Best Credit Cards for College Students in 2020

Being a student doesn’t always mean having poor credit, but it often means you are still toward the beginning of your credit journey. And since college costs a pretty penny, students may not be able to take advantage of certain credit cards that either have annual fees or require a lot of spending to reap maximum rewards.

If you’re a student looking for ways to build credit, or you simply want to find a credit card with rewards to increase your buying power, there are several options to choose from as a student.

Best Student Credit Cards in 2020

Petal Cash Back Visa® Card

petal cash back visa card

Whoever conceptualized this card was a mind reader and a genius. This unsecured credit card starts out with a generous 1% cashback on purchases, and after 6 months of on-time payments you’ll be rewarded with 1.25% cashback –and 1.5% after 12 months.

If that doesn’t incentivize behavior to build your credit, we don’t know what will.

Why It Stands Out

Petal is here to grow with you, with credit limits ranging from $500 for a credit builder up to $10,000 with 1.5% cashback once you get your act together. There are literally no fees and lower APRs than the average credit builder card.

That’s because Petal’s lending bank relies on an algorithm that looks at other indicators of creditworthiness like income, savings, and spending.

Other Benefits

Some VISA protections like theft coverage, rental car insurance, and roadside assistance. Your regular payments will be reported to all 3 credit bureaus so you can watch your score improve every month. This card also comes with a helpful budgeting app for managing your payments.

  • Fees: None (seriously…not even foreign transaction fees)
  • Rewards: 1%-1.5% cashback

Deserve Edu

deserve edu mastercard
This card shines for international students, as a social security number is not required to apply. It’s also great for students without any credit history but wanting to begin building the right habits.

Deserve is a mission-oriented company that’s “helping the next generation of credit owners gain financial independence through access to fair credit products.”

Does this sound like something you need? Or maybe you are just looking to build credit from scratch. If so, check out this Deserve Edu Mastercard.

Why It Stands Out

Earn 1% cashback on all purchases. It comes in the form of statement credits, meaning that as soon as you accrue $25 in rewards, you’ll get a that cash applied to your statement balance.

Other Benefits

You can apply with no security deposit or cosigner. You could also qualify for a credit line of up to $5,000 – a healthy amount for the beginning credit builder.

This card includes Mastercard Platinum Benefits such as ID theft, fraud protection, car collision damage insurance for rental cars, and more. The Deserve Edu card also includes complimentary Amazon Student Prime (Lifetime Value worth $59).

  • Fees: $0 annual fee, 0% foreign transaction fees.
  • Rewards: 1% unlimited cashback on all purchases

Deserve Pro

deserve pro mastercard
If the Deserve Edu Mastercard is where it’s at, you should have a look at the Deserve Pro Mastercard. Take everything you like about Deserve Edu and amplify it 10 times.

That means an increased credit limit and more cash rewards – all with a $0 annual fee. This card is definitely proof that having good credit habit pays you back.

Why It Stands Out

Even more cashback on the following spending categories – 3% on travel/entertainment, 2% on restaurants & 1% on all other purchases.

Other Benefits

Qualify for a credit limit of up to $10,000. This card also includes Mastercard Platinum Benefits such as ID theft, fraud protection, car collision damage insurance for rental cars, and more.

  • Fees: $0 annual fee, 0% foreign transaction fees.
  • Rewards: 3% cashback on travel/entertainment, 2% on restaurants & 1% on all other purchases

Citi Rewards+℠ Student Card

citi rewards plus student card

Did your family call you a “bottomless pit” growing up and now you’re having trouble paying for your own groceries? Do you spend the weekends driving home to visit your high school sweetheart, or going on road trips with your new friends from the chemistry lab?

The Citi Rewards Student Card doubles up on cashback rewards on purchases at the grocery store and gas stations for up to $6,000 worth of spending. Intrigued?

Even though there is a foreign transaction fee, it’s worth reading on to learn how you can get more out of your day-to-day spending…

Why It Stands Out

Double cashback on groceries and gas. Also, every purchase you make will be rounded up to the nearest 10 points with no cap, helping you maximize your rewards.

Plus, as soon as you hit 100,000 in points, you’ll automatically get 10% points back.

Other Benefits

24/7 customer service and Digital Wallets which lets you speed through checkout online, within apps and in stores.

  • Fees: $0 annual fee, 3% foreign transaction fee
  • Sign-Up Bonus: 0% APR for the first 7 months +  earn 2,500 bonus points after you spend $500 in purchases with your card within 3 months of account opening.

Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One®

journey student card from capital one

If you’ve got average credit from using a cosigned card when you were a teenager, paying an auto loan, or having a previous secured credit card – You might be ready to move on to the “real deal.”

Enter the Journey® Student Rewards card from Capital One®, an appealing choice for students with decent credit.

You’ll notice easily with this card that good credit is rewarded, and qualifying for this card brings you a $0 annual fee plus some other perks and protections that Capital One is known for. Excellent for studying abroad, this card can literally take you on a journey with a 0% foreign transaction fee.

Why It Stands Out

You’ll get 1% cashback on all your purchases, but you can boost this to 1.25% if you pay your bill on time. As a newbie to the world of credit card worlds, having this added incentive will motivate you to meet those due dates.

Other Benefits

Increased credit line after 5 months of on-time payments, access to Capital One Credit Wise for fraud protection and credit monitoring, plus zero liability in the case of theft.

  • Fees: $0 annual fee, 0% foreign transaction fee
  • Rewards: 1% cashback on all purchases

Milestone® Gold Mastercard®

milestone gold mastercard
  • quick pre-qualification with no impact on your credit

This unsecured credit card treats you like the adult that you are by requiring no security deposit and ensuring a fast and efficient application process. You can be pre-qualified instantly with no damage to your credit score if you are not approved.

While it’s not the fanciest or most exciting card, it’s reasonable and fair.

Other Benefits

Zero liability for unauthorized charges, plus free customized card designs.

  • Fees: Annual fee ranges on your credit score. Could be $35, $59, $75 or $99, 1% foreign transaction fee
  • Rewards: None

Indigo® Platinum Mastercard®

Here’s an unsecured card for people with low or no credit history, plus like the Milestone Gold Mastercard you can pre-qualify without hurting your score.

Why It Stands Out

This card, despite its fees, is accessible. With it, you can start building credit even with a limit as low as $49. But if there are any drawbacks, it’s that the credit limit might be too low to justify all those fees.

The credit limit maxes out at $300, and higher-than-average APR begs you to pay off that balance religiously. You could easily let the fees take over your credit limit with this card. But used wisely, you can use this card to kick-off your positive credit history.

Other Benefits

Free customized card designs let you select a card that fits your personality.

Fraud protection and mobile-optimized ways to access your account. Your regular payments will be reported to all 3 credit bureaus so you can watch your score improve every month, to qualify you for better cards down the road.

  • Fees: $0-99 annual fee
  • Rewards: None

How to Get a Student Credit Card

best credit cards for college studentsYou might already know that many banks offer student checking accounts with low minimum balance requirements and fewer fees.

But when it comes to credit cards, banks are not always as upfront in letting consumers know when a card is a “student” card and when it’s for the general public. In fact, there’s not always a difference!

Anyone over the age of 18 with documentable income can qualify for a credit card, so technically those attending college don’t have to limit themselves to cards marketed to just students.

That said because students usually have inconsistent income, high expenses, and shorter credit history – There are some things to look for when finding the best credit card for students.

Apply For Cards With Low or No Annual Fees

For starters, students should apply for credit cards with low or $0 annual fees. There are some great credit cards with $95 fees or higher. But if you’re a student with an unreliable income, think twice and only opt to pay an annual fee if the benefits are well worth the expense.This goes without saying for all consumers, but it’s most important for students with little money.

Look for Rewards Credit Cards

Second – Try to find cards with cashback rewards that can be applied to your balance. This will serve as a a hidden discount on every purchase you make, which is always nice when you’re on a budget.

Build Your Credit

Finally, remember that your first credit card is meant for building credit. At this stage in the game, consistency is more important than your credit limit. Even if you qualified for a $20,000 credit line, could you afford to pay the balance off every month?

Likely, not. When you’re a student, it’s more important than ever to spend within your means and pay off the balance every month. This behavior is what will build your credit and qualify you to borrow larger sums of money down the line when you’re in a better position to afford it.

Don’t Apply for a Credit Card Outside of Your Means

All of this said, here is your most important reminder: Be honest with yourself and only apply for cards that approve scores in your range. As a student, you should know better than anyone…you’ve got to do your homework.

David Weliver

David Weliver

David Weliver is the Credit Cards Editor at Millennial Money. He is the Founder of Money Under 30 and is widely regarded as one of the top credit card rewards experts in the world. David has been writing about personal finance and credit cards since 2006 and been featured in The New York Times, NPR, USA Today, Forbes, and many others.
David Weliver

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