Best Credit Cards for Students with Bad Credit in 2024

Credit Cards For Students With Bad Credit

Although 2009’s CARD Act make it more difficult for young people to obtain credit cards, as much as 70% of undergraduates and 96% of graduate students reportedly have their own credit cards.

Unfortunately, few classrooms teach the all-important personal finance skills necessary to wield those credit cards responsibly. And when you add five-figure student loans to a missed credit card payment (or three), it’s easy to see how students can end with up bad credit and low scores.

Thankfully, a number of credit cards for students with bad credit are available, and we have selected several of our top choices and included them in the list below. Improving your payment history through on-time payments on a new credit card can often help improve your credit, and there are a number of solid credit card options for students looking to rebuild their credit scores.

Subprime | Student | Secured | Upgradable | Credit Union | Prepaid

“Subprime” Credit Cards for Students with Bad Credit

While credit products designed for those with good credit scores typically receive the prime designation, those aimed at consumers with poor credit are generally called subprime products.

Along those lines, subprime credit cards are usually unsecured credit cards with extremely flexible credit requirements that charge higher fees in exchange for providing credit to consumers with low credit scores. Our expert-rated cards offer application responses in just minutes.

  • $400 credit limit doubles to $800! (Simply make your first 6 monthly minimum payments on time)
  • All credit types welcome to apply
  • Monthly reporting to the three major credit bureaus
  • Initial Credit Limit of $400.00 (Subject to available credit)
  • Fast and easy application process; results in seconds
  • Use your card at locations everywhere Mastercard® is accepted
  • Access to your Vantage 3.0 score from Experian (When you sign up for e-statements)
  • Checking Account Required
Our Rating


Application Length Interest Rate Reports Monthly Reputation Score
10 minutes 35.90% Fixed Yes 7.5/10
  • Earn 3% Cash Back Rewards* on Gas, Groceries and Utility Bill Payments
  • Earn 1% Cash Back Rewards* on all other eligible purchases
  • Up to $1,000 credit limit subject to credit approval
  • Prequalify** without affecting your credit score
  • No security deposit
  • Free access to your VantageScore 4.0 score from TransUnion®†
    *See Program Terms for important information about the cash back rewards program.
    ** Prequalify means that you authorize us to make a soft inquiry (that will not affect your credit) to create an offer. If you accept an offer a hard inquiry will be made. Final approval is not guaranteed if you do not meet all applicable criteria (including adequate proof of ability to repay). Income verification through access to your bank account information may be required.
    † Your credit score will be available in your online account starting 60 days after your account is opened. (Registration required.) The free VantageScore 4.0 credit score provided by TransUnion® is for educational purposes only. This score may not be used by The Bank of Missouri (the issuer of this card) or other creditors to make credit decisions.
Our Rating


Application Length Interest Rate Reports Monthly Reputation Score
7 minutes 29.99% or 36% Fixed Yes 8.0/10
  • Earn 1% cash back rewards^^ on payments made to your Revvi Credit Card
  • Perfect credit not required
  • $300 credit limit (subject to available credit)
  • Checking account required
  • Opportunity to request credit limit increase after twelve months, fee applies
  • *See Rates, Fees, Costs & Limitations for complete offer details
  • ^^See Revvi Rewards Programs Terms & Conditions for details
Our Rating


Application Length Interest Rate Reports Monthly Reputation Score
8 minutes 35.99%* Yes 8.0/10

As unpleasant as the high interest rates and fees charged by subprime credit cards can be, it’s those fees that help the issuer to make up for the extra risk that comes with lending to consumers with bad credit.

But while the processing, program, maintenance, or annual fees are typically unavoidable, you can often avoid the super high interest rates by paying off your purchases before the end of your billing cycle.

“Student Rewards” Credit Cards for Students

Although not strictly for people with poor credit, student-focused credit cards often have more flexible credit score requirements than other prime credit cards.

Student credit cards are particularly forgiving of thin credit profiles, making them fairly easy to obtain when you have a limited — or nonexistent — credit history. Plus, many offer low fees and quality purchase rewards, including many of our top picks.

4. Discover it® Student Cash Back

The Discover it® Student Cash Back has huge cash back rewards, offering 5% cash back for up to $1,5000 in qualifying bonus category purchases each quarter you activate.

