5 Best Credit Cards for College Students in 2021

College days are the perfect time to start building a good credit history necessary for future loans. The best credit cards for college students will not only help you boost your credit, but will also allow you to earn some cashback through their offers and rewards.

However, picking the right card might be a bit difficult, particularly if you have never applied for it before. To help you find the one that will suit you best, we’ve reviewed and compared five credit cards that are perfect for college students.

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Top 5 Credit Cards for College Students in 2021

1. Deserve® EDU Mastercard

Deserve® EDU Mastercard for Students is a great pick for US college or university students. It doesn’t require a Social Security Number, so it’s an excellent option for international students. What’s more, Deserve® EDU will pay for a year of Amazon Prime Student, making it fantastic for all Amazon fans. Full Review

  • APR: 18.74%
  • Annual fee: $0
  • Unsecured

Deserve® EDU Mastercard for Students is a great pick for US college or university students. It doesn’t require a Social Security Number, so it’s an excellent option for international students. What’s more, Deserve® EDU will pay for a year of Amazon Prime Student, making it fantastic for all Amazon fans. Full Review

2. Discover it® Student Cash Back

Discover it® Student Cash Back is one of the best first credit cards for college students that features rich cashback on seasonal purchases. Besides the standard offer, Discover it® Student has rewards for students with good grades with extra perks. Full Review

  • APR: 12.99%–21.99%
  • Annual fee: $0
  • Unsecured

Discover it® Student Cash Back is one of the best first credit cards for college students that features rich cashback on seasonal purchases. Besides the standard offer, Discover it® Student has rewards for students with good grades with extra perks. Full Review

3. Journey® Student Credit Card

Journey® Student is one of the best student credit cards for those who want cards that provide flat-rate cashback. However, what Journey® Student has in store for its cardholders is the cashback for regular payment. Full Review

  • APR: 26.99%
  • Annual fee: $0
  • Unsecured

Journey® Student is one of the best student credit cards for those who want cards that provide flat-rate cashback. However, what Journey® Student has in store for its cardholders is the cashback for regular payment. Full Review

4. OpenSky® Secured Visa®

OpenSky® Secured belongs to the group of the best starter credit cards for college students and young adults who have limited or no credit history. It’s a perfect alternative for those who don’t have a bank account. Full Review

  • APR: 17.39%
  • Annual fee: $35
  • Secured

OpenSky® Secured belongs to the group of the best starter credit cards for college students and young adults who have limited or no credit history. It’s a perfect alternative for those who don’t have a bank account. Full Review

5. CapitalOne® Secured Mastercard®

CapitalOne® Secured Mastercard® is among the best credit cards for students with no credit who are on a mission to build it at a low cost. Its low minimum deposit, and the unique way to pay it, make CapitalOne® Secured Mastercard® stand out from other secured cards. Full Review

  • APR: 26.99%
  • Annual fee: $0
  • Secured

CapitalOne® Secured Mastercard® is among the best credit cards for students with no credit who are on a mission to build it at a low cost. Its low minimum deposit, and the unique way to pay it, make CapitalOne® Secured Mastercard® stand out from other secured cards. Full Review

Best Credit Cards for College Students 2020

Deserve® EDU Mastercard for Students Best for international students
Discover it® Student Cash Back Best for sign up bonus
Journey® Student Credit Card from Capital One® Best for flat rate cash back
OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card Best for credit building
CapitalOne® Secured Mastercard® Best for bad credit borrowers

Detailed Reviews

  • APR: 18.74%
  • Annual fee: $0
  • Cashback: 1% on all purchases
  • Foreign transaction fee: 0%
  • Intro APR: N/A
  • Secured: No
  • Sign-up bonus: One year of Amazon Prime Student subscription
  • Recommended credit score: Limited or no credit history

Deserve® EDU is one of the best credit cards for students with no credit history, particularly for non-US students who aren’t likely to be accepted by banks or lenders due to their non-existent credit history. As such, it’s great for building credit history while earning rewards on every purchase.

