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Best Credit Cards for College Students

Last updated on August 4th, 2022

Entering the world of credit cards for the very first time can be intimidating – not to mention financially risky, without the proper knowledge. For that reason, many students put off applying for credit cards until graduation. 

Despite that, 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:

At a Glance


Deserve EDU
Best for: International Students

Sable Secured Mastercard
Best for: Secured Credit

Bank of America® Unlimited Cash Rewards
Best for: Intro APR Read Review

Discover it® Student Cash Back
Best for: Cash Back Read Review

Chase Freedom® Student
Best for: Unlimited Rewards Read Review

What is a Student Credit Card?

Student credit cards are a unique variant of credit cards designed specifically for college students. Student cards are an ideal option for those over the age of 18 and new to credit. Because student cards are similar to other credit cards, they sometimes offer rewards points, interest-free periods, and introductory bonuses.

Despite their similarities to different types of credit cards, however, student cards differ in a few key areas:

  • Student cards usually have lower credit limits than other types of credit cards.
  • Many student credit cards offer good grade discounts or rate reductions
  • Student credit cards have easier application restrictions, making them more accessible to those new to credit
  • Welcome bonuses with student cards are typically much lower than with other rewards credit cards

What to Look for in a Student Credit Card

Before applying for your next student credit card, take some time to investigate each card offer and its suitability to your needs. Here are some common features to look out for with a student credit card:

  • Does the card offer secured or unsecured credit? Secured credit cards require a security deposit, which can stretch some students’ budgets.
  • Does the card earn rewards? Rewards credit cards provide valuable rewards. Students expecting to really use their credit cards should look for a lucrative travel rewards card, or a cash back credit card. These cards can provide exceptional value and save students money on textbooks, travel, and more.
  • Does the card charge a foreign transaction fee? Foreign transaction fees are charged when a merchant accepts payment in a foreign currency. Your payment network must exchange USD for the equivalent in local currency. A no foreign transaction fee credit card is ideal for an international student studying in the U.S. or studying abroad over the summer.
  • Good grade discounts? Some student credit cards, but not all of them, offer statement credits if you keep your GPA above a certain level.

Related Article: How to Choose the Best Student Credit Card for You

The Best Credit Cards for College Students

So, what are the best student credit cards for 2022? Here is a rundown of some of the top picks from the BestCards team:

Deserve EDU Mastercard

deserve-edu-mastercard
No Deposit Required & No Annual Fees
  • Receive one year of Amazon Prime Student on Deserve after spending $500 in the first three billing cycles
  • Feel secure with cell phone protection up to $600
  • Zero Fraud Liability
☆ 1% Cash Back on Purchases
☆ No Foreign Transaction fees
☆ Pay w/ Apple Pay™ or Google Pay™
☆ 24/7 Mobile App Access

Deserve EDU is a versatile student rewards card that is also ideal for international students. The card, from fintech Deserve and Celtic Bank, offers international students a way to establish a U.S. credit score and earn cash back simultaneously. 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 notable features of the Deserve EDU Mastercard include no foreign transaction fees, Mastercard Platinum protections, and three free months of Text + Talk through Mint Mobile.

Sable Secured Mastercard

sable secured card 224x141
Start Building Positive Credit History
  • Earn up to 2% cash back on select purchases
  • Earn 1% cash back on all other purchases
  • No annual fee
☆ Perfect for New to Credit/ Immigrants
☆ No Credit Check to Apply
☆ Build Credit & Earn Rewards
☆ Mobile Wallet Compatibility

The Sable One Secured Mastercard Credit Card is a fintech secured card that helps build a positive credit history in the United States – without any hidden fees and with no credit checks. Of course, if you have an SSN, there is no reason you can’t apply for the Sable One Secured Card.

However, it is a great feature that the company accepts applicants from outside the United States. It offers an excellent route to building a positive credit history for recent immigrants or international students.

Greater credit access is just one feature of the Sable Secured Card. The card also offers impressive cash back rewards on every purchase, with 2% back on Amazon, Hulu, Netflix, Uber, and more. Another way that Sable helps promote credit growth is by offering a one-time cash back meeting a credit score minimum. Cardholders get $25 when they build their credit score to a 700+ credit score within 12 months of use.

Bank of America® Unlimited Cash Rewards Credit Card for Students

Earn Unlimited Cash Back
  • Unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase
  • 0% for 15 months from account opening
☆ Build credit with responsible use
☆ Visa Signature benefits
☆ No Annual Fee

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 of the Bank of America® Unlimited Cash Rewards Credit Card for Students include no annual fee, digital wallet technology, and Visa Zero Fraud Liability protection.

Discover it® Student Cash Back

discover it student cash back 224x141
Earn Up to 5% Cash Back
  • 5% cash back in rotating categories each quarter, up to the quarterly maximum, when you activate
  • 0% for 15 months from account opening
☆ Discover Cash Back Match
☆ Use Points with Amazon
☆ No Annual Fee

Discover offers two student credit cards (with the other being the It Chrome for Students), but the Student Cash Back is the best bet for us. The Discover It Student Cash Back is so great because it offers 5% cash back on a selection of quarterly categories and an 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 2022 shaping to be another excellent opportunity to earn 5% back on the first $1,500 in spending each quarter.

Here’s the full Discover 2022 Cashback Calendar:

5% Cash Back Category
January - March 2022 Grocery stores plus gym and fitness club memberships
April - June 2022 Gas stations and Target
July - September 2022 Restaurants and PayPal
October - December 2022 Amazon.com and digital wallets

Chase Freedom® Student Credit Card

chase freedom student 224x141
Earn Unlimited Cash Back
  • Earn 1% in cash back for all of your purchases
  • $50 Bonus earned after first purchase
☆ Build credit with responsible use
☆ Visa Signature benefits
☆ No Annual Fee

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 Student might not be as exceptional as Discover or Bank of America. Still, it provides a foot in the door to Chase – which offers some of the best credit cards on the market today.

Students who build their credit with Freedom Student can graduate to the impressive Chase Freedom FlexChase Freedom Unlimited, or another Chase proprietary card.

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. Cory holds academic degrees in both the U.S. and U.K. In addition to credit cards, Cory finds that jogging, cats, and memes are essential parts of a balanced day.

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