How do I Choose the Best Credit Card for College Students?

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  • Written By: M. Walker
  • Edited By: Allegra J. Lingo
  • Images By: Tan Kian Khoon, n/a, Kreative Photography, Philip Taylor, n/a
  • Last Modified Date: 06 September 2019
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Finding the best credit card for college students will depend on several factors, including ease of application, annual percentage rate (APR), annual fees, customer service, and rewards. Each student will have different needs, and while some might prioritize a low APR in anticipation of potential short-term debt, others might prioritize rewards and cash back. A good credit card for college students will meet basic spending needs, help build credit for the future, and teach students to developing good financial habits.

Ease of application is one of the most important factors for choosing the best card. Different credit cards will require different baseline levels of credit, and for students opening their first card, meeting these requirements could potentially be difficult. Student loans can lower a student’s credit score, and a lack of credit history is also a hurdle to overcome. Some students elect to have their parents become involved in their credit accounts to boost their chances of becoming accepted, while others like to start out fresh with an individual account to build the most credit.


The APR, or interest rate, of a credit card for college students is also a common factor in picking the right card. Some students might find themselves in credit card debt at the end of the year, either from unfamiliarity with budgeting, or from extra necessary expenditures. Finding a card with a low or flexible APR could be good choices for these students. Annual fees are also a common concern. Students will generally want to avoid cards with high annual fees unless the benefits and rewards clearly exceed the price of holding the card.

Customer service is another important feature of a good credit card for college students. Many students will be unfamiliar with managing a credit card account, so available card representatives will be incredibly helpful in explaining the process and answering questions. Even students who are familiar with using their own credit cards can benefit from customer service, especially if they plan on traveling or studying abroad.

Rewards and cardholder benefits are also considerations for finding the right credit card for college students. Cash back rewards, travel rewards such as air miles, and protection for a lost or stolen card can be advantageous to college students. Different students will find different rewards programs more beneficial. For example, off-campus students who use their cards frequently for groceries may find certain cash back rewards programs the most useful, while out-of-state students who travel frequently might prefer air miles or travel rewards.


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