Unlike most regular credit cards, student credit cards are available to college students. They tend to have less stringent eligibility requirements, so you can qualify even if you don’t have an established credit history. 

If you aren't a student but have a limited credit history and have struggled to get approved for a credit card, you may be wondering if you can get a student credit card. The answer is: yes, in some cases. While there are no student card age maximums, there are age minimums, along with other restrictions that may limit your ability to qualify for a student credit card. Here is what you need to know.

Key Takeaways

  • Student credit cards allow you access to credit while you're in college.
  • With a student card, you can start to build your credit score for the future.
  • Most companies require you to be currently enrolled in college to qualify for a student credit card.
  • Part-time college students are typically eligible for student cards.
  • There isn't an upper age limit for student credit cards, but there is a minimum age requirement.

How Do Student Credit Cards Work? 

Credit card companies created student cards specifically for college students, young adults in school who are less likely to have credit histories. Student credit cards are not only convenient to have, but they can help you build a good credit score for the future. 

They're also an appealing option because, unlike secured credit cards, they don't require you to come up with a security deposit. 

Student cards work just like traditional cards. The card issuer will give you a credit limit, and you can charge up to that limit to purchase items or pay for services. At the end of your statement billing period, you're required to make at least the minimum payment due. If you pay only the minimum, and don't pay the entire statement balance in full each month, you'll have to pay interest on your outstanding balance. Student cards can carry relatively high interest rates, often exceeding 20%.

Many credit card companies, including Bank of America and Discover, offer rewards for using their student credit cards. You can earn cash back, points, or airline miles when you use your card to buy textbooks, a new computer, gas for your car, or anything else. 

Who Is Eligible for Student Credit Cards? 

With most student credit cards, you must be currently enrolled at a two-year or four-year college or university. College freshman, sophomores, juniors, seniors, and graduate students are eligible for student credit cards as long as they meet the card issuer's other requirements. 

While card issuers' rules vary, applicants generally must meet certain criteria surrounding age, citizenship, and enrollment. For example, Discover uses the following criteria:

  • You must be at least 18 or the age of majority in your state
  • You must have a permanent U.S. address
  • You must have a Social Security number
  • You must show proof of your enrollment, such as the name of your school, expected graduation date, or college acceptance letter

Student Credit Card Enrollment Exceptions

While most companies that issue student credit cards require applicants to be current college students, there are some exceptions. 

For example, the Journey Student Credit Card from Capital One is marketed to college students, but there is no requirement that you be enrolled in school, nor do you have to provide any information about your college. As long as you meet the card's age and income requirements, you can qualify.

Do I Have to Be a Full-Time College Student to Qualify for a Student Card? 

While most student credit card issuers require you to be currently enrolled in college, most don't require that you be enrolled full-time. If you're a part-time college student, you can still qualify for a card as long as you can provide an expected graduation date or other proof of enrollment. 

Student Credit Card Alternatives

If you aren't eligible for a student credit card because you're no longer in college, or for other reasons, there are alternative ways to build your credit. 

  • Secured credit cards. With a secured credit card, you must pay a security deposit that acts as your credit limit. The card issuer will report your account activity to the major credit bureaus, so as long as you make your payments on time and use your card responsibly, you'll be building a good credit history. After a period of time, you should be eligible for a regular, non-secured card. 
  • Cards for bad credit. Some credit cards are designed for people with poor credit or no credit. While you can get approved with bad credit, be aware that these cards often charge sky-high interest rates and fees. 
  • Retail cards. Retail credit cards, or store cards, which can be used only at a particular retailer, are generally easier to obtain than typical credit cards. While they can have high interest rates, you can use them for necessary purchases and pay off the balance in full each month to avoid paying interest. Over time, using a retail card can help improve your credit so that you qualify for other types of cards.