What makes Deserve® EDU stand out from other cards is its flexible approval process. Not only does it require no credit history, but it also doesn’t require a Social Security Number. Its selection process is a bit different. It relies on non-traditional data like checking your account info or your college major to determine if you’re creditworthy.

Deserve® EDU Mastercard Rewards & Offers

Deserve® EDU is the best first credit card for college students that helps you build your credit history while earning you rewards every time you make a purchase. Once you’re approved and start using the card, you’ll earn 1% cashback per each purchase. The cashback is automatically redeemed as a statement credit as soon as you reach $25. Rewards are active as long as the card itself is active.

What undoubtedly makes Deserve® EDU one of the top students’ credit cards for Amazon enthusiasts is the Prime subscription. Namely, if you spend $500 in the initial three billing cycles, you’re eligible for a year of Amazon Prime Student. The Prime subscription offers complimentary two-day delivery, access to Prime TV and films, etc. Apart from the free six-month Prime trial period, Deserve® EDU grants an extra year of statement credit amounting to up to $59.

In addition, Deserve® EDU cardholders have a right to cell phone protection of up to $600.

Deserve® EDU Mastercard Pricing & Fees

With a $0 annual fee, Deserve® EDU is an outstanding college student credit card. The lack of an intro APR is a minor drawback, especially if you consider the Deserve® EDU a somewhat high standard APR of 18.74%.

It’s advisable to mind your payments as Deserve® EDU has a late payment fee of up to $25. Luckily, you won’t be charged anything if you’re late with your first payment. Deserve® EDU doesn’t allow balance transfers nor cash advances.

As an unsecured college credit card, Deserve® EDU doesn’t require a deposit. However, it does have a limit of up to $5,000. The exact limit depends on your creditworthiness during underwriting.

Deserve® EDU doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees. This makes it quite convenient for use outside the US. In fact, it might be quite beneficial for foreign students as they would be able to use it in their countries.

What we liked & didn’t like

Deserve® EDU is, without a doubt, the best credit card for college students from abroad and those who have limited or non-existent credit history. It doesn’t charge an annual or a foreign transaction fee, which is great for reducing costs.

Deserve® EDU rewards every purchase with 1% cashback, which is turned into a statement credit once the minimum redemption has been reached. Another great feature is the Amazon Prime Student 12-month subscription, which may come in handy for a variety of purposes. The main drawback could be the lack of intro APR. Additionally, the APR is somewhat higher than the market average for student credit cards.

  • APR: 12.99%–21.99%
  • Annual fee: $0
  • Cashback: 1% to 5%
  • Foreign transaction fee: 0%
  • Intro APR: 0% in the first six months
  • Sign-up bonus: Cashback Match for a year
  • Recommended credit score: Poor
  • Secured: No

Discover it® Student is among the best credit cards for college students to build credit while earning rewards on selected purchases. With its rewards and offers, it can even beat other cards for working people with good credit.

As it’s intended for students, it doesn’t require a good credit score. You can apply for it with limited credit history, and build it by making regular payments. Namely, Discover it® Student can greatly help to boost your credit score and build your credit history by reporting your regular payment to three primary credit bureaus.

Discover it ® Student Cash Back Rewards & Offers

Discover it® Student card provides 5% cashback on rotating quarterly purchases, up to a maximum of $1,500 per quarter. When this limit is exceeded, you’ll earn only 1% on all purchases. You should keep in mind that purchase categories change every three months. Moreover, you’ll need to sign up for rewards every time the quarter changes, which may be tiresome.

What makes Discover it® Student stand out from other college student credit cards is its rewards for hard-working students. Namely, students whose GPA is 3.0 or higher will receive $20 as a statement credit every year during the next half a decade.

Discover it® Student offers Cashback Match in lieu of a typical sign-up bonus. Discover will immediately match all cashback you’ve gained by the end of the first year.

Discover it® Student Cash Back Pricing & Fees

Similarly to other best college credit cards, there’s no annual fee for Discover it® Student, which helps save some money on additional expenses. What adds to fewer costs is the 0% intro APR for purchases and 10.99% on balance transfers that lasts for half a year. When that period expires, Discover it® Student will charge the standard variable APR of 12.99%–21.99%.

