The Best Credit Cards for Students

Updated: 21st August, 2019.

Students typically have little or no credit history, and so securing a credit card can be difficult. The MyWalletHero team has looked for quality card offers that allow students to get a start building their credit profile… and healthy credit habits!

Credit card offers from our affiliate partners appear first and are ordered from highest rating to lowest, followed by other top-rated offers. You can read more about our ratings and page sort here. Offers from affiliate partners are marked with *

While there are cards aimed directly at students, credit cards offered to those people with low or no credit may also be an option for some students. Here are MyWalletHero’s picks for the best credit cards for students:

Great for: Getting cash back while building credit
5 stars question mark
Aqua Classic

Building your credit is much sweeter when you’re getting cashback rewards at the same time. The aqua reward Cashback Credit Card can help those looking to build or rebuild their credit, and at the same time, cardholders earn 0.5% cashback on their spending (up to £100 per year). There’s also no fee on spending abroad, a very nice feature if you like to travel.

Read full review >

CREDIT RATING req:

  • Poor/No credit
  • Fair/Average
  • Good/Excellent

HIGHLIGHTS

  • 0.5% cash back on purchases up to £100 per year
  • Initial credit limit £250-£1,200
  • Could help build or rebuild credit
  • No foreign transaction fees

REPRESENTATIVE EXAMPLE

Interest rate for purchases 34.95% p.a. variable
Representative 34.9% APR variable
If you borrowed (over 12 months) £1,200

what we like

  • 0.5% cash back on purchases up to £100 per year
  • Initial credit limit £250-£1,200
  • Could help build or rebuild credit
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • ANNUAL FEE:

    £0
  • REPRESENTATIVE APR:

    34.9%
  • INTRO OFFER:

    N/A

KEY SCORES:

  • 5/5 Perks
  • 5/5Fees
  • 1/5APR

HIGHLIGHTS

  • 0.5% cash back on purchases up to £100 per year
  • Initial credit limit £250-£1,200
  • Could help build or rebuild credit
  • No foreign transaction fees

REPRESENTATIVE EXAMPLE

Interest rate for purchases 34.95% p.a. variable
Representative 34.9% APR variable
If you borrowed (over 12 months) £1,200
Great for: Lowering your APR while building credit
5 stars question mark

The aqua advance Card includes many of the features that make other aqua cards great for those looking to build or re-build credit. As an added bonus though, users of the Advance Card that stay on time with their payments will see their APR go down by 5% per year. Over time, this could bring the APR down to 19.9%.

Read full review >

CREDIT RATING req:

  • Poor/No credit
  • Fair/Average
  • Good/Excellent

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Stay on time with payments and APR reduces 5% per year
  • Keeping on time with payments could reduce APR to 19.9%
  • Free aqua credit checker
  • No annual fee

REPRESENTATIVE EXAMPLE

Interest rate for purchases 34.95% p.a. variable
Representative rate 34.9% APR variable
Based on borrowing £1,200 over 12 months

what we like

  • Stay on time with payments and APR reduces 5% per year
  • Keeping on time with payments could reduce APR to 19.9%
  • Free aqua credit checker
  • No annual fee
  • ANNUAL FEE:

    £0
  • REPRESENTATIVE APR:

    34.9%
  • INTRO OFFER:

    N/A

KEY SCORES:

  • 2/5 Perks
  • 5/5Fees
  • 1/5APR

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Stay on time with payments and APR reduces 5% per year
  • Keeping on time with payments could reduce APR to 19.9%
  • Free aqua credit checker
  • No annual fee

REPRESENTATIVE EXAMPLE

Interest rate for purchases 34.95% p.a. variable
Representative rate 34.9% APR variable
Based on borrowing £1,200 over 12 months
Great for: Building credit
3.5 stars question mark
HSBC Student Credit Card

The HSBC Student Card offers students and apprentices a no-frills credit card that could help get them started on building their credit rating. With a very competitive APR and manageable credit limit, the card also offers cashback with selected Visa partners. To be eligible, you must have a HSBC student bank account and be enrolled in a qualifying course, or have proof of a confirmed apprenticeship.