Discover it® Student Cash Back

  • Earn 5% cash back rewards for purchases on up to $1,500 in qualifying category purchases each activated quarter
  • Earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases
  • Pay no annual fee

The Discover it® Student Cash Back card also comes with an annual $20 cash back bonus each year your GPA is 3.0 or higher.

5. Journey Student Credit Card from Capital One

The Journey Student Credit Card from Capital One provides unlimited 1% cash back on every purchase, with a boost to 1.25% total cash back each month you pay on time.

Journey Student Credit Card from Capital One

  • Earn unlimited 1% cash back on every purchase, boosted to 1.25% total cash back for on-time payments
  • Access a higher credit line after 5 on-time payments
  • Pay no annual fee

The Journey Student Credit Card also has a number of fringe benefits, including access to Capital One CreditWise so you can monitor your credit scores and profile.

6. Deserve Edu Mastercard®

The Deserve Edu Mastercard® is designed to help students build credit, but it also offers perks like cash back and credit toward Amazon Prime Student.

Deserve Edu Mastercard®

  • Earn unlimited 1% cash back on all eligible net purchases made with your card
  • Receive credit for Amazon Prime Student, up to $49 total
  • Pay no annual fee

The Deserve Edu Mastercard is specifically for students, and applicants may be required to provide enrollment verification to qualify for a card.

While some student credit cards, like the one above, will require you to be a student, not all student cards will require status as a student to qualify. Research the individual card ahead of time to find any limitations.

“Secured” Credit Cards for Students with Bad Credit

Credit cards that don’t require any sort of deposit are known as unsecured cards. Secured cards, on the other hand, require an initial cash deposit to open the account, and the deposit is kept in a secure account as collateral for the credit line.

Because they’re secured against default by the deposit, secured credit cards are often the easiest credit card to obtain with poor credit. In most cases, the size of your deposit will dictate the size of your credit line, with some of our top secured cards offering credit lines of up to $5,000.

  • No credit check to apply
  • Adjustable credit limit based on what you transfer from your Chime Checking account to the secured deposit account
  • No interest* or annual fees
  • Chime Checking Account and qualifying direct deposit of $200 or more required to apply. See official application, terms, and details link below.
  • The secured Chime Credit Builder Visa® Card is issued by The Bankcorp Bank, N.A. or Stride Bank, N.A., Members FDIC, pursuant to a license from Visa U.S.A. Inc. and may be used everywhere Visa credit cards are accepted.
  • *Out-of-network ATM withdrawal and OTC advance fees may apply. View The Bancorp agreement or Stride agreement for details; see back of card for issuer.
Our Rating


Application Length Interest Rate Reports Monthly Reputation Score
5 minutes N/A Yes 9.5
  • New feature! Earn up to 10% cash back* on everyday purchases
  • No credit check to apply. Zero credit risk to apply!
  • Looking to build or rebuild your credit? 2 out of 3 OpenSky cardholders increase their credit score by an average of 41 points in just 3 months
  • Get free monthly access to your FICO score in our mobile application
  • Build your credit history across 3 major credit reporting agencies: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion
  • Add to your mobile wallet and make purchases using Apple Pay, Samsung Pay and Google Pay
  • Fund your card with a low $200 refundable security deposit to get a $200 credit line
  • Apply in less than 5 minutes with our mobile first application
  • Choose the due date that fits your schedule with flexible payment dates
  • Fund your security deposit over 60 days with the option to make partial payments
  • Over 1.4 Million Cardholders Have Used OpenSky Secured Credit Card To Improve Their Credit
  • *See Rewards Terms and Conditions for more information
Our Rating


Application Length Interest Rate Reports Monthly Reputation Score
9 minutes 25.64% (variable) Yes 7.0/10
  • 1% Cash Back Rewards on payments
  • Choose your own credit line - $200 to $2000 – based on your security deposit
  • Build your credit score.¹ Reports to all 3 credit bureaus
  • No minimum credit score required for approval!
  • ¹ Cardholders who keep their balance low and pay their credit card bill on time every month typically do see an increase in their credit score.
Our Rating


Application Length Interest Rate Reports Monthly Reputation Score
9 minutes 19.24% (V) Yes 7.5/10

An important thing to point out is that secured credit cards are different from prepaid cards that you reload to reuse. While you do make a deposit to open a secured credit card account, that deposit simply acts as collateral — you can’t use it to pay your bill.

