4 Best Credit Cards for Students

4 Best Credit Cards for Students

Best Rewards Card for College Students
#1
Citi ThankYou Preferred Card for College Students
  • Free monthly credit score updates
  • Generous rewards program
  • Higher initial credit limits than many other cards offer
Best Credit Card for Students With Good Grades
#2
Discover it Chrome for Students
  • Friendly, helpful customer service reps
  • Great starter card
  • Easily attainable rewards
Best Rewards Student Credit Card From a Bank
#3
Bank Americard Cash Rewards for Students
  • 10% cash-back bonus option available for customers with Bank of America accounts
  • Tons of ways to earn rewards
  • Cash advances available
Best Starter Card for College Students
#4
Journey Student Rewards from Capital One
  • Automatic credit line increase after you pay on time for the first 5 billing cycles
  • Cash back on qualifying purchases
  • Widely accepted around the world

After 20 hours of research evaluating 120 products, we picked Citi ThankYou Preferred Card for College Students as our top choice.

It’s difficult to focus on furthering your education when you’re hungry, yet approximately 50% of college students confess they often can’t afford healthy food.

Combine that with the fact that the average college textbook costs $82 and one year of tuition at an in-state public college comes to around $25,000, and it’s easy to see why many college students rely on credit cards to help them survive.

If you're going to use a credit card in college, make sure you choose one of the best credit cards for students, because they will afford you a lot of benefits.

Even if you’ve got a generous financial aid package, you may still need money to study abroad during the summer, head home to visit loved ones on holidays, or simply pay for basic necessities like soap and shampoo.

But wait…

It's important to start building up your credit score now. Some employers run credit checks, and your current score might attract rejection letters rather than employment offers. You may also feel it’s important to establish a line of credit with the best student credit cards so you can buy a house or get a car loan in the near future.

More than half of college students carry credit cards, so we want to help you make informed choices about your financial future. After thoroughly researching hundreds of student-friendly credit options, we feel confident recommending the following cards as the best credit cards for college students.

Hey, before we go…

Please make sure you don’t apply for too many credit cards. Doing that won’t help your credit score - or your bank account when you’re stuck juggling all those monthly payments.

Oh, and check out our list of the best secured credit cards if you can’t score approvals for any of the best credit cards for students. Regardless of what you're looking for, we’ve got you covered!

Editorial Note: This content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuer. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. This site may be compensated through a credit card issuer partnership.


Editorial staff

4 Best Credit Cards for Students

4 Best Credit Cards for Students

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After 20 hours of research evaluating 120 products, we picked Citi ThankYou Preferred Card for College Students as our top choice.

It’s difficult to focus on furthering your education when you’re hungry, yet approximately 50% of college students confess they often can’t afford healthy food.

Combine that with the fact that the average college textbook costs $82 and one year of tuition at an in-state public college comes to around $25,000, and it’s easy to see why many college students rely on credit cards to help them survive.

If you're going to use a credit card in college, make sure you choose one of the best credit cards for students, because they will afford you a lot of benefits.

Even if you’ve got a generous financial aid package, you may still need money to study abroad during the summer, head home to visit loved ones on holidays, or simply pay for basic necessities like soap and shampoo.

But wait…

It's important to start building up your credit score now. Some employers run credit checks, and your current score might attract rejection letters rather than employment offers. You may also feel it’s important to establish a line of credit with the best student credit cards so you can buy a house or get a car loan in the near future.

More than half of college students carry credit cards, so we want to help you make informed choices about your financial future. After thoroughly researching hundreds of student-friendly credit options, we feel confident recommending the following cards as the best credit cards for college students.

Hey, before we go…

Please make sure you don’t apply for too many credit cards. Doing that won’t help your credit score - or your bank account when you’re stuck juggling all those monthly payments.

Oh, and check out our list of the best secured credit cards if you can’t score approvals for any of the best credit cards for students. Regardless of what you're looking for, we’ve got you covered!

Editorial Note: This content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuer. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. This site may be compensated through a credit card issuer partnership.


