10 Best Credit Cards for College Students Looking to Build Credit Fast

by | Last Updated: April 24, 2021

What do most college students know about credit cards and building credit?

In one study of college students, only 38% said they learned how to use a credit card responsibly from their parents.

Given that alarming statistic, and the fact that 30% graduate with at least $2,500 in credit card debt, it’s safe to say college students are clueless about credit cards.

Can you blame it on poor parenting? Perhaps. But parents aren’t exactly financial geniuses themselves. Not when they have their own credit card issues.

Whatever the reason might be, this post isn’t seeking to discuss it, nor is it meant to cast blame.

The goal is to find the best credit cards for college students who want to build their credit history.

If you’re a college student (or parent of one) thinking about getting a credit card, this post covers some of the best credit cards you can apply for.

But before we get to the cards let’s address the myth that credit cards are bad for college students.

You see, a credit card is a tool, much like a hammer or saw. And when used correctly, you can build something good from scratch. In this case, a positive credit history. It’s the only reason a college student should get a credit card. Especially since they have little or no credit history.

The reason credit cards become a nightmare during and after college comes down to two things:

  1. Picking the wrong card
  2. Poor financial habits (click here to learn smarter habits)

The best student credit cards should have the following:

  • Low fees and a good Annual Percentage Rate (APR)
  • No annual or hidden fees
  • Timely reporting of your payments to one or preferably all consumer credit reporting bureaus
  • Cash back incentives that reward you for buying groceries, gas, and all other purchases
  • Special benefits designed exclusively for college students

Alright, now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s look at the best credit cards for college students.

Best Student Credit Cards For Building Credit

*Please Note: This list of cards is not ranked in any specific order.

1. Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card for Students

Bank Of America Cash Rewards Credit Card For Students

What makes this card great is that it rewards you for some of your biggest college expenses.

When you buy groceries or shop at your local Costco or BJ’s clubs, you’ll get 2% cash back on your purchases. And, if you’ve got a car, you’ll get 3% cash back every time you fill up your ride. As for all your other purchases, you’ll get 1% cash back on those.

Is that all?

Nope. Bank of America will also hook you up with a 10% bonus multiplier if you opt to deposit your rewards into your Checking or Savings account at the bank. And it happens every time you redeem your rewards for cash.

Credit Card Facts: 

  • If you sign-up online you’ll get a $200 bonus for spending $500 in the first 90 days of opening your account.
  • If you spend more than $2,500 on gas and grocers combined in a quarter, you’ll earn 1% cash back for all subsequent purchases.
  • Your rewards don’t expire.
  • You get 0% introductory APR for 12 months (variable rate of 14.99% – 24.99% after).
  • There’s no annual fee but it does have a 3% foreign transaction fee. (boo!)

Click Here To Learn More

2. Discover it® Chrome Card for Students

Discover It Chrome Card For Students

In addition to earning 2% cash back on your dining and gas purchases (1% on everything else), this credit card gives you free money. Say whaaat!?

That’s not a typo dear reader. You see this card is for the nerds, the over-achievers, the smarty pantses. Students whose strive for nothing less than a 3.0 GPA. If that’s you, then Discover it® Chrome Card will pay you $20 per year for up to five years.

Sounds awesome. Any other perks?

You bet. Discover it® Chrome Card will also match all the cash back you earn in of your first year. That’s even more free money honey.

As for rewards, you can redeem them as a direct deposit, check, statement credit, or Amazon gift card (Amazon shoppers rejoice).

Credit Card Facts: 

  • Since you’re already getting free money there’s no bonus. Can’t be too greedy now.
  • Gas and dining purchases capped at $1,000 per quarter, 1% thereafter.
  • Cool Freeze It® feature lets you stop new purchases, cash advances & balance transfers in seconds.
  • You get 0% introductory APR for 6 months (variable rate of 14.74% – 23.74% after).
  • There’s no annual fee and no foreign transaction fee. (yay!)

Click Here To Learn More

3. Journey® Student Credit Card from Capital One®

Journey Student Credit Card From Capital One

This cash back credit card is pretty bare bones. You get 1% cash back on every purchase, every time, and there are no quarterly limits.

The card incentivizes you to develop good credit habits by upping your cash back to 1.25%, when you make timely payments. Incentive or not, you should be doing this regardless. In this case, the extra boost is just the cherry on top.

So this card is pretty much blah huh?

