply for.

Still, we recommend the Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One® because it checks off two major requirements for a travel card for students. It's on a popular credit card network (Mastercard) that you can use both at home and in other countries, and it waives the 3% foreign transaction fees.

5. Deserve® Edu Credit Card

The Deserve® Edu Credit Card is hands-down the best option for international students for two reasons: it has a rewards program (most credit cards geared towards non-US citizens don't) and it doesn't require a social security number (most credit cards do). Since international students aren't U.S. citizens, they will likely not have a Social Security Number or any sort of credit history—making it near-impossible to get approved for a credit card.

This feature alone would make this a great card. However, the Deserve® Edu Credit Card goes one step further and throws in a 1% cash-back reward on all purchases. While that's not great compared to standard student credit cards, it's amazing compared to options open to international students.

With the Deserve® Edu Credit Card, you'll begin building a credit history — an invaluable feature if you're planning to stay in the U.S. after your studies. This is another must-have feature, and we wouldn't recommend this card without it.

6. Citi Rewards+℠ Student Card

The Citi Rewards+℠ Student Card is one of the best student credit cards because it awards 2 points for every dollar you spend at supermarkets and at gas stations. The 2 points per dollar is limited to the first $6,000 per year, but even then you're able to earn 1 point per dollar after crossing the threshold. Furthermore, the card comes with no annual fee, meaning students can rack up points without putting a dent in their budget.

In terms of a sign-up bonus, the Citi Rewards+℠ Student Card currently offers 2,500 bonus points after users spend $500 within the first 3 months. The 2,500 bonus points are good enough to redeem a $25 gift card at Citi's thankyou.com. Currently, users can also receive 10% points back on the first 100,000 ThankYou points they redeem per year.

The selection criteria for our best student credit cards

Cards must be available to applicants with little-to-no credit history. Since most college-aged individuals haven't had the time to build up a credit score, this is a must-have for any credit card we recommended.

Rewards rate of at least 1.5%. Today, most of the top credit cards have a rewards program, and the standard everyone should expect (including students) is a 1.5% rewards rate. The only time it is acceptable for a card to have lower return on your purchases is if there are some extenuating circumstances that severely limit your options (such as a bankruptcy on your credit file or being an international student).

No annual fees. A majority of students face tough financial situations and work on tight budgets, so an ideal student credit card shouldn't be charging any annual fees. According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, those under 25 make up the only age bracket for whom expenditures dwarf income. That means optional expenses, like credit card or foreign exchange fees, should be avoided as much as possible.

Cards must help build credit history. Besides earning rewards, the goal of any credit card should be to build and establish credit. That's why when we examined student credit cards we checked whether the banks issuing them reported the accounts and its activity to the credit bureaus. Without this feature, all the timely payments and responsible financial behavior will go unreported. It would like doing the extra credit homework, and never submitting it to your professor.

How to choose the best card for college students

No matter what credit card you end up choosing, there are a few things you should look for in a student card.

First, it shouldn't have an annual fee. Student credit cards don't provide high enough rewards or bonuses to charge their users annual fees. Also, since most students operate on a tight budget, an annual fee would be a big financial pain.

You should also always check whether a credit card company will report your account and all your behavior to at least one of the credit bureaus—Equifax, TransUnion or Experian. All of the credit cards from major banks do this. But if you get an offer from a small regional bank or some other company, this may not always be the case. As a student, your priority above all else should be building out your credit history by making timely payments - this has major financial implications for life after college. You can't do that if your bank isn't reporting your credit card to a credit bureau.

Student credit cards are only for people with no credit history or thin credit files (less than 1 year old). If you already have a bad credit score, or a bankruptcy in your past, you should apply for a secured credit card instead. You'll likely get denied from any student credit card you apply for.

Do not get a credit card if you plan to carry a balance. Student credit cards are unforgiving in this regard, and most charge extremely high interest rates and don't come with 0% intro APR offers like non-student cards do.

For most students, a cash back credit card is the best option. These are the simplest credit cards to use, and they generally are good at providing the highest rewards in the shopping categories that matter most to students. Expenses don't change all that much whether you're a freshman, sophomore, junior or senior, so most of the credit cards we recommend above should be a good fit for your budget.

Anyone planning on studying abroad or traveling a lot overseas throughout the year, we recommend you get a travel card. These cards will be easiest to use when you leave the country, plus they won't charge you extra fees when you do it. Cash back credit cards may impose a 3% surcharge every time you swipe them outside of the U.S.

FAQs about student credit cards

Below are some common questions about applying for a credit card as a student.

Can I get a credit card if I am a student?

Yes. There are dozens of credit cards issued by popular banks that are specifically designed for students. To qualify for a card, most banks require you to be over 18 and have some income.

Should a college student get a credit card?

Yes. We recommend that college students open a credit card as early as possible. Not only will this help you build good financial habits, it will also put you on the road to having excellent credit, as one of the main components of your credit score is average age of accounts. Just be sure to pay your bills on time and keep your end-of-month balance below 30%.

Can you get a student credit card with no income?

In some cases, you may be able to qualify for a student credit card with no income. For example, most banks will allow you to report your allowance as income. Similarly, if you have savings from a summer job or internship that you're using to fund your school-year purchases, you can likely use this to qualify for a student credit card. However, we don't recommend applying for a credit card if you're using student loans to fund your living expenses.

Yowana Wamala

Yowana is a product analyst at ValuePenguin, specializing in credit cards, rewards programs and travel. He previously covered mortgages, banking and insurance for the website. Yowana graduated from Columbia University with a B.A. in Political Science.

Comments and Questions

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How We Calculate Rewards: ValuePenguin calculates the value of rewards by estimating the dollar value of any points, miles or bonuses earned using the card less any associated annual fees. These estimates here are ValuePenguin's alone, not those of the card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer.

Example of how we calculate the rewards rates: When redeemed for travel through Ultimate Rewards, Chase Sapphire Preferred points are worth $0.0125 each. The card awards 2 points on travel and dining and 1 point on everything else. Therefore, we say the card has a 2.5% rewards rate on dining and travel (2 x $0.0125) and a 1.25% rewards rate on everything else (1 x $0.0125).