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Should College Students Have Credit Cards?

Written by Candace Bowers
Updated: June 18, 2023
7 min read
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As college students enter a new phase of their lives, managing finances and building credit can sometimes come into question. A credit card can be beneficial for college students as it provides financial flexibility and helps build a positive credit history. Students can access a predetermined credit limit to meet their various needs, such as buying textbooks or covering unexpected expenses.

Students can establish a positive credit history by using a credit card responsibly and making timely payments, which is reported to credit bureaus. This history is crucial for future financial endeavors, like renting an apartment or obtaining a loan. Students should choose a reputable credit card issuer that offers favorable terms and consider the perks and rewards provided by different credit card companies.

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One major option for establishing credit is through credit cards, but the question remains: should college students have credit cards? In this Bold article, we'll explore the pros and cons of college students having credit cards, alternative options, and tips to make the best financial decision for their future.

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Reasons to Have a Student Credit Card

#1 Reward Programs

Credit cards often offer rewards programs and other benefits, such as cashback on purchases or airline miles. Using a credit card responsibly allows students to earn rewards and maximize their spending power. When choosing a credit card, it's important to consider the rewards and benefits offered and any fees or interest rates. Some credit cards may offer higher rewards in certain categories, such as dining or travel, while others may have no annual fees. Ultimately, the key to maximizing credit card rewards is to use the card responsibly and pay off the balance in full each month. This can help avoid accumulating interest charges and keep credit utilization low, which can help improve credit scores.

#2 Building Credit

Start your credit journey on the right foot by responsibly managing a credit card account as a college student. Building a positive credit history is crucial for future loan applications and financing opportunities, as it can impact your ability to rent an apartment or secure employment. Remember to make timely payments and maintain low balances to safeguard your credit score.

#3 Security and Convenience

Experience credit cards' security and convenience, especially for college students. With a predetermined credit limit, you can make essential purchases without carrying large amounts of cash, reducing the risk of loss or theft. Credit card transactions are often protected by fraud prevention measures, allowing you to dispute unauthorized charges. Plus, responsible credit card usage contributes to a positive credit history, benefiting you in the long run. Enjoy the flexibility of managing expenses with minimum monthly payments while having the option to pay off the balance gradually.

credit cards for student use

#4 Emergencies

Credit cards can provide a safety net in case of emergencies, such as medical expenses or unexpected vehicle repairs. Additionally, many credit cards offer security features, such as fraud protection and purchase protection, which can provide peace of mind when making purchases. It's important to remember, however, that credit cards should not be relied upon as a primary emergency fund. Remember that credit cards should not replace a primary emergency fund. It's essential to set aside savings for unforeseen expenses and rely only on credit cards for emergencies when necessary.

#5 Financial Responsibility

Opening a credit card account can also help teach financial responsibility. By understanding the importance of making timely payments and keeping balances low, students can learn essential skills that will help them manage their finances throughout their lives. One way to ensure responsible credit card use is to set and stick to a budget. This can help prevent overspending and accumulating debt. Additionally, monitoring credit card statements regularly can help catch any fraudulent activity and ensure that all charges are accurate.

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Best Credit Cards for College Students

Student Credit Cards

Student credit cards are specifically designed to provide young individuals with a convenient tool to start building their credit history responsibly. These cards offer a range of benefits tailored to meet the unique financial needs of students. By using a student credit card wisely, individuals can establish a positive credit report, which can greatly impact their financial future.

Students can demonstrate their creditworthiness to credit card companies with responsible usage, such as making timely payments and keeping balances low. This can pave the way for better terms and conditions when they apply for other credit products in the future.

Additionally, student credit cards often come with features like cashback rewards, low or no annual fees, and introductory APR offers, allowing students to manage their expenses effectively while enjoying the perks a credit card company offers.

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Secured Credit Cards

Secured credit cards require a cash deposit upfront and operate similarly to regular credit cards. This option can be a good choice for students with no credit history or a low credit score. The deposit acts as collateral and can pay off any outstanding balance if the cardholder cannot make payments. Some secured credit cards also offer rewards programs, which can be a great way for students to earn cash back or points for purchases they would make anyway.

Cons of College Students Having Credit Cards

While credit cards can be a convenient way for college students to make purchases, there are a few downsides to consider. Here are some additional details to be aware of:

  • Risk of overspending and accumulating debt.
  • Potentially high-interest rates and fees.
  • Potential for increasing overall student debt.
  • Potential credit score damage from mismanagement.

