How to Pick a Credit Card for College Students

There are so many credit cards for college students available that picking one may not feel like a difficult task, but picking the right card can be a very important first step toward establishing credit.

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Credit Cards Can Help Establish Your Credit

It’s hard to overstate the importance of building a strong credit history, not only in terms of obtaining lower interest rates on future loans and mortgages, but also in terms of managing daily life. It seems like everyone — from an insurance or cable company, to a prospective landlord or employer — may check your credit file.

A credit card is also a tool that can make your life easier by providing short-term loans, earning rewards on your purchases and getting protection and insurance benefits that you won’t get for using cash.

What to Know Before Applying for Your First Credit Card

There is the old “Catch-22″ adage that you can’t get credit without a credit history and you can’t establish a credit history without credit.

A credit card is not a magic bullet that can add money where it didn’t exist before. You must have enough cash to cover your expenses and pay off your card in full every month. Not paying in full can turn a convenient solution to building credit into an ongoing debt problem.

How to Avoid Unnecessary Credit Card Rejections

Different credit cards require a different FICO® Score. For example, the “Premium rewards” credit cards usually require a higher FICO® Score and a longer credit history due to their attractive sign-up bonus.

Applying for a premium card, or any card designed for high earners with excellent credit scores, will set you up for a probable rejection and disappointment. Even worse, the additional “inquiry” on your credit report from the application may negatively impact your score. Instead, you may want to consider applying for a specifically designated student credit card. And don’t worry — some credit cards for college students have great rewards programs, too.

What a College Student Should Look for in a Credit Card

First, ask yourself what it is that you don’t want in your credit card. The answer is usually an annual fee. Luckily, there are many no-annual-fee college credit cards, so you shouldn’t have a problem finding the one you want.

The second thing to consider is a rewards or cash back program. If you already spend money, why not select a card that offers rewards on every purchase?

Also look for some additional perks that not every credit card issuer offers. Some offer free access to a free credit score , which is very important, especially for college students. With a credit card for college students you can stay on top of your credit.

Discover it® for Students Is an Option for College Students

Major credit card review sites, such as NerdWallet and ValuePenguin, have rated the Discover it® for students as one of the best college student credit cards.

Discover offers free access to your FICO® Score for free on mobile and online* and offers cash back rewards programs, where you get 5% cash back in rotating categories each quarter like gas stations, Amazon.com, restaurants, wholesale clubs and more, up to the quarterly maximum each time you activate. And 1% cash back on everything else.

If you are not interested in rotating categories for cash back rewards, consider the Discover it® chrome card for students which offers 2% cashback at gas and restaurants on up to $1000 in combined purchases each quarter. And receive 1% cash back on everything else.

New Discover cardholders will also automatically get their cash back matched “dollar-for-dollar” at the end of their first year*. If you’ve earned $100 cash back at the end of the year, Discover will give you $100 more.

In addition, Discover offers a unique bonus for earning good grades. You can earn $20 cash back each school year that your GPA is 3.0 or higher for up to the next five years with the Good Grades program**.

The right college credit card can offer you convenience and even some rewards on your spending. Learn to be careful — a credit card makes it easy to overspend or buy things you don’t need. If you wouldn’t buy something for cash, think carefully before buying it with plastic.

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*Cashback MatchTM : After the first 12 consecutive billing periods that your new account is open, we will match all of the cash back rewards you’ve earned and apply them to your account in the following one or two billing periods. If your account is closed or no longer in the cash back reward program at the time we calculate your potential award, your cash back will not be matched. You’ve earned cash back rewards when they have posted to your account by the end of the 12th consecutive billing period. This promotional offer may not be offered in the future. This exclusive offer is available only to new cardmembers.

**Good Grades Rewards: Good Grade Reward only available to new cardmembers on or after 7/23/2015 who indicate on their application that they are currently enrolled in college, and whose accounts are current and remain open when the Good Grade Reward is requested. Students with a Discover it® or Discover it® chrome card who have a GPA of 3.0 or higher (or equivalent) during a School Year (September – August) may apply at Discover.com for a $20 Cashback Bonus (“Good Grade Reward”). One Good Grade Reward per School Year, per account, up to a maximum of five (5) consecutive years from the date your account is opened. Terms of Good Grade Reward Offer are subject to change.

 

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.

Your FICO® Credit Score and key factors are based on data from TransUnion and may be different from other credit scores. This information is intended for and only provided to Primary cardmembers who have an available score. See Discover.com/FICO about the availability of your score. Your score and key factors are available on Discover.com and your score is provided on statements. You will see up to a year of recent scores online starting when you become a cardmember. Discover and other lenders may use different inputs, such as a FICO® Credit Score, other credit scores and more information in credit decisions. This benefit may change or end in the future. FICO is a registered trademark of the Fair Isaac Corporation of the United States and other countries.

Discover Financial Services and Fair Isaac are not credit repair organizations as defined under federal or state law, including the Credit Repair Organizations Act. Discover Financial Services and Fair Isaac do not provide "credit repair" services or assistance regarding "rebuilding" or "improving" your credit record, credit history or credit rating.

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How Building Credit in College Can Lead to a Brighter Financial Future

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