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12 Best Credit Cards for Students With Bad or No Credit In 2024

Students are often caught in a catch-22: you need credit to build credit, yet without a credit history or a bad credit score due to a few mistakes, it can be challenging to get approved. This is where a credit card can be a helpful tool to build up a good credit history.

In this article, we’ll unpack the complexities of credit scores, debunk the myths, and present the best credit card options for students with no credit or those rebounding from bad credit. We also have tips to use these financial tools to your advantage, setting the foundation for a healthy financial future.

Let’s jump in. Here’s what we’ll cover in this guide:

Best credit cards for students with no credit

Here are some of the best credit cards that cater to students with no credit, offering a mix of low costs, educational resources, and the opportunity to build a positive credit history:

Here are the top cards we’ve reviewed:

1. Destiny Mastercard – Best for credit building and avoiding fees
2. Discover it® Student Cash Back – Best for cash back rewards
3. Capital One Quicksilver Student Cash Rewards – Best for simplicity
4. Chase Freedom® Student – Best for building credit with Chase
5. Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card for Students – Best for customizing your rewards
6. Deserve® EDU Mastercard for Students – Best for international students

1. Destiny Mastercard

Why we chose it: Best for credit building and avoiding fees

The Destiny Mastercard is designed for those rebuilding credit or with limited history. It doesn't require a security deposit but starts as a secured card, converting to unsecured with responsible use. There are no annual, foreign transaction, or late payment fees to keep costs minimal. It reports to all major credit bureaus, helping you build a diversified credit history.

See if you qualify

2. Discover it® Student Cash Back

Why we chose it: Best for cash back rewards

The Discover it® Student Cash Back shines with its generous cash back program. Earn cash back on everyday purchases with rotating bonus categories for extra rewards. Discover's first-year “Cashback Match” doubles your rewards, and good grades can earn statement credits. There's no annual fee.

3. Capital One Quicksilver Student Cash Rewards

Why we chose it: Best for simplicity

Simplicity is the focus with the Capital One Quicksilver Student Cash Rewards. You'll earn a straightforward, flat-rate cash back on every purchase, making it easy to understand your rewards. With on-time payments, you may be eligible for credit line increases, building your spending power as your credit improves. All of this, with no annual fee.

4. Chase Freedom® Student

Why we chose it: Best for building credit with Chase

The Chase Freedom ® Student offers cash back rewards, but its real strength is as an entry point to Chase's popular rewards ecosystem. It comes with educational tools to help establish healthy financial habits and opens doors to more advanced Chase cards in the future.

5. Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card for Students

Why we chose it: Best for customizing your rewards

The Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card for Students lets you personalize your rewards experience. Choose a bonus category where you spend the most to earn a higher cash back rate. It also offers an introductory 0% APR for a set period, helping you avoid interest if carrying a balance temporarily.

6. Deserve® EDU Mastercard for Students

Why we chose it: Best for international students

The Deserve® EDU Mastercard for Students caters specifically to international students, as it doesn't require a Social Security Number to apply. It rewards you with a year of Amazon Prime Student and offers cash back. Building your U.S. credit history is made easier with this student-focused card.

Best credit cards for students with bad credit

Students with bad credit may face more challenges when trying to obtain a credit card, but there are options tailored to help rebuild your credit history. Here are some of the best credit cards for students with bad credit, emphasizing features that facilitate credit repair and responsible spending.

7. Milestone Gold – Best for credit rebuilding without a security deposit
8. Discover it® Secured Credit Card – Best for cash back rewards while rebuilding
9. Capital One Platinum Secured – Best for low security deposit options
10. OpenSky® Secured Visa® – Best for no credit check
11. Credit Builder Secured Visa® – Best for potential rewards
12. Self–Credit Builder Account + Secured Visa® – Best for a combined savings approach

7. Milestone Gold

Why we chose it: Best for credit rebuilding without a security deposit

The Milestone Gold Mastercard®, though an unsecured card, is known for its acceptance of those with bad credit. It aims to rebuild credit with included educational tools and credit monitoring, providing valuable support. The main drawback is a substantial annual fee, so factor that into your decision.

8. Discover it® Secured Credit Card

Why we chose it: Best for cash back rewards while rebuilding

The Discover it® Secured Credit Card stands out by offering cashback rewards even while rebuilding credit, something most competing cards don't. Discover's “Cashback Match” doubles all your earned rewards in the first year, maximizing your benefits. It also holds the potential to graduate to one of Discover's popular unsecured cards with responsible use.

9. Capital One Platinum Secured

Why we chose it: Best for low security deposit options

The Capital One Platinum Secured offers flexibility with deposit amounts as low as $49, $99, or $200 based on your creditworthiness. It has the potential for credit line increases without putting down additional deposits, and there's no annual fee to worry about.

