Edited by: Keri Stooksbury
& Kellie Jez
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Options for credit cards might not be at the top of mind for most college students. But the fact is that your college years are the perfect time to start building a strong credit history. Plus, college students have no shortage of expenses from tuition, books, meal plans, and more, presenting an excellent opportunity to earn some rewards for the money you have to spend anyway.
So whether you’re just getting your first credit card or have some credit history already, there are a few Chase credit cards that can be a perfect fit for a college student.
Before we begin, let’s take a look at some of the best reasons why it is a good idea for college students to get their first credit card.
Building great credit history is incredibly important, and there is no way around it. Later in life, when you finance a home or a new car, the lender will want to see that you have a strong credit score, and having one can even earn you a lower interest rate — saving you money in the long run.
Two of the most important factors of your credit score are your history of on-time payments and your length of credit history. Adding a credit card to your wallet during college and using it responsibly will allow you to begin building multiple years of good credit history.
Using a credit card and the spend tracking features that come along with it will allow you to see what exactly you’re spending your money on each month. This is incredibly helpful when building your budget, as it allows you to easily see what areas of your spending you can reasonably cut back on to save more money each month. Creating a budget and sticking to it will help you develop good spending habits for years to come.
One of the best things about credit cards is that they allow you to earn rewards for purchases you were planning to make anyway! Instead of paying with cash or a debit card and earning nothing for each purchase you make, credit cards can earn anywhere from 1% to 5% back on each purchase you make.
If you’re using your credit card responsibly and paying your bill on time and in full each month, these rewards are effectively free, and you can then redeem them for cash-back, free travel, and numerous other items.
Sometimes emergencies happen, and oftentimes a student’s budget doesn’t exactly allow for them to build up a sizeable rainy day fund. If you find yourself between a rock and a hard place and need access to funds, like for a health issue or emergency car repair, then having a credit card at your disposal can be a real lifesaver. Just be sure to pay off that emergency purchase as soon as you’re able to.
One benefit that is often overlooked is the consumer protections that come along with using credit cards. If you’re someone who usually uses cash and you lose your wallet, it is unlikely that you’ll ever receive that money back.
You might be thinking, “No problem, I’ll just use a debit card.” What if a fraudulent purchase is made using your debit card? When that happens, your bank deducts those funds from your account until they can verify that the transaction was fraudulent — which can take weeks at times. That is not a good situation to be in if you happen to need access to that money.
With a credit card, on the other hand, all of your money stays safe and secure in your bank account. Lose your credit card? No worries, just call up the bank and have them send you a new one. Fraudulent charge on your card? You won’t be held liable for any purchases you didn’t make, and none of your money is tied up in the interim.
The fact is that using a credit card helps keep you covered in the case of theft, loss, or fraud better than cash or a debit card ever could.
|Welcome Bonus and Annual Fee
|Benefits for College Students
|Chase Freedom Rise℠ Credit Card
|Chase Freedom Unlimited®
|Chase Freedom Flex℠
|Prime Visa card
The Chase Freedom Rise card is the perfect option for those starting their credit journey that also want to earn cash-back rewards.
If you’re just starting your credit journey and have never had a credit card, the Freedom Rise card is a great option from Chase to help you build credit. The card is very easy to be approved for since it is specifically designed for those with little to no credit history, but despite that, it still earns rewards!
The Freedom Rise card earns 1.5% cash-back on all purchases you make, 5% back on Lyft rides through March 2025, and includes 3 complimentary months of DashPass — DoorDash’s subscription service that provides free delivery and reduced service fees (you’ll then get DashPass at 50% off for the next 9 months).
That’s not all, though — this no-annual-fee card also gives you purchase protection, access to your credit score at any time through Chase Credit Journey, and a possible credit limit increase after 6 months.
Hot Tip: Our guide Understanding Your Finances: A Guide for College Students is an excellent resource to help you set the foundation for a successful financial future.
This all-purpose cash-back card offers great bonus categories, including bonus points for every purchase you make!
The Chase Freedom Unlimited® is easily one of the best cash-back credit cards on the market. There aren’t many no-annual-fee credit cards that offer multiple great bonus categories like 5% back on travel purchased through Chase, 3% back on dining and drugstore purchases, and 1.5% back on all other purchases.
When paired with other Chase cards in the Ultimate Rewards family, you can transfer that cash back into points if you wish – making it one of the most lucrative cards in your wallet.
The Freedom Unlimited card is another card that is relatively easy to get approved for, making it a great option for students who are looking to build their credit history while earning rewards for doing so.
With the Freedom Unlimited card, you’ll earn 5% cash-back on travel purchased through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal (helpful for trips back home or for Spring Break), 3% back on dining and drugstore purchases, 1.5% back on all other purchases, and 5% cash-back on Lyft rides through March 2025, giving you plenty of opportunities to rack up the cash-back on all of your expenses.
Even though there is no annual fee, the Freedom Unlimited card still provides purchase protection, extended warranty protection, and flexible redemption options.