Editorial staff

Best Starter Card for College Students

Best Starter Card for College Students: Journey Student Rewards from Capital One
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On Card Issuer’s Secure Website
  • Variable APR
    24.99!
  • Cash Advance APR
    24.99%
  • Rewards Rate
    1% to 1.25%
  • Annual Fee
    $0
  • Intro APR
    n/a
  • Bonus Offers
    n/a

Pros

  • Automatic credit line increase after you pay on time for the first 5 billing cycles
  • Cash back on qualifying purchases
  • Widely accepted around the world

Cons

Aside from the automatic increase you get after 5 billing cycles, some cardholders report that it’s difficult to score an approval for a credit limit increase. Also, the APR is higher than some of the other cards on our list.

Details

  • 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
  • There's no limit to the amount of cash back you can earn, and rewards won't expire for the life of the account
  • Get access to a higher credit line after making your first 5 monthly payments on time
  • Pay no annual or foreign transaction fees
  • Fraud coverage if your card is lost or stolen
  • Pick the monthly due date that works best for you

Application Process:  Apply online and get an acceptance or rejection pretty much instantly. If the company has to manually approve your app, it might take 7 to 10 days.

Rewards:  Everyone gets at least 1% back on qualifying purchases, and you can rake in as much as $150 per year from rewards dollars. If you want to increase your cash back to 1.25%, all you have to do is pay your bill on time - making this one of the best student credit cards. It’s wonderful to be rewarded for being responsible - too bad your professors won’t increase your grades by 1.25% for turning in homework on time.

Bonus Offers: Unfortunately, the Capital One Journey Student Rewards card isn’t running any bonus offers at the moment. However, it has benefits that some other cards don’t, like a lack of foreign transaction fees. Now you’ve got the perfect excuse to study abroad this summer!

APR: There’s a 20.99% variable APR which is higher than some cards if you’ve got decent credit. If this is your first card or your FICO needs some help, then the APR isn’t so bad when you consider that other cards charge 24% to 30% for people with poor or average credit.

Annual Fee: You don’t owe a penny for annual fees. Awesome, right?

Best Rewards Student Credit Card From a Bank

Best Rewards Student Credit Card From a Bank: Bank Americard Cash Rewards for Students
Apply Now
On Card Issuer’s Secure Website
  • Variable APR
    14.24% to 24.24%
  • Cash Advance APR
    17.24% to 26.24%
  • Rewards Rate
    1% to 3% cash back on qualifying purchases
  • Annual Fee
    $0
  • Intro APR
    0% introductory APR for first 12 statement closing dates
  • Bonus Offers
    $150 cash bonus if you spend $500+ on qualifying purchases your first 90 days

Pros

  • 10% cash-back bonus option available for customers with Bank of America accounts
  • Tons of ways to earn rewards
  • Cash advances available

Cons

It’s difficult to get approved for this card if you have limited or poor credit. Sometimes a cosigner is an option.

Details

  • No annual fee
  • $150 online cash rewards bonus after you spend at least $500 on purchases in the first 90 days of account opening
  • Earn 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
  • No changing categories and no expiration on rewards
  • 0% Introductory APR for 12 billing cycles for purchases AND for any balance transfers made in the first 60 days, then, 14.49% - 24.49% Variable APR. 3% fee (min $10) applies to balance transfers
  • Get a 10% customer bonus every time you redeem your cash back into a Bank of America® checking or savings account
  • If you're a Preferred Rewards client, you can increase that bonus to 25% - 75%
  • Easily add your Mastercard® credit card to any digital wallet for a simple, secure, and convenient way to pay online, in-app, and in-store

Application Process: Apply online or visit your local Bank of America branch and ask about the card. Some applicants receive an instant decision online.

Rewards: You can earn rewards nearly anywhere, whether you’re shopping for the perfect outfit for your spring break shenanigans or fueling up at the gas station near your dorm. If you have a checking or savings account at Bank of America, you can receive a 10% cash back bonus for having rewards deposited in the account.

You accumulate 3% cash back on gas, 2% on groceries, and 1% on other qualifying purchases of up to $2,500 per quarter.  

Bonus Offers: Score a whopping $150 cash bonus if you spend at least $500 on qualifying goods or services during your first 90 days as a cardholder. This is one of the best bonus offers on our list of credit cards for students, making it easy to include it as a best credit card for students.

APR:  Same as the Discover it Chrome for Students - a variable APR from 13.99% to 23.99%. However, there’s a 0% APR for the first 12 months, and it covers any purchases you make the first 60 days.

