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The Best Student Credit Cards

Monday, September 26th

What Are the Best Student Credit Cards?

Student Credit Cards give young adults a convenient way to build their credit history - often while getting cash, gift cards, and other rewards at the same time. Some cards can also be tied to parent accounts, so that money can easily be transferred and spending can be monitored as the student learns to manage their expenses. For college students who want borrowing power when they graduate, using a Student Credit Card to establish a good credit score is a smart choice.

Why Do You Need a Student Credit Card?

It's no secret that the college years are expensive. Beyond the ever-skyrocketing costs of tuition and books, students find themselves needing to spend money for clothes, transportation, food, and much more. And, because having a credit card makes it so easy to overspend, college students should just avoid using credit cards altogether, right?

Not so fast.

Yes, it's true that credit cards can be tempting. Buy it now! You know you want it! But, having a Student Credit Card offers some pretty significant advantages - and even some tools for using that credit wisely. Ready to find out more?

Student Credit Cards Help You Build a Solid Credit History

There is life after school, and chances are good that you'll want to borrow money as an adult. New car? New house? Grad school? All of those goals will probably require you to take out a loan. And, if you want to qualify for that loan, you'll need a decent credit score - because you may not have your parents' established, good credit to lean on anymore.

Many Student Credit Cards give you tools for managing your spending from month to month, tracking your credit score, and building your own credit history. These cards are easier to get than many standard credit cards, because the issuing banks don't expect you to already have good credit. You'll probably have a lower credit limit at first, though, so that it's harder to get in over your head.

Student Credit Cards Usually Give You Rewards

It sounds like a trick, right? Get free money for doing what you do every day! But, when it comes to Student Credit Cards with rewards, it's no gimmick. Many of today's most popular cards offer cash back and/or gift cards every time you make a purchase.

Each credit card is different, so you'll want to do some comparing as you decide which card is right for you. In general, you'll see rewards that are calculated in two ways: a fixed percentage on every purchase, or rewards based on what you spend in certain categories.

With a fixed percentage Student Credit Card, you'll usually get 1% to 1.5% back on everything you buy. Books? Yes. Pizza? That too. Spring break trip to Padre Island? You got it. There's nothing to remember, just use your card for whatever you want and watch the rewards pile up. Easy.

But, if you want to get even more free money, consider Student Credit Cards with category rewards. What does that mean? You'll still get a certain base percentage on every purchase you make, but certain kinds of purchases will get you as much as 5% back in rewards. The most common categories for these increased rewards are Travel/Entertainment, Restaurants, and Gas Stations. There may be a limit as to how much you can earn per year in those categories, but if you meet that limit you'll still get your card's base reward rate on those purchases for the rest of the year.

A few cards also reward you for good grades: $20 for each school year you maintain a GPA of at least 3.0, for example. Other perks geared specifically towards students can include cellphone protection up to $600 if you use the card for your monthly phone bill, discounts on Amazon Prime Student, and zero foreign transaction fees for those trips abroad.

Check the Fine Print

So, what's the catch? Like with any credit card, Student Credit Cards come with terms and conditions that you need to know before you start using one. Here are some things to look for as you compare your options:

  • Interest Rates. It's always best to pay your balance in full every month. But, if you have some large, unexpected expense like car repairs or an ER visit, it might take you a little longer to pay it off. Make sure you know how much interest you'll be paying; your APR may be as high as 25% or more.
  • Annual Fees. Most Student Credit Cards don't have an annual fee, but double-check to be sure before you commit to a particular card.
  • Credit Limit Increases. Many credit card issuers make it possible to get a higher credit limit after you've used the card responsibly for a certain length of time. If you already know that you'll need a higher credit limit in the near future, make sure to choose a card that can make that happen.

TopConsumerReviews.com has partnered with Lending Tree to help you find the best Student Credit Cards available today. We hope this information will help you choose the right card for your college years - and beyond!

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FAQ

Credit card companies know that college kids have a lot of expenses, from books and lab supplies to pizza nights and spring break vacations. But, without a credit card from Mom and Dad or an established credit history - which is hard to come by at age 18-21 - it can be hard to get a traditional credit card. Student credit cards help young adults to build that credit score and buy what they need without getting in over their heads.
Most rewards programs that come with regular credit cards are available with student cards as well. That could be simple cash back on every transaction, miles towards flights home, or points that can be redeemed for gift cards. Some student cards have extra benefits, like cash for every semester with a GPA of at least 3.0, tools for budgeting, and no transaction fees on overseas purchases (for that summer spent backpacking across Europe).
That depends on the terms and conditions of the credit card. APRs of 25% or more aren't uncommon, but those can always be avoided by paying your balance in full every month.
Most student credit cards don't have an annual fee. Read the terms and conditions of any card you're considering to ensure that you're not being charged to use it.
It varies. We've seen cards with a credit limit of $500, and ones with limits of $2,000 or more.
No, but it may help you to qualify for a higher credit limit if they have good credit. You might want your parents to be connected to your student credit card account if they're paying for some of your expenses, too.
Definitely not. Most student credit card issuers understand that you may have a limited credit history if you're in college. A score of at least 600 is usually sufficient.
With most credit cards, you'll find out if you've been approved or denied within seconds of submitting your online application. You probably won't see your physical card for up to two weeks, so if you're applying before you leave for school you'll want to leave plenty of time for it to arrive in the mail - or that you've used your college address for the delivery.
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