Not going to sugarcoat it. Compared to the other cards here, it doesn’t look that attractive. However, it’s the one of the rare cards that gives you a credit line increase if you make timely payments in your first 5 months of having the card. And there’s just one other thing…

What’s in your wallet?

Credit Card Facts: 

  • Unfortunately, this card doesn’t offer any bonuses.
  • You get to choose a due date for your monthly payments as well as free credit monitoring using CreditWise® from Capital One®.
  • Your rewards are unlimited and don’t expire.
  • You don’t get an introductory APR offer. It’s just a variable rate of 22.98% – 28.98%.
  • There’s no annual fee and no foreign transaction fee. (hooray!)

Click Here To Learn More

4. Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card for Students

Bank Of America Travel Rewards Credit Card For Students

If you’re lucky enough to be a jet-setting student, this credit card might be perfect for you.

Rewards for this card are based on points. You get 1.5 points for every dollar you spend on all purchases. And you don’t have to worry about quarterly limits.

So what’s missing?

Well, since it’s a travel rewards card, you’ll get 3 points for every dollar spent on travel. And you don’t have to worry about black out dates or dumb restrictions. All you have to do is book your getaway through the Bank of America® Travel Center to start racking up the points.

Credit Card Facts: 

  • If you sign-up online you’ll get a bonus of 25,000 points for spending $1,000 in the first 90 days of opening your account.
  • Redeem your points for a statement credit to pay for flights, hotels, vacation packages, cruises, rental cars or baggage fees.
  • Your points are unlimited and don’t expire.
  • You get 0% introductory APR for 12 months (variable rate of 16.74% – 26.74% after).
  • There’s no annual fee and no foreign transaction fee. (sweet!)

Click Here To Learn More

5. Citi® Secured MasterCard®

Citi® Secured MasterCard

If you’ve completely annihilated your credit, a secured credit card can help you rebuild your credit history.

The Citi® Secured MasterCard® is one of three secured cards on this list. Qualifying for it is fairly simple. You need to make a deposit between $200 to $5,000 which will serve as your credit limit. Then after 18 months of timely payments, you’ll get your deposit back and have your card upgraded to an unsecured (regular) credit card.

So it’s a card for lost souls?

Look, if your credit history wasn’t so bad, you wouldn’t need a credit card like this. But you do and there’s no shame in it. You need it to establish or rebuild your credit history. So keep your head up and focus on using your credit card responsibly.

Credit Card Facts: 

  • There are no bonuses to be had with this card, which makes sense.
  • The security deposit will not earn any interest. And if you miss payments, you’ll lose your entire deposit.
  • Your account will be reported to all three credit bureaus which helps your credit history.
  • You don’t get an introductory APR offer. It’s just a variable rate of 24.24%.
  • There’s no annual fee but there’s a 3% foreign transaction fee. (welp!)

Click Here To Learn More

6. Discover it® Student Cash Back

Discover It Student Cash Back

It’s safe to say you’ll be making lots of school-related purchases during your college and uni days. So why not get the maximum cash back possible?

With the Discover it® Student Cash Back you get a whopping 5% cash back on rewards. This can be for shopping at major stores, dining, or gas. Every quarter those spending categories rotate to give you variety.

And what of the perks?

Brace yourself… you get all the same perks as the Discover it® Chrome Card for Students. Like money for good grades, double the rewards you get in your first year, cool redemption options, and more. Whoa Nelly!

Credit Card Facts: 

  • There’s so much awesomeness a bonus is unnecessary.
  • Cash back categories are capped at $1,500 per quarter, 1% thereafter.
  • Cool Freeze It® feature lets you stop new purchases, cash advances & balance transfers in seconds.
  • You get 0% introductory APR for 6 months (variable rate of 14.74% – 23.74% after).
  • There’s no annual fee and no foreign transaction fee. (unce-unce-unce!)

Click Here To Learn More

7. Capital One® Secured MasterCard®

Capital One Secured MasterCard

Unlike the other secured credit cards on this list, this one is a bit different. How so?

Well your initial deposit is based on your credit worthiness. So your deposit may be $49, $99, or $200. But those aren’t equal to your limit like with the other secured cards. Your credit limit will fall between $200 to $3,000.

Interesante…

Yep. That’s why it’s considered to be a partially secured credit card. Plus, you get a credit line increase for making timely payments in your first 5 months of having the card. And while you don’t get cash back, you do get to enjoy Platinum MasterCard Benefits.

