The 7 Best Credit Cards For College Students

By Mark Di Vincenzo. May 7th 2016

There was a time -- not too long ago -- when college students could get a credit card almost as easily as they could get a draft beer. All they needed was a savings or a checking account and Sears or some other retailer gladly issued them their first credit card. Many of them would make a small purchase, pay it off when the first bill came and, boom, just like that, credit card applications from all the major banks would come rushing in. Flattered students filled them out, mailed them in and soon had a bunch of credit cards.

For a lot of young people, that wasn’t such a good thing. Many college students got into serious credit card debt.

Some of those young people may have been the children of congressmen and congresswomen because Congress stepped in and passed the Credit Card ACT of 2009 which has made it a bit more difficult for students to get credit cards. The law instituted an age limit of 21 and students who are younger must have a parent co-sign for them or they must show that they have considerably more income than the vast majority of college students to get a card.

Students also need at least decent credit scores to get a card or face sky-high interest payments.

Here are seven of the best college student credit cards, culled from experts who rate and examine credit cards.

Citi Dividend Platinum Select Card For College Students

Features: This card carries no annual fee and requires no co-signer. The best part about it is the cash back it offers. Card holders earn 5-percent cash back at supermarkets, drugstores, gas stations and utilities and 1 percent on all other purchases during the first six months. One percent cash back can be earned on all other purchases.

APR: It’s 0 percent for the first seven months, then 13.99 percent to 21.99 percent after that.

Bottom Line: This card gets a lot of votes for the best overall college student credit card.

Discover it for Students

Features: This card has no annual fee, foreign transaction fee, pay-by-phone fee and overlimit fee. There is also no late fee on your first late payment. This card also features 5 percent cash back in various categories (up to a quarterly maximum) that change throughout the year. These categories include restaurants, department stores and gas stations. You will also receive a 1 percent cash back bonus on any other purchases, with no limit on how much you can earn.

APR: 0 percent for the first six months.

Bottom Line: With no annual fee and no foreign transaction fee, this is a great card for students who like to travel.

Citi Forward Card For College Students

Features: This card charges no annual fee and gives 100 “thank-you” points a month for card holders who pay on time and stay under their credit limit. Students can earn five points per $1 spent on dining out, music, movies and books. The same goes for anything bought on Amazon and in college bookstores. All other purchases at other stores are eligible for one point per dollar. It is easy to redeem “thank-you” points.

APR: It offers a 0 percent APR for the first seven months. Students who keep their balance under the credit limit and pay on time for three months in a row can have their APR reduced by as much as 2 percent.

Bottom Line: This card stands out because it is believed to be the only one that rewards responsible spending habits.

Capital One Journey Student Rewards

Features: This card charges no annual fee and allows students with only average credit to have a card. There are no introductory offers, but you can get 1 percent cash back on all purchases and a 25-percent bonus on the cash back they earn each month when they pay their bill on time.

APR: 19.8 percent on purchases and balance transfers.

Bottom Line: A good option, though not as good as the Citi cards.

Orchard Bank Classic MasterCard

Features: This card is designed for students with no or a poor credit history. The downside is there is an annual fee of as much as $59 a year and the interest rates are high.

APR: 14.99 percent to 24.99 percent.

Bottom Line: A good option for students who don’t have a lot of options.

Citi Platinum Select Card For College Students

Features: Not to be confused with the Citi Dividend Platinum Select Card, this card also charges no annual fee and does not require a co-signer. This card offers no rewards or cash back, but card holders receive access to online discounts.

APR: 0 percent for the first seven months and11.99 percent to 19.99 percent after that.

Bottom Line: This is considered one of the best low-interest cards for college students. Those who qualify for the lowest interest rates will save more on interest than they would receive from other cards’ rewards.

The overall bottom line is that college students should look for three things when they apply for a credit card: about 1 percent cash back on all purchases, a 0-percent introductory APR and an ongoing APR that doesn’t exceed 15 percent. Use these cards wisely and you’ll save many thousands of dollars in interest during your lifetime.

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