Read full review >

CREDIT RATING req:

  • Poor/No credit
  • Fair/Average
  • Good/Excellent

HIGHLIGHTS

  • No annual fee
  • Manageable credit limit
  • Earn cashback with Visa offers

REPRESENTATIVE EXAMPLE

Representative rate 18.9% APR (variable)
Purchase rate 18.9% p.a. (variable)
Based on an assumed credit limit of £500

what we like

  • No annual fee
  • Manageable credit limit
  • Earn cashback with Visa offers
  • ANNUAL FEE:

    £0
  • REPRESENTATIVE APR:

    18.9%
  • INTRO OFFER:

    Earn cashback from your favourite shopping brands with Visa offers

KEY SCORES:

  • 2/5 Perks
  • 3/5Fees
  • 4/5APR

HIGHLIGHTS

  • No annual fee
  • Manageable credit limit
  • Earn cashback with Visa offers

REPRESENTATIVE EXAMPLE

Representative rate 18.9% APR (variable)
Purchase rate 18.9% p.a. (variable)
Based on an assumed credit limit of £500
Great for: Building credit and traveling
4 stars question mark

It can be tough to find a great card offer when you’re building or re-building your credit. The Tandem Journey Credit Card may be worth a look, as it offers more than most. For starters, the APR on the Journey card is very attractive compared to the competition. There’s no annual fee on the card, and, even better, you’ll pay no extra fees on foreign spending if you travel. And, of course, responsible use of the card could lead to improvements in your credit score.

Read full review >

CREDIT RATING req:

  • Poor/No credit
  • Fair/Average
  • Good/Excellent

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Potential to build credit over time
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • No annual fee

REPRESENTATIVE EXAMPLE

Annual purchase rate (variable) 24.9%
Representative APR (variable) 24.9%
Based on an assumed credit limit of £1,200

You may be offered a different credit limit or APR to that shown here as it depends on your individual circumstances. Subject to eligibility and credit assessment.

what we like

  • Potential to build credit over time
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • No annual fee
  • ANNUAL FEE:

    £0
  • REPRESENTATIVE APR:

    24.9%
  • INTRO OFFER:

    N/A

KEY SCORES:

  • 1/5 Perks
  • 5/5Fees
  • 1/5APR

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Potential to build credit over time
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • No annual fee

REPRESENTATIVE EXAMPLE

Annual purchase rate (variable) 24.9%
Representative APR (variable) 24.9%
Based on an assumed credit limit of £1,200

You may be offered a different credit limit or APR to that shown here as it depends on your individual circumstances. Subject to eligibility and credit assessment.

Great for: Building and rebuilding credit
3.5 stars question mark

If you are looking for a credit rebuilder card that offers you more than just access to credit, the Tesco Bank Foundation Card does just that. It offers free access to Noddle Premium services and Tesco Clubcard benefits, as well as a comparatively low APR and manageable credit limits.

Read full review >

CREDIT RATING req:

  • Poor/No credit
  • Fair/Average
  • Good/Excellent

HIGHLIGHTS

  • No annual fee
  • Free service to help manage credit rating
  • Collect Tesco Clubcard points

REPRESENTATIVE EXAMPLE

Representative rate 27.5% APR (variable)
Interest rate on purchases 27.5% p.a. (variable)
Assumed credit limit £1,200

what we like

  • No annual fee
  • Free service to help manage credit rating
  • Collect Tesco Clubcard points
  • ANNUAL FEE:

    £0
  • REPRESENTATIVE APR:

    27.5%
  • INTRO OFFER:

    N/A

KEY SCORES:

  • 2/5 Perks
  • 3/5Fees
  • 1/5APR

HIGHLIGHTS

  • No annual fee
  • Free service to help manage credit rating
  • Collect Tesco Clubcard points

REPRESENTATIVE EXAMPLE

Representative rate 27.5% APR (variable)
Interest rate on purchases 27.5% p.a. (variable)
Assumed credit limit £1,200
Great for: Building credit
3 stars question mark
NatWest Student Credit Card

The NatWest Student Credit Card offers students a chance to start building their credit rating. With a very competitive APR and manageable credit limit, the Mastercard credit card also has no annual fee. To be eligible, you must have a NatWest student current account, be 18+, a UK resident and be enrolled in a university or college course.