Oh, you know the drill… what’s in your wallet? #sorrynotsorry

Credit Card Facts: 

  • Credit Confucius say “he who have bad credit get no bonus.”
  • The security deposit is refundable if you close your account and pay your balance in full.
  • Your account will be reported to all three credit bureaus which helps your credit history.
  • You don’t get an introductory APR offer. It’s just a variable rate of 24.99%.
  • There’s no annual fee and no foreign transaction fee. (super-duper!)

Click Here To Learn More

8. BankAmericard® Credit Card for Students

BankAmericard Credit Card For Students

This is one of Bank of America’s low-rate credit cards that’s great for students looking to prioritize savings while building credit.

You also have the option to transfer any current debt you’re currently paying off onto this card. If you do that within 60 days of opening your account, you’ll get a whole 18 months to pay it off completely interest-free.

So it’s for noobs?

Yep. Especially the ones who want to learn more about credit and get access to credit education on topics like using credit cards responsibly, budgeting and more. If that’s not you or you feel like you’re a credit expert, then why are you here Captain Smarty-Pants?

Credit Card Facts: 

  • No bonus to get here so just move along.
  • You get access to overdraft protection, monthly FICO credit score access and online shopping security features.
  • This card doesn’t offer rewards.
  • You get 0% introductory APR for 15 months (variable 14.74% – 24.74% after).
  • There’s no annual fee but there’s a 3% foreign transaction fee. (grr!)

Click Here To Learn More

9. Discover it® Secured

Discover It Secured

This is a secured credit card that offers cash back and cool perks. Make some noise!

As with most secured cards, you’ll need to put down a refundable deposit. That deposit will be your credit limit and starts as low as $200. After that you can enjoy…

2% cash back at restaurants or gas stations on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter (1% after). All other purchases outside of those categories will earn you 1% cash back.

Is this for real?

As real as student loan debt.

Sorry, that was too graphic.

If it makes you feel better, Discover it® will match all the cash back you earn in your first year. Plus, after 8 months, they’ll review your account history to see if you can upgrade to a regular (unsecured) credit card.

Credit Card Facts: 

  • With bad credit comes nonexistent bonuses.
  • Your account gets reported to all three credit bureaus which helps your credit history.
  • Your rewards are unlimited and don’t expire.
  • You don’t get an introductory APR offer. It’s just a variable rate of 24.74%.
  • There’s no annual fee and no foreign transaction fee. (noice!)

Click Here To Learn More

10. Deserve® Edu MasterCard for Students (INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS ONLY)

Deserve Edu MasterCard For Students

Shout out to all the international students studying in America. This card is designed exclusively for you.

Getting a credit card as a H1B or L1 Visa holder is extremely difficult. Banks won’t touch you with a ten-foot pole. It’s very unfortunate.

But this is no time for tears because Deserve® has your back with this awesome credit card. In addition to getting 1% cash back on all your purchases (no limits), you also get the perks of Platinum MasterCard Benefits.

You even get to enjoy amazing discounts at stores like T-Mobile and Feather (see more here).

Who says international students can’t enjoy discounts that actually help save them money on the things that matter?

Credit Card Facts: 

  • Sign-up for Amazon Prime Student subscription with your Deserve® Edu MasterCard  and get reimbursed up to a life-time total of $59.
  • Apply for the chance to receive a $5,000 scholarship.
  • Your rewards are unlimited and don’t expire.
  • You don’t get an introductory APR offer. It’s just a variable rate of 20.49%.
  • There’s no annual fee and no foreign transaction fee. (YAAAS!)

Click Here To Learn More

Which Card is Right for You?

Some readers have asked about the student credit cards from Wells Fargo.

A conscious effort was made to leave them off this list because Wells Fargo continues to shaft its customers while saying sorry with a smile.

Since this is a private website and the “Executives” don’t get bonuses for fraudulent behavior, having freedom of speech and choice is a wonderful privilege.

Yes, some companies on this list of credit cards aren’t exactly saints. But when it comes to Wells Fargo… they can go to hell.

Of course, that’s just an opinion. You’re free to give them your business.

What you should do now though, is share this post online. This way you can help other college students who are shopping around for a credit card.

So click those buttons below to start sharing now.

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About Carlton F.

Most people like to brag about themselves here. Carlton just wants you to know that he co-founded this website to help you find meaningful solutions to your money problems. Cars and traveling are his passion, but otherwise, he’s a humble dude.