The 5 Best Student Credit Cards 2021

Student credit cards allow you to build your credit. These are the top five cards for college students that also offer rewards and other benefits.

When you’re in college, you may not put a lot of thought into your credit score. But once you graduate and start your life as an independent adult, your credit score becomes incredibly important, affecting everything from the rates you get on car loans to whether you’ll qualify for an apartment. 

Building your credit history as an adult can be difficult. Most credit card companies and lenders don’t want to approve people without credit histories, so many adults struggle to get started. 

As a college student, there is a unique solution: student credit cards. Student cards are specifically designed for individuals in school — even if you don’t have any credit history — giving you a head start on building your credit. 

There are many cards out there, but these are our picks for the best student credit cards of 2021. 


What Are Student Credit Cards?

Nearly 20% of Americans have no credit history or credit score, making it hard to qualify for loans, credit cards or even cellphone plans. To keep that from happening to you, building your credit history while you're still in college is a smart plan. And with student credit cards, you can get started right away. 

Student credit cards differ from regular credit cards in several ways: 

  • Credit requirements: With most credit cards, you must meet certain credit score requirements. For many cards, you’ll need at least a fair credit score — meaning a score of 580 or higher — while rewards cards may require excellent credit scores. If you don’t meet those requirements, your application will be denied. But with student credit cards, you can qualify for a card even if you have no credit history or credit score. 
  • Credit lines: Student credit cards tend to have lower credit lines than traditional cards. With many student cards, the credit lines are about $500. But over time, you may qualify for a credit line increase as you use your card responsibly and build your credit. 
  • Added benefits: Credit cards for people with no credit tend to be very simple and offer few, if any, benefits. But with student cards, you may qualify for rewards such as cash back on purchases, travel insurance and purchase protection. 

Top 5 Student Credit Cards for 2021

We examined the major unsecured student credit cards on the market and evaluated them based on their fees, annual percentage rates (APRs), rewards and added benefits. Based on our research, these are the top five student credit cards of 2021: 


Chase Freedom Student 

Discover Student Cash Back

Deserve EDU

Bank of America Unlimited Cash Rewards for Students

CapitalOne SavorOne Rewards for Students

Best Overall

Best for Rotating Categories

Best for International Students

Best for Simple Cash-Back Rewards

Best for Added Perks

Best Overall: Chase Freedom Student

With no annual fee, the Chase Freedom Student card is an excellent option for new credit card users. Plus, new cardmembers can qualify for a $50 bonus offer after completing their first purchase within three months of opening an account. And you can get a $20 Good Standing Reward for every year that your account is open and current, for up to five years. 

Rewards and Benefits

The card offers 1% cash back on all purchases, and your rewards can be redeemed for statement credits, direct deposits, gift cards and travel arrangements as well as at checkout on Amazon.com. 


Best for Rotating Categories: Discover Student Cash Back 

For credit card users who want to earn a higher cash back rate, the Discover Student Cash Back card is a smart choice. You can earn up to 5% cash back on select purchases, and the card has no annual fee. 

Discover also offers a valuable benefit for new cardmembers: the Discover Cashback Match. At the end of your first year as a cardholder, Discover will match all the cash back you earned. So $100 in cash back would turn into $200. 

Rewards and Benefits

You can earn 5% cash back on purchases within spending categories that change every quarter, up to a maximum of $1,500 per quarter. Typically, categories include online purchases from Amazon.com, grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations and PayPal transactions. On other purchases, you’ll earn 1% cash back. 

Your cash back can be redeemed for statement credits, direct deposits, gift cards or charitable donations. 

Best for International Students: Deserve EDU

International students often struggle to qualify for credit cards in the U.S. But with the Deserve EDU card, you can qualify for a credit card that has no annual fee and charges no foreign transaction fees. 

Rewards and Benefits

With the Deserve EDU card, you’ll earn 1% cash back on every purchase. And you’ll get a free membership to Amazon Prime Student for one year after account opening. 

Best for Simple Cash-Back Rewards: Bank of America Unlimited Cash Rewards for Students

If you don’t want to worry about remembering rotating spending categories, the Bank of America Unlimited Cash Rewards card for students may be for you. It offers a flat cash-back rewards rate on all purchases, doesn’t have an annual fee and has a valuable online cash rewards bonus promotion. 

Rewards and Benefits

With this card, you’ll earn 1.5% cash back on every purchase. Plus, you can earn a $200 online cash rewards bonus if you spend $1,000 on purchases within the first 90 days of opening an account. As a college student, you can easily reach that threshold by using the card to pay for your textbooks, so that’s a valuable perk. 


Best for Added Perks: CapitalOne SavorOne Rewards for Students

For college students who can’t stand the cafeteria, the CapitalOne SavorOne Rewards for Students card might be a good fit. It offers a higher cash-back rate at restaurants and grocery stores, and there’s no cap on how much you can earn in rewards. 

Rewards and Benefits

This card offers 3% cash back on dining, grocery stores, entertainment and streaming services. On all other purchases, you’ll earn 1% cash back. 

The card has no annual fee, and there are no foreign transaction fees, making it a good choice if you plan to travel outside the country for spring break or for a semester abroad. 

Choosing a Credit Card for College Expenses

As a college student, you have a unique opportunity to build your credit by taking advantage of student credit cards. As you improve your credit history, you can qualify for loans with better rates and terms. 

But remember: Student loans are usually a better way to pay for qualifying education expenses. If you need private undergraduate or graduate student loans for room and board or tuition, join Juno to access the lowest possible rates. 

All rates, fees and rewards accurate as of Feb. 15, 2022.


Kat Tretina
Written By
Kat Tretina

Kat Tretina is a freelance writer based in Orlando, FL. She specializes in helping people finance their education and manage debt. Her work has been featured in Forbes, The Huffington Post, MarketWatch, and many other publications.

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