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The Best Student Credit Card Rewards and Offers

Published 12/9/07 (Modified 3/20/14)
By MoneyBlueBook

The Best Credit Cards For College Students and Graduates To Learn Credit Responsibility

If you are a college or graduate student, it's important to understand that proper rewards credit card management is a trait and skill that should be developed sooner than later in life. If you are the parent of a teenage child who is currently a college student, it's very important to teach him or her the importance of building up a good credit history while he or she is still in school, before entering the real working world where credit card mistakes and shortcomings are more brutal. The FICO credit score is heavily dependent on the length and quality of each person's long term credit history, so it's in the student's best interest to develop good credit usage habits and responsible management skills early on. Avoiding credit altogether out of fear or mistrust of credit cards is a misguided approach in my opinion. How else will a student develop the financial management skills he or she will need to succeed in this technologically and financially driven world?

Knowledge and Education Is Power, So If You Are A Parent, Be Sure To Teach Your Student Or Teen Financial Responsibility Early and Often

Many parents today are afraid of giving their college age teen the huge financial responsibility of using a credit card. But shielding them away from this altogether may hurt them in the future due to their lack of exposure to basic finance skills and their lack of credit history. They may be at a disadvantage if and when they choose to purchase a home or a car on their own. Of course not all credit cards are suitable for students, teens, and credit novices, but with the right student credit card, it can be an invaluable financial teaching tool. Here are some ways and ideas to help your college age child or teenage student better understand the financial basics of using a student credit card:

  1. Keep the initial credit limit under $500 - It's best not to give the student too high of a credit limit initially to discourage overeager spending or purchases beyond their means or needs.
  2. Teach them to make timely online payments - This is the internet age we are in so students need to know how to timely pay off their credit card balance online. Setting up automatic debit payments is a convenient option as well.
  3. Set rules on what they can use the credit card for - Students need to learn to discern what they should buy and what they should not. They need to know the rules of responsible spending.
  4. Make sure they know that they must pay off the balance in full each month - New credit card holders may initially have statement shock, having no experience at knowing how high their accumulated monthly statement balance may be each month. The student needs to learn how to mentally keep tracking of his or her spending and know the importance of paying the statement balance off regularly.
  5. Teach and explain credit terms such as finance charges, fees, annual percentage rates, and grace periods.
  6. Show the student how to track their cash back earned and reward points so they learn the benefits of reward credit cards and understand why responsible use can help one maximize overall financial potential. The key phrase here is "responsible use".

Most of the uniquely designed student credit cards out there may be advertised and promoted as for college students only, but usually any type of student can qualify for them, including those attending graduate school. Frequently, the card application will request some form of student status identification, such as a copy of your tuition bill, student ID card, or simply a signed affirmation that you are indeed a student.

The ideal college and graduate student credit card will contain No Annual Fee, a 0% Annual Percentage Yield (APY) introductory purchase or balance transfer period to offer the student a trial usage period, and cash back rewards or other usage incentives to teach them the benefits and rewarding aspects of responsible credit card use. Pursuant to these characteristics, none of the following suggested student credit card offers below have minimum income or co-signer requirements either - ideal for college students or recent graduates who usually have minimal income information to offer anyway. Of course, make sure you can afford what you buy with your newly applied for credit cards. Be smart, pay off your monthly balances, and don't fall into the trap of unpaid credit card debt.

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13 Responses to “The Best Student Credit Card Rewards and Offers” 

  1. Mrs. Micah says:

    Those look like really good options. My parents were too nervous and even though I was very careful not to overspend, they wouldn't let me have a credit card. They did put me on their account, but this has led to all kinds of headaches as I try to untangle my credit from theirs.

  2. Ruth says:

    Great article. It is so important to teach our children financial sense and college is a great time to make it happen - if it hasn't already.
    I was so surprised when a young colleague told me she couldn't get a loan for a car because she didn't have 5 (!) credit sources.
    Our daughter (a sophomore in college) is constantly telling her friends they need to have credit cards to begin building their credit. Otherwise, when they go to rent and apartment or buy a care, they will have to ask their parents to co-sign. That's usually enough to convince everyone of the need to take action!
    Most families are so concerned about paying for college that credit cards scare them.