10.OpenSky® Secured Visa®

Why we chose it: Best for no credit check

The OpenSky® Secured Visa® eliminates the credit check step of the application process, great for those hesitant about adding another credit inquiry. Its focus is simplicity, with no complex rewards programs. Note that there is an annual fee to consider with this card.

11. Credit Builder Secured Visa®

Why we chose it: Best for potential rewards

The Credit One Bank® Platinum Visa® for Rebuilding Credit offers potential rewards with cash back on eligible spending. There's also the possibility for automatic credit line increases, rewarding responsible card use. However, this card carries both an annual fee and a high variable APR.

12. Self-Credit Builder Account + Secured Visa®

Why we chose it: Best for a combined savings approach

Self takes a unique approach, combining a credit-building loan with a secured Visa® credit card. You make payments that unlock portions of your savings and gain access to the credit card. This might be a good option for those who struggle to save the upfront deposit required by most secured cards, but it involves administrative fees.

Understanding credit scores and their impact on students

Credit scores are three-digit numbers that lenders use to determine your creditworthiness, which essentially means how likely you are to repay borrowed money. In the U.S., credit scores range from 300 to 850, with higher scores indicating better credit health. These scores are calculated based on your credit history, which includes your payment history, amounts owed, length of credit history, new credit, and types of credit in use.

For students, a credit score is more than just a number—it’s a passport to financial opportunities. A strong credit score can unlock the door to essential resources such as student loans, car financing, apartment rentals, and even job opportunities, as some employers review credit as part of the hiring process.

Here’s why your credit score matters as a student:

  • Student loans: A better score may qualify you for private student loans with lower interest rates, saving you money over the loan’s life.
  • Renting: Landlords often check credit scores when evaluating rental applications. A higher score can help you secure your desired housing.
  • Future financing: Your credit score affects your ability to get credit cards, auto loans, and mortgages with favorable terms in the future.
  • Insurance premiums: In some states, insurers use credit-based insurance scores to determine premiums for auto and renters insurance.
  • Job hunting: While not universal, some employers check credit scores as part of their background checks for job applicants, particularly in the financial sector.

Improving or building your credit as a student

If you have no credit history, the goal is to start building a positive one. This often begins with becoming an authorized user on a parent’s account or getting a student credit card with a low credit limit. Use it sparingly and pay off your balance in full each month.

For students with bad credit, the road to recovery involves making timely payments and reducing debt. It’s crucial to address any delinquent accounts or errors on your credit report promptly. A secured credit card, which is backed by a cash deposit, can also be a step towards rebuilding your credit.

Key features of student credit cards

Student credit cards are financial tools designed specifically for individuals in the academic phase of their lives who may have limited income and minimal credit history. Understanding the key features of these cards can help you choose the one that best fits your financial situation and goals. Here’s what to look for:

Annual Percentage Rate (APR)

The APR is the interest rate you’ll be charged if you carry a balance on your card. For students, finding a card with a low APR is beneficial, especially since budgets are often tight. Some cards offer introductory APRs at 0% for a certain period, which can be advantageous for large purchases that you plan to pay off over time.


Look for cards with no annual fee, as it’s important to keep costs down. Be mindful of other fees such as late payment fees, foreign transaction fees, and over-limit fees. Cards that waive the first late payment fee can be forgiving for credit newcomers who are still learning to manage due dates.

Rewards and incentives

While students should focus on building credit rather than earning rewards, some student credit cards offer cash back on purchases, which can be a nice bonus. Look for cards that reward you for good grades or offer cash back on categories that match your spending, like textbooks or dining.

Credit limit

Student cards typically come with lower credit limits to reduce the risk for the issuer and help students learn to manage credit. While you might start with a low limit, responsible use over time can lead to credit limit increases, which can be beneficial for your credit utilization ratio—a key factor in your credit score.

Credit reporting

Ensure the card reports to all three major credit bureaus (Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax). Regular reporting of your positive payment history is essential for building your credit profile.

Educational resources

Some student credit cards provide financial education resources to help you learn more about credit management, budgeting, and personal finance. This feature is particularly valuable for students who are new to credit.

Customer service and fraud protection

Reliable customer service is crucial, especially if you encounter any issues or have questions about your account. Additionally, look for cards with strong fraud protection to keep your account secure.


Ideally, your student credit card should be widely accepted so you can use it for all your purchases, both in the U.S. and abroad.

How to use a student credit card responsibly

Using a student credit card responsibly is paramount to building a good credit history and learning financial discipline. Here are key strategies to ensure you’re making the most of your student credit card while avoiding common pitfalls:

Understand the Terms and Conditions

Before using your card, make sure you understand the interest rates, fee structure, credit limit, payment due dates, and the consequences of late payments.