Annual Fee: We’re thrilled to inform you that there’s no annual fee for this popular student credit card.

Best Credit Card for Students With Good Grades

Best Credit Card for Students With Good Grades: Discover it Chrome for Students
Apply Now
On Card Issuer’s Secure Website
  • Variable APR
    14.24% to 23.24%
  • Cash Advance APR
    26.24%
  • Rewards Rate
    1% to 2% cash back for qualifying purchases
  • Annual Fee
    $0
  • Intro APR
    0% purchase APR for 6 months on purchases; 10.99% balance transfer APR
  • Bonus Offers
    n/a

Pros

  • Friendly, helpful customer service reps
  • Great starter card
  • Easily attainable rewards

Cons

We couldn’t find many cons from actual cardholders, but a few complain the interest rate is too high. However, the APR is actually lower than numerous other student credit cards we’ve researched.

Details

  • Get a dollar-for-dollar match of all the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically.
  • 2% cash back at restaurants and gas stations on up to $1,000 in combined purchases every quarter - no sign-ups needed. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases – automatically.
  • Good Grades Rewards: $20 cash back 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.
  • Receive FREE Social Security number alerts-Discover will monitor thousands of risky websites when you sign up.
  • 0% intro APR on purchases for 6 months, then the standard variable purchase APR of 14.49% - 23.49%.

Application Process: Fill out a short form online to find out if you qualify. If you need help during the application process, you can click the Live Chat button when available or contact customer service at 1-800-983-1307. The company advertises that it only hires U.S. workers for its customer service team.

Rewards: Discover it Chrome for Students showers cardholders with generous rewards, including 2% cash back at qualifying restaurants and gas stations (up to $1,000 each quarter!) and 1% cash back on other qualifying purchases. Don’t let our formal terms about “qualifying purchases” scare you - nearly every purchase qualifies unless you’re charging cash advances or paying for illegal goods. You've got to love that when it comes with one of the best credit cards for college students.

After 12 billing cycles, Discover it Chrome for Students matches the amount of cash back that you’ve earned throughout the year. Who doesn’t love free money?

Bonus Offers:  There’s no sign-on bonus or a “Do this for your first few months and we’ll hook you up” offer from this card, but it has an impressive perk for good students that stands out among other college credit cards. If you maintain a 3.0 GPA or higher, you earn a $20 bonus each year. You can snag this bonus annually for up to 5 years.

APR: Your introductory interest rate is 0% for the first 6 months - woo hoo! After that, expect to pay a Standard Variable Purchase APR between 13.99% and 22.99%. Keep in mind that your APR for cash advances might be higher.

Annual Fee: Our favorite price to pay: zero dollars and zero cents!

Best Rewards Card for College Students

Best Rewards Card for College Students: Citi ThankYou Preferred Card for College Students
Apply Now
On Card Issuer’s Secure Website
  • Variable APR
    15.74% to 25.74%
  • Cash Advance APR
    26.49%
  • Rewards Rate
    1 to 2 ThankYou points per dollar spent
  • Annual Fee
    $0
  • Intro APR
    0% introductory APR for 7 months from date of account opening
  • Bonus Offers
    2,500 bonus points for spending $500+ within the first 3 months of account opening

Pros

  • Free monthly credit score updates
  • Generous rewards program
  • Higher initial credit limits than many other cards offer

Cons

Several consumers lament that it’s difficult to get approved, even with scores in the high 600s. However, you can contact Citi and ask them to overturn your denial - some people have had luck with this.

Details

  • Earn 2,500 bonus points after spending $500 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening*
  • 2,500 ThankYou® Points are redeemable for $25 in gift cards, electronics and other great rewards when redeemed at thankyou.com
  • Earn 2X Points on Dining Out & Entertainment
  • Earn 1X Points on All Other Purchases
  • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
  • Travel with ease and enjoy global acceptance with Chip Technology
  • No annual fee*

Application Process: Apply online by answering the usual questions about your name, address, and income that are generally found on student credit card apps. You may not receive an immediate decision, so don’t panic if it takes a week or so to hear from the company.

But be warned: Multiple customers complain the company runs a hard inquiry, which can cause a slight decrease in your FICO score.

