If you're in college and want to get a credit card for emergencies or to start building your credit, a student credit card can be an excellent option. They're easier to qualify for if you don't have an established credit history, and you can get one even if you only have limited income from a part-time job. 

However, your application isn't guaranteed to be approved. Depending on your situation, you could be denied because of your credit history, student status, or for other reasons. If you're wondering, "Why am I getting denied for student credit cards?," here's what you should know. 

Key Takeaways

  • Student credit cards can be easier to get than other cards, but approval isn't guaranteed.
  • Card issuers review the information on your application and check your credit history and income.
  • You can be denied for a wide range of reasons, including poor credit or a lack of income.
  • If you're unable to get a student credit card, you may still be able to get a store credit card, secured card, or credit builder loan.

Why Am I Getting Denied for Student Credit Cards?

Card issuers typically have less rigorous borrower requirements for student credit cards. Because they're designed for young adults in college, you aren't expected to have a lengthy credit history or high income. However, denials still happen. Your application for a student credit card could be rejected for any of the following reasons: 

1. Poor Existing Credit

While you can get a student credit card with a limited credit history or no credit history at all, card issuers may deny you if you have black marks on your credit report. In particular, if you've defaulted or fallen behind on your payments for other forms of credit—such as your student loans, store credit cards, or an auto loan—you're unlikely to qualify for a student card. 

2. Lack of Income

You don't need to make tons of money, but card issuers will want you to show that you can afford to pay your credit card bills. 

Under current laws, you can qualify for a credit card before you turn 21 only if you can prove that you'll be able make the payments, either through your own income or by having a cosigner who applies with you and guarantees payments.

If you don't make enough money—and no parent or relative co-signs your application, you'll be rejected. 

3. Number of Credit Inquiries

When you apply for a student credit card, the card issuer will check your credit report. If your report lists a number of recent hard inquiries, the card issuer will view you as a riskier applicant and will likely reject your application. If you've had several hard credit inquiries lately and were rejected, you can wait a few months and apply again. (Note that if you request your credit report yourself, that's considered a soft inquiry and won't have any negative effect.)

4. Insufficient Proof of Enrollment

Most student credit cards require some proof that you're enrolled in college. You may need to provide a college acceptance letter or expected graduation date, or use a college email address. If you don't provide the necessary information, the card issuer will likely assume you aren't in school and deny your application. 

5. Identity Theft

Unfortunately, identity theft is incredibly common, even for young children. If thieves stole your information at some point, they could have used it to open credit accounts in your name and damaged your credit. Until you resolve the issue, you're unlikely to qualify for a new credit card. See below for how to check your credit report.

What to Do if You Get a Student Credit Card Rejection Letter

If you've been turned down for a student credit card, you can fix the problems as well as qualify for other forms of credit by following these three steps: 

1. Review the Notice

When an application for credit is denied, the issuer is required to notify you and explain why, typically in a letter called an adverse action notice. For example, the letter may specify that you have too many hard inquiries on your credit report or an insufficient income. You can use that information to improve your credit so you can qualify for a card later on. 

2. Check Your Credit Reports

It's a good idea to review your credit reports and make sure there are no errors or fraudulent accounts on them. You can get your credit reports for free at AnnualCreditReport.com

Normally, you're only entitled to one free credit report a year from each of the three major credit bureaus—Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Due to the pandemic, however, you can currently access your credit reports as often as weekly, at no cost.

If you find any mistakes on a credit report, you should dispute them with that credit bureau. The bureaus explain how to do that on their websites.

3. Explore Other Credit Options

If you can't qualify for a student credit card, you have some other options for obtaining credit and building a strong credit history: 

  • Secured cards: Secured credit cards are for people with no credit history or poor credit. They require a security deposit, but as you make payments, you can improve your credit and eventually qualify for a conventional, non-secured credit card. If you're shopping for a secured credit card, look for one that reports your account activity to all three major credit bureaus.
  • Store credit cards: These cards, which can only be used at a particular retailer, are usually easier to qualify for than other cards. If you make all of your payments on time, that will help you establish credit. However, store credit cards also tend to have very high interest rates and some other pitfalls.
  • Credit builder loans: Offered by some banks and credit unions, credit builder loans are small loans specifically designed to improve your credit. As you make payments on the loan, your payment history is reported to the credit bureaus, helping you build your credit.