Mind, however, other fees such as a late payment fee of up to $40, typical for all college student credit cards. The first payment you miss won’t be charged, but others (if any) will. Regular and timely payments are yet another way to lower unnecessary costs from the APR.

Discover it® Student doesn’t charge a foreign transaction fee, meaning you can use it abroad without fear of extra fees and expenses.

What we liked & didn’t like

Discover it® Student is the best credit card for students who’d like to earn some cash on rotating quarterly purchases and who don’t mind signing up for them every quarter. 5% on such purchases and 1% for all others is an attractive offer. There are no annual and foreign transaction fees, which further reduces your costs.

What you shouldn’t forget is that your timely and regular payments are reported to the three credit bureaus. This way, you have an opportunity to build or improve your credit history. But, even though there is no foreign transaction fee, you probably won’t get much use out of your Discover it® Student card abroad because of the acceptance issue outside the US.

  • APR: 26.99%
  • Annual fee: $0
  • Cashback: 0.25% to 1%
  • Foreign transaction fee: 0%
  • Intro APR: N/A
  • Sign-up bonus: N/A
  • Recommended credit score: Fair
  • Secured: No

Journey® from Capital One®  has the most attractive credit card offers for students who are keen on fixed cashback. In addition to rewarding every purchase regardless of the quarter or category, Journey® Student rewards each timely payment. Thus, the standard cashback is increased by 0.25% if paid on time.

As Journey® from CapitalOne® could see young adults applying for a student credit card as well, its recommended FICO is fair. However, timely payments bring yet another benefit. Cardholders who make regular payments may be considered for a credit line increase within six months upon obtaining the credit card.

Journey® Student Rewards Card from Capital One® Rewards & Offers

Journey® Student credit card offers its cardholders flat-rate cashback of 1% on every purchase. But, for every monthly payment you make on time, you’ll get a bonus of 0.25%. In other words, you’ll earn 1.25% cashback on purchases and payments.

Journey® Student has a surprise for streaming fans. Namely, new cardholders may obtain $60 max in credit for streaming within their first 18 months after opening the credit card account.

CapitalOne reports your student card payments to three credit bureaus. Therefore, apart from earning a bonus for each timely payment, you’ll be building credit history and will have the opportunity to be automatically considered for a credit limit raise after only half a year of using the card.

Other perks include travel benefits like travel accident insurance, coverage for car rental crash damage, and 24-hour travel assistance.

Journey® Student Rewards Card from Capital One® Pricing & Fees

With an annual fee of $0, Journey® Student won’t cost you too much if you’re careful with your spending. Also, taking into account that it doesn’t charge a foreign transaction fee either and that it has a range of travel benefits, it could be regarded as one of the best credit cards for college students who travel.

Still, Journey® Student has some interest rates you should be wary of. Its standard APR of 26.99% is way too high for a student card compared to the market average. It has no intro APR, which makes Journey® Student a bit inconvenient for carrying a balance.

Fortunately, Journey® Student grants a grace period of 25 days. Basically, you have 25 days to make your payment in full without accumulating interest.

What we liked and didn’t like

Journey® Student is the best credit card for students, as well as young adults, who are fond of fixed cashback they can earn on each purchase. To add to that, those who make regular payments will be rewarded with 0.25% of the payment every month.

Travel perks are excellent for those who tend to travel frequently, plus there is no foreign transaction fee. Automatic consideration for a greater credit limit after only six months is also a nice bonus. Yet, the lack of intro APR and a standard APR that is among the highest in the market may urge a prospective cardholder to pick a different card.

OpenSky® Secured Visa®
OpenSky® Secured Visa®

BEST FOR

credit building

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  • APR: 17.39%
  • Annual fee: $35
  • Cashback: N/A
  • Foreign transaction fee: 3%
  • Intro APR: N/A
  • Sign-up bonus: N/A
  • Recommended credit score: Poor/limited credit
  • Secured: Yes

OpenSky® Secured Visa® is one of the best secured credit cards for college students that doesn’t perform a credit pull upon application. As such, it’s perfect for students who have no credit history and who’d like to build it along with boosting the FICO score. Namely, it reports all your regular payments to the three credit bureaus. Unfortunately, the automatic upgrade from the secured to the unsecured card isn’t possible with OpenSky® Visa student credit card.