Rewards: Cardholders rave about the easy-to-earn rewards offered by this popular student credit card, and CreditCards.com agrees that the card has plenty of perks. Social butterflies can take advantage of double points (2 ThankYou Points for every $1 spent) at participating restaurants and bars, while music fans and sports enthusiasts can score special access to events using the Citi Private Pass.

You also earn 1 point for every $1 you spend on purchases in categories not listed above, like clothing and accessories. Your points never expire, and you can redeem them for gift cards, concert tickets, electronics, and more. Points also work on Amazon.com, which is a perk many college students appreciate.

Bonus Offers: We’ve been following Citi’s promotions for a while, and they often run bonus offers for new cardholders. As of July 2017, you can rack up 2,500 bonus points if you spend at least $500 on qualifying purchases the first 3 months you have your card. The lowest credit limit we’ve seen on a Citi ThankYou Preferred student credit card is $500, so this is an attainable goal for many cardholders.

APR: We’re impressed that the Citi ThankYou Preferred credit card for college students has a 0% APR for the first 7 months. After that, it jumps as high as 24.99%, but some cardholders only pay 14.99%. Your credit history determines your APR after the promotional period, so make sure you pay bills on time. You may also benefit from keeping your overall credit utilization below 30%.

Annual Fee: There’s no annual fee, so you can save your cash for other things - like pizza-fueled study sessions - and that alone clearly makes this one of the best credit cards for students.

When you’re busy studying for exams and drafting essays for school, establishing a stable financial history might be the last thing on your mind. However, the average American gets their first credit card when they’re 20 years old - so even if you aren’t interested in credit yet, you might be soon - and when you do, you'll want one of the best credit cards for college students. We know that navigating the credit scene can be confusing, so we’ve provided answers to common questions about student credit cards so you can focus on enjoying college life instead.

General Questions About Credit Cards for Students

What is a student credit card?

A student credit card is a credit card that’s geared toward college students. A credit card, regardless of whether you’re a student or not, gives you the freedom to buy goods and services using borrowed funds. These funds generally come from the bank that issues your credit card, but sometimes they come from a deposit that you make on the account. We discuss this in more detail under the section titled “Fees, Deposits, and Your Credit Line.”

Do I have to be a student to have a student credit card?

Generally, yes. When you apply for one of the best credit card for students (or any student card, for that matter), the card company may request information about your status as a student. You may have to verify enrollment or share your transcripts.

However, there are some exceptions. Read the card agreement before you apply for credit for students so that you can make sure you qualify. Also, you can usually keep a student credit card after you graduate college, but some companies may offer to let you upgrade to a regular card. Many college graduates take advantage of account upgrades because they find they have different financial needs after they finish school.

What student credit card can you get with no credit?

You have a great chance of getting a secured credit card for students if you have no credit. We’ve also found that some applicants have success getting the Discover it Chrome for Students when they have little to no credit history.

Can an international student get a credit card?

You can get approved for a credit card if you’re an international student, but we’ll be honest with you: It’s difficult. Many credit card companies require a Social Security number for approval, but you can’t get a Social Security number unless you’re legally authorized to work in the U.S.

You can bypass this requirement if you get a card from a company that doesn’t care whether you have a Social Security number. Some companies let applicants substitute an individual taxpayer identification number.

ValuePenguin agrees with our claim that it’s difficult to get a credit card if you’re an international student, which is why they recommend applying for the SelfScore Mastercard if you’re not a citizen or permanent resident of the United States. The SelfScore Mastercard doesn’t require a Social Security number, but it does require you to have a passport, visa, and bank account. You’ll also need your Form I-20 to prove that you’re an international student.

Can I get a credit card if I’m studying abroad?

Yes, you sure can. Many students dream of leaving the United States to study abroad in France, Germany, or other countries. If your dream becomes a reality, you may need a credit card to help pay for the experience even if financial aid or scholarships cover your books and tuition.

We recommend applying for a student credit card before you leave for your semester abroad. Look for a card that has no foreign transaction fees and make sure you have a way to pay the monthly bill.

Why would a college student need a credit card?

