The Difference Between Student Credit Cards and Secured Cards

Everyone with an excellent credit score had to start somewhere, and that somewhere was no credit history at all. If you’re dipping your toe in the pond of financial responsibility, one place to begin is by building up your credit score.

Why Is A Good Credit Score Important?

A good credit score tells lenders that you’re responsible and will likely pay your bills on time. As a reward for that good behavior, you’ll be offered lower interest rates on loans — for school, buying a home, buying a car, starting your own business and more.

You stand to save thousands of dollars in interest payments if your interest rate is lower. What’s more, a good credit score makes you a more attractive applicant on a lease for a place to live, and can even affect your access to cell phone plans.

If you have no credit history or currently have a low credit score, it can be tough to be approved for a credit card. But there are cards out there that can help you create good habits and help build a credit profile.

Get Started With These Credit Card Options

There are two types of cards to explore if you’re getting started, or you have some credit history but your credit score is low:

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Student Credit Cards

If you’re a student, you may qualify for a student credit card. You will need to submit proof of full- or part-time schooling, you must be at least 18 years old with proof of income or assets, and the issuer may evaluate your application based on other criteria, as well.

Using a student credit card allows you to create your own responsible bill-paying habits. Be warned that any irresponsibility on your part will be reflected in your credit score.1

If you think a student credit card is right for you, choose one with benefits and rewards that suit your life. The Discover it® Chrome for Students has no annual fee, 1% Cashback on your purchases (and 2% Cashback on gas and restaurants on up to $1000 in combined purchases each quarter). With Discover Good Grades Reward, you may be able to earn $20 Cashback Bonus each school year, for up to the next 5 years, if your GPA is 3.0 or higher.2

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Secured Credit Cards

If you’re no longer a student and you’d like to begin building credit history, a secured credit card may be an option. It also can be a way to bounce back if you are looking to rebuild your credit.3

Secured credit cards are easier to qualify for. You give a deposit, which will cover the credit card company’s losses if you’re unable to pay your bills. You’re granted a credit limit, usually equal to the amount of your deposit. If you demonstrate responsible credit management across all of your cards and loans, you may qualify for an unsecured credit card, or, in other words, a traditional credit card that does not require a deposit.

If you decide to apply for a secured credit card, choose one that reports to all three credit bureaus (Experian, TransUnion and Equifax). This will allow you to establish a credit history.4

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How Do You Choose?

If you’re a student, you could be eligible for a student credit card. This could be a better option for you, since no deposit is needed for a student card.

However, if you’re no longer in school, or you have damaged credit, a secured credit card could be the way to go. In both instances, know that you won’t have a very high credit limit and use these cards carefully.

A credit card isn’t free money. You should use it for your everyday spending and not for impulse purchases. Spend within your means and pay your bills on time. Avoid carrying a balance by not spending more than you can pay back. Keep your debt utilization ratio below 30%, meaning you should try not to spend more than 30% of your credit limit during a billing cycle. Hitting your credit limit each month signals to lenders that you’re risky to lend to, and that can jeopardize your attempt to raise your credit score.

Manage your credit cards and loans responsibly and you’ll be on your way to build a good credit history.

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.

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