[Update: Some offers mentioned below have expired. You can view the current offers from our partners here — Journey Student Rewards From Capital One, Discover it Chrome for Students, Discover it for Students and Citi ThankYou Preferred Card for College Students. Disclosure: Cards from our partners are mentioned below.]
There’s a laundry list of items your high school grad will need before they head off to get a higher education. Pens, pencils, sheets, shower shoes — and, yes, maybe even a new credit card. That little piece of plastic can provide parents with some peace of mind because it’ll give their freshmen some extra funds in case of an emergency. Plus, college is a great time for a kid, now 18 (or close) and legally an adult, to start building credit. (You can see where your own credit stands by viewing two of your scores for free on Credit.com.)
Of course, some cards are better than others when it comes to getting started. And, truth be told, you may want to simply add your teen as an authorized user on your personal credit card account (more on how that works here). That way, you can keep an eye on their spending. Lots of issuers even let primary cardholders set spending controls. Plus, they’ll be virtually guaranteed entry, whereas, to get their own credit card, anyone under 21 will need to demonstrate an ability to repay or have a willing co-signer.
Still, if you think your teen is ready for — or can score their own — plastic, they might be best-served by a student credit card. These cards don’t require a security deposit, like the also-easier-to-get secured credit cards do, and tend to carry more favorable terms, like no annual fees, with some even offering rewards on spending.
Here are five solid credit cards to consider for your college-bound teen.
1. Journey Student Rewards From Capital One
Annual Fee: $0
Purchase Annual Percentage Rate (APR): Variable 20.74%
Why We’re Mentioning it: The card’s pretty low cost — there’s no annual fee, no foreign transaction fees and even that straight 20.74% APR is competitive as far as student credit cards go. Still, what we like most about the Journey is that it rewards your teen for developing smart spending habits. Cardholders can get access to a higher credit line after they make their first five monthly payments on time. Plus, they can earn extra rewards for making their due dates: With the Journey, you earn 1% cash back on all your purchases or a total of 1.25% back for each month you pay on-time.
2. Discover it Chrome for Students
Annual Fee: $0
Purchase APR: 0% for the first six months, then variable 13.74% to 22.74%, depending on your credit
Why We’re Mentioning it: Discover’s got two solid credit card for students, but the Chrome requires less precious brain power. It offers cardholders 2% cash back at restaurants and gas stations on up to $1,000 in combined purchases every quarter and 1% on all purchases after that. (The Discover it for Students touts revolving 5% cash-back categories your teen will need to sign up for every quarter.) Plus, there’s an incentive to earn good grades: Cardholders will earn $20 cash back each school year their GPA is 3.0 or higher for up to the next five years.
3. Wells Fargo Cash Back College Card
Annual Fee: $0
Purchase APR: 0% for the first six months, then variable 11.90% to 21.90%, depending on your credit
Why We’re Mentioning it: Another no-annual-fee student credit card, Well Fargo’s cash back college cardholders can earn 3% cash back on gas, grocery or drugstore purchases for the first six months and 1% cash rewards on almost all other purchases. Plus, your teen will have a 0% introductory APR for six months (variable 11.90% to 21.90%, after that), which could be helpful when it comes to funding their big move.
4. Citi ThankYou Preferred Card for College Students
Annual Fee: $0
Purchase APR: 0% for first 7 months, then variable 14.74% to 24.74%, depending on your credit
Why We’re Mentioning it: The card’s got no annual fee, but a nice base rewards program: Your teen can earn 2 points per dollar on dining out and entertainment and one point per dollar everywhere else. Plus, the ThankYou Preferred is one of the few student credit cards that offers a signup bonus. Cardholders can earn 2,500 bonus points if they spending $500 within the first 3 months — though you may not want to play up that offer, lest it lead college kid to overspend. [Full Disclosure: Citibank advertises on Credit.com, but that results in no preferential editorial treatment.]
5. Bank Americard Credit Card for Students
Annual Fee: $0
Purchase APR: Variable 11.74% to 21.74%, depending on your credit
Why We’re Mentioning it: Bank of America’s student credit card doesn’t tout points, miles or cash back, but that makes it a great option for parents worried the lure of rewards will lead to burgeoning balances their child won’t be able to afford. The card carries no annual fee and a competitive APR range, again as far as student credit cards go. (Per the bank’s website, the card offers the lowest APR available among all its BankAmericard products.)
At publishing time, the Journey Student Rewards, Discover it Chrome, Discover it for Students and Citi ThankYou Preferred for College Students credit cards are offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com is compensated if our users apply and ultimately sign up for these cards. However, this relationship does not result in any preferential editorial treatment. This content is not provided by the card issuer(s). Any opinions expressed are those of Credit.com alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the issuer(s).
Note: It’s important to remember that interest rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products frequently change. As a result, rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products cited in these articles may have changed since the date of publication. Please be sure to verify current rates, fees and terms with credit card issuers, banks or other financial institutions directly.