Should College Students Have a Credit Card?

A credit card can be much more than just a convenient way to pay for today’s college expenses. It can provide peace of mind in emergencies, allow you to accumulate rewards and cash back, and be a useful tool to help college students establish life-long good financial habits.

Beyond the perks of credit card rewards and counting points, students may want the peace of mind that can come from using a credit card as well as the convenience of easy to use mobile features.

Wherever your educational journey leads you, consider these five reasons to have a credit card:

Build a Credit History

From the time you begin using a new credit card, you are building a relationship with your credit card company. Responsible use, such as paying your bills on time and in full and keeping your balance low, may be reported to the credit bureaus helping you to build a credit history. Then, when you’re ready to apply for a higher credit limit or a card with different benefits, you’ll already have a track record as a good credit card customer.

Learn to Budget

Having a credit card as a student can teach you powerful lessons about paying your bills on time and creating a budget. Using a credit card will require you to think ahead to your payment due date, and budget to make sure you have the money available to make at least the minimum payment every month. Some credit cards allow you to track what you spend and organize transactions by type on their websites and mobile apps, so you can see where your money is going. Learning the skills of budgeting and scheduling bill payments may help you later in life when you’re managing bigger dreams and likely, more money.

Enjoy Rewards and Cash Back

Certain credit cards allow you to earn rewards, points or cash back for a variety of things. For example, the Discover it® Student Chrome credit card allows you to earn 2 percent cash back at gas stations and restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter, automatically, plus unlimited 1 percent cash back on all other purchases.* Another option includes the Discover it® Student Cash Back credit card, which allows you to earn 5 percent cash back on everyday purchases at different places each quarter like, grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations and when you pay using PayPal, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate.* You also earn 1 percent cash back on all other purchases. And don’t forget, neither card has an annual fee.

You Can Handle Emergencies

Cars need repairs. Computers need fixing. Smartphones get dropped. Life happens. It’s reassuring to know that in the event of a real emergency, a credit card can help cover emergency expenses. Students can pay for unexpected medical or dental expenses, or even rent a car with a credit card. This benefit might help you — and your parents — feel a little more secure. Of course, you’re still responsible for the credit card bill that comes from these expenses, so make sure you reserve this type of credit card use for true emergencies.

Renting or Buying a House or Apartment

Many rental applications require a credit check so that landlords can review the applicant’s credit history.  Here again, student credit card use with a strong track record of repayment can help build a credit history and identify you as a responsible young adult and potential good tenant, helping to strengthen your rental application. When you’re ready to buy a home, a strong credit history will also be key to getting a mortgage.

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.

Chrome Disclosure: 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. 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 Cashback Bonus Program Terms and Conditions for more information about your rewards.

Amazon is not a sponsor of this promotion. Amazon, the logo, the smile logo and all related marks are trademarks of, Inc. or its affiliates.

PayPal, the PayPal logo are trademarks of PayPal or its Affiliates. Listed merchants are in no way sponsoring or affiliated with this program.