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How to Get a Student Credit Card

Published January 24, 2024
5 min read

Key points about: How to get a student credit card

  1. What are student credit cards and how do they work?

  2. How do you apply for a student credit card?

  3. Does age matter when applying for a credit card as a student?

Your credit score is important because it directly affects your eligibility for loans, mortgages, credit cards, and even certain career and housing opportunities. It reflects your creditworthiness and responsible financial behavior, impacting your ability to access credit, get favorable terms, and engage in various financial transactions. With a student credit card, you can build your credit history with responsible use, putting you on the path toward good financial health later in life1.

Please note that under federal consumer protection laws, like the Credit CARD Act of 2009, there are strict regulations controlling who can qualify for student credit cards. This guide will explain the requirements students need to meet, how student credit cards work, how to get a student credit card, and what to expect both during and after the application process. Explore how you can find the student card that best fits your financial needs.

What is a student credit card?

Student credit cards look and function like regular credit cards, but have a few distinctive features that make them well-suited for students. For example, they generally have low credit limits, charge no annual fees, and offer rewards that are geared toward students, like cash back on purchases at restaurants and convenience stores. Student credit cards are designed to help you build credit, which means you may be able to qualify even if you’re unemployed or don’t have an extensive credit history. However, depending on factors like your age and current income, you may be required to use a cosigner on your application.

Before getting a credit card as a student, there are two necessary steps to take: determining which card is best for you and submitting your application. When you’re determining which student credit card is right for you, remember to think about factors like rewards, interest rates, and annual fees. Once you’ve narrowed down your list and are ready to apply, the next section of this guide explains the application process step by step. 

How to apply for a student credit card

Here’s how to get a student credit card in four simple steps:

  1. Make sure you meet the qualifications to apply for a student credit card, such as minimum age requirements.
  2. Check your credit report.
  3. Review and compare different credit card options.
  4. Apply online, over the phone, or using a written application form.

Let’s look at each of these steps in more detail to help guide you through the application process from start to finish.

1. Ensure you qualify for a student credit card 

The first step toward getting a student credit card is ensuring that you meet a few basic qualifications. For example, you’ll typically need to be 18 or older in order to meet the minimum age requirement for having your own credit card, though some issuers require applicants to have a cosigner if they are under 21 years old.

You may also need to prove that you have access to sufficient income to pay your student credit card bill. Learn more about what counts as income on a student credit card application.

2. Review your credit report 

The next step is to review your credit report. Your credit score helps determine what loans you qualify for, your credit limit, and your interest rates. If you have a lower credit score or no credit history at all, you may be required to apply for a secured credit card or a card with a cosigner. Remember, there is no credit score required to apply for Discover Student credit cards2.

When you review your credit report, note any mistakes, changes, and information you don’t recognize. That way, you can take immediate action to address these issues with your creditors and the credit bureau and repair any damage.

3. Review your credit card options

The Discover it® Student Chrome credit card allows you to earn 2% Cashback Bonus® at Gas Stations and Restaurants up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter, automatically. Plus earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases3. The Discover it® Student Cash Back credit card lets you earn 5% Cashback Bonus on up to $1,500 in different category purchases each quarter, when you activate. That’s up to $75 cash back each quarter. Plus, you always earn Cashback Bonus when you use your Discover Card. And don’t forget, Discover has no annual fee on any of our cards.

When getting a credit card as a student, it’s important to do your research and compare the available options. For instance, Discover offers two student credit cards that provide different rewards in various spending categories, allowing you to choose the card that fits your lifestyle best. The Discover It® Student Cash Back card provides the opportunity to earn 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places you shop each quarter, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate. As another option, the Discover It® Student Chrome card allows you to earn 2% Cashback Bonus® at Gas Stations and Restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter, automatically. Plus earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases.3

4. Apply for your student credit card

Submitting your application is the final step toward getting a credit card as a student. So how can a student apply for a credit card? While the process depends on the issuer, most applications can be completed online in just a matter of minutes. As an alternative to applying online, you may also be able to apply by phone or written application. When you’re ready to complete your application, be prepared with the following information:

  • Your contact information
  • Your monthly income and expenses
  • Your Social Security Number (SSN), unless you’re an international student

Does my age matter when applying for a student credit card?

The requirements for obtaining a student credit card are influenced in part by your age. Before you apply for a student credit card, it’s important to learn how your age might impact your eligibility. Let’s take a closer look at some of the age-related credit card requirements that could affect your application.

First, you’ll need to be at least 18 years old to apply for your credit card. If you’re under 18, you may be able to get added to another cardmember’s account as an authorized user. Depending on the issuer, if you're an adult under 21, you may need to have a designated cosigner on your behalf.

What to expect after you apply for a student credit card

Getting a credit card as a student can help you build your credit with responsible use while giving you more freedom to deal with expenses, emergencies, and essentials.4 The application for a Discover student card only takes minutes to complete online. When you submit an online application, you may receive immediate credit card approval. However, it's possible that credit card issuers might not send a confirmation for several days or even weeks. This delay could be attributed to their thorough review of your credit report and other relevant data to assess your creditworthiness.

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  1. Build Credit History (Student Card): Discover reports your credit history to the three major credit bureaus so it can help build your credit if used responsibly. Late payments, delinquencies or other derogatory activity with your credit card accounts and loans may adversely impact your ability to build credit.
  2. No credit score required to apply: Based on the preceding 12 months of Discover Student credit card application data. When we evaluate your creditworthiness, we consider all the information you provide on your application, your credit report, which includes your credit score if applicable, and other information.
  3. You earn a full 2% Cashback Bonus® on your first $1000 in combined purchases at Gas Stations (stand-alone), and Restaurants each calendar quarter. Calendar quarters begin January 1, April 1, July 1, and October 1. Purchases at Gas Stations and Restaurants over the quarterly cap, and all other purchases, earn 1% cash back. Gas Station purchases include those made at merchants classified as places that sell automotive gasoline that can be bought at the pump or inside the station, and some public electric vehicle charging stations. Gas Stations affiliated with supermarkets, supercenters, and wholesale clubs may not be eligible. Restaurant purchases include those made at merchants classified as full-service restaurants, cafes, cafeterias, fast-food locations, and restaurant delivery services. Purchases must be made with merchants in the U.S. To qualify for 2%, the purchase transaction date must be before or on the last day of the offer or promotion. For online purchases, the transaction date from the merchant may be the date when the item ships. Rewards are added to your account within two billing periods. Even if a purchase appears to fit in a 2% category, the merchant may not have a merchant category code (MCC) in that category. Merchants and payment processors are assigned an MCC based on their typical products and services. Discover Card does not assign MCCs to merchants. Certain third-party payment accounts and digital wallet transactions may not earn 2% if the technology does not provide sufficient transaction details or a qualifying MCC. Learn more at Discover.com/digitalwallets. See Cashback Bonus Program Terms and Conditions for more information.
  4. Build/Rebuild Credit with responsible use: Discover reports your credit history to the three major credit bureaus so it can help build/rebuild your credit if used responsibly. Late payments, delinquencies or other derogatory activity with your credit card accounts and loans may adversely impact your ability to build/rebuild credit.
  • Legal Disclaimer: This site is for educational purposes and is not a substitute for professional advice. The material on this site is not intended to provide legal, investment, or financial advice and does not indicate the availability of any Discover product or service. It does not guarantee that Discover offers or endorses a product or service. For specific advice about your unique circumstances, you may wish to consult a qualified professional.