As opposed to the majority of other credit cards, you don’t need a bank account to apply for OpenSky® Secured Visa®. What you’ll only need is the deposit (typical for all secured cards) that will serve as your credit limit. This makes OpenSky® Secured Visa® a great fit for cardholders struggling with bad credit and limited history.

OpenSky® Secured Visa® Secured Rewards & Offers

Sadly, apart from the basic perks that all credit cards grant, OpenSky® doesn’t provide anything else. Thus, this means that it might not be a good credit card for college students who might want to earn some cashback or rewards.

As OpenSky® Secured Visa® doesn’t provide much in the way of benefits or bonuses, if you’re looking for an opportunity to gain some cashback while using a credit card, you should consider an upgrade to a more favorable card once you’ve boosted your FICO.

OpenSky® Secured Visa® Pricing & Fees

Since it’s a secured credit card for students, OpenSky® Secured Visa® requires a minimum deposit of $200, while the maximum amount may be $3,000. This is your credit limit. In addition to the mandatory deposit, you’ll have to pay an annual fee of $35.

There is no intro APR, while the standard APR is 17.39%. While the APR is low, there are no rewards, cashback, or bonuses either. This makes OpenSky® Secured VIsa® a decent first credit card for college students, but not much else.

But, in addition to the annual fee, you should watch for other extra expenses. OpenSky® charges a foreign transaction fee, so this card isn’t quite a good fit for international use. It also charges a cash advance fee of 5% of the advance sum (minimum $6).

What we liked & didn’t like

With its APR of 17.39%, OpenSky® Secured Visa® is one of the preferred low-interest credit cards for students. It does charge an annual fee, but the amount isn’t that high compared to some other cards. OpenSky® Secured Visa® doesn’t perform a credit pull, nor does it require a bank account, which makes it excellent for cardholders who are struggling with poor credit. But, even when your FICO is improved, you won’t be able to upgrade your secured card to unsecured. You’ll have to close it first, then apply for the new one. The lack of rewards and bonuses could possibly be one of the major disadvantages, especially for cashback enthusiasts.

  • APR: 26.99%
  • Annual fee: $0
  • Cashback: N/A
  • Foreign transaction fee: 0%
  • Intro APR: N/A
  • Sign-up bonus: N/A
  • Recommended credit score: Poor/limited credit
  • Secured: Yes

CapitalOne® Secured Mastercard® is an exceptional first-time credit card for students designed to help them obtain credit and build a credit score. It’s an excellent pick for everyone who seeks the flexibility given by credit cards but isn’t eligible for an unsecured one.

Since it’s a secured card, CapitalOne® Mastercard® will assign you a credit limit of $200. But, depending on your creditworthiness, you’ll be allowed to make a deposit in installments. To add to that, if you make regular payments in the first six months after the approval, Capital One will automatically take you into consideration for the limit increase, but without requiring an extra deposit.

CapitalOne® Secured Mastercard® Rewards & Offers

CapitalOne® Secured Mastercard® is one of the best credit cards for students to build credit without any rewards or bonuses. Nevertheless, it still has some outstanding perks for cardholders.

One of its features is the option to deposit your minimum credit limit of $200 in sums that are smaller than the actual limit. Thus, based on how creditworthy you are, you may deposit as little as $49, $99, or the full amount of $200.

Provided that you make regular payments, you will be considered for the increase of a credit limit after only six months upon the card approval. The maximum amount is $1,000.

CapitalOne® Secured Mastercard® Pricing and Fees

As with other cards ranking among the best credit cards for college students, CapitalOne doesn’t charge an annual fee for this secured credit card. Basically, the only payments you have to make are the deposit and the standard APR of 26.99%.