Pay on time

Always pay your bill on time to avoid late fees and negative marks on your credit report. Setting up automatic payments for at least the minimum amount due can ensure you never miss a due date.

Pay in full when possible

Try to pay your balance in full each month to avoid interest charges. If you can’t pay in full, pay as much as you can to reduce the balance and interest accrued.

Stay below your credit limit

Keep your credit utilization low — under 30% of your credit limit is ideal. High utilization can indicate to creditors that you’re a high-risk borrower and can negatively affect your credit score.

Monitor your account regularly

Check your account online frequently to stay on top of your spending, check for fraudulent charges, and understand how your activities affect your credit.

Only buy what you can afford

Just because you have a credit card doesn’t mean you should overspend. If you wouldn’t buy it with cash, you shouldn’t buy it with credit.

Use the card for small purchases

To avoid overspending, use your credit card for small, manageable purchases that you can pay off quickly.

Create a budget

A budget is an essential tool for managing your finances. Include your credit card payments to ensure you have enough money set aside to cover your bill each month.

Be cautious with cash advances

Avoid taking cash advances from your credit card, as they usually come with high fees and interest rates that accrue immediately.

Watch for credit card offers

As your credit improves, you may receive offers for new credit cards. Be selective and avoid opening multiple accounts, as this can be a red flag to creditors and can also tempt you to overspend.

Review your credit report

Check your credit report regularly to ensure there are no errors and to understand how your credit behavior affects your credit score.

Understand the rewards and benefits

If your card offers rewards, use them wisely. Ensure that chasing rewards doesn’t encourage you to spend more than you would otherwise.

Educate yourself about credit

Use the educational resources provided by many student credit card issuers to learn more about credit and personal finance.

Additional resources for financial education

Financial education is a critical component of managing your money effectively, especially as a student who may be handling finances independently for the first time. The following resources provide valuable information and tools that can help students navigate the complexities of personal finance:

  • Federal Student Aid (An Office of the U.S. Department of Education): The official Federal Student Aid website offers comprehensive resources for understanding student loans, grants, and scholarships. It also provides tools for budgeting and planning for repayment.
  • Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB): The CFPB’s website contains educational materials on credit cards, bank accounts, credit reports, and consumer rights. Their “Paying for College” tool can help you compare financial aid offers.
  • National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC): The NFCC provides access to nonprofit credit counseling, debt reduction services, and consumer education. Visit for tools and resources on debt management and financial education.
  • This U.S. government website ( offers resources to help you make informed financial decisions, including information about saving, investing, and managing debt.
  • The only federally authorized source for free credit reports,, allows you to check your credit report from each of the three major bureaus once a year at no cost.
  • Financial Literacy and Education Commission: Established by Congress, this commission oversees a national financial education website ( that provides resources to help you make sound financial decisions.


Can students with bad credit get a credit card?

Yes, students with bad credit can still obtain credit cards, particularly secured credit cards, which require a security deposit that typically also serves as the credit limit.

What is the easiest credit card to get approved for with bad credit?

Secured credit cards are generally the easiest to get approved for if you have bad credit, as they are backed by a cash deposit you provide. The OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card is known for not requiring a credit check, which may make it easier for those with bad credit to get approved.

Do student credit cards build credit?

Absolutely. Student credit cards, if used responsibly, can help build credit over time. They work like any other credit card by reporting your activity to the credit bureaus.

How high of a credit score do you need for a student credit card?

Some student credit cards are designed for those with no credit or low credit scores. The exact score needed can vary, but secured cards are generally accessible even for those with scores below 600.

What should I do if I’m a student with no credit history?

If you’re a student with no credit history, consider applying for a student credit card designed for individuals new to credit. These often have lower credit limits and educational resources to help you build credit.

How can I improve my credit score as a student?

To improve your credit score, pay your credit card bill on time, keep your credit utilization low, avoid applying for multiple credit cards in a short time, and check your credit reports for errors.

How much is the security deposit for a secured credit card?

The security deposit for a secured credit card typically ranges from $200 to $2,000. The amount can vary based on the card and your creditworthiness. This deposit usually sets your credit limit.

What happens to the security deposit on a secured credit card?

The security deposit on a secured credit card is held by the credit card issuer as collateral. If you pay your bill on time and eventually close the account in good standing, or transition to an unsecured card, the deposit is refunded.

Are there any unsecured credit cards for students with bad credit?

Unsecured credit cards for students with bad credit are rare and often come with high interest rates and fees. It’s typically recommended to start with a secured card to rebuild credit and potentially move to an unsecured card later.

Will applying for a student credit card hurt my credit score?

Applying for a student credit card will trigger a hard inquiry, which may slightly lower your credit score temporarily. However, the benefits of responsible usage typically outweigh this small, short-term dip.

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