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10 Best Credit Cards for Students 2018

You’re young. You’re broke. You need cash now. That’s why you should sign up for one of the top credit cards for students that are out there.

By Ossiana M. TepfenhartPublished 6 years ago 10 min read

I remember when I got my first credit card back when I was in college. It was a crappy little thing that I signed up for so that I could get a free balloon. That credit card had no rewards, high interest rates, and also was just pretty darned annoying. Thankfully, I paid it off and closed it in time.

Looking back, I was a moron with money and really should have shopped around more. Had I known what good credit cards for students looked like, I would have saved a lot of time and tears and just bought a balloon at the store like a normal person.

That being said, credit cards are useful and you should get one if you just turned 18. It’s great for being able to improve your credit score and can also help you out in a bind. If you’re a student and want to avoid the mistake I made, consider applying for one of these top-rated credit cards below.

Discover cards are really underappreciated, in my opinion. While they may not be accepted as widely as Visa or MasterCards are, they offer high credit limits, relaxed payment schedules, lower interest rates, and great perks.

The Discover IT card has become one of the greatest credit cards for students who want cash back, added rewards, and epic service. It has unlimited 1 percent cash back on all goods, with 5 percent cash back available at seasonal store categories.

Security-wise, Discover IT comes with features that allow you to monitor your credit card activity, get a better grip on your credit score, and also Freeze It service that can instantly switch off your card in the event of potential ID theft.

Students who have good grades, in particular, should check out this card. The company’s Good Grade Rewards gives you $20 on a statement credit every year that your GPA at a 3.0 or higher.

The details:

  • $0 Annual Fee
  • 14.49 percent to 23.49 percent variable APR
  • 0 percent introductory APR for first 6 months
  • Up to 5 percent cash back on qualified purchases
  • Free FICO Credit Score readings
  • Free Social Security number alerts

Minimum Credit Score: Fair Credit

Citi ThankYou® Preferred Card for College Students

This is one of the best credit cards for students that Citibank has ever come up with—and it’s mostly geared towards students that want to live the high life in college, really. It’s a “points” card that allows you to redeem the points you earn for gift cards and goodies.

The points come with a slew of different redemption options and rates, depending on how you use your card and what you spend your money on. With this card, points never expire, and you get to redeem them for a minimum of $25 at That being said, it’s not as loaded with perks as others, but it’s a great all-around card to have in your wallet.

The details:

  • $0 Annual Fee
  • 15.99 percent to 25.89 percent variable APR
  • 0 percent introductory APR for first 7 months

Minimum Credit Score: Good Credit

Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One®

Let’s say that you’re the type of college student who is a responsible “dorm mom” type of kid. Wouldn’t it be nice to be rewarded for your responsible spending by the credit card you have? With Capital One’s Journey Student Rewards card, you can be. Money Crashers recently cited this card as one of the best credit cards for those students who use their credit responsibly and are looking to build credit.

Journey is a flat-rate cash back card that offers around 1.25 percent cash back on all purchases, as long as you pay on time. After you pay on time regularly, you can also expect to see higher credit lines and a better credit score. If you’re looking for a responsibility-rewarding card to build credit with, this is a wonderful choice.

This credit card also comes with credit score monitoring services, no foreign transaction fees, and a great deal of respect from credit issuers. That being said, it has a high variable APR, and that might turn some people off. It’s a card that requires responsibility to be worth it.

The details:

  • $0 Annual Fee
  • 24.99 percent variable APR
  • 0 percent introductory APR for first 6 months
  • Up to 1.25 percent cash back on all purchases
  • Free CreditWise credit score monitoring

Minimum Credit Score: Average Credit

Okay, let’s say that you’re an older college student. You spent your younger years partying and spending your money... and now your credit is awful. Hey, it happens. In fact, it happens a lot more than you think. That’s why a lot of are secured credit cards are often the best option for students.

Students who have, for one reason or another, trashed their credit score, need not fear. You can actually get a secured version of the Discover IT card. This means that you will have to pay some cash upfront, but in time, you’ll be able to build up your credit.

The Discover IT Secured Card is one of the best credit cards if you're a student with bad credit, period. It features cash back rewards up to 2 percent on the first $1000 spent at restaurants, plus another 1 percent on all other purchases. The company will also match your cash back spent at the end of the year.

On the FICO side of things, you can’t get a better card. It also comes with eight-month reviews for better credit ratings and free FICO score monitoring. Basically, you get the perks of a normal card without the minimum credit score for them.

The details:

  • $0 Annual Fee
  • $200 minimum initial deposit
  • 24.49 percent variable APR
  • 8-month credit score reviews
  • Up to 2 percent cash back on qualified purchases
  • Free FICO Credit Score readings

Minimum Credit Score: Bad Credit or No Credit

Wells Fargo is one of those banks that really, truly knows how to offer a credit card that works well for students. In fact, they created one of the best credit cards for students with average or no credit on the market.

