Student credit cards offer financial education and resources, payment options via alerts and reminders, and rewards geared towards students. Some offer additional rewards for paying on time or getting good grades. For example, the 

You do have to be a student to get a student credit card. Otherwise, the card should work similarly to any other credit card — use it where credit cards are accepted, pay your monthly bill on time, and you can  as well as have some extra financial flexibility.

If you’re exploring using a credit card for the first time, you may have some questions about student credit cards. Below, find some of the answers to help you take the right steps with credit.

1. Student Credit Card FAQ

2. Study Abroad and Credit Cards: Best Practices

1. Student Credit Card FAQ

Several questions come up again and again from young credit card customers wondering about the process and benefits of a student credit card. Hopefully these answers can help alleviate any concerns and make you feel more confident about what, for many, is their first major financial choice as an adult.

What is the credit card offer I received in the mail?

Credit card offers by mail mean the company has conducted some pre-screening and is inviting recipients to apply for a card. Pre-screened offers may be sent consumer age 21 or older, and indicate that the card issuer has done a basic credit check, found that you meet certain criteria, and would be approved for the card if your credit profile remains the same and you meet income and other relevant application requirements. An invitation to apply means they are providing details about the card and are inviting you to apply.

Can I apply for a student credit card over the phone or online?

You can apply for a student credit card online or by mail if you’re at least 18 years old. To apply for a student credit card over the phone, you must be at least 21.

Do I need a co-applicant on my student credit card?

If you are creditworthy on your own, issuers may not require a co-applicant. Discover does not take co-applicants (sometimes known as co-signers) on credit card applications.

When do I make a payment on my credit card?

Your payment is due on the date indicated on your statement, which is generally the same day every month. If you are still unsure, call the customer service number on your card or log in to your online account to see when your next payment is due.

Will I pay interest on my card balance?

After you begin making purchases with your student credit card, you’ll receive a statement with your total balance. If you pay the balance in full by the due date on your statement each month, you won’t have to pay any interest charges on purchases. If you pay less than the full amount, you’ll be charged interest on the remaining balance based on your Annual Percentage Rate and the terms of your card.

Why should I care about building a credit history?

After college, you may want to apply for a car loan or an apartment lease. Both often require a check on your credit history, in which the lender assesses your creditworthiness and repayment risk. One of the common factors in credit scores is the length of time you have had lines of credit. Responsibly using a student credit card while in school can help you establish a credit history that opens these doors for you later on.

Do I have to spend a lot of money on my student credit card to establish a credit history?

No, you don’t need to charge and pay off big purchases to establish credit. You can establish a credit history by making small purchases and then paying them off on time each month.

Once I get my credit card in the mail, what should I do?

You’re all set to activate your new card. You can do so by calling the phone number on the back of the card. You may also consider setting up the online account portal offered by your issuer in order to more frequently check on your account, make payments, and set up alerts.

How do I get rewards for using my credit card?

If you are a student with a Discover it® Chrome Student card, there is no sign-up to earn 2 percent cash back at gas stations and restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter. Another option is the Discover it® Student card, may offer 5 percent cash back at different places each quarter like gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, Amazon.com, or wholesale clubs up to the quarterly maximum each time you activate. Discover it Chrome and Discover it cardmembers earn 1 percent cash back on all other purchases.

2. Study Abroad and Credit Cards: Best Practices

Studying and traveling abroad may be one of the greatest experiences you can have while in college. Meeting new people, learning about new cultures and taking in all the sights and sounds of your temporary home are all part of what make it such an adventure. One way to help ensure your sojourn abroad is as hassle-free as possible: a credit card. Consider these four reasons for why you should use a credit card while studying abroad.

Credit can be cheaper than cash

Debit cards can come with hefty foreign transaction fees and international ATM fees, cash can get lost and be difficult to change into local currency. Using a credit card abroad may save you some money. You won’t have ATM or money changer fees, and some credit cards don’t charge any foreign transaction fees. The caveat is that withdrawing cash on a credit card remains pricey, as it’s essentially a loan to yourself and can trigger higher feeds than a debit card. But if you can, say, charge dinner on a card instead of having to find cash, that may be the most cost-effective solution.

You’re covered in the event of fraud

If you’re carrying cash, and your wallet is stolen or lost, bid your money farewell. With a credit card, you may be able to freeze your account immediately and have a new card overnighted to you. Many cards have fraud monitoring, to ensure no one makes unauthorized purchased, and with some cards, you may not be liable for anything a thief purchases on your account.

You can earn rewards anywhere

Many cards today offer rewards, such as cash back and airline miles, or special deals and discounts with major merchants. Some programs offer extra points when eating out, or a miles bonus when buying an airline ticket. If you’ll be charging more to take advantage of avoiding added fees like ATM charges, you might as well cash in on some of the rewards a credit card can offer too.

You build credit even while abroad

Building credit is one of the main advantages to carrying a credit card and you’re not doing that if you’re using cash. If you charge sensibly and pay your bills on time, your credit history may improve when you buy tickets for an eye-catching attraction — and pay off that balance responsibly.

Call before you go

Before your study abroad trip begins, you should contact your debit and credit card issuers to inform them of where and when you’ll be traveling. This prevents your accounts from being frozen when your cards are used overseas, which otherwise could appear to suggest suspicious or fraudulent activity.

Ensure account access

You should also make a note of the accounts you have and the relevant telephone contact information, which may be different than the U.S.-based number. Make sure that you have online access to all of your accounts and make note of all of your payment due dates. It may help to set email or text reminders of your payment due dates, and also be aware if your mobile phone provider will charge you for receiving texts in the country you’ll be living in. Alternatively, you can configure your accounts to automatically make payments.

By learning the best ways to exchange currency and make purchases in another country, you can help get the most from your study abroad trip — and focus on all the adventures you’re having — without stressing out about your money.

Originally published February 27, 2015

Updated June 19, 2020

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 gas and restaurant purchases each calendar quarter. Calendar quarters are defined as the three-month periods beginning January 1, April 1, July 1, and October 1. Gas and restaurant category purchases over the quarterly cap, and all other purchases, earn 1% cash back. Gas and restaurant purchases are those made at merchants classified as gas stations and full service restaurants, cafes, cafeterias and fast-food locations. Purchases coded in categories other than these, including purchases made at warehouse clubs, wholesale distributors, and discount stores, will not qualify. Purchases made using third-party payment accounts, tap-and-pay, mobile or wireless card readers, virtual wallets or similar technology may not be eligible. Rewards are added to your Cashback Bonus account within 2 billing periods. See Cashback Bonus  Program Terms and Conditions for further detail.

Builds credit with responsible use:: 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.