Best Credit Cards For Broke College Students

The conundrum of getting a credit card as a broke college student is that you are broke. What are you going to buy if you don't have any money? And how do you get a credit card when you have no credit and little to no income as a college student? The best credit cards for college students swoop in to the rescue!

In an ever increasing cashless society, getting a credit card is important for convenience, buyer protection, and safety. Fortunately, credit card issuers are eager to get college students as customers. But, you'll need to spend and pay your bills responsibly.

You also want to start building your credit as early in your adult life as possible. A good credit score and a good credit report will let you rent an apartment easier and get lower rates for future loans, like if you want to get another credit card, borrow money for a car, and get a mortgage for a home.

Finally, you should try and reduce student loan debt by working part-time while studying. Even better, work in a space that you find industry to build experience for your career. A college degree is devaluing in a post coronavirus world.

Start Building Your Credit In College

Best Credit Cards For College Students

You've got to start somewhere, and building your credit by getting a credit card in college is a great time to start. It's important though that you always pay your bills on time and never have revolving credit card debt. The average interest rate on a credit card today is ~17%, which is expensive.

Paying for college is already expensive enough. You don't want to then rack on credit card debt and make life even more expensive.

If you're a parent looking to pay for college, please open up a 529 plan for each child. You can earn tax-free growth and use the profits tax-free to pay for college. Unfortunately, saving only in a 529 plan is likely not enough with the way college tuition prices are going.

If you’re a student looking for ways to build credit, or you simply want to find a credit card with rewards to increase your buying power, there are several options to choose from. I've spent dozens of hours looking through hundreds of credit cards to find the best student credit cards for you.

Frankly, there are many unattractive credit cards out there that shouldn't be in existence. Don't waste your time with those. Instead, focus on these two – the best of the best student credit cards.

Best Credit Cards For College Students

There are dozens and dozens of credit cards out there, but only a select number are targeted specifically for students. Here are the best credit cards for college students today.

Top Two Best Credit Cards For College Students Quick Navigation:

  • Deserve Edu Mastercard
  • Journey Student Rewards from Capital One

Deserve Edu Mastercard

The Deserve Edu MasterCard is especially great for international students, because a social security number is not required to apply. It’s also great for students without any credit history who want to begin building the right habits.

Deserve is a mission-oriented company that’s “helping the next generation of credit owners gain financial independence through access to fair credit products.” If you are a value-drive and mission-driven student, then the Deserve Edu Mastercard could be for you.

You can earn 1% cash back on all purchases with the Deserve Edu Mastercard. It comes in the form of statement credits, meaning that as soon as you accrue $25 in rewards, you’ll get that cash applied to your statement balance. This is the responsible way to use your benefits compared to using rewards to buy more things.

Even More Features

You can also apply without needing a security deposit or cosigner. The card offers credit lines of up to $5,000, which should be more than enough as a broke college student. But if you're an international student looking to build credit, you probably are not broke and have healthy financial means.

The Deserve Edu Mastercard includes Mastercard Platinum Benefits such as ID theft, fraud protection, car collision damage insurance for rental cars, and more.

Finally, the Deserve Edu Mastercard also includes complimentary Amazon Student Prime for one year. My family is a member of Amazon Prime and we use it almost daily for supplies, snacks, groceries and any item you can imagine under the sun. You can also watch Amazon original shows as well.

Even more benefits of the Deserve Edu Mastercard include:

  • $0 annual fee
  • 1% cash back on all purchases
  • Free Amazon Prime Student for one year
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Helps build your credit history
  • Includes free cellphone insurance up for $600

Journey Student Rewards from Capital One

The Journey Student Rewards from Capital One card is one step up from the other two beginner credit cards. This credit card is good for those who already have been responsible with another credit card for a year and who already have a decent credit score of 680 or higher.

You’ll get 1% cash back on all your purchases, which bumps up to 1.25% cash back when you pay your bill on time for that month.

There is $0 annual fee plus $0 foreign transaction fee, which makes the card perfect when you study abroad for a semester or travel abroad for the summer and winter. For international students, it's nice to use this card when you travel home for the holidays.

I studied abroad in Beijing, China for six months during my junior year and this credit card would have been a perfect companion.

