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When & how to apply for a student credit card

Student credit cards could help young adults establish credit and build good financial habits for the future. Credit cards for college students are offered at many banks and financial institutions. You may want to work with a parent or guardian to find out which student card is best for you and what types of perks and features benefit your current lifestyle.

Before applying and using a student credit card, it's important to understand how the application process works (you may need a co-signer) and how you plan on keeping up with payments to avoid debt. When used responsibly, a credit card can help college students establish and build their credit scores while benefiting from reward programs and cardmember perks.

What is a student credit card?

A student credit card is a type of credit card designed and marketed towards students and recent graduates by banks and financial institutions. Student credit cards typically have a lower credit limit and sometimes have higher credit approval rates for students with little to no credit history and limited incomes. Student credit cards may require a co-signer if you are under the age of 21.

How do you apply for a student credit card?

The process for applying for a student credit card may vary depending on your age and current financial standing.

How do I apply for a student credit card if I am under the age of 21?

  1. Research the best type of student credit card for your needs.
  2. Learn about the application requirements.
  3. Obtain relevant proof that you are enrolled in school. Some banks or credit card companies may confirm your enrollment in an eligible school through the National Clearing House.
  4. Gather co-signer information (co-signer is responsible for making missed or defaulted payments on the account) and proof of income.
  5. Submit your application with all the necessary documents.

How do I apply for a student credit card if I am over the age of 21?

  1. Research the best type of student credit card for your needs.
  2. Learn about the application requirements.
  3. Obtain relevant proof of your personal income or assets.
  4. Obtain relevant proof that you are enrolled in school. Some banks or credit card companies may confirm your enrollment in an eligible school through the National Clearing House.
  5. Submit your application with all the necessary documents.

To apply for a student credit card, you may need to show proof of a steady income from a part-time or full-time job or have a co-signer (a person over the age of 21 with a steady income who takes responsibility for your late or missed payments) join you in the application process. You may also have to provide proof that you are enrolled either part-time or full-time at a college or university. Some credit card companies have specific requirements on what constitutes a two or four-year college or university, so be sure to clarify these requirements before applying for a student credit card.

The best student credit card for college students:

Some student credit cards may waive annual fees and may offer reward programs that allow you to earn points and cash back on certain purchases. When researching a student credit card, the best student credit cards may have some of the following features and benefits:

  • 0% intro APR: A student credit card may have higher interest rates than regular credit cards but you may benefit from a lengthy 0% APR introductory offer. During this 0% APR introductory period, interest is not applied on purchases made until your regular interest periods begins. Be sure to read your cardmember agreement and monthly statements so you can keep track of when your zero or low-interest period ends as you'll start paying interest on your credit card balance once this promotion ends.
  • Low fees: Student credit cards will typically have low service fees. You may find that maintenance or annual fees will also be minimized or not charged altogether.
  • Reward programs: Students may enjoy reward program perks that allow them to earn cash back or reward points from purchases. For example, you may earn between 1-5% cash back by making purchases at select groceries, gas stations and retailers. These cash back points could score you gift cards or cash back for purchasing textbooks, laptops, and clothes for the upcoming semester.
  • Student benefits and resources: As a student cardholder, you may be able to participate in special perks for college students, such as exclusive cash back reward programs that reward high GPAs or positive payment habits.
  • Security features: Student credit cards may also be equipped with useful protections and features, such as fraud protection or overdraft protection when you set up automatic payments from your debit card or checking account.

What are the benefits of a student credit card?

A student credit card could help college students make convenient purchases and establish credit. Before using your credit card for purchases, it's important to understand how interest works and how long it may take you to pay down your balances. You may also have the opportunity to participate in a rewards program through which you can earn cash back or reward points. Additionally, many student credit cards offer rewards geared toward students.