A college student can build credit by getting a credit card and using it responsibly. Establishing a track record of responsible debt management while young makes it easier to get approved later in life for a major purchase, such as a house or a car. These credit cards offer college students the most competitive annual percentage rates (APRs) and the best perks and money management tools.

BankAmericard Cash Rewards Credit Card for Students

Offered by Bank of America Corp. (NYSE: BAC), the BankAmericard Cash Rewards Credit Card for Students allows college students to build good credit without frittering money away on annual fees. Additionally, cardholders receive several opportunities to earn cash back on purchases they are making anyway, such as gas and groceries. Particularly for students living off-campus and commuting to class, taking advantage of these benefits puts much-needed money back in cardholders' pockets. The card offers 1% cash back on every purchase, 2% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs, and 3% on gas.

The BankAmericard provides tools to help college students build good credit and avoid developing poor money management habits. A fixed payment date each month and optional text alerts when approaching a credit limit or due date help cardholders avoid getting behind on payments. As of July 2016, customers who applied online for the BankAmericard received a $100 cash bonus after making $500 in purchases during the first 90 days.

As of July 2016, the BankAmericard Cash Rewards Credit Card for Students offered a variable APR from 13.24 to 23.24%.

Discover it Chrome for Students

The Discover it Chrome for Students credit card from Discover Financial Services (NYSE: DFS) carries no annual fee and offers a series of perks to give young customers the best chance of developing good borrowing habits. Discover customers can check their FICO score for free as many times as they want without signing up for credit monitoring or other fee-based services. Regular credit score monitoring helps cardholders stay on top of their bills and provides an early warning in case of identify theft or other financial fraud.

Flexible payment options and 24-hour customer service help keep late payments to a minimum, but if a cardholder slips up, Discover waives the late fee the first time it happens. The rewards are robust, such as 5% cash back for purchases in categories that rotate each quarter and include gas, restaurants, movies and Amazon.com purchases. Cardholders receive 1% cash back on all other purchases up to a certain amount for the quarter. Plus, at the end of the first year, Discover matches the total cash back earned. College students can earn an additional $20 cash back for the year simply by keeping their grades up. A GPA of 3.0 or higher qualifies a cardholder for this bonus.

As of July 2016, the Discover it Chrome for Students credit card carried a variable APR from 13.24 to 22.24%.

Citi ThankYou Preferred Card for College Students

The Citi ThankYou Preferred Card for College Students, offered by Citigroup Inc. (NYSE: C), is another zero-annual-fee credit card designed to ease college students into the world of responsible borrowing. Cardholders can choose the monthly payment date most convenient to them and manage their accounts from anywhere with a variety of online and mobile banking tools. Card security measures include $0 liability on unauthorized charges and refunds on goods purchased with the Citi card that are subsequently damaged or stolen.

Cardholders earn ThankYou points for spending money on the card. The first $500 spent within 90 days of opening an account results in 2,500 ThankYou points. Customers can redeem these points for merchandise, such as electronics or rock-climbing lessons. New cardholders receive 0% APR on purchases made the first seven months.

After the 0% introductory period, the Citi ThankYou Preferred Card for College Students carried a variable APR of 14.24 to 24.24%, as of July 2016.

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