Few people enter adulthood with an innate ability to manage money responsibly. But the four years spent in college is the perfect time for a young adult to learn how to spend money, budget expenses and build credit. If you’re a college student, you’ll want explore the best credit cards to have while in college.
Most people eventually have a need for credit — to buy a car, a home, etc.— and those who avoid credit products cannot build a healthy credit file and score necessary to secure the most favorable loan terms. With a credit card, you can build a solid financial reputation.
Choose carefully, though, because credit cards are far from equal. When you compare the terms and conditions, think about best- and worst-case scenarios — you might experience them all.
3 Credit Card Features Students Need
Many student credit cards are built for young people with limited credit histories, so they generally don’t require excellent credit scores. With that said, you still want to look for the best credit card that offers plenty of benefits. Below are three key features a credit card for college students should have:
- Low Interest Rate: Many credit cards offer rates that depend on the applicant’s credit, and students with limited or no credit history will almost always start at the high end of the rate scale. Ultimately, the APR shouldn’t matter because the goal is to pay the bill in full every month and never pay interest. But try to get a low rate, and know if or when it might change.
- Rewards Points: When all else is equal, choose the credit card that offers greater rewards for the everyday spending that you already do. Keep your guard up when reviewing promotions, though. They might all sound great, but look at your spending habits for the last six months and choose a card that has a rewards program you can benefit from. Straight and simple cash-back programs are great options for most college students.
- No Fees: Most students don’t have extra cash lying around, so they should avoid banking products that come with routine fees. A good student card will have no annual fee or maintenance fee, and fees for other services will be reasonable. If you plan on studying abroad, find a card with a low (or zero) foreign transaction fee, as well.
Best Credit Cards to Have During College
Most major banks offer credit cards tailored for students and first-timers. Here are a few good options you’ll want to consider, in no particular order:
Discover it chrome for Students
The Discover it chrome for Students pays up to 2 percent cash back at gas stations and restaurants, which is great if you like to drive home every weekend and go out to dinner with friends. For all other credit card purchases, you can get 1 percent cash back. There is also n o annual fee, no foreign transaction fee and no late fee on the first late payment. Another rare feature: the card will not charge you an overlimit fee or raise the APR if you pay late.
Capital One Journey Student Credit Card
With the Journey Student Credit Card from Capital One, you can get 1 percent cash back on purchases and an additional 25 percent bonus on the cash back when you make your payments on time each month. If you continue to pay on time during the first five months, you can get access to a higher credit limit. You can also enjoy no annual and no transaction fee. And if you prefer to leave your credit cards at the dorm when you go out, you can use this credit card with Apple Pay instead.
Citi ThankYou Preferred Card for College Students
The Citi ThankYou Preferred Card for College Students allows you to enjoy a 0% introductory APR on purchases for seven months. The credit card
also boasts no annual fee and a low 3 percent foreign transaction fee. You can also earn rewards for almost anything, including gift cards for dining, entertainment and retail. That means that instead of dipping into your college savings, you can use these points to treat yourself when you’re head isn’t in the books.
U.S. Bank College Visa Credit Card
If you need help managing your finances, U.S. Bank’s College Visa Credit Card can help you out. With its personalized mobile alerts, you’ll get notifications regarding your balance and upcoming payments. You can also stay on top of your finances by using your mobile device. Just download the U.S. Bank Mobile app, and routinely check your transactions. Plus, with this card, you won’t have to pay an annual fee.
Wells Fargo Cash Back College Visa card
Wells Fargo’s Cash Back College Visa card lets you earn unlimited cash rewards as you work to build your credit. You can get 3 percent cash back on gas, grocery and drugstore net purchases for the first six months, so don’t hesitate to use the card whenever you need to make a last-minute beer run before the next big party. After the six months are up, you can get 1 percent cash back on all other purchases. There is also no annual fee with this credit card.
PenFed Promise Visa Card
It will be hard to find a credit card that waives as many fees as Pentagon Federal Credit Union. The PenFed Promise Visa Card will not charge you an annual, foreign transaction, balance transfer, cash advance, late or over-credit-limit fee. Additionally, you won’t be hit with a penalty APR. This credit card is great if you want to keep as much money in the bank as possible during college.
For many college students, Target is the go-to store for almost every type of item imaginable: toiletries, dorm furniture, extra-long twin sheets and even food. If you find yourself visiting Target multiple times throughout the semester, you might want to consider getting the store’s credit card. You can enjoy 5 percent off purchases at Target stores in the U.S. and on Target.com. Plus, you can get free shipping for online orders and 30 extra days for returns.
BankAmericard Credit Card for Students
The BankAmericard Credit Card for Students’ rate is Bank of America’s lowest available interest rate among all BankAmericard products. The card has a 0% introductory APR for 15 billing cycles, and the standard APRs for purchases and balance transfers range from 10.99% to 20.99%. There is no annual fee, and on-the-go student can benefit from the credit card’s mobile technology features, such as account alerts, mobile banking and text banking.
DCU Visa Platinum Secured Credit Card
A secured credit card could be a great tool if your credit score is very low and you want to improve it. The Visa Platinum Secured Credit Card from Digital Federal Credit Union (DCU) boasts rates that are below the national average, and the card comes without annual, balance transfer and cash advance fees. The card requires you to link a savings account you can borrow against. But, you can earn dividends on your savings, which means you can grow your money as you spend it.