Best Credit Cards For College Students 2020 | Money Under 30
When you're young, you've got a lot to learn, especially about using and building credit. Here are the best student credit cards to get you started.

While in college, you have the opportunity to learn about using credit—in particular, credit cards—responsibly. By doing so, you’ll also build the credit history that may be invaluable just a few years down the road.

While it can be difficult to get approved for a new credit card with a limited credit history, there are several major banks that offer credit cards designed specifically for college students.

Why choose a student credit card?

Basically, being in college can help make up for the fact that you don’t have much of a credit history yet. Banks may be willing to extend a small amount of credit to college students in the hopes of winning a long-term customer who will be graduating into a well-paying job.

But wait: Isn’t that kind of evil? Don’t they just want me to go into debt that I won’t be able to pay off for years and years so they can collect hundreds in interest?

Well, the truth is: Yes, credit card companies make money when you charge things you can’t pay off right away. You have to know yourself.

Might you be tempted to overspend with a credit card in hand? Then you might want to wait until you’re working to get one. If you’re responsible, however, a student credit card can help you build credit and earn rewards on your purchases at no cost to you.

About student credit cards and the law

For the obvious reason we mentioned above, student credit cards were once seen as a predatory lending product. Colleges were inundated with representatives from the banks that were happy to offer t-shirts, duffel bags, and other gifts to students in exchange for a completed application. Furthermore, students were routinely granted lines of credit without any consideration of their ability to repay. Ultimately, many parents ended up reluctantly paying off their adult children’s debt. Worse, many students graduated saddled with thousands of dollars in credit card debt.

But since the CARD Act of 2009 took effect, credit card issuers are effectively banned from offering merchandise on campus. Adults between the ages of 18 and 21 now have to show a means to repay a loan before they can be granted a new line of credit.

This means that students have to have a part-time job, be part of a work-study program, or show some other means of income. Alternatively, some card issuers such as Wells Fargo and U.S. Bank will allow students to apply for a credit card with a co-signer.

Keep in mind that both people on the application become equally responsible for the repayment of the loan, even if one of the other fails to pay anything.

Overview of the best credit cards for college students

Card NamesBest For
Discover it® Student Cash BackCashback
Discover it® Student chromeGas stations
Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One®All around rewards
Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card for StudentsTravel
Wells Fargo Cash Back College CardGas stations and grocery

5 of the best credit cards for college students

Not all issuers offer student credit cards. You’ll also have to keep in mind that the rates and benefits of student credit cards aren’t as competitive as those on cards marketed to consumers with longer credit histories. But college students can still snag a card with no annual fee and a rewards program. You just need to know where to look. Here are five credit cards for college students to consider:

Discover it® Student Cash Back

The Discover it® Student Cash Back has many of the same perks as the Discover it® Student chrome  (which comes in at our #2 slot, see below), but employs a different cash back strategy. Instead of a flat 2% on gas and restaurants up to $1,000 per quarter, plus 1% elsewhere, this card offers 5% on up to $1,500 spent each quarter, though the category eligible for cash back changes every quarter and you must activate each time.

It includes appreciable benefits for students such as $0 annual fee and an introductory See Terms APR on purchases for See Terms, then the regular rate of See Terms will apply. Students are also exempt from foreign transaction fees and over limit fees. Late payments don’t raise APR or charge fees for the first occurrence.

Alongside a free FICO score in each statement, Discover makes it easier for students to practice financial discipline.

  • Good Student Bonus: Earn a $20 statement credit for each year that your GPA is above 3.0 for up to the first five years.
  • Rolling Rewards: 5% cash back on up to $1,500 every quarter in a different purchase category including gas stations, wholesale clubs, restaurants, and Quarterly activation required.
  • Discover automatically matches the total amount of cash back earned at the end of your first year

Learn more about the Discover it® Student Cash Back

Discover it® Student Chrome

This card offers 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined spending each quarter. Users get 1% back on all other purchases.

Discover it® Student chrome also gives you See Terms of See Terms APR introductory financing on new purchases. Other benefits include 24/7 fraud monitoring and price protection.  After the intro rate expires, the ongoing APR becomes See Terms.

Discover has no penalty interest rate and will automatically waive your first late payment fee. There’s no annual fee for this card, and no foreign transaction fees.

Learn more about Discover it® Student chrome

Journey Student Rewards from Capital One

Learn More On the Secure Website

In A Nutshell

The Journey Student Rewards from Capital One is a great student rewards credit card focused on making on-time payments. One benefit of paying on time is a boost from 1% cash back to 1.25% cash back another is that Capital One will automatically review your credit limit in as little as six months.

Read review
Credit score requirements: Credit Score requirements are based on Money Under 30’s own research of approval rates; meeting the minimum score will give you the best chance to be approved for the credit card of your choice. If you don’t know your credit score, use our free credit score estimator tool to get a better idea of which cards you’ll qualify for. *Money Under 30 uses a [FICO 8] [Vantage 3.0] score, which is one of many different types of credit scores. *A creditor may use a different score when deciding whether to approve you for credit.
Poor 500-599
Fair 600-699
Good 700-749
Excellent 750-850

What we like:

  • 1% cash back on all purchases and pay on time to get a boost to 1.25% cash back

  • Be automatically considered for a higher credit line in as little as 6 months

  • No annual fee and no foreign transaction fees

Learn More >>

Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One

This card features 1% cash back rewards on all purchases, and those rewards increase to 1.25% when you make your payments on time.