Read full review >

CREDIT RATING req:

  • Poor/No credit
  • Fair/Average
  • Good/Excellent

HIGHLIGHTS

  • No annual fee
  • Manageable credit limit
  • Chance to establish good credit practices

REPRESENTATIVE EXAMPLE

Representative rate 18.9% APR (variable)
Purchase rate 18.9% p.a. (variable)
Assumed credit limit £500

what we like

  • No annual fee
  • Manageable credit limit
  • Chance to establish good credit practices
  • ANNUAL FEE:

    £0
  • REPRESENTATIVE APR:

    18.9%
  • INTRO OFFER:

KEY SCORES:

  • 1/5 Perks
  • 5/5Fees
  • 3/5APR

HIGHLIGHTS

  • No annual fee
  • Manageable credit limit
  • Chance to establish good credit practices

REPRESENTATIVE EXAMPLE

Representative rate 18.9% APR (variable)
Purchase rate 18.9% p.a. (variable)
Assumed credit limit £500
Great for: Building credit
3 stars question mark

The Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) offers eligible students a way to start and build a credit profile for future borrowing needs. This could be beneficial when you finish your studies and head into working life. With a competitive APR and manageable credit limit, the card also has no annual fee. To be eligible, you must have an RBS student current account, be 18+, a UK resident, and be enrolled in a university or college course.

Read full review >

CREDIT RATING req:

  • Poor/No credit
  • Fair/Average
  • Good/Excellent

HIGHLIGHTS

  • No annual fee
  • Manageable credit limit
  • Chance to establish good credit practices

REPRESENTATIVE EXAMPLE

Representative rate 18.9% APR (variable)
Purchase rate 18.9% p.a. (variable)
Assumed credit limit £500

what we like

  • No annual fee
  • Manageable credit limit
  • Chance to establish good credit practices
  • ANNUAL FEE:

    £0
  • REPRESENTATIVE APR:

    18.9%
  • INTRO OFFER:

KEY SCORES:

  • 1/5 Perks
  • 5/5Fees
  • 3/5APR

HIGHLIGHTS

  • No annual fee
  • Manageable credit limit
  • Chance to establish good credit practices

REPRESENTATIVE EXAMPLE

Representative rate 18.9% APR (variable)
Purchase rate 18.9% p.a. (variable)
Assumed credit limit £500
Great for: Building credit
3 stars question mark
Aqua Classic

The aqua Classic credit card is one of the more straightforward credit cards for bad credit, open to those with a bad credit history, money problems in the past or on low incomes, as well as the self-employed. Maximum initial credit limit is £1,200, although if you handle your card sensibly aqua may increase this pretty quickly. Extra features can also help you understand your credit score, and make every monthly payment.

Read full review >

CREDIT RATING req:

  • Poor/No credit
  • Fair/Average
  • Good/Excellent

HIGHLIGHTS

  • No annual fee
  • Text reminders to remind on payments

REPRESENTATIVE EXAMPLE

Your interest rate for purchases is 35.95% p.a. variable
With a representative 35.9% APR variable
If you borrowed (over 12 months) £1,200

what we like

  • No annual fee
  • Text reminders to remind on payments
  • ANNUAL FEE:

    £0
  • REPRESENTATIVE APR:

    35.9%
  • INTRO OFFER:

    N/A

KEY SCORES:

  • 1/5 Perks
  • 5/5Fees
  • 3/5APR

HIGHLIGHTS

  • No annual fee
  • Text reminders to remind on payments

REPRESENTATIVE EXAMPLE

Your interest rate for purchases is 35.95% p.a. variable
With a representative 35.9% APR variable
If you borrowed (over 12 months) £1,200
Great for: Building credit
3 stars question mark

TSB offers a student Mastercard to eligible candidates to help them deal with unexpected expenses and start on building their credit rating. With a competitive APR and slightly higher credit limit than its competitors, the card periodically offers cashback deals as an incentive. To be eligible for the card, you must have had a TSB student current account for at least three months and be enrolled in a college or university course.

