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Best credit cards for students in 2019
In a Nutshell
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This offer is no longer available on our site: Deserve® Edu Mastercard
If you’re in college, now might be the right time to start building credit.
One of the best ways to do that is with a credit card that you can use to demonstrate your good credit habits, like paying your bills on time. But many college students find out the hard way that it can be difficult to qualify for a traditional credit card at this stage in life, especially if you don’t have a full-time job yet (credit card issuers often factor in your income when deciding whether to approve your application).
The good news is that there are credit cards out there that are specifically designed for college students. One thing to know is that these student cards may come with higher interest rates and lower credit limits than credit cards aimed at people with more established credit histories.
This means you could rack up debt and potentially do real damage to your credit scores. But when these cards are used responsibly, they can be a helpful first step for students who are just starting to think about credit.
Here are the best credit cards for students in 2019.
Best for building credit: Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One®
Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One®
From cardholders in the last year
Purchase Intro APR
Balance Transfer Intro APR
Additional Rates and Fees
- 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 access to a higher credit line after making your first 5 monthly payments on time
- Monitor your credit profile with the CreditWise® app, free for everyone
- $0 fraud liability if your card is ever lost or stolen
- Pick the monthly due date that works best for you
- Get customized alerts and manage your account with the Capital One mobile app
* See the online provider’s credit card application for details about terms and conditions. Reasonable efforts are made to maintain accurate information. However, all credit card information is presented without warranty. When you click on the “Apply Now” button, you can review the credit card terms and conditions on the provider’s website.
Here’s why: The Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One® card is great for beginners looking to build healthy credit habits, because it offers a cash back boost as an incentive to pay your bill on time.
With Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One®, you’ll earn 1% cash back on purchases — and an extra 0.25% each month if you pay on time. Also, students who make their first five monthly payments on time could qualify for a higher credit limit. Keeping your credit card balance to credit limit ratio low can help you maintain a low credit utilization rate — one of the keys to building credit.
Just be careful that the higher credit limit doesn’t tempt you to spend more. We always recommend paying off the full amount on your credit card statement on time each month in order to avoid interest charges and credit card debt. Here’s a guide to paying your credit card bill if you’re new to it.
Best for buying textbooks: Deserve® Edu Mastercard
From our partner
Deserve® Edu Mastercard
From cardholders in the last year
Here’s why: Deserve® Edu Mastercard is a great resource for all of your school supplies.
Students will get reimbursed for a membership to Amazon Prime Student (up to $59 total), where you’ll have access to laptops, textbooks, notebooks, pens and other school supplies you might need for class.
You’ll also receive 1% cash back on purchases, which can effectively serve as a discount on school supplies.
Best for good grades: Discover it® Student Cash Back
Here’s why: Discover rewards students for getting good grades.
You don’t have to be a straight-A student. Both the Discover it® Student Cash Back and Discover it® Student Gas and Restaurant cards (read more about this one below) boast a good-grade reward. Students who maintain a GPA of at least 3.0 will earn a $20 statement credit annually for up to five years.
You’ll also get 5% cash back on purchases in certain categories (like grocery stores or Amazon) that change every three months, up to $1,500 each quarter. One big drawback is that you have to remember to “activate” these categories each quarter (you can do this online at Discover). Otherwise, you’ll get 1% back on each of your purchases.
Best for commuters: Discover it® Student Gas and Restaurants
Here’s why: College students who live off-campus and commute to school will love the Discover it® Student Gas and Restaurants card.
If you live off-campus, you probably gave up your meal plan, and you may be driving to class. With this card, you can save some money with 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter. You’ll earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases.
This cash back is more consistent and easier to earn than with the Discover it® Student Cash Back card — no activating required, and the categories don’t change each quarter. But it you don’t spend a lot of money already at gas stations and restaurants, it may not be the best fit for you.
Best of all, Discover will double the cash back you earn at the end of your first year of card membership.
Best for studying abroad: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card for Students
Here’s why: The Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card for Students features one of the most generous sign-up bonuses we’ve seen from a credit card aimed at college students.
You’ll earn 25,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on purchases during the first 90 days after opening the account. That’s enough for a $250 travel statement credit that could help pay for your airfare to go study abroad.
And while you’re out of the country, rest assured you won’t be charged any foreign transaction fees when you pay with your Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card for Students.
How we picked the best credit cards for college students
When choosing the best credit cards for college students, we narrowed our search to those specifically designed for students. Students aren’t limited to applying for and using student cards — secured credit cards are another good option for those who are just starting out with credit — but it may be easier for a student with a limited credit history to qualify for a student card than for a traditional card.
This is because credit card issuers typically factor in both your income and credit history when deciding whether to approve your application. Many students don’t have long credit histories, and even if they do, without a full-time job they may not make enough money to get approved for a new card on their own.
In response, some banks have created a separate category of credit cards for students. Once we’d narrowed our consideration down to this field, we identified the best card for subcategories that address the specific needs of a range of students: building credit, buying textbooks, studying abroad, commuting, etc.
How to make the most of your student credit card
Many of the cards we listed above come with rewards or cash back when you make purchases. But the real opportunity these student cards give you is the chance to build your credit.
Your credit can impact everything from your credit card applications to whether you qualify for student loans, auto loans, and, down the road, mortgages. So if you start building credit now by opening a credit card geared toward college students and using it responsibly, you’ll put yourself in a better position to succeed after you graduate.
Here are a few tips to get you started.
- Only use your card for what you can afford to pay for right away. It’s a good idea to pay off your credit card balances on time and in full every month, so that you can build credit and avoid paying more money in interest charges.
- Make on-time payments. Even one late payment can have a negative impact on your credit.
- Once you’ve proven you can make on-time payments, consider asking the bank to raise your credit limit. This can help lower your credit card utilization rate — which makes up a big chunk of your credit scores.
Ultimately, the real value of opening a student credit card is the chance to practice these good habits and show lenders you’re financially responsible.
Looking for a starter credit card? Compare Student Cards Now
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