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Best Credit Cards for College Students of 2021

It might be early August but soon it will be time to head back to school. The college years are one of the best times to build a positive credit score – and student credit cards are the perfect tool for this task. Here are some of the best credit cards for college students to help you build credit – and save money at the same time!

The Best Credit Cards for College Students 2021

Here are our top college student credit cards for 2021:

Deserve is an interesting credit card for college students in that it isn’t designed for U.S. citizens only. The card, from fintech Deserve and Celtic Bank, offers international students a way to establish a U.S. credit score and earn cash back at the same time. The card requires no Social Security Number to apply.

The Deserve EDU features 1% cash back on all eligible purchases, cell phone protection of up to $600 when students use their card to pay for their mobile plan, and no foreign transaction fees. The Deserve also comes with a quality introductory offer: students can earn one year of Amazon Prime Student on Deserve after spending $500 in the first three billing cycles with their new card.

Other features of the Deserve EDU Card include:

  • Generous credit limits
  • No annual fee
  • Three months of Text + Talk through Mint Mobile

Bank of America offers some of the best student credit cards, with the Unlimited Cash Rewards one of our favorites. The card, which features a $0 annual fee, earns an accelerated (and unlimited) 1.5% cash back on all eligible purchases, with rewards redeemable as deposits into Bank of America checking or savings accounts or as a statement credit to offset monthly bills.

The Unlimited Cash Rewards from Bank of America also comes with a quality sign-up bonus: College students can earn a $200 cash rewards bonus after making at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of opening their account. That introductory offer has a 20% cash back value.

Other notable features with the Bank of America® Unlimited Cash Rewards Credit Card for Students include:

When we said Bank of America offers some of the very best student credit cards, we weren’t lying. The Customized Cash Rewards for Students is another excellent student card with no annual fee.

The Customized Cash differs from the Unlimited Cash in that it offers accelerated cash back rewards in the category students select each month. Those accelerated rewards are 3% back on the following categories:

  • Gas stations
  • Online shopping
  • Dining
  • Travel
  • Drug stores
  • Home improvement/furnishings

You can choose a new 3% category which can be selected once each month so that you’re always earning cash for the things you purchase the most. Students also earn in set categories, with 2% back on grocery purchases and 1% for everything else.

Other features of the card include:

  • 3% foreign transaction fee
  • No annual fee
  • Enhanced Security with EMV Chip Cards
  • Digital wallet technology
  • Visa Zero Fraud Liability
  • Access to Bank of America’s  Better Money Habits program

Discover offers two student credit cards (with the other being the It Chrome for Students), but for us, the Student Cash Back is the best bet. The reason why the Discover It Student Cash Back is so great is that it offers 5% cash back on a selection of quarterly categories and unlimited 1% back on all other purchases.

Discover’s Cashback Calendar is one of the most popular reasons people choose Discover, with the rest of 2021 shaping to be another excellent opportunity to earn 5% back on the first $1,500 in spending each quarter:

  • July – September 2021: Restaurants and PayPal
  • October – December 2021: Amazon.com, Target.com, and Walmart.com purchases.

The Student It Card also offers Discover’s Cashback Match – one of the best first-year bonuses on the market. Discover will automatically match all the cash earned the year you open the card. Discover’s dollar-for-dollar match means if you earn $500 back in your first year would match that sum, automatically giving you an impressive $1,000 back.

Other notable features of the Discover it® Student Cash Back include:

  • No annual fee
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Zero Fraud Liability

Discover’s Good Grade Reward: If you keep your GPA above 3.0, Discover will reward you with a $20 statement credit each school year.

Chase’s Freedom Student Card is another safe bet when looking for the perfect college credit card. The card is a simple-to-use starter card that helps students build up their credit while earning everyday purchases.

The Freedom Student Card earns an unlimited 1% in cash back for all purchases and a one-time $50 cash back bonus after making the first purchase with the card within the first three months. The cash back with the Freedom might not be as exceptional as Discover or Bank of America, but it provides a foot in the door to Chase – which offers some of the best credit cards on the market today.

Students that build their credit with the Freedom can graduate to the impressive Chase Freedom Flex or Chase Freedom Unlimited – or even build the credit to apply for the Chase Sapphire Preferred – one of the best travel credit cards available.

Other features of the Freedom Student Card include:

  • No annual fee
  • Visa Zero Fraud Liability
  • Enhanced Security with EMV Chip Cards
  • Digital wallet technology
  • Credit limit increase after making five monthly payments on time within ten months from account opening

Honorable Mentions

Want some more student credit card options to consider? Here are two cards that just missed out on our top spots:

Discover it® Chrome for Students

The Discover it Chrome for Students is a student credit card and cash back rewards card that allows college students to earn 2% cash back on gas and restaurants, plus 1% cash back on everything else. n addition to not having to worry about an annual fee, students who maintain a GPA of 3.0 or higher will receive a $20 statement credit each school year.

capital one journey student card

Journey® Student Credit Card from Capital One®

The Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One® card is a student credit card that offers individuals with average credit a straightforward 1% cash back on all purchases. Where the card stands out, though, is its ability to increase your cash back to 1.25% each month that you pay it off on time. With this card, it literally pays to be responsible.

Featured image by Shopify / Burst

About: Cory
Cory Santos

Cory is BestCards.com's "Jack of all trades" and resident credit expert, covering all facets of the credit card space. In addition to credit cards, Cory finds that jogging, cats, and memes are essential parts of a balanced day.