  3. E.C. says:

    I didn't get a credit card until I was twenty, mostly because I was nervous and afraid that even after many years of managing money sensibly that I'd suddenly overspend and go into debt. I really like my USAA Mastercard even though I'm getting less than 1% back since I spend so little. Their customer service is fantastic, and they actually make an effort to educate students about budgeting and using credit responsibly. If you're eligible for membership, I highly recommend them.

  4. Tom says:

    Awesome article! When it comes to student credit cards, I wish credit card companies were more responsible with students when signing them up. I think it would be great if colleges around the globe would offer mandatory credit classes for a hour or so to show the effects of how a credit score affects you and your life.

    Besides the responsibility point, the MTVU card is simply amazing. On top of the thankyou rewards and the cash back power, they also offer a lot of thankyou points just for getting good grades, which should be another great highlight for the card.

  5. Jason says:

    It is so hard to get credit, and if you make bad choices, it is even harder to clean up. I was never really taught how to handle finances, and still struggle with it. I have worked hard to get my credit cleaned. We now both have good credit scores, but if we had learned how to budget and use finances wisely, we may not have been in our thirties before our credit cards were paid off and we were not just living paycheck to paycheck.

  6. Darren says:

    I don't it still....what's the point of a student crdit card compared to a regular consumer card. I guess the no income limitation and the lack of a co-signer requirement are the primary reasons for college students like myself to go for student credit cards right?

  7. Lauren S. says:

    A recent CNN article discussed the prevalence of credit cards on campus targeting college students. These credit card companies are definitely trying to target these unwitting and financially unprepared students who have no idea how to handle the use of credit. But it's hard to really sympathize of many of these students who are no longer teenagers who simply shouldn't be having a credit card in the first place. They are young adults and need to take greater responsibility over their lives. All they do is cry to mom and dad for more money to help pay off their credit card debts. It's always a spend first, think later mentality and I'm getting sick of it. I received my first student credit card - a Citibank one back in college and I did just fine

  8. StudentCreditCards says:

    This is an excellent editorial by Money Blue Book! It is refreshing to read an informative blog article like this. It is important to inform students of their options in obtaining student credit cards as credit card companies still set up tables on campuses enticing students to apply for one specific credit card by giving away free items such as T-shirts and free soda. This has a negative impact on students because they are starting off in the credit world on the wrong foot by getting their first credit card not because they want to, or are ready, but because they simply want a free gift. These companies on campus also leave out the option for students to choose from a variety of student cards. Credit education and information is often left out and the student is likely to take their newfound financial responsibility less seriously then if they had originally sought credit themselves, without incentive and when they feel they are ready.

  9. Mariah says:

    Can I apply for student credit cards even with no credit history? Just wanted to be certain before I apply since I've been told that it's bad to seek credit too often. I'm a college freshman right now and have never held a credit card account. I don't even have a bank account in my own name as my parents pay for everything. Can I still qualify for these student cards? I've asked around and most people have been telling me that it should be okay since the point of student cards is to allow college students like myself the chance to build up credit scores and reports from scratch.

  10. Jim says:


    Yes most of these student card offers are available to those without any credit histories. After all - they are student cards and almost by definition, students generally don't have much of a FICO credit score to speak of. I got my Capital One and CitiCard student cards when I was just a college student so I can testify to that fact.

    While these are definitely not credit cards that help or offer their programs in our best interest, they do allow us students to have a way of building up our credit from nothing

  11. Sean says:

    Citi didn't give me a card. They said my credit wasn't good

  12. Purfect says:

    Citi credit cards are pretty good for students. They have this popular mtVU that pays you cash back rewards for eating out which for me is a huge monthly expense. Sorry you got denied because of bad credit. Strange that they'd deny you though. Did you have a history of not paying your bills?

  13. Credit Card Chaser says:

    I am all for getting a credit card as early in life as possible ONLY so long as parents are heavily involved and can teach kids from an early age how to use credit responsibly and pay off the balance in full each month, live within their means, etc. The sooner one can start building their credit history the better.

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