Read full review >

CREDIT RATING req:

  • Poor/No credit
  • Fair/Average
  • Good/Excellent

HIGHLIGHTS

  • No annual fee
  • Potential for higher credit limit
  • Chance to establish good credit practices

REPRESENTATIVE EXAMPLE

Representative rate 19.9% APR (variable)
Purchase rate 19.95% p.a. (variable)
Based on borrowing £1,000

what we like

  • No annual fee
  • Potential for higher credit limit
  • Chance to establish good credit practices
  • ANNUAL FEE:

    £0
  • REPRESENTATIVE APR:

    19.9%
  • INTRO OFFER:

    N/A

KEY SCORES:

  • 1/5 Perks
  • 5/5Fees
  • 1/5APR

HIGHLIGHTS

  • No annual fee
  • Potential for higher credit limit
  • Chance to establish good credit practices

REPRESENTATIVE EXAMPLE

Representative rate 19.9% APR (variable)
Purchase rate 19.95% p.a. (variable)
Based on borrowing £1,000
Great for: Just starting to build or re-build credit
2 stars question mark

Let’s face it, when you’re just starting to build or re-build credit, getting approved for a credit card can be tough. The Marbles Credit Card doesn’t come with a lot of bells and whistles. And the APRs start high and can be higher for some applicants. But, it can be an opportunity to show good credit behaviour and build to other cards.

Read full review >

CREDIT RATING req:

  • Poor/No credit
  • Fair/Average
  • Good/Excellent

HIGHLIGHTS

  • No annual fee
  • Online eligibility checker
  • Spending alerts to help avoid missteps

REPRESENTATIVE EXAMPLE

Representative rate 34.9% APR (variable)

The APR applicable to your account will depend on assessment of your application.

what we like

  • No annual fee
  • Online eligibility checker
  • Spending alerts to help avoid missteps
  • ANNUAL FEE:

    £0
  • REPRESENTATIVE APR:

    34.9%
  • INTRO OFFER:

    N/A

KEY SCORES:

  • 1/5 Perks
  • 3/5Fees
  • 1/5APR

HIGHLIGHTS

  • No annual fee
  • Online eligibility checker
  • Spending alerts to help avoid missteps

REPRESENTATIVE EXAMPLE

Representative rate 34.9% APR (variable)

The APR applicable to your account will depend on assessment of your application.


Student credit cards at a glance

A student credit card can be a great way to cover a shortfall when you’re at university, but more importantly, it could help you start to build your credit profile. A student credit card can be an entry point into the credit market, and can help teach you how to use credit properly. At the same time, it can also make you aware of the traps and pitfalls of accessing credit.

How we picked the student credit card winners

We’re here to help you make the most of your money and sidestep any financial obstacles in your way. As we review credit cards, we keep this in mind and look for cards that offer the best combination of as many benefits as possible. Specifically, our ratings reflect:

  • Likelihood of acceptance – A list of great credit cards is of no use to you if you’re unlikely to be approved for any of them. If you know that you already have a great credit score, you may want to consider our full list of top credit cards. However, as most students don’t have much, if any, credit history, we focused on those cards that are more likely to accept your application.
  • Annual Fees – When there’s an annual fee, it comes directly out of your pocket. If there are extra features in exchange for that fee, great. Otherwise, our favourite annual fee is £0.
  • Representative APRs – You won’t necessarily get offered the representative APR when you apply (issuers only have to provide that to 51% of applicants). But we prefer cards that offer a lower standard APR. A lower interest rate means lower cost to you if you end up carrying a balance.
  • Rewards and sign-up bonuses – You won’t find a rich array of rewards, cashback or sign-up bonuses for cards aimed at students or people with low credit. But a few do, so we awarded extra points for those nice add-ons.
  • No foreign transaction fees – Student life can be richer (and more fun) by having the chance to travel abroad. Unfortunately, most credit card companies charge fees of up to 3% for using your card to pay for purchases in a currency other than sterling. We like cards that waive this fee and make it easier and cheaper for you to pay while abroad.
  • Tools and credit-card features– Whether it’s apps to help you track your spending, access to your credit report, or access to travel or entertainment discounts, we gave extra points for cards that up their game with extra features.

