The beginning of college is often a time of firsts, and for many students who are venturing out on their own for the first time, it's also time for their first credit card. With so many different cards to choose from, deciding which credit card for a new college student can be a daunting task.
Before you start narrowing your choices down, these tips will help you make a better, more informed decision:
- Stay away from cards with annual fees. With so many cards that don't charge annual fees, there is no reason to sign up for one that does.
- Look for the lowest APR (annual percentage rate) possible. This is especially true if you plan on carrying a balance or making a big-ticket purchase, like a new laptop. Ideally, you should pay your balance off each month and stay out of credit card debt at this stage. However, that's not always possible.
- Know your needs. Are you trying to establish a credit history? Do you want a card for emergencies? Do you have the ability to pay off your card each month? Identifying your needs and financial goals can help you choose the right card.
- Avoid retail cards. Retail credit cards typically have the highest annual percentage rates and very little by way of rewards. It's best to steer clear of them altogether.
With that in mind, here are a few of the best credit cards for new college students:
- BankAmericard for Students
A 0% introductory rate for 15 months makes this card an attractive option for students who are transferring balances or making a big purchase. Once the promotional period expires, the standard APR ranges from 10.9% to 20.99%.
- Discover It for Students
This card is light on fees—no annual or over-limit fees, and no fee for the first late payment. It also offers 5% cash back at gas stations during their promotional period. Cardholders also get their FICO score free, allowing them to monitor their credit each month.
- Discover Open Road Card for Students
In addition to a 9-month 0% APR rate, this rewards card for students also offers cash back for all purchases, with double cash points for purchases made at gas stations and restaurants.
- Harley Davidson Visa Secured Credit Card
You don’t have to be a Harley Davidson fan to reap the benefits of this card. It’s the only secured credit card that doesn’t have an annual fee. Because secured credit cards require a cash deposit that doubles as a credit limit, this type of card is a great way to prevent overspending. It’s also useful for establishing credit. It does require a $300 deposit to open.
- Capital One Journey Student Rewards
This card rewards students for being responsible with their credit. It offers 1.25% cash back each month the bill is paid on time, with no limit on the amount of cash you can earn. It’s also flexible, allowing students to pick the monthly due date that works best for them.
The right card can help students practice smart credit use and get you started on the right financial foot.