Even if a college student has no problem paying for textbooks or monthly utilities, they may need a credit card to establish, build, or repair credit. Your credit score impacts everything from job opportunities to car loans, so many students like to get an early start on cultivating a strong credit history. It can take years to develop an impressive credit history, so it’s important to apply for credit as soon as possible if you plan to make a big purchase - like a home or a car - right after college.

What’s the best student credit card?

Our current favorite is the Citi ThankYou Preferred Card for College Students. We reviewed it above if you want the full details, but we've summed up the high points below:

  • Score points for every qualifying purchase, then redeem them for student-inspired rewards
  • Accepted worldwide - so go ahead and accept that opportunity to study abroad!
  • No annual fee

We also like the Discover it Chrome for Students, Bank Americard Cash Rewards for Students, and Journey Student Rewards from Capital One. The Journey Student Rewards from Capital One is a great starter card if you’re new to the credit scene, while the Discover it Chrome is perfect for students with a high GPA thanks to its annual good-grades bonus.

Applying for Student Credit Cards

How do you apply for a student credit card?

Fill out an application online, contact a credit card provider via phone, or head to a local bank or credit union if you want a student credit card. Make sure you have your Social Security number when you apply, as well as information about your income and expenses.

Do your parents have to cosign for a student credit card?

A signature from the ‘rents isn’t a necessity in most cases, but it can potentially help you score a higher credit limit. That’s because the card company may evaluate your combined income rather than just running yours.

If a company is on the fence about approving you, having Mom or Dad offer to cosign might seal the deal as far as acceptance goes. Just make sure they have good credit or you’ll end up with awful interest rates, a low credit line, or - worst case scenario here - a denial letter from the credit card company.

Do you need a job to get a credit card for students?

Credit card companies usually don’t require applicants to have a job, but they do expect you to have some sort of income. After all, they’d like you to pay your bill on time each month, and it’s kind of hard to do that if you aren’t collecting some sort of funds on a regular basis.

No job? Focus on other sources of income when you apply. Some card companies let you count scholarships, student loans, and pell grants as a source of income. If you have a parent who receives child support arrears for payments that were due before you turned 18, you may be able to list those payments on your app. Assuming your parent gives you the money, that is.

Should I get a secured credit card or an unsecured credit card?

An unsecured card is ideal, but some students prefer to launch their credit history with a secured credit card. There are also students who can’t get approved for an unsecured card just yet, so they get a secured card because their credit options are limited.

We’re not bashing secured cards because we feel they’re a great tool for students - and people in general - who need to build or repair credit. However, you’re essentially paying interest to borrow your own money, which is one reason why we recommend getting an unsecured student credit card whenever possible.

How long does it take my card to come in the mail?

Credit cards typically arrive within 2 to 4 weeks, but some card companies offer express delivery. Keep in mind that a speedy delivery usually requires a hefty fee.

To avoid delays, make sure you include all information about your address, including the apartment number. Some companies don’t deliver to P.O. Boxes, so that’s another thing to consider when you request a card.

What credit score do I need to get a student credit card?

There’s not a specific credit score that you need to get a student credit card. Cards are available for scores ranging from 300 to 850, but remember that your score often affects your interest rate, credit limit, and deposit (or lack of).

If your score falls somewhere between 300 to 500, you probably won’t qualify for an unsecured credit card. You can build a stable credit history with a secured card and then apply for an unsecured card when you’re ready. Applicants with scores in the low to mid 500s may also struggle to get approved for an unsecured card, but occasionally you can find a lender that’s willing to take a chance on you.

NerdWallet says that fair credit is anything from 630 to 689, and good credit ranges from 690 to 719. If you’ve got a score higher than that, congratulations - you’ve got excellent credit and probably won’t have any trouble getting a credit card company to approve your app.

Which credit card should I apply for?

Our crystal ball says that it’s impossible to predict which card you should apply for without knowing your unique needs, but we can offer some tips to help you decide:

  • Consider your credit score (or lack thereof)
  • Read reviews from trusted experts (like Faveable, of course!) and cardholders
  • Think about your income - is it enough to pay the bill?
  • Is the card designed for students or older adults?
  • Make sure the benefits outweigh any potential fees, such as an annual fee or high interest rates

We recommend that students start with a card that’s made just for them. Our favorites include the Citi ThankYou Preferred Card for College Students, the Discover it Chrome for Students, the Bank Americard Cash Rewards for Students, and the Journey Student Rewards from Capital One.