The Freedom Flex card is an excellent no-annual-fee card that still earns big with 5% cash-back on travel and other bonus categories.
The Chase Freedom Flex℠ sure does pack quite a punch — especially for a no-annual-fee card.
The Freedom Flex card is an incredible option for those looking for a well-rounded cash-back card, or a powerful point-earner when paired with a premium card in the Ultimate Rewards family.
The Freedom Flex card is very similar to the Freedom Unlimited card with 1 key difference — it swaps the 1.5% back on all purchases for 5% cash-back on up to $1,500 in purchases on rotating quarterly bonus categories, and still offers 3% back on dining and drugstore purchases and 5% back on Lyft purchases through March 2025.
There is no annual fee charged, which is great for students on a budget, and it includes benefits like purchase protection, extended warranty protection, and 3 months free of DoorDash DashPass. But the benefit of the Freedom Flex card that college students are sure to love? Cell phone protection.
That’s right — when you pay your monthly cell phone bill with your Freedom Flex card you’re covered for theft or damage to your phone up to $800 per claim and $1,000 per year, with a $50 deductible per claim. So, for college students who are hard on their cell phones, the Freedom Flex card might be the perfect option.
Hot Tip: How can you get a credit card when you have no credit history? Our guide to the best credit cards for college students and recent graduates explores the benefits of having a credit card while you’re in college and offers card recommendations that are geared toward students and for after graduation.
A strong rewards card if you shop regularly at Amazon.com and Whole Foods.
We all do our fair share of shopping on Amazon, some of us more than others, and when we shop with Amazon, we obviously want to get the best deal possible. Now, with the Prime Visa Card, you can add a credit card to your wallet that will help you do just that.
You’ll not only earn rewards on all of your Amazon and Whole Foods purchases, but on 4 other bonus categories as well, along with flexible redemption options, all for no annual fee!
When you consider everything that the Prime Visa card offers, it is basically a no-brainer for those who frequently shop with Amazon. Let’s dig a little deeper to see just how much the card can save you.
College students do their fair share of purchasing items on Amazon, just like the rest of us. Books, supplies, things for your dorm, and maybe even a new computer — the purchases can rack up quickly. Luckily, the Amazon Prime Signature card can help make all of those purchases more rewarding.
While the Amazon Prime Signature card requires you to have an Amazon Prime membership (including Prime Student), those that do will earn 5% cash-back at Amazon.com, Whole Foods, and Chase Travel, plus 2% back at restaurants, gas stations, and local transit/commuting.
You can then use these cash-back rewards towards free or discounted items from Amazon or even as a statement credit to lower your credit card bill. Plus, the card offers purchase protection and extended warranty protection to help keep you covered should anything go awry with the items you purchase.
When you have little to no credit history, being added as an authorized user on your parent or guardian’s credit card can be a perfect fit. If you’re not already familiar, an authorized user is an additional cardholder on someone else’s credit card account. This means the authorized user gets a card of their own, but the primary cardholder is responsible for the monthly payment.
Becoming an authorized user will also allow you to improve your credit score, assuming the primary cardholder always pays their bill off each month. You may also get the opportunity to be a cardholder of a credit card that you might not otherwise have been able to get approved for, like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card or Chase Sapphire Reserve®.
Hot Tip: Our helpful guide to the benefits of adding authorized users to the Chase Sapphire Preferred card can help you determine if this practice is a good fit for your situation.
If you’re in college, there is no better time to start building a strong credit history. Eventually, you’ll need great credit when you go to apply for a home or auto loan, or even want to add a great travel rewards card to your wallet.
Getting approved for some of the top rewards credit cards can be a challenge when you’re just begging your credit journey. Fortunately, Chase offers a handful of solid cards that are less difficult to be approved for and offer great rewards so that you can save money while you build your credit.
The information regarding the Chase Freedom Flex℠ was independently collected by Upgraded Points and not provided nor reviewed by the issuer.
The information regarding the Amazon Rewards Visa Signature Credit Card was independently collected by Upgraded Points and not provided nor reviewed by the issuer.
The information regarding the Chase Freedom Rise℠ Credit Card was independently collected by Upgraded Points and not provided nor reviewed by the issuer.
While there are many great options, the best candidate is likely the Freedom Rise card thanks to its solid combination of rewards and ease of approval.
Yes, it is possible. It will certainly be easier to get approved for either card if you’ve already built some credit history prior. But if this is your very first credit card then you might be better off starting with the Freedom Rise card.
For students who are able to get approved for the Freedom Unlimited card, yes — it is a fantastic card option. From no annual fee to multiple bonus categories to flexible redemption options, any college student would benefit from the Freedom Unlimited card.
Yes, most college students can get approved for a student credit card with little to no income. Even if you don’t have a traditional job, many issuers will allow you to count financial aid, like scholarships and grant money as income on your credit card application.
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UP's Bonus Valuation
This bonus value is an estimated valuation calculated by UP after analyzing redemption options, transfer partners, award availability and how much UP would pay to buy these points.