The Cash Back College Card has up to 3 percent cash back on purchases and surprisingly low APRs.

What we’re really loving about it, though, is the free credit education they offer. Any college student who’s a Wells Fargo member should look into it, simply because it’s a reliable card with great details.

The details:

  • $0 Annual Fee
  • 12.65 percent to 22.65 percent variable APR
  • Up to 3 percent cash back on qualified purchases
  • Free cell phone insurance
  • Free Credit Score education

Minimum Credit Score: Limited to No Credit, or Fair Credit if established

What college student doesn’t contemplate studying abroad at least once? If you’re looking for one of the best credit cards for students who will be leaving the United States, then Bank of America (surprisingly) has you covered. This card is great in terms of both tech and functionality—and even those with limited credit history can apply.

This travel card has chip and PIN tech backing it, unlike most other cards you’ll find in the US. That offers more security while traveling abroad. After all, identity theft is pretty rife throughout many parts of the world. Free FICO score monitoring just adds to the security.

Rewards-wise, you get a flat 1.5 percent rewards point earnings for every dollar you spend, and no foreign transaction fees mean that using this abroad will never be an issue. Rewards redemption often comes with bonuses, so you always get your money’s worth.

The details:

  • $0 Annual Fee
  • 16.49 percent to 24.49 percent variable APR
  • Up to 1.5 percent rewards on qualified purchases
  • Free FICO Credit Score readings
  • No foreign transaction fees

Minimum Score: Fair to Limited Credit

Upromise World MasterCard®

You might recognize Upromise as one of the first college savings fund makers in the US—and now, they also make the best credit cards for students who finally made it to university. This credit card is issued out by Barclaycard, and could be best described as a MasterCard version of the Discover IT card.

Like the Discover IT card, you get up to 10 percent cash back from certain online retailers and get free FICO monitoring. Typically, you’ll only get 1 to 2 percent. Even so, it’s pretty nifty. Upromise exceeds Discover IT when it comes to their sign on bonus of $50, and their 0 percent introductory APR for the first 15 months.

If you are lucky enough to have Upromise paying for your college and don't have to worry about student loan forgiveness programs, you're going to love them even more once you try this card.

The details:

  • $0 Annual Fee
  • 13.99 percent to 22.99 percent variable APR
  • 0 percent introductory APR for 15 months
  • Up to 10 percent rewards on qualified purchases, 1 to 2 percent on most others
  • Free FICO Credit Score readings

Minimum Score: Good to Excellent Credit

If you have no credit history and want to get established with credit as soon as humanly possible, then you might find the Deserve Edu MasterCard to be your choice. This is as student-friendly as it comes while still keeping perks like cash back and student discounts available to you.

In a lot of ways, it’s clear that the Deserve Edu card understand today’s student, simply from the benefits it offers. Amazon Prime Student discounts, no annual fee, no foreign transaction fees, and a clean 1 percent cash back makes it a great card. It’s also super easy to sign up—you don’t even need a Social Security number to qualify.

The details:

  • $0 Annual Fee
  • 20.24 percent variable APR
  • 0 percent introductory APR for 15 months
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Up to 1 percent cash back on all purchases
  • Discount on Amazon Prime

Minimum Score Required: No Credit History

If you have been struggling as a student and just haven’t been having a good run of luck, you might want to look into the Credit One Bank Platinum Visa. It's a great credit card for students who want to rebuild credit without feeling like a criminal doing so—and yes, it has perks.

Credit score tracking, 1 percent cash back, increase in credit line reviews whenever you want, and regular reporting makes this a great option for students who want to boost their credit. That being said, fees are a bit high with this card.

If you are looking for credit card lifehacks for people with bad credit, here's a good one to remember: getting a secured card that does regular credit reporting can boost your score immensely, FAST!

The details:

  • $0 Initial Annual Fee
  • 19.40 to 24.49 percent variable APR
  • Up to 1 percent cash back on all purchases
  • Free credit monitoring and reporting
  • $0 fraud liability
  • Choose your own pay date

Minimum Score Required: Bad credit

It might not sound that exciting, but the rewards points that this card gives are huge when you pay your State Farm premiums with your card. They also offer points for every $2 spent on eligible purchases, special Visa-given discounts, and a very low APR.

What makes this one of the best credit cards for students is the financial tools and the service. If you never had anyone teach you the ropes about building credit, you will want this card. It's even better than the Millennials' guide to building credit!

The details:

  • $0 Annual Fee
  • 12.74 to 19.74 percent variable APR
  • Free auto rental insurance
  • Up to 3 rewards points per dollar on qualified purchases
  • Free financial tools and education

Minimum Credit Score: Bad

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About the Creator

Ossiana M. Tepfenhart

Ossiana Tepfenhart is a writer based out of NJ. You can message her via Twitter on @bluntandwitty or via Instagram on @ossiana.makes.content. She's always looking for freelance work and collabs!

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