New applicants also receive access to a higher credit line after making their first six monthly payments on time. You can also track your credit score with Capital One.

There is no annual fee for this card, and no foreign transaction fees.

Learn more about Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One®

Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card for Students

This student card offers rewards for spending that are competitive with non-student cards. You earn and unlimited 1.5 points per dollar spent on all purchases, and points are worth one cent each as statement credits towards travel reservations.

There is no annual fee for this card, and no foreign transaction fees.

Wells Fargo Cash Back College Card

This card offers students both a low introductory interest rate and cash back rewards. New cardholders receive six months of 0% APR introductory financing on both new purchases and balance transfers, with a 3% balance transfer fee.

You also get 3% cash back rewards on all gas, grocery, and drugstore purchases for the first six months after opening your account, and 1% cash back on all other purchases.

There’s no annual fee for this card.

Other starter credit cards

Not a full-time student? You can still find many good starter credit cards. If you have some established credit history (for example, a student loan or car loan), check out the best credit cards for young adults and young professionals. If you’ve never had a loan or credit card before, you may need to start with a secured credit card.

Not sure you want a student credit card? Finding the right credit card for you is much simpler if you know your credit score, and can narrow your search to only the cards you know you’ll get approved for. We’ve made it easy for you. If you don’t already know your score, use our quick and free Credit Score Estimator tool – then find the perfect card for you!


Card Name
Unique Features
Minimum Credit Needed
Discover it® Student Cash Back
Good Grades Rewards: $20 statement credit each school year your GPA is 3.0 or higher
5% cash back at different places each quarter*
1% on all other purchases
Discover it® Student chrome
Good Grades Rewards: $20 statement credit each school year your GPA is 3.0 or higher
2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter
1% cash back on all other purchases
Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One®
Pay on time to boost your cash back to a total of 1.25% for that month
1% cash back on all your purchases
Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card for Students
If you have a Bank of America® checking or savings account, you receive additional customer bonus points equal to 10 percent of what you’ve earned
Unlimited 1.5 points per dollar spent on all purchases
Wells Fargo Cash Back College Card
Six months of 0 percent APR introductory financing on both new purchases and qualifying balance transfers
3% cash back rewards on all gas, grocery, and drugstore purchases for the first six months after opening your account, and 1% cash back on all other purchases

*5% cash back categories have a $1,500 max spend and require quarterly activation

Student credit cards offer a low-risk way for young people to establish a credit history before entering the “real world”. Building up your credit history may seem unimportant when you have things like finals or finding a summer internship to think about, but starting early and building up your credit history is one of the best things you can do for your future self.

Without a credit history, you will find it impossible to get approved for a large loan (like a mortgage or auto loan) because your credit history is a critical factor in determining your overall credit score.

Opening a credit card account is the best way to build credit history, and opening a student credit card while you’re still young offers the additional chance to make responsible credit card habits second nature. Even if you don’t need (or want!) a credit card, you should use it monthly to buy some groceries or a tank of gas, making sure that you pay it off in full every month before your monthly statement.

Don’t apply for a credit card until you have some income coming in and you feel you can handle the responsibility. But when you’re ready, the cards mentioned here are some of the best available for enrolled college students.

Read more:

Best Credit Cards 2020

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About the

Total Articles: 47
Jason Steele has been writing about credit cards, travel and personal finance since 2008, and is passionate about using his cards to travel for free. Jason contributes to many of the top personal finance and travel sites and has been widely quoted in mainstream media as a credit card expert. Jason lives in Denver Colorado where he enjoys bicycling, snowboarding and flying. You can follow Jason on Twitter, Facebook or on his website.
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We invite readers to respond with questions or comments. Comments may be held for moderation and will be published according to our comment policy. Comments are the opinions of their s; they do not represent the views or opinions of Money Under 30. Comments have not been reviewed or approved by any advertiser, nor are they reviewed, approved, or endorsed by our partners. It is not our partner’s responsibility to ensure all posts or questions are answered.
Gary says:

I’ve never owned a credit card, but when I checked my score, it came up pleasantly high! Is that possible, and if so why is that?

Joanne says:

I’m going to be traveling abroad for a student exchange program as my junior year in college. Which credit card will help me out the most while I’m not in the states?


If you’re going to be abroad, you want a credit card that is globally recognized. You don’t mention where you’re going, but most countries and vendors will accept Discover cards, so we recommend the Discover it® Student chrome. It’s a great credit-building card that offers good cash back rewards and a Good Grades credit as well. You’ll also get 24/7 fraud monitoring, a godsend if your card is stolen on foreign soil.

Michael Smith-Ellen says:

Is it a good idea to transfer my tuition balance to a lower interest credit card? If so, which one?


If you’re currently paying off your student loan via a credit card with high APR, your best choice is to switch it over to a good, low-interest card. The more interest you have to pay, the less money you have to put towards your loans, and the longer you will be paying off your loans. One thing to look out for is the balance transfer rate.

Check out our balance transfer cards page to see if you can qualify for a good card – /best-balance-transfer-credit-cards


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