Best Credit Cards for College Students

Facebook icon Twitter icon Print icon Email icon
Ben Luthi

By Ben Luthi

March 23, 2020

Credit cards can be an excellent way for college students to learn how to manage credit and build a credit history. But many student credit cards go beyond those basic benefits and provide rewards and other perks when you use the card regularly. 

If you’re a college student and thinking about getting a credit card, here are some of the top options available.

1. Journey Student Rewards from Capital One


The Capital One Journey card is relatively basic but offers some incentives to use it responsibly. You’ll earn a flat 1% cash back on every purchase you make, plus an extra 0.25% cash back when you pay your bill on time.  

You’ll also get a higher credit line if you make your first five monthly payments on time. Finally, you’ll pay no foreign transaction fees, which can come in handy if you’re planning to study abroad. The card has no annual fee.

2. Discover it Student Cash Back


If you want to maximize your rewards, opt for the Discover it Student Cash Back. You’ll earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 spent in bonus categories that rotate every three months (examples include grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations and more), plus 1% back on everything else.

What’s more, Discover will match all the cash back you earn during the first year. Plus, you’ll get a $20 statement credit each school year that your GPA is 3.0 or higher. The card has no annual or foreign transaction fees. You’ll also get free FICO score access, which can help you keep track of your credit score while you build your credit history.

3. Sallie Mae Ignite


One of three credit cards from Sallie Mae, the Ignite card functions similarly to the Journey Student Rewards card, rewarding you for on-time payments. Earn 1% cash back then a 25% rewards bonus if you pay on time for six consecutive months.  

It also offers an introductory 0% APR on purchases for six months, which you could use to buy textbooks or supplies and pay off interest-free over time. 

The card, along with Sallie Mae’s other options, also offers free access to your FICO credit score and cell phone protection if you use it to pay your phone bill. There are no annual fee.

4. Sallie Mae Accelerate


A step up from the Sallie Mae Ignite, the Accelerate card offers 1.25% cash back from the get-go. Even more impressive, it gives you a 25% on rewards you use to pay down your student loans, which can help you get a head start on your payoff strategy while you’re still in school. 

You’ll also get an introductory 0% APR promotion on both purchases and balance transfers for 15 months. The card has no annual fee.

5. Sallie Mae Evolve


Like the Accelerate card, the Sallie Mae Evolve offers 1.25% cash back on every purchase you make, but you’ll get 25% more rewards on your top two spending categories every month. This means you don’t have to force yourself to align your spending with predetermined categories — the card does it for you. 

You’ll also get an introductory 0% APR on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months, and no annual fee.

6. Deserve Edu Mastercard

If you’re an international student, it can be tough to get a credit card without a Social Security number. Fortunately, the Deserve Edu Mastercard doesn’t require one. Also, no credit history is required, even if you’re a U.S. citizen.

The card also offers 1% cash back on every purchase, Amazon Prime Student for a year, cell phone protection and no annual or foreign transaction fees.

7. Petal Cash Back Visa Card

The Petal Card isn’t technically a student credit card, but it doesn’t require a credit history at all to get approved for it. Instead, the card issuer will use your bank information to see how you manage your money to decide whether you’re a good fit.

The card offers 1% cash back at first, then 1.25% back after six on-time payments and finally 1.5% back after 12 on-time payment. The card also has no fees whatsoever.

8. Bank of America Travel Rewards Credit Card for Students

This card sets itself apart by providing excellent rewards from the start. You’ll earn 25,000 bonus points (worth $250) after you spend $1,000 in the first 90 days, plus 1.5 points per dollar on every purchase you make. 

There’s no annual or foreign transaction fees, making it a solid option for travel-minded students, plus an introductory 0% APR on purchases for 12 billing cycles.

Which card should you get?

There’s no best credit card for everyone, so carefully consider your goals and preferences and focus on cards that best match them. Also, keep in mind that some of these cards do require that you have a credit history, so avoid those if you’re just starting out.

At, our goal is to help you make smart decisions about saving and paying for education. Some of the products featured in this article are from our partners, but this doesn’t influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own.

A good place to start:

See the best 529 plans, personalized for you