guide to student credit cardsWhen it comes to personal finance, everyone has an opinion, so it’s no surprise that most parents have preconceived notions about student credit cards. Whether you think your student isn’t ready for a credit card or they shouldn’t have one until they have a full-time job, the fact of the matter is that college is the best time for a young adult to start using credit. Don’t believe us? Keep reading our guide to student credit cards to learn why now may be the perfect time for your college student to start building their credit history.

Why your student should get a credit card

1. Credit is essential for post-college life. Credit impacts nearly every part of an adult’s life, including a recent college graduate. From applying for an apartment to getting their first cell phone plan, credit will help determine whether they will be approved for something or how much they pay for a service. Since that’s the case, it makes sense to help your college student start their post-grad life off on the right foot by encouraging them to get a credit card now, especially since a number of college students are afraid of credit. In addition to encouraging them to open a card, you’ll also want to explain to your student how they should use the credit card responsibly — after all, there’s no point in them getting a credit card in college if they only use it to destroy their credit.

2. Student credit cards are designed for students. Although you may be hesitant to encourage your student to apply for a credit card because you worry they will either receive a credit limit that’s too high for them to manage or they’ll be unapproved for the card, you don’t have to stress as much with a student credit card. That’s because student credit cards are designed for students, which means these cards not only have more manageable credit limits, but they also are available to those with fair, limited or no credit history. In fact, many credit card issuers see college students as a better credit risk than a young adult not in college, so oftentimes student credit cards have more favorable terms and better perks than credit cards available to someone with fair or limited credit.

3. Your student will be covered in an emergency. Probably one of your worries as a parent is that your child will find themselves in a financial emergency and not be able to fund the emergency. While you might be thinking that you’ll send your student money if they ever need it, it’s not rational to think that you will be able to do this for every type of financial emergency. For example, if your student is driving home at 1 a.m. and they get a flat tire, they may not be able to reach you and, as a result, find themselves stranded. One of the easiest ways to make sure your student has an emergency plan is to encourage them to get a student credit card. Keep in mind, that just encouraging them to get a card isn’t enough, as it will do them no good in an emergency if the card is maxed out. Instead, once they get a credit card, help them learn how to use it responsibly by monitoring their use (do it with your child via phone or in person so it doesn’t look like you’re trying to spy on them) and making sure they understand that money spend on a credit card must be repaid. You may also want to provide them with real-life examples (if you have any) of how credit used irresponsibly can land them in debt.

4. Credit cards offer more fraud protection. Many people aren’t aware, but a credit card offers more fraud protection to a user than a debit card does. In fact, if your debit card is used for fraudulent transactions, you may be on the hook for the whole thing, depending on when you report it, as noted by the FTC. On the other hand, if your credit card is used to complete fraudulent transactions, the most you’ll have to cover is $50, according to the FTC. On top of that, most credit cards offer $0 fraud liability, which means the cardholder won’t have to pay for any of the fraudulent transactions. As you can see, a credit card is a better payment method than a debit card.

Best credit cards for your student

Since there are so many student credit cards on the market, it can be hard to know which cards are best. After all, you don’t want your student’s first experience with a credit card to be a terrible one. To help you find a good match, we’ve detailed the best student credit cards:

Discover it for Students

guide to student credit cardsKicking off our list is Discover it for Students. This card earns 5% cash back on purchases made in categories that rotate quarterly, like Amazon.com, restaurants, ground transportation and more (up to the quarterly maximum, then it’s 1%), as well as 1% on all other purchases. While your student will be required to enroll to earn the 5% cash back rewards, it’s a good way for them to earn cash back in a variety of categories, and the change in categories may be something they look forward to every quarter. Discover also offers a unique bonus that will automatically match all of the cash back your student has earned at the end of their first year. This means if they’ve earned $300 at the end of the year, Discover will match that to give them a total of $600 back! On top of that, your student will get an additional $20 cash back every school year (for up to the next 5 years) their GPA is 3.0 or higher. Discover it for Students has no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees, an ideal perk for those who plan to study abroad. The card also has no late fee on a first late payment and no penalty APR, which means your student’s APR won’t change if they pay late. What’s more, your student can ease into paying credit card payments with a 6-month 0% intro APR on purchases, and they can learn all about their credit since Discover offers a number of financial tools, including free FICO score on their monthly statements, the mobile app and their online account.

Discover it chrome for Students

guide to student credit cardsAnother top option for your student is Discover it chrome for Students, which offers the same financial tools as the aforementioned card. To start, Discover it chrome for Students earns 2% cash back at restaurants and gas stations up to $1,000 in combined purchases every quarter — no signups needed — and 1% cash back on all other purchases. Next, Discover will match all of the cash back your student earns in their first year as a cardholder, and they can get $20 cash back each school year (for the next 5 years) that their GPA is 3.0 or higher. On top of paying no annual fee, no foreign transaction fees, no late fee on their first late payment and no penalty APR, your student will get a 0% intro APR on purchases for 6 months and access to a free copy of their FICO score on their monthly statement as well as on the mobile app and online.

Journey Student Rewards from Capital One

guide to student credit cardsThe Journey Student Rewards from Capital One is a great option for students who may need some time to get used to having a credit card because it offers features that will help cardholders grow overtime. These features include the ability for cardholders to pick their monthly due date, which means you can help your student align their credit card bill with their paychecks. Cardholders also gain access to a higher credit line after making their first 5 monthly payments on time. Although this card’s rewards aren’t as impressive as those offered by the Discover cards above, they are still not bad, as cardholders will earn an unlimited 1% cash back on all their purchases. And, if they pay on time, they can boost their total cash back to 1.25% on all purchases for that month. In addition to paying no annual fee, the Journey Student Rewards from Capital One also has no foreign transaction fees, which is ideal if your student plans to study abroad at all during their college years.

Citi ThankYou Preferred Card for College Students

guide to student credit cardsPrefer your student use a card that earns points? If so, the Citi ThankYou Preferred Card for College Students (a NextAdvisor advertiser) may be the right choice. Kicking things off is an intro bonus opportunity of 2,500 points that your student can earn after spending $500 on purchases in the first 3 months of account opening. These 2,500 points can be redeemed for $25 in gift cards, electronics and more! In terms of ongoing rewards, your student will earn 2X points on dining out and entertainment and 1X points on all other purchases. There are no limits on the amounts of points cardholders can earn and these categories don’t change, so your student doesn’t have to worry about spending limits or enrolling to earn rewards. Rounding out the Citi ThankYou Preferred Card for College Students are no annual fee and a 7-month 0% intro APR on purchases.

Want to learn more about these cards? Visit our reviews of the best student credit cards to see how they compare to one another and help your student apply online.

Disclaimer: This content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuer. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. This content was accurate at the time of this post, but card terms and conditions may change at any time. This site may be compensated through the credit card issuer Affiliate Program.