Last updated on January 9th, 2023
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 choose to put off applying for credit cards until after graduation. Yet the best student credit cards of 2020 offer the tools needed to build a credit history without fear, and even reward cardholders for practicing responsible credit card use or getting good grades. Your college years can provide a great opportunity to grow a strong credit score, making it easier to assimilate into the financial world once you graduate. Ready to ace your first credit test, but still not sure where to start? Luckily, the team at BestCards.com did the homework for you. Check out the top student cards 2020 has to offer below.
Best All-Around: Discover it® Student Cash Back
The Discover it® Student Cash Back credit card is widely considered to be one of the best credit cards for students, largely due its similarity with the regular Discover it® Card. Both offer an impressive 5% cash back on rotating categories, so you won’t feel like you’re missing out on rewards just because of your short credit history. These categories include everyday expenses like groceries and gas, as well as treat-yourself purchases on dining and online shopping. Discover’s Cashback Match program makes this an even sweeter deal, since any rewards earned in your first year get doubled. If you’re saving up for a new laptop or a study abroad trip, this bonus can give you a nice discount. There’s also a 0% intro APR for 6 months and no penalty APR, which means your interest rate won’t increase dramatically if you miss a payment – though don’t let that fool you. Rotating rewards categories can make it easy to fall into the trap of unnecessary spending, so you should be mindful not to spend more than you can manage. One feature that makes the Discover it® Student card stand out is the Good Grade Reward, which allows students with a 3.0+ average to earn a $20 statement credit each school year. So as long as you’re focusing on your studies (and not just the great rewards) your bank account will get a nice little boost to help you celebrate.
Lowest APR: Wells Fargo Cash Back College Card
Learning how to navigate annual percentage rates (APRs) is an important part of applying for and owning a credit card, as this is what determines your interest rate when you carry a balance. Naturally, many student cards have higher APRs due to the more lenient credit requirements, but that’s not the case with the Wells Fargo Cash Back College Card. Not only do you get a 0% introductory APR for 6 months, but the regular APR also starts on the lower end of the scale. Of course, the APR you get depends largely on your creditworthiness and the Prime Rate. As another introductory offer, you’ll also get a cash back boost for the first 6 months. During that time, your grocery, gas and drugstore expenses earn 3% cash back on up to $2,500. All other purchases earn a steady 1% cash back. That makes this a great card to apply for right before you head off to school. You’ll likely be spending a little more to stock up on household items and groceries for the semester, which will help you max-out your rewards. What really puts this card among the best credit cards for college students is the additional features that Wells Fargo and Visa provide. This includes up to $600 in cell phone protection when you pay your bill with the cash back card, as well as budgeting apps to help you track and manage your spending. Protections like these can really come in handy, especially if you move away from home for college.
No Credit: Journey® Student Credit Card
When it comes to the best credit cards for students with no credit, the Journey Student® Rewards Card from Capital One is worthy of consideration. While this card doesn’t offer the same level of cash back as other options on this list, it does reward you for responsible use. You’ll start out with 1% cash back for every purchase, but paying your bill on time boosts this rate up to 1.25% for the month. Not only that, you’ll also become eligible for a credit increase. The minimum credit line you can receive is $300, depending on your finances when you apply. However, Capital One will increase this limit when you make your payments on time for the first 5 months. The Journey card does come with a high APR, but that’s to be expected with credit-building cards. As long as you pay your bills on time and avoid carrying a balance, this won’t affect you. Other features to consider when comparing this to other cards include Eno® and CreditWise®. Eno is the Capital One assistant, which lets you get updates on your account activity with a simple text. Meanwhile, CreditWise provides the tools to keep an eye on your credit score 24/7. You can use this tool to watch your score grow and see how your financial choices impact it. (Tip: CreditWise is actually fee for non-cardholders as well.)This can also be a contender for the best international credit card for students, since it comes with VISA travel protections and doesn’t charge any foreign transaction fees. So if you’re thinking about that study abroad trip, this card could be a great travel companion.
Best Additional Perks: Chase Freedom® Student Credit Card
Another great student card that rewards you for making payments on time is the Chase Freedom® Student Credit Card. When you pay your bill by the due date at least 5 times in the first 10 months from account opening, you automatically earn a credit increase. It’s important to always pay your bill on time to protect your credit, but this way you won’t miss out on a credit increase if you slip up in your first few months as a first-time cardholder. As far as rewards, you can earn 1% cash back on every purchase with no limits. Chase will even add a $50 bonus credit to your account on your first purchase. If you’re still thinking about that $20 credit for good grades from Discover, never fear; this card offers something like that as well. Except, you’ll earn $20 for each year your account remains in good standing, for up to 5 years. This means you don’t have to miss out on extra cash if your GPA needs a little attention. Since there’s no annual fee, you can save these bonuses up for a fun trip, or use them to cover your textbook expenses. That’s not the only feature that makes this an option for the best first credit card for students, either. Right now, Chase cards like this one offer deals from partners that most students are very familiar with: DoorDash and Lyft. Whether you’re heading out to a party with friends or recuperating from finals with your favorite takeout, these deals can make your night and save you money.
Best Rewards: Citi Rewards+® Student Card
If you’ve already established a solid, but still relatively short credit history and want to really start racking up points, look to the Citi Rewards+ Student Card. Think of this card as the professor who’s always offering extra credit opportunities. While it only offers up to 2 points per dollar, the abilit to earn bonus rewards are where it really packs a punch. To start, you’ll earn 2X rewards on gas and groceries for up to $6,000 in purchases each year, and 1X on everything else. If you’re able to spend at least $500 in the first 3, you’ll earn 2,500 bonus points. On top of that, Citi will round your rewards earned on every purchase, up to the nearest 10 points. This means that when you buy a $4 coffee, you’ll actually earn 10 points rather than 4. Likewise, a $53 textbook is worth 60 points. If this unique feature isn’t enough, Citi also rewards you when you redeem – big time. Whenever you cash in your rewards, whether for event tickets or Amazon purchases, you’ll get 10% of your points back. This is capped at 100,000 points redeemed per year, meaning you can get up to 10,000 points back just for using them. Aside from points, the Citi student card also has a 0% introductory APR for the first 7 months. The biggest downside to this card is the penalty APR. In order to offer you these great rewards at no annual fee, Citi has policies in place to penalize you for spending more than you can afford. If your monthly payment is late or returned, the bank can give you a much higher interest rate indefinitely.
Find Your A+ Credit Card
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