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6 Best Credit Cards for College Students of 2023

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The best student credit cards are a lot like the best credit cards for nonstudents.

They generally have low fees, reasonable APRs, and perks that specifically appeal to college students. A few even have cash back programs that reward spending on gas, groceries, dining out, and other routine purchases.

So it should come as no surprise that finding them is pretty easy. Read on to learn our top picks.

Best Credit Cards for College Students of 2023

These are the best student credit cards on the market this year. Each one does at least one thing really well, whether that’s delivering outsize rewards on everyday spending or setting unusually high credit limits for the category.

Our top pick offers the best overall value of any card in the space, in our humble opinion.

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The Petal® 2 “Cash Back, No Fees” Visa® Credit Card is not your typical student credit card, not least because it’s not specifically marketed to students. But it has a slew of features that make it a fantastic choice for college students and recent graduates:

  • Petal has relaxed underwriting standards. If you have a FICO score, you can qualify with a score as low as 600.
  • You can apply for this card with no credit score. Petal evaluates applicants without FICO scores on non-credit factors, such as income.
  • Petal reports to all three major consumer credit bureaus, helping you build credit.
  • You can earn up to 10% cash back on purchases with select merchants.
  • Petal 2 has no annual or foreign transaction fees.
  • Credit limits start from $300 to $10,000, depending on your income and creditworthiness. You may qualify for a credit limit increase after six months of timely payments.

Petal credit cards are issued by WebBank, Member FDIC.

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Best for Value-Added Perks: Deserve EDU Student Credit Card

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Qualify with no U.S. credit history, then earn 1% cash back on all eligible purchases. Plus, get a free year of Amazon Prime Student with qualifying early spending.

Rewards Rate

1% cash back

Credit Needed

No credit history required

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The Deserve EDU Student Credit Card is a no-annual-fee student credit card that earns unlimited 1% cash back on all eligible purchases.

Its biggest value-added perk is a one-year complimentary subscription to Amazon Prime for new cardholders who spend at least $500 in purchases in the first three billing cycles. That’s a $69 value for free.

Deserve EDU also stands out for a relaxed underwriting process that doesn’t require any credit history at all. Instead, you qualify based on income, profession, and other noncredit factors. This makes Deserve EDU an excellent choice for international students.

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The Capital One SavorOne Student Cash Rewards Credit Card is the best cash-back credit card for students in our book. Eligible purchases earn up to 8% back, and a much wider array of purchases earn unlimited 3% back.

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Despite its super-generous rewards program, SavorOne Student Cash Rewards costs nothing to keep in your wallet. It has no annual fee or foreign transaction fee, which is excellent if you’re an international student or planning to study abroad.

Plus, you could qualify for a credit limit increase after as few as six timely payments. The biggest downside: You need a FICO score to qualify.

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Like its stablemate, the SavorOne Student Cash Rewards Credit Card, Capital One Quicksilver Student Cash Rewards Credit Card can earn you a credit line increase in as little as six months with responsible use. However, you do need a FICO score (and thus some credit history) to qualify.

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Along with this card’s flat, unlimited 1.5% cash-back rate on most purchases, that’s good enough to nab a spot on this list. Additional perks like no annual fee, no foreign transaction fee, and a complimentary UberOne membership (which includes free delivery on eligible UberEats purchases) further add to Quicksilver Student’s appeal.

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With a sign-up bonus better than many adult credit cards and a very long 0% intro APR promotion on purchases and balance transfers, the Bank of America Travel Rewards Credit Card for Students is the most generous card on this list.

It’s not without its drawbacks though. You need good credit (and a lengthy credit history) to qualify, and there’s no way to earn above the 1.5x rewards baseline other than the one-time sign-up bonus.

On the bright side, you never pay an annual fee with this card. And if you travel or study abroad, you don’t have to worry about foreign transaction fees either.

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Chase Freedom® Student Credit Card

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Earn unlimited 1% cash back on all eligible purchases. Plus, get a $20 good standing bonus every year your account is open (up to five years) and get a cash bonus after your first purchase.

Rewards Rate

1% cash back

Credit Needed

Good or better

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The Chase Freedom Student Credit Card is a no-annual-fee card with a straightforward cash-back program and lots of value-added perks. One standout: a $20 good standing bonus each year for the first five years your account is open.

Freedom Student does have some downsides, including an unusually picky credit qualification requirement, a low baseline cash-back rate, and foreign transaction fees that may penalize students studying abroad. But if you can qualify and get past the drawbacks, it’s worth a closer look.