Companies that offer student credit cards often understand that students may have little to no credit history, so sometimes they’re easier to get than other types of credit cards. Some student credit cards also offer rewards geared toward cardholders your age, so you can build credit while enjoying awesome perks.

Fees, Deposits, and Your Credit Line

How much credit can a student get?

A student can get as much credit as they qualify for, which can range from a couple hundred bucks to thousands of dollars. Unless you’re a highly paid model or movie star, you probably won’t end up with millions of dollars in credit. That’s because companies often base your credit limit on your income because it gives them peace of mind that you’ll actually pay your bill.

What is an APR?

You probably have at least one friend or family member - or maybe you’re even this type of person - who has a “what’s in it for me” mentality. That’s basically how credit cards work. They let you borrow money, but then they expect something in return for their trust and kindness.

APR stands for annual percentage rate when it refers to credit card payments. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) explains this term well, stating that your credit card APR is “the price you pay for borrowing money.” You can potentially avoid APR-related charges by paying off your card each month, but some companies don’t give you that option.

Why do I have to pay a deposit for my credit card?

Many students get a credit card without paying a deposit, but sometimes you can’t avoid forking over some of your own funds. Start by reviewing the terms for your credit card - you can usually find these online or in a brochure that was mailed with your card. You may find that your deposit is based on something known as creditworthiness, which is just a fancy way of saying your credit score is either nonexistent or needs some help.

If you paid a deposit, that means you have a secured credit card rather than an unsecured credit card. A secured card is funded with your own money, while an unsecured card lets you spend money from the card’s bank.

Sometimes cardholders confuse monthly maintenance charges and annual fees with deposit costs. A deposit is refundable if you use your card as agreed, while you generally don’t get your monthly maintenance charges and annual fees back.

What happens if I pay my bill late?

You don’t go to jail, so don’t worry about that. We’ve heard several students say that shady debt collectors have claimed that you go to jail or prison if you don’t pay your bills.

However, there are still consequences for late payments. Some cards, like the Discover It Chrome for Students, waive the first late payment fee - but very few other companies offer this perk. If you pay your card late, expect to get hit with a hefty fee and possibly even have your APR increased. You may also damage your FICO score, and that’s definitely not something you want to do. We explain why your credit score matters in the section titled “Building or Improving Credit With a Student Credit Card.”

How do I increase my credit limit?

Look, we aren’t trying to tell you how to live your life, but make sure you can handle a higher credit limit before you request one. Now that we’ve gotten that unsolicited advice out of the way, let’s talk about how you can increase your credit limit.

Some students successfully manage to negotiate a larger limit before they even use their cards. When your card arrives in the mail, contact the issuing company and explain why you feel you deserve a larger limit. Be polite, and back up your request with facts (“I make $30,000 a year and can easily pay this) rather than opinions (“I think I deserve this because you gave my sister a bigger limit and she’s not even as responsible as me.”)

Some cards have a convenient credit-limit button in their online dashboard (where you log in to pay your bill and check your balance). When you push this button, you might have to answer a couple simple questions about your current income before the bank gives you a decision. You may receive an instant response or get a letter in the mail explaining the bank’s decision.

Can I withdraw cash at an ATM with my student credit card?

Probably, but avoid it if you can. Many student credit cards let you withdraw cash from ATMs, but it isn’t cheap. You may have to pay a special APR that’s higher than your usual rate, plus shell out a cash advance fee based on a percentage of your ATM withdrawal.

Do I have to pay a membership fee to get a credit card?

Student cards generally don’t have membership fees or annual fees, but some of them do. If you get asked to pay any money prior to getting a card, you’re probably paying for a refundable security deposit.

Building or Improving Credit With a Student Credit Card

How can college students build credit?

You can build credit by doing any of the following:

  • Securing an auto loan
  • Getting a credit card
  • Taking out a personal loan
  • Having someone add you to their account as an authorized user

If you are responsible and make your payments on time (or make sure the authorized user does), you can build a stable credit history by doing any of the things above.

