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10 Apr 2018

Top 10 Credit Cards for Students

Are you a first-time college student? Are you looking to open your first credit card account and not sure which card to choose?

There are lots of options available to students to help them build and establish their credit rating. We’ve reviewed and posted our top ten choices for the best student credit cards below.

Each card offers different perks and rewards.Depending on which features are most important to you, you can make a great choice for selecting the card that will help you to build your credit quickly while earning some great rewards.

The Best Student Credit Cards

Discover it(R) for Students

One of the best student credit cards available with a cash-back option is the Discover it for Students cards.

Here are some of the card benefits:

  • Earn 5% cash back at different locations on a quarterly basis including gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants or Amazon.com up to the quarterly maximum each time you activate.
  • Plus, 1% unlimited cash back automatically on all other purchases.
  • Get a dollar-for-dollar match of all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year, automatically.
  • Earn Good Grades Rewards: $20 cash back each school year your GPA is 3.0 or higher for up to the next 5 years.
  • No annual fees and no late fee for first late payment. No APR change for late payments.

Pros: Customers get 5% back (up to $1500 per quarter) on certain categories of purchases that change quarterly. There’s no annual fee and no foreign transactions fees. The best part – a history of late payments won’t raise your APR.

Cons: The cash-back category needs to be manually activated every quarter. Discover cards typically aren’t accepted in as many places as a Visa or Mastercard.

Discover it(R) chrome for Students

This card is similar to the Discover it card but has more lax credit guidelines. It’s also one of the best student credit cards to earn cash back on gas and dining.

Here are some of the card benefits:

  • At the end of your first year, you’ll get a dollar-for-dollar match of all the cash back automatically.
  • 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants and up to $1,000 in combined purchases every quarter. No sign-ups needed.
  • Plus, 1% cash back on all other purchases.
  • Earn Good Grades Rewards: $20 cash back each school year your GPA is 3.0 or higher for up to the next 5 years.
  • No annual fees and no late fee for first late payment. No APR change for late payments.

Pros: A great option for students that have marginal credit scores and still offers cash back and rewards program.

Cons: The rewards program isn’t as rich as it is for the regular Discover it card and you’ll run into the same issues with it not being accepted in as many places.

Bank of America Cash Rewards for Students

The Bank of America card offers some of the best options for cash back on gas and grocery purchases.

Here are some of the card benefits:

  • For any Bank of America customer, they’ll earn a 10 percent customer bonus every time they redeem their cash back into a Bank of America checking or savings account
  • Chip Cards for additional security
  • Fraud Protection services
  • $0 Liability Guarantee
  • ShopSafe service
  • Set up Account Alerts
  • Overdraft Protection
  • Paperless Statement Option
  • Digital Wallet Technology
  • Online & Mobile, and Text Banking
  • FICO Score
  • Eligible for the benefits of the Preferred Rewards Cash Rewards Student program

Pros: In addition to no annual fee, customers have 0% introductory APR for the first 12 statements after the account is opened.

Cons: The penalty APR climbs up to 29.99%, and the issuer also charges a 3% foreign transaction fee.

Citi ThankYou Preferred Card for College Students

CitiBank offers both a sign-up bonus for new cardholders and is a great option for cash back in the entertainment and dining categories. These two perks make it one of the best student credit cards available.

Here are some of the card benefits:

  • Once you spend $500 on purchases within the first 3 months of account opening your account*, you’re eligible to earn 2,500 bonus points
  • For every 2,500 ThankYou(R) Points you earn, they are redeemable for $25 in gift cards, electronics, and other great rewards when redeemed at thankyou.com
  • Earn 2X Points on Dining Out & Entertainment
  • Earn 1X Points on All Other Purchases
  • No expiration and no caps on the number of points you can earn
  • Chip Technology offers global acceptance
  • No annual fee*

Pros: Sign-up bonus if you spend $500 in the first three months, and can use points to pay down student loans.

Cons: There’s a 3% foreign transaction fee and reward redemption values vary depending on what you’re selecting as your reward.

Journey Student Rewards from Capital One

The Journey card is the best flat cash-back program.

Here are some of the card benefits:

  • Earn 1% cash back on all your purchases. On time payments will boost your cash back to 1.25% for that month
  • You can earn unlimited cash back and your rewards won’t expire as long as you keep the account open
  • After making your first 5 monthly payments on time, you can get access to a higher credit line
  • There are no annual or foreign transaction fees
  • Offers fraud coverage should your card be lost or stolen
  • Pick your billing date based on what works best for you

Pros: Straightforward cash back program. There’s an incentive for on-time payments to increase your credit limit, making it one of the best student credit cards to build your credit history.