Why you can trust us

The Motley Fool has been a trusted name in the UK for more than 20 years for helping people from all walks of life improve their financial lives. As a Motley Fool brand, MyWalletHero aims to extend The Motley Fool’s mission to help even more consumers all over the UK. We’ve analysed thousands of individual credit card data points to help our readers find the cards that will make their financial lives easier and more rewarding. We may no longer be students, but we certainly remember the financial challenges that can come with student life. A credit card won’t do your classwork for you, but (if used properly!) it could help ease financial stress and allow you to focus on your studies and enjoying your university experience!

Challenges of gaining credit as a student

Getting access to credit can be challenging for students. Most students are in their teens or early 20s and often go to university straight from high school. They may be studying full time, and not in paid employment, or else they may only work a few casual hours when time permits. Given that they may not have any history of borrowing, this means they are likely to have a low credit score… or none at all.

Lenders such as banks and credit card providers use a person’s credit score to work out whether they want that individual as a customer or not. Having no credit history or a low credit score means you may not be offered a card, or may only be offered one with a dizzingly high rate of interest.

Making matters worse, it can hurt your credit each time you apply for a credit card and are rejected. That can make it incrementally harder to get approved for the next card you apply for. So it pays off to do a little research ahead of time to identify not only a card that meets your needs, but is likely to accept you.

About student credit cards

Credit cards for university students generally don’t differ very much from each other. They typically require less income or credit history than traditional credit cards, and the student usually needs to already have a current account with the financial institution that offers the card, or open a new one when they apply for the card. Student credit cards usually have a low credit limit so that the user can’t get into too much debt. Typically, this limit will be between £250 and £1,000.

Most student credit cards have APRs that are middle of the road. This is a positive, since cards that people with low (or no) credit scores qualify for typically have very high rates. That said, you may end up with a higher rate if you are deemed a higher risk. To give yourself the best possible chance to get the representative APR it is important to show responsible financial behaviour before applying for a credit card. (For reference, the annual percentage rate (APR) is the interest charged for carrying a balance on a credit card.)

One benefit of using a student credit card is that it offers the user the ability to build a banking relationship and start to build or improve their credit rating. While student credit cards don’t typically offer the best rewards or the highest credit limits, they can be upgraded to better cards at a later time when your credit score is higher.

How to pick your student credit card

Most of the student credit cards that we looked at are quite similar. Here are a few points to consider when comparing and choosing the right student card for you.

No annual fees – Most have no annual fees. This is also why there are limited extra features (cashback offers, balance transfers etc) offered for student cards. If the card does have an annual fee, check what extra features are available to ensure it is worthwhile.

Competitive APR – Check that the representative APR is competitive with the other cards. As you will most likely have little to no credit history, some financial institutions could offer you higher than the representative APR.

Credit Limit – Most student cards have a limit of between £250 and £1,000. And remember, just because a lender offers a higher limit straight away, doesn’t mean you should take it.

Overseas Travel – Does the card allow you to use it overseas without charging excessive fees? If you do travel, check out the fees that come with it. A 3% fee (or 2.99%) is a fairly typical non-sterling transaction fee. Of course, we prefer cards that waive that fee entirely.

Future ambitions – If you have ambitions of working internationally, it may be wise to use a financial institution that has international branches. This way, you will have a history with this lender and it will most likely make it easier when opening accounts or applying for products wherever you move to.

Current institution – Most student credit cards require you to have a current account with the lender for a minimum of three months before you can apply for the student card. If your current lender offers a student credit card, still compare it to rival lenders to see how it stacks up, but you may be able to access a credit card quicker if you stay with your current institution.

How can students build their credit profile?