Though such an APR might seem high, Capital One won’t charge it if all your payments are made on time. Similarly, you won’t incur a returned payment fee. But, if you happen to be late or miss a payment, you’ll be charged a penalty of up to $40. CapitalOne® Secured Mastercard® has a cash advance fee amounting to 3% or $10, whichever is greater.

Capital One charges neither a foreign transaction nor a balance transfer fee. Given that Mastercards are accepted almost everywhere in the world and that the foreign transaction fee is 0%, CapitalOne® Secured Mastercard® could also be regarded as the best travel credit card for students.

What we like & didn’t like

CapitalOne® Secured Mastercard® is a fantastic card for students or first-time cardholders who want to build their credit history and increase their FICO. As a secured card, it requires a $200 deposit that serves as a credit limit. Luckily, that credit limit could be extended after only six months of using the card, provided that your payments are regular and on time.

With this in mind, we can say that CapitalOne® Secured is undoubtedly among the best credit cards for students with no credit, provided that you’re not a cashback enthusiast. Namely, CapitalOne® Secured doesn’t offer any cashback nor bonuses. However, the lack of annual and foreign transaction fees does make up for no rewards and sign-up bonuses. For this reason only, you might want to apply for some other card.

How to Choose the Best Credit Card for College Students

Choosing the right student credit card might be a bit complex, especially for first-timers. But this shouldn’t prevent you from getting one, as they have many benefits. The most significant is that the best credit card will allow you to build your credit history for future loans while earning some cashback. Here are some of the tips that may help you find the best student credit card.

Check out annual fees

Ideally, credit cards for college students shouldn’t charge an annual fee, or at least not too high of one. A small amount is acceptable, but it would be best if you could avoid it completely.

Avoid foreign transaction fees

If you’re fond of traveling or want to study abroad, you don’t want to pick a card with foreign transaction fees. Most of the best student credit cards that we have reviewed are excellent to use outside the US, as they have a 0% foreign transaction fee.

Make sure it reports to credit bureaus

There are three major credit bureaus in the USA — Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion — that calculate your credit score based on the information they collected. The credit score will be of great significance at some point in the future. Good credit cards for students, such as the one in our review, all report to the credit bureaus.

Look for rewards

Rewards and bonuses are an excellent way to earn cashback. Thus, you should always opt for those cards that offer some rewards or those whose extra features compensate for their absence.

Be responsible

Before you decide to go in for any of the good credit cards for college students, you need to ensure that you’re ready and responsible enough. Irresponsibility may destroy your credit history and make it harder to qualify for more favorable cards or loans. To prevent this from happening, mind your spendings and make every payment on time.

Wrap Up

Getting your first student credit card might be a bit complex, particularly if you’re unsure of what you should pay attention to. Hopefully, our review has helped you compare student credit cards and find the one that is best for you.

Credit cards for college students are an excellent tool for building credit history and getting ready for adult life after graduation. You’ll have a variety of excellent options regarding credit cards for non-students when you finish college. However, you have to be disciplined and responsible so as not to get yourself into debt, as credit cards can be a slippery slope.

FAQ

Should a college student have a credit card?

Credit cards are fantastic for college students, provided that they are disciplined and behave responsibly. Student credit cards will teach young cardholders how to manage their spending.

Plus, they will also allow them to earn some cashback whenever they make a purchase. Most importantly, they will help students build their credit history so that they are eligible for credits and loans that have more favorable terms.

What is the best credit card for a college student with no credit?

Generally, all credit cards that don’t perform a credit pull or require a bank account are excellent for students who have no or limited history. Also, it’s important that they have no or low annual fees and foreign transaction fees.

Some of both secured and unsecured cards that are best for students with no credit are:

  • Deserve® EDU Mastercard for Students
  • OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card
  • CapitalOne® Secured Mastercard®
What is the best credit card for college students?

The best credit card for students should allow cardholders to earn some cashback while making purchases. Additionally, it should help them boost their credit score so that they could be upgraded to a non-student credit card effortlessly after graduation.

Some of the best credit cards for college students are:

  • Discover it® Student Cash Back
  • Journey® Student Credit Card from Capital One®
  • CapitalOne® Secured Mastercard®