Cons: The rewards top out between 1% – 1.25% – lower than other cash back and rewards cards.

Discover it Secured Card

A secured card requires the applicant to pay a deposit and then is given a line of credit equal to the initial deposit paid.

  • Cash back on every purchase and no Annual Fee.
  • Your Secured Credit Card will require a refundable security deposit. The deposit will establish your credit line.
  • Your bank information will need to be provided when submitting your security deposit.
  • Your account will be automatically reviewed at 8 months to determine if your account can be transitioned to an unsecured line of credit.
  • Earn 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants, up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter.
  • Plus, 1% cash back on all your other purchases.
  • Get a dollar-for-dollar match of all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year, automatically.
  • Receive Free Social Security number alerts– Discover will monitor thousands of risky websites when you sign up.

Pros: This card is one of the best student credit cards for students with poor credit who may not qualify for another card. The issuer will automatically review the account after eight months to determine if the cardholder can switch to an unsecured account.

Cons: The standard APR of 24.24% is high.

Upromise World Mastercard(R)

This card is a great option for students with good to excellent credit.

  • Earn a Sign-up Bonus: When you use your card to make at least one purchase within 90 days of opening your account, get a $50 cash back bonus.
  • There’s no annual fee. Balance transfers cost the greater of $5 or 3% of the transferred amount. Cash advance fees are the greater of $10 or 5% of the advanced amount. Returned and late payments cost $37. Foreign transactions cost 3%.
  • 0% introductory APR on balance transfer for 15 months – transfers must be made within 45 days of opening your account.
  • Complimentary monthly FICO score. Certain Upromise.com (an e-commerce portal) purchases will earn you up to 10% cash back in addition to regular cash back rewards.

Pros: $50 sign-up bonus. Cardholders can earn as much as 5% cash back on specific purchases. This is one of the best student credit cards for earning cash back.

Cons: The card doesn’t offer an introductory APR, and some of their fees are a bit high.

Capital One(R) Secured Mastercard(R)

Another secured card option, you can make a lower deposit (as low as $49). Depending, on your credit score, can still access a $200 line of credit.

  • No annual fee or foreign transaction fee.
  • Cash advances cost 3% of the total amount of the advance, but not less than $10.
  • Late payments cost up to $35 each.
  • The card comes with Capital One CreditWise.

Pros: No annual fees or foreign transaction fees.

Cons: The credit limit is low and the APR is high.

Citi(R) Secured MasterCard(R)

A secured card that offers a line of credit of up to $5000 (equal to the amount of the deposit). Its high credit limit makes it one of the best student credit cards among secured card options.

  • $25 annual fee and 3% foreign transactions fee.
  • Cash advances cost the greater of 5% or $10, and balance transfers the greater of 3% or $10.
  • Returned and late payments cost $35 each.
  • This card has the same Citi perks as the Citi ThankYou Preferred Card for College Students.

Pros: Most secured cards don’t have a credit limit as high as $5000.

Cons: Annual fee of $25 and account review to move to an unsecured card doesn’t happen until after 18 months of card ownership.

Deserve(R) Edu Mastercard for Students

A card that will pay for Amazon Prime Student (up to a lifetime total of $49).

  • 1% unlimited cash back on all purchases.
  • $0 annual fee and no foreign transaction fees.
  • Up to a $5,000 credit line.
  • No security deposit or co-signer required, and international students won’t require a SSN.
  • Includes many of the same platinum benefits of other Mastercards including Travel Assistance, Car Rental Collision Damage, Price Protection, Extended Warranty and ID Theft Protection, Extended Warranty and Car Rental Collision Damage Waiver

Pros: 1% unlimited cash back on all purchases. No categories and no caps.

Cons: While the cash back program is easy and not capped, it’s also lower than other cards in the category.

Choose One of the Best Student Credit Cards for Your Needs

Opening a student credit card account is a great way to continue to build your credit regardless of whether or not you already have established credit or are just starting to build your credit history.

If you have additional questions about credit cards or loans, we’re here to help. Our job at Bonsai is to provide our clients clarity in an increasingly confusing personal finance world.

Our blog has the answers to almost any question you may have about credit cards, so let us be your resource to answer questions and solve your financial problems!