Building a credit profile is an important step into adulthood. Your profile will be checked any time that you apply for credit, a loan or even for a mobile phone contract. It helps to have a solid credit score so that when the time comes that you need to borrow, lenders will see you as a worthy credit risk. When you use credit cards responsibly and pay your bills on time, that good behaviour gets reported to the credit rating agencies and can help increase your credit score.

Here are some tips that can help you to get a better credit score as quickly as possible:

Open a credit card account – One of the main differences between a credit card and other kinds of loans, is that credit cards don’t have an end date. So, while your student loan or car loan history will eventually fall off your credit report when the loans are paid off, a credit card you open in university can remain open for the rest of your life, ideally helping you establish a long and reliable credit history.

Manage your limit wisely – If you start with a lower limit on your credit card, you pose a lower risk to the lender. You may be eligible for a higher limit, but that doesn’t mean you should take it. Not being able to make the payments on a higher limit card will reflect badly when you are trying to build your score. The same applies if you immediately max out the limit when you get the card. This type of behaviour is seen as irresponsible by the lenders and may impact on potential better offers in the future.

Pay on time – Payment history is the most important factor that goes into your credit score. So, make sure to always pay your bills (not just your credit card bill) on time, and in full. Paying on time will help you avoid negative marks on your credit score as well as avoid any late fees on your next statement. Paying in full each month will enable you to get all the rewards and benefits of having a credit card without the downside of paying interest. It will also prove to lenders that you’re reliable when it comes to paying back debt. At the very least, pay off the minimum amount due, so that you don’t default on your payments, as this will have a negative impact on your credit score.

Beware of joint bills – University can be a time at which you move out of the family home, live with different people and encounter new experiences. But, be careful of having some of the household bills in joint names as this can be a double-edged sword. Sure, it’s a great way to help build your credit profile, but just be aware that any late payments, defaults or non-payments will also affect your credit rating even if you have paid your share on time. Make sure you are all on the same page and committed to making payments, as it usually takes about six years for defaults/non-payments to drop off your credit profile. There would be nothing worse than a bill that your university roommate forgot about coming back to haunt you when you’re applying for a personal loan later in life.

Keeping these four things in mind can help you build your credit score as quickly as possible, and may eventually get you access to financial products with even better terms and features.

Bottom line: Should you get a student credit card?

Credit cards can be an effective tool if used wisely. As discussed above, there are some great benefits from using the student credit card to build a credit profile. But, if used recklessly, credit cards can harm your credit score and are a sure-fire way to rack up a big pile of debt.

Before taking out a student credit card, make sure you can make it work for you. Use the points below as a mental checklist to satisfy yourself that you can handle a student credit card correctly.

Can you use a credit card responsibly? – For some people, having a credit card just burns a hole in their pocket. The urge to spend can be irresistible. With access to borrowed money, combined with a high interest rate, it could lead very quickly to a debt that is tough to pay back. If you’re thinking about taking out a student credit card, be sure that you can trust yourself to stay on track and within reasonable spending limits.

Do you pay your bills on time? – Given that you may not have had to pay for many, if any, bills before now (thanks Mum and Dad), do you feel that you will have the discipline to pay the balance off at the end of each month? And not only your credit card bill, but phone, utility and, depending on where you’re living, council tax bills too. If you make it a habit of paying late, then not only will the late fees and interest start and build up, but this could have a negative impact on your credit score.

Do you have an income source? – As a student’s focus is on their studies, there might not be a lot of spare cash lying around at the end of each month. They may not be employed, may rely on their parents or student loans and grants for money, or may have a part-time job that provides a minimal income. Do a quick budget so that you are sure that you can pay back the balance, or at least the minimum payment, before applying. Don’t put your credit score at risk if you’re not sure you can stay within the limits and pay it back.


The Motley Fool receives compensation from some advertisers who provide products and services that may be covered by our editorial team. It’s one way we make money. But know that our editorial integrity and transparency matters most and our ratings aren’t influenced by compensation. The statements above are The Motley Fool’s alone and have not been provided or endorsed by bank advertisers. The Motley Fool has recommended shares in Lloyds, Tesco and Barclays.

Advertiser Disclosure