The best credit cards for college students

Hamilton College mascotHamilton.eduStart building credit as a student.

Building strong credit early on is essential, and there’s no better time to start than college.

“It’s easier to establish credit in college rather than wait and try to do so afterwards,” says Jonathan Meaney, a certified financial planner and wealth manager at Carter Financial.

To help you navigate the credit card selection process, we consulted the experts at NerdWallet, a personal finance and credit card comparison site.

They singled out their favourite student credit cards — all with no annual fee and solid rewards programs.

These cards are ideal for first-time credit card users looking to establish credit, and you can continue using them even after graduating. Of course, you can always open a new card — if you’re looking for a higher credit limit or better rewards — but it doesn’t hurt to keep your student card around and active.

Citi ThankYou Preferred Credit Card for College Students

Citi

Annual fee: $US0

Purchase APR: 0% APR for seven months. After that, variable rate from 13.99% to 23.99%.

Why we like it:This is a great option for the social butterflies, as you can earn two 'ThankYou points' per dollar spent on dining and entertainment and one ThankYou point per dollar spent on all other purchases. ThankYou points can be redeemed for gift cards from retailers, transferred to Amazon's points program and frequent flier programs, or can be used to buy tickets from LiveNation.com.

A sign-up bonus will earn you 2,500 bonus ThankYou points after spending $US500 within your first three months.

Apply here.

Discover it for Students Credit Card

Discover

Annual fee: $US0

Purchase APR: 0% APR for six months. After that, variable rate from 12.99% to 21.99%.

Why we like it:This card offers a new, unique rewards program for students who get good grades: If your GPA is 3.0 or higher at the end of the year, you'll get $US20 cash back annually for up to five years. Additionally, you'll get 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants on up to $US1,000 in combined purchases each quarter, and 1% back on all other purchases.

This is also a great option for first time credit card users without full-time income, as Discover allows co-signers if you don't qualify for the card on your own.

Apply here.

BankAmericard Travel Rewards Credit Card for Students

Bank of America

Annual fee: $US0

Purchase APR: 0% APR for 12 months. After that, variable rate from 14.99% to 22.99%.

Why we like it:With its travel rewards and no foreign transaction fees, this is a great option for international students travelling to and from the US, or for students planning on studying abroad.

You will earn 1.5 rewards points for every $US1 you spend. Points don't expire and are redeemable for a statement credit to pay for travel-related costs, such as flights, hotels, cruises, rental cars, and baggage fees.

Apply here.

Wells Fargo Cash Back College Visa Credit Card

Wells Fargo

Annual fee: $US0

Purchase APR: 0% APR for 12 months on purchases. After that, variable rate from 11.15% to 21.15%.

Why we like it:The Wells Fargo cash back card will give you 1% back on all purchases. You can redeem your rewards in $US25 increments, and you have the option of depositing them straight to your savings or checking account, applying them as credit to qualifying products, or redeeming the rewards for travel.

Also, for your first six months as a cardmember, you'll get extra rewards: 3% back on gas, grocery, and drugstore purchases.

Apply here.

Journey Student Rewards Credit Card from Capital One

Capital One

Annual fee: $US0

Purchase APR: 19.8%.

Why we like it:This card rewards you for punctual payments: If you make your first five payments on time, you'll get an increased credit line, plus your rewards rate will go up from 1% cash back on every purchase to 1.25% back.

Apply here.

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