Indeed, your deposit is generally only used to cover your credit card debt if you default completely and the account is forcibly closed while carrying a balance. Since defaulted debts come with significant credit damage, however, it’s best to avoid this scenario.

“Upgradable” Credit Cards for Students with Bad Credit

Given that secured credit cards rarely provide any interest on your deposit, it makes little sense to keep your secured credit-building card much longer than it takes to reach a good credit score.

But while this will require canceling your card in some cases, other issuers provide a better solution: an upgrade. These issuers will check on your credit-building progress, then automatically upgrade you to an unsecured credit card (and refund your deposit) when your credit profile improves.

10. Discover it® Secured Card

The Discover it® Secured Card provides a credit limit equal to your deposit, with a minimum deposit of $200 required.

Discover it® Secured Card

  • Earn 2% cash back at restaurants & gas stations on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter
  • 24.24% APR (variable)
  • Pay no annual fee

Discover will evaluate your credit profile each month — starting at eight months — to determine if you have made sufficient progress for an upgrade to an unsecured Discover credit card.

11. SunTrust Secured Credit Card with Cash Rewards

The SunTrust Secured Credit Card with Cash Rewards offers unlimited cash back on every purchase, plus bonus cash back on up to $6,000 in combined category purchases each year.

SunTrust Secured Credit Card with Cash Rewards

  • Earn 2% cash back on up to $6,000 in combined gas and grocery purchases each year
  • Earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases
  • Pay a $32 annual fee

SunTrust will evaluate your SunTrust Secured Credit Card account after 12 to 18 months to determine if you are eligible for an upgrade to an unsecured SunTrust card.

12. Capital One® Secured Mastercard®

The Capital One Secured Mastercard doesn’t provide any purchase rewards, but it does offer a credit limit increase after you make your first five payment on time.

Capital One Secured Mastercard

  • Get an initial $200 credit line after making a security deposit of $49, $99, or $200, determined based on your creditworthiness
  • 24.99% APR (variable)
  • Pay no annual fee

New Capital One Secured Mastercard cardholders may be eligible for an upgrade to an unsecured Capital One credit card if Capital One finds your credit-building progress acceptable.

“Credit Union” Credit Cards for Students with Bad Credit

Unlike your typical bank, credit unions aren’t owned by investors and shareholders; they’re owned by the members. And it’s this unique business structure that allows credit unions to do things big banks can’t — like maintaining more flexible credit requirements than your average lender.

While you’ll generally need to be a member of a credit union to apply for its credit cards, simply being an area student is often enough to qualify at your local credit union. If you’re going for a credit union further afield, you may need to join an eligible organization to qualify.

13. Golden 1 Visa® Platinum Rewards for Students

The Golden 1 Visa® Platinum Rewards for Students has competitive purchase rewards that provide bonus rewards for gas, grocery, and restaurant purchases.

Golden 1 Visa® Platinum Rewards for Students

  • Earn 3% cash back on gas station, grocery store, and restaurant purchases
  • Earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases
  • Pay no annual fee

You can become a Golden 1 Credit Union member if you live or work in California, are related to a current member, belong to a select employee group, or are a member of the Financial Fitness Association (FFA membership costs $8 a year).

14. Altra Student Visa® Credit Card

The Altra Student Visa® Credit Card not only offers purchase rewards, but also has a range of other benefits like bonuses for responsible card use and the chance to have your bill paid by Altra Credit Union.

Altra Student Visa® Credit Card

  • Earn double rewards points on every dollar of purchases in the first 60 days
  • Receive a $20 bonus each year you use your card responsibly
  • Pay no annual fee

Rewards can be redeemed for cash back or merchandise, used as travel rewards, or (for eligible students) redeemed for an interest rate reduction on an Altra vehicle loan. To join Altra, you’ll need to be a qualifying resident, student in an eligible school, work for a member company, or join the Altra Foundation with a donation of $10 or more.

