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 certainly have no shortage of expenses from tuition, books, meal plans, and more, presenting a great opportunity to earn some rewards for the money you have to spend anyway.
So whether you’re just getting your first credit card, or you have some credit history already, there are few Chase credit cards that can be a perfect fit for a college student.
Why You Should Have a Credit Card in College
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.
Begin Building Credit History
Building great credit history is incredibly important and there is no way around it. Later in life, when you go to 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, that you use responsibly, will allow you to begin building multiple years of good credit history.
Creating Good Spending Habits
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 that 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.
To Earn Rewards
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, then these rewards are effectively free and you can then redeem them for cash-back, free travel, and numerous other items.
In Case of Emergencies
Sometimes emergencies happen, and oftentimes a student’s budget doesn’t exactly allow for them to build up a large 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 certain 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.
Bottom Line: Getting your first credit card will help you build a credit history and good spending habits, allow you to earn rewards, and help keep you covered in case of an emergency, theft, or loss.
Best Chase Credit Cards for College Students
Chase Freedom® Student Credit Card
|Credit Card||Benefits & Info|
|Chase Freedom® Student Credit Card|
- $50 Bonus after first purchase made within the first 3 months from account opening
- Earn 1% cash back on all purchases
- $20 Good Standing Rewards after each account anniversary for up to 5 years
- Earn a credit limit increase after making 5 monthly payments on time within 10 months from account opening when meeting credit criteria
- No minimum to redeem for cash back. Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open.
- Free credit score with Chase Credit Journey
- Annual Fee: $0
If you’re just getting started with your credit journey and have never had a credit card, the Freedom Student 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 students with little to no credit history, but despite that, it still earns rewards!
The Freedom Student card earns 1% 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, a credit limit increase after making 5 monthly payments on time within 10 months from account opening, and a $20 good standing reward on your account anniversary each year. That’s right, the Freedom Student card will actually pay you $20 each year for using your card responsibly!
Hot Tip: Our guide Understanding and Building Your Credit Score: The Guide for College Students is an excellent resource to help you set the foundation for a successful financial future.
Chase Freedom Unlimited®
The Freedom Unlimited card is another 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.
Chase Freedom Flex℠
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 towards students and for after graduation.
Alternative Chase Credit Cards for College Students
Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card
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 and Whole Foods, plus 2% back at restaurants, gas stations, and drugstores.
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.
Hot Tip: Don’t have an Amazon Prime account? You can still get the Amazon Rewards Visa Signature Card and earn 3% back at Amazon.com and Whole Foods, plus 2% back at restaurants, gas stations, and drugstores, all for no annual fee. Check out our article for everything you need to know about both Amazon Visa Signature credit cards.
Starbucks® Rewards Visa® Card
Many college students live off of Starbucks as a way to provide a much-needed energy boost when they’re pulling all-nighters to meet assignment deadlines, or cramming for exams. In fact, over 300 Starbucks locations are situated directly on college campuses.
If you’re not already familiar, the Starbucks loyalty program is based around earning stars that you can then use to pay for free items or upgrades, usually ranging anywhere from 25 to 400 stars to do so.
So how does the Starbucks Visa card coincide with the Starbucks loyalty program? For starters, cardholders earn 300 stars just for linking their Starbucks Visa card to the Starbucks mobile app. From there, you’ll earn 3 stars for every $1 spent at Starbucks, 1 star per $1 spent at grocery stores, on local transit and commuting, and on internet, cable, and phone services, and 1 star per $4 spent everywhere else.
Not enough? Well, through December of 2021, you will also receive 1 coupon for a complimentary handcrafted beverage up to $10 in value. So for the Starbucks-obsessed college student, the Starbucks Visa card might just be the perfect card for you.
Become an Authorized User on Any Chase Card
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® Student Credit Card, Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card, and Starbucks® Rewards Visa® Card was independently collected by Upgraded Points and not provided nor reviewed by the issuer.