The information related to the Chase Freedom Student Credit Card has been collected by Money Crashers and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card.

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Methodology: How We Choose the Best Student Credit Cards

We use several key factors to assess student credit cards and build this list. Most relate in some way to these cards’ overall value — how well they reward cardholders while helping them build credit and make the leap to post-college life.

Eligibility and Qualification

Some student credit cards are very easy to qualify for. If you’re a student at a U.S. university and you have a U.S. bank account, you’re in.

Others are stricter. They’re more like traditional credit cards in the sense that you need a good credit score and decent income to pass underwriting.

And some fall in the middle. Most of the cards on this list fit that bill. But we do our best to uncover products that aren’t overly strict.

Spending Limits

Your credit card’s spending limit is a function of your income, your credit score, and your perceived ability to repay. Accordingly, most student credit cards have low spending limits — students just aren’t a wealthy, well-qualified bunch.

That said, some next-generation cards have impressively high spending limits, at least by the category’s standards. We prefer cards that let you charge up to $5,000 (or more) without going overlimit. Because let’s face it, school is expensive.

Rewards

Many student credit cards don’t have rewards programs. Those are for grown-up credit cards, they say. 

But some do reward users for everyday purchases. Those are the ones we like — though not offering a return on spending is not necessarily a dealbreaker for us.

Secured Status

Most of the student credit cards on this list are unsecured, meaning they don’t require a security deposit as a condition of approval. That ensures student users don’t have to tie up cash for months or years at a time.

That said, we do include a couple of secured cards on this list because they excel in other ways and because they’re easier to qualify for than some pickier unsecured cards. We just urge students to understand what they’re getting into.

Fees

The fewer fees, the better. Most of the cards on this list don’t charge annual fees, which is good news for frugal students. Where possible, we look for cards that cut students breaks on other fees — particularly foreign transaction fees, which put students studying abroad at a disadvantage.


Student Credit Card FAQs

Choosing a student credit card isn’t as simple as it might seem. These are some of the most common questions that come up during the process.

How Do You Qualify for a Student Credit Card?

You’ve heard all the clichés about starving students. While you’re hopefully not actually going without regular meals as you work and study your way through school, you probably don’t have as much disposable income as you’d like.

But don’t worry — you don’t need much income to qualify for a student credit card. Many student credit cards don’t even require you to have a credit score. As long as you’re a U.S.-based student on track to earn your degree, you can probably find a card that’ll accept you.

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And if not, consider asking a parent or older sibling to cosign your application. That way, the credit card issuer can fall back on their financial firepower if you stop making payments.

Why Do You Need a Student Credit Card?

Most college students have limited experience with credit cards and other forms of credit. Accordingly, their credit histories are often thin or nonexistent. Therefore, the single most important reason for students to apply for credit cards is to build a positive credit history.

If you’re keen on building credit quickly, you need to look for cards that report timely payments to one or more (ideally all three) consumer credit reporting bureaus. Then, you need to keep up your end of the bargain by making in-full, on-time payments.

What’s the Spending Limit on a Student Credit Card?

Credit card issuers know that, on average, college students have less money than older people with full-time jobs. Accordingly, they tend to tightly restrict how much their student customers can spend on their cards. 

So don’t expect your first student credit card to come with an exceedingly high credit limit, particularly if your only source of income is a stipend or work-study job.The good news is that if you make regular payments, build a positive credit history, and look for ways to earn extra income on the side, your credit limit — and spending power — is likely to increase over time. Years from now, when you think back to your time as a student, you might just identify your first-ever student credit card approval as a decisive milestone on your personal finance journey.


Final Word: How to Select the Best Student Credit Card

To choose the best student credit card, you need to look inward.

Don’t laugh. Understanding which cards you’re likely to qualify for is an important first step in your credit journey — and helps protect your valuable time, which you have far too little of as a full-time student.

If you’ve never had a credit card before and don’t have any student loans in your name, you might not have sufficient credit history to qualify for a traditional student card. In that case, you’ll need to look for cards that use nontraditional factors in their underwriting process.

If you do have a credit score, you’ll have more choice. If your credit is good and you have some income, you’ll likely have your pick of any card on this list. If your credit isn’t so good, you may need to settle for a secured card, at least at first.

From there, look for cards that suit your spending habits. That might mean choosing a rewards program that offers higher returns on the types of spending you do most often, or finding a slate of perks that aligns with your lifestyle.

Chances are, you’ll find the card that works best for you. It just might take some time.

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