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College is a wonderful opportunity to try out and learn new things. From the classroom to the quad, life lessons lie around every corner. One class that you should not skip is “building credit 101.” Building an excellent credit score can save you hundreds of thousands of dollars over your life. Establishing credit takes time, and college is a great time to start for many people.
Building credit is a bit of a chicken and egg situation at the start. You need a credit account to show a strong on-time payment history and the ability to manage your accounts well. But you can’t get many credit accounts without good credit. That is where student credit cards come in.
Student credit cards are designed for young people new to credit. That usually means a lower credit barrier to get started. Not all student cards are for people with no credit, but they are not limited to just those with great credit already. You may find interest rates are higher and credit limits are lower when you compare with cards for people that have good credit already. That’s good motivation to pay your card off in full each month by the due date, something you should always do to save money and build your credit.
Here are some top rewards credit cards designed for students. If you are going to buy something anyway, you might as well get cash back or travel rewards!
The student version of Citi’s Rewards+ card is a great credit card for students. It gives you 2x ThankYou Points per dollar at the grocery store and gas stations up to $6,000 per year. It offers 1x point thereafter and 1x point per dollar everywhere else.
This card has no annual fee and gives you 2,500 bonus points if you spend $500 within the first three months of opening a new account. It also gives you a 10% bonus when you redeem ThankYou points up to 100,000 points per year. That gives this card an equivalent of 1.1x points per dollar on standard purchases and 2.2x points everywhere else.
Citi Rewards+ Student Card is designed for those who already have at least good credit. ThankYou points are worth 1 cent each for a wide range of redemptions. New cardholders start with 0% APR on new purchases for 7 months, but make sure to pay it off before interest kicks in!
Discover it Student Cash Back gives you 5% cash back on popular categories that rotate each quarter and 1% everywhere else. Recent rotating categories include gas stations, grocery stores, and restaurants. At the end of your first year, Discover will automatically match all cash back, giving you an effective 10%/2% cash back rate your first year.
This card has no annual fee. As a perk, it gives you a bonus $20 cash back if you have a 3.0 or better GPA for up to five school years. It also comes with a 6-month 0% APR introductory period. This card is available to students with no credit history.
The rotating cash back categories mean you will get 1% most of the time, which is okay but not great. If you use the 5% well, however, it can bring up your average cashback rate quickly. Also, note that Discover is not as widely accepted as some other cards, so you may want to carry a backup card just in case.
Capital One’s Journey Student Rewards card gives you a flat 1% cash back on every purchase. But if you pay on time, you’ll get a 0.25% boost to give you an effective 1.25% cash back rate. Because you want to form good habits, you’ll always pay on time. Right?
The card has no annual fee and no foreign transaction fee, which is useful if you plan to study abroad. If you pay on time for the first five months, Capital One will automatically increase your credit line. As long as you keep your balance low, that should help your credit score in the long-term.
The card is available for borrowers with at least fair credit scores. While it doesn’t have a bonus, it offers valuable cash back rewards that any student could surely put to good use.
Discover it Student Chrome is another cash back card from Discover. This one offers 2% back at gas stations and restaurants up to $1,000 in combined purchases per quarter. It offers 1% everywhere else. Get an extra $20 in annual cash back with a 3.0 or better GPA for up to five years.
Again, keep in mind that this card may not work everywhere, like Costco, though Discover does likely work most places you shop. The card has no annual fee. It offers 0% APR on new purchases for the first six months.
With this and other Discover cards, you get access to several credit and identity theft resources. Those include a free FICO credit score and fraud alerts if your Social Security number shows up on a risky website. This card is available to those with no credit history.
Deserve Edu Mastercard for Students
The Deserve EDU Mastercard is designed just for students and gives you 3% cash back on entertainment, 2% at restaurants, and 1% on all other purchases. It has no annual fee and is available to those with no credit history.
One fun perk: the card will pay for one year of Amazon Prime for Students (currently worth $59). The card does require enrolment verification to prove you are a student. That also works for international students studying in the United States that don’t have a Social Security number or US credit history.
Applicants from outside the United States will need to prove they have a US bank account, valid passport, and student visa. You can upload everything via a smartphone or scanner and computer
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