You can also get access to Capital One's Credit Wise app for fraud protection and credit monitoring, plus be covered by zero liability in the case of theft.

How To Apply For A Student Credit Card

Applying for a student credit card is pretty straight forward. The easiest way is to do research online, like you're doing now, and apply from a reputable site like Financial Samurai.

Financial Samurai has been around since 2009 and is the #1 independently owned personal finance site on the web. I write all the content from scratch and firsthand experience. Further, the site has been featured in almost every major publication today.

With over 1.5 million organic visitors a month, Financial Samurai is a trusted resource for everything personal finance related. We believe in achieving financial freedom sooner, rather than later.

Get One Of The Best Credit Cards For College Students Today

If one of the best credit cards for college students I've profiled above after dozens of hours of research and analysis does not interest you, make sure you get a card with:

  1. No annual fee. Annual fees are a waste of money if you don't use your card often enough to get the rewards. As a student, I trust you aren't spending thousands of dollars each month on your card.
  2. Make sure the credit card has rewards. Either get a card with a great cash back reward, or rewards that match what you care about most e.g. travel rewards, gas rewards, electronic rewards.
  3. A great reputation. The largest banks like Chase and a financial institution like Capital One have been around for decades and have the best reputations.
  4. Always pay on time. To build your credit, you must have a credit card and always pay on time. Your ultimate goal should be to get over a 700 credit score by the time you graduate college, and a 800 credit score by the time you are looking to buy a house in order to get the lowest rates possible.
  5. Spend within your means. The key to building wealth is to spend less than you earn and invest the difference prudently for a very long time. The people who get in trouble end up owing revolving credit card get they can't get out of. Stay disciplined!

Check out some of the best rewards credit cards today.

Learn More About Personal Finance

It's unfortunate that personal finance isn't a required course in high school or college. Knowledge of personal finance topics is beneficial for your entire life. If you're in college, you should learn the college financial aid system to get free money in terms of grants and scholarships too.

I encourage you to develop an interest in personal finance topics early on. You're never too young to start saving and investing for your future. In fact, your future self will thank you immensely if you start building good financial habits now.

I encourage you to sign up for free wealth management tools to start. Then, be sure to check out all of my Top Financial Products recommendations. And take a browse through the archives on Financial Samurai. My goal is to help you achieve financial independence sooner, rather than later.

Pay Off Your Debt Faster With A Personal Loan

If you don’t have enough cash, getting a personal loan from Credible is a good place to start. If you have expensive credit card debt, consider consolidating your debt into a lower interest-rate personal loan.

Credible has the most comprehensive marketplace for personal loans. Lenders compete for your business so you can get the best rate. Get personalized prequalified personal loan rates in just two minutes after you fill out an application.

Prequalified rates are based on the information you provide and a soft credit inquiry. Receiving prequalified rates does not guarantee that the Lender will extend you an offer of credit. You are not yet approved for a loan or a specific rate. All credit decisions, including loan approval, if any, are determined by Lenders, in their sole discretion. Rates and terms are subject to change without notice. Rates from Lenders may differ from prequalified rates due to factors which may include, but are not limited to: (i) changes in your personal credit circumstances; (ii) additional information in your hard credit pull and/or additional information you provide (or are unable to provide) to the Lender during the underwriting process; and/or (iii) changes in APRs (e.g., an increase in the rate index between the time of prequalification and the time of application or loan closing. (Or, if the loan option is a variable rate loan, then the interest rate index used to set the APR is subject to increases or decreases at any time). Lenders reserve the right to change or withdraw the prequalified rates at any time.

More Suggestions

For further suggestions on saving money and growing wealth, check out my Top Financial Products page.

In addition, if you enjoyed this article and want to get more personal finance insights and tips, please sign up for the free Financial Samurai newsletter. You’ll get access to exclusive content only available to subscribers.

About the Author: Sam worked in investment banking for 13 years at GS and CS. He received his undergraduate degree in Economics from The College of William & Mary and got his MBA from UC Berkeley. In 2012, Sam was able to retire at the age of 34 largely due to his investments that now generate roughly $250,000 a year in passive income. He spends most of his time playing tennis, softball, traveling, and taking care of his family.

Disclosure: Credible Operations, Inc. NMLS# 1681276, “Credible.” Not available in all states.