To mitigate these risks, students should budget wisely, pay off balances in full, explore alternative financing options, and use credit cards responsibly to protect their credit scores.


5 Key Tips for Using a Student Credit Card

As a college student, managing finances can be daunting, especially regarding credit cards. However, with proper understanding and planning, credit cards can be useful in building credit and managing expenses. Here are some tips to help college students make informed decisions about credit cards:

#1 Stick to a Budget

Creating a budget is essential in managing finances and avoiding credit card debt. Students should start by evaluating their income and expenses and setting realistic spending limits. Tracking expenses regularly is crucial to ensure they are not overspending and racking up debt. Several budgeting apps are available to help students track their expenses and monitor their spending habits. These apps can also send notifications when bills are due, helping students avoid late payments and penalty fees.

#2 Keep Track of Your Expenses

Keeping a diligent record of your credit card expenses is crucial to maintaining financial discipline and avoiding unnecessary debt. Regularly reviewing your transactions and monitoring your spending habits empowers you to make informed decisions about your finances, stay within budget, and ensure responsible credit card usage.

#3 Set up Autopay

Setting up autopay for your credit card payments is a convenient and reliable way to ensure timely payments and avoid late fees or penalties. By linking your credit card to your bank account, you can automate paying your bill each month, providing you with peace of mind and helping you build a positive credit history by consistently meeting your payment obligations.

#4 Pay Your Balance in Full and On Time

Students should pay off their balances in full each month to avoid credit card debt. This approach helps avoid interest charges and keeps credit utilization low, benefiting their credit score. Furthermore, consistently paying balances in full can establish a positive credit history, which proves advantageous when applying for loans or other forms of credit.

#5 Understand the Terms and Fees

Before signing up for a credit card, reading and understanding the terms and conditions is essential. Interest rates vary depending on the card type and the applicant's creditworthiness. Some credit cards come with annual fees, while others do not. Rewards programs can be appealing, but it is crucial to understand the requirements for earning and redeeming rewards.

While rewards programs may be appealing, grasping the requirements for earning and redeeming rewards is vital. Moreover, students should be well-informed about the consequences of late or missed payments, as well as exceeding credit limits. These actions can result in penalty fees, increased interest rates, and a negative impact on credit scores.

credit cards for students

Frequently Asked Questions About Credit Cards for College Students

Do most college students have credit cards?

Some students use credit cards to manage expenses and build credit, while others avoid them. Factors such as personal finances influence this decision.

What are the drawbacks of having a student credit card?

Student credit cards have drawbacks, including higher interest rates, limited credit, the potential for debt accumulation, and the temptation to overspend. Students must be aware of these potential pitfalls and take proactive measures to mitigate them. By using their credit cards responsibly, paying off balances in full monthly, and sticking to a budget, students can avoid accumulating excessive debt and build a strong credit history.

What is a credit card account balance?

A credit card account balance is the total amount of money owed on a credit card. It includes charges, fees, and interest. Monitoring and managing the balance is important to avoid missed payments, credit card debt, and penalties.

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Candace Bowers
Managing Editor

About Candace

As the Managing Editor at, Candace oversees the creation of valuable, well-crafted content and supports the Writing Team in delivering accurate and relevant information to assist students in navigating their academic and financial paths. She brings years of experience in writing and editing to the platform.

Candace graduated cum laude from Columbia University in the City of New York with a major in Creative Writing and a minor in English, focusing on nonfiction writing and Russian language studies. 


Candace has participated in a variety of writing workshops and seminars, including those focused on nonfiction and fiction writing, novel writing, technical writing, poetry, and editing. She has managed multiple blogs, overseeing their editorial work and SEO optimization, along with content creation, management, writing, and publications. Candace has also written multiple short stories, personal essays, and a children's book.

With a passion for uncovering opportunities and combating student debt, Candace is dedicated to informing students about financial support and resources. She possesses in-depth knowledge of private and federal student loans, institutional scholarships, grants, and fellowships. She leverages this knowledge alongside her editorial expertise and love for storytelling to create engaging and informative content that empowers students. 

Since joining the team in 2022, Candace has worked as a Content Writer and has since become a Managing Editor. She leads the Writing Team, guiding them to produce high-quality content that informs and empowers students. 

Her firsthand experience with the challenges of student debt gives her a unique perspective and a strong commitment to helping others navigate similar situations. This background fuels her dedication to identifying funding opportunities and offering valuable resources to students seeking financial aid and college insights.

Quote from Candace

“To attune co-creatively with our ever-transforming natural neighborhood, we must learn to re-learn. ”

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