Student credit cards have always given young adults a way to build their credit in real time during the transition to adulthood. Lenders, however, were understandably wary of extending credit to young adults who were in the world for the first time with no credit history and no experience managing their own finances. As a result, student credit cards typically came with annual fees, low credit limits, high APRs, and a barren wasteland with nothing where points, perks, and rewards would normally be found.
Although designed and reserved exclusively for students, the following cards can compete with all of the best mainstream cards on the market, especially since none of the cards on this list come with an annual fee. On top of that, many offer special student-specific benefits, such as bonuses for high GPAs, bonuses in good standing, and credit building tools such as gradual credit limit increases.
Last updated: October 19, 2021
Discover the Student Cash Back
The benefits of Discover it Student Cash Back would be impressive, even in the area of credit cards for non-students. In fact, this is one of the best mainstream cards you’ll find, even if you’re away from school with brilliant credit and in pristine condition. Students get full 5% cash back – that’s near the industry maximum – on rotating quarterly categories like groceries, gasoline, streaming services, and specific sites and stores like Target, Walmart and Amazon.
For context, Amazon pays the exact same 5% on its own Prime membership card. All out of category purchases always earn 1% and there is no annual fee.
Discover it Student Chrome
The other option from Discover is Student Chrome. It’s also one of the best college cards out there, but it’s designed for a different kind of cardholder. Student Cash Back offers top-notch rewards, but in reality everyone but the most disciplined college students will have a hard time keeping up with quarterly activation in rotating categories.
Student Chrome is reducing the discount from 5% to 2% at gas stations and restaurants, including fast food outlets and cafes. The lower rate, however, buys simplicity – something new that most new cardholders probably need. There are no rotation categories or activation requirements, and you still get the same 1% on all other purchases enjoyed by Student Cash Back cardholders.
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Capital One Quicksilver Rewards for Students
Even simpler than Discover it Student Chrome is the Capital One Quicksilver Student Cash Rewards card. It offers a flat rate of 1.5% on all purchases at all levels no matter what you buy and where.
This makes it one of the best flat rate cards on the market – and not just among student cards.
Citi Double Cash gives 2%, just like Wells Fargo Active Cash. The Alliant Credit Union card offers 2.5%, but only to its members and restrictions apply. Beyond that, 1.5% is the best you can do on a flat rate card, even for adults with long, clean credit histories. You may also want to consider Bank of America’s Unlimited Cash Rewards for Students, which also offers 1.5%.
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Capital One SavourOne Student Cash Rewards
Chase Freedom Student offers more cash back than even the best flat rate cards without bogging down young borrowers with the hassle of rotating categories.
Chase Freedom Student offers generous points – unlimited 3% cash back – in the categories that students are most interested in: restaurants, streaming services, entertainment, and groceries. All other purchases get 1%, giving this unique card a best of both worlds rewards structure that combines the convenience of a flat rate with the earning of a category card.
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Chase Freedom Student
With 1% cash back, Chase Freedom Student isn’t the best all-inclusive college card, but it does offer other perks few other student cards can match. The most obvious is a login bonus, which is almost unheard of in the college card world. All you have to do to collect $ 50 is make a single purchase within three months of opening the card. You also get an annual bonus in good standing of $ 20 each year for five years. Finally, there is an increase in the guaranteed credit limit after five monthly payments on time to help students build their young credit.
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