Unfortunately, it’s also possible to build a bad credit history. Try your best not to be on the receiving end of any of the following:

  • Eviction or foreclosure
  • Automobile repossession
  • Charged-off credit accounts
  • Defaulted loans
  • Medical bills or other accounts in collections (“in collections” means your account was sent to a collection agency for nonpayment)

You should also be very careful with student loans. If you take time off from school to travel, tackle medical issues, or simply enjoy life, you may have to begin repaying your student loans. Failure to do so can damage your credit.

How should college students use credit cards?

We’ve read conflicting reports on the best way to use a credit card, but we can tell you that it depends on your financial goals and history. NerdWallet recommends making small purchases on your card and then paying the entire bill in full each month so you don’t get stuck with high interest rates or other fees.

Unless an emergency arises, avoiding maxing out your credit card. When you max out a card, you risk going over your limit when the card company tacks on monthly interest rates. You can also damage your FICO score by maxing out a card; in general, you should keep utilization below 30%. If you have a $300 credit limit, that means you shouldn’t have more than $90 in purchases on the card at any given time.

How do you manage your credit card?

Manage your credit card by reviewing monthly statements that arrive in the mail, if applicable, and verifying that everything is accurate. If possible, sign up for online access or account notifications so you can catch potential issues right away. For example, if your card is lost or stolen, you may not notice the fraudulent charges for weeks if you only receive paper statements.

You can also manage your credit card by calling the number listed on the back of it. Student credit cards often have automated systems that provide current information about payments, transactions, and available credit.

If you lead a hectic life, consider setting up automatic payments so you never pay your bill late. You can usually do this online, but some companies require you to call and request an authorization form for ACH withdrawals. You have the legal right to revoke this authorization with advance notice, so you aren’t locked into an automatic payment plan forever.

Can I check my own credit score?

Many people don’t know their own credit score or even realize that they can check it. You can check your own credit score by requesting a free report from each of the 3 main credit reporting agencies once a year. Many credit cards also provide free access to your credit score on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis through a score monitoring program.

How long does it take to build credit with a student credit card?

It can take weeks, months, or even years to build a decent credit history with a student credit card. The length of time varies for each student, but it’s based on the following factors:

  • Whether you have good credit, bad credit, or no credit when you get the card
  • How long it takes the credit card to report payments to the credit agencies
  • How often you use the card
  • Whether you pay your bill on time

If you notice your credit card company isn’t reporting your payments, contact them to see what’s up. Sometimes it just takes a few months for the company to notify the credit bureaus about your new card.

Will a student credit card help my credit?

A student credit card can help your credit - but it can also hurt it. Use your card responsibly if you don’t want to damage your FICO score. Here are some tips for responsible use:

  • Pay your bill on time, every time
  • Don’t buy things you don’t need
  • Avoid maxing out your credit card
  • Aim to keep your balance below 30% of your available credit limit
  • Make sure the credit card reports your payments
  • Keep your card in a safe place so that it doesn’t get lost or stolen

You have control over your credit score, so use your card wisely.

Why does my credit score matter?

What are your post-college plans? You may want to buy a home, lease an automobile, get a job in a specific field, or get married. Your credit score plays an important role in all of these goals.

Before you buy - or even rent - a home, many owners run a credit report. If you’ve got bad credit, you might get denied or get stuck paying a large deposit. Same goes for buying or leasing an automobile.

Some jobs check your credit score to make sure that you’ve had a stable financial history. This is a common practice in jobs where you work with classified information or handle a lot of monetary transactions. If you fail the credit screening, you don’t get the job.

If you decide to get married, your bad credit can affect your spouse both financially and emotionally. Money problems cause frequent arguments in many marriages, so do your best to manage your finances before you say “I do.”

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Missy Nolan is a single mom who is too sleep-deprived to come up with a clever bio at the moment. She has been a professional writer for more than 10 years and loves staying home with her 3 kids. Well, most of the time. Missy rocks at parenting, baking, cooking, saving cute outfits she'll never wear on Pinterest, and sipping her beloved secret-menu Starbucks Pink Drink while strolling through Target.

She's your go-to girl for advice or feedback on any of the things listed above, as well as tips on healthy living, bargain hunting, marketing, and finances. Connect with Missy here or at MakeItWithMissy.com, a food blog that features healthy recipes and grocery deals.

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