15. Patelco Progress Student Rewards Mastercard® Credit Card

The Progress Student Rewards Mastercard® Credit Card from Patelco Credit Union offers unlimited Patelco Rewards points that never expire so long as your account remains open and in good standing.

Progress Student Rewards Mastercard® Credit Card

  • Earn 2X Patelco Rewards points per dollar for school and grocery store purchases
  • Earn 1X points per dollar on all other purchases
  • Pay no annual fee

To become a Patelco Credit Union member, you’ll need to live, work, attend school, or worship in an eligible city or county, be employed by a Patelco sponsor company, or be enrolled or an alumni at the University of California Berkeley, San Francisco State University, or California State University East Bay.

In addition to the membership requirement, most credit unions will require you to have an in-house checking or savings account in good standing to be eligible for a credit card.

“Prepaid” Credit Cards for Students with Bad Credit

In some cases, you may be more interested in simply having a way to make digital purchases than you are in obtaining a line of credit to rebuild. Prepaid cards that operate on a credit card processing network — e.g., Visa, Mastercard, etc. — can be used to make purchases anywhere the network is accepted.

Unlike credit cards, however, prepaid cards are loaded by the user with funds, and they must be reloaded to make purchases once those funds are used. Our expert-rated options all accept direct deposits and bank transfers for loading.

  • Move money from your PayPal account to fund your prepaid card account.
  • Earn cash back and personalized offers, just for using your card.
  • With Direct Deposit, you can get paid faster than a paper check.
  • Card issued by The Bancorp Bank, Member FDIC. Card may be used everywhere Debit Mastercard is accepted.
  • Click PayPal Prepaid Mastercard® for additional features & program details, and to request a Card.
Our Rating


Application Length Interest Rate Reports Monthly Reputation Score
5 minutes N/A (Prepaid) No 9.5/10
  • With Direct Deposit, you can get paid faster than a paper check.
  • No late fees or interest charges because this is not a credit card.
  • Use the Netspend Mobile App to manage your Card Account on the go and enroll to get text messages or email alerts (Message & data rates may apply).
  • Card use is subject to activation and ID verification. Terms and Costs apply.
  • Card issued by Pathward N.A., Member FDIC. Card may be used everywhere Visa debit card is accepted.
  • See additional NetSpend® Prepaid Visa® details.
Our Rating


Application Length Interest Rate Reports Monthly Reputation Score
5 minutes N/A (Prepaid) No 7.5/10
  • Greenlight is a debit card for kids, managed by parents
  • Parents set flexible controls and receive real-time alerts while kids monitor their balances, set goals, and learn how to manage money
  • Feel secure knowing Greenlight blocks unsafe spending categories
  • Receive Mastercard’s Zero Liability Protection
  • Upload a photo of your choice to create a unique custom card
  • Debit cards are FDIC-insured up to $250,000
  • Easily turn your Greenlight card on or off and receive real-time spending notifications
Our Rating


Application Length Interest Rate Reports Monthly Reputation Score
5 minutes N/A (Prepaid) No 7.0/10.0

Given that prepaid cards aren’t actually associated with a line of credit, your credit profile has no impact on whether you can open a prepaid card account. So long as you load the card and pay any monthly or processing fees, you can get use a prepaid card for purchases.

At the same time, because prepaid cards aren’t associated with your credit profile, they can’t be used to establish or build your credit history or scores. So, if you’re trying to improve your credit profile, you’ll need an actual credit card instead (or in addition to) a prepaid one.

Clean Up Your Credit Before Graduation

College is about learning — and not just in the classroom. With many of us on our own for perhaps the first time, college can also be a time of important life lessons, not the least of which is how to build (and maintain) good credit.

If you find yourself with bad credit while still a student, getting your credit back on track can be a challenge, especially while also juggling school and work. But it isn’t an impossible task.

Improving your payment history with a new credit card — and always, always paying all of your debts on time — can go a long way toward better credit. You should also work to maintain low credit card balances and be sparing with new credit card applications. Paying down existing debt can also improve your credit score, particularly if you have high utilization.

There is a lot of great advice out there on how to best improve your credit score, but the specific methods you choose will depend on your individual situation. In the end, it all comes down to hard work, diligence — and time. With the right credit-building behaviors, you can whip your credit score back into shape, ensuring you start off your post-student life on the best financial foot possible.

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