How to Get a Credit Card as a Student (Plus Some Alternatives to Consider)


Rejection hurts, especially when it happens over and over again. But credit card denials are even more common than a hard pass on date night. Recently, about 1 in 5 Americans had a credit application rejected. 

This is especially challenging as a student. Low to no credit score, little income, and almost zero financial history can make students unattractive credit applicants for traditional lenders (cruel but true). 

A silver lining is out there. It’s called a student credit card, and it can solve your credit rejection nightmare. (And maybe help you out with funding that date.)

What is a Student Credit Card?

A student credit card is designed for young adults, specifically college students, with little financial payment history. It has fewer application requirements and lower credit limits. Students may initially only have access to up to a few hundred or a few thousand dollars in credit. For context, many traditional credit cards have over $10k in limits. 

The issuer may also require proof of enrollment or recent graduation. Otherwise, these cards function exactly like regular credit cards and allow for all the pizza runs and textbook rentals your heart desires. 

How to Get a Credit Card as a Student

Applications differ from company to company, but the basics stay the same. This is the general process: 

1. Check your credit score

Every year you’re entitled to a penalty-free, fee-free credit report check from each of the nationwide credit bureaus. 

2. Compare student credit cards

Make sure every card is FDIC insured, and be sure to investigate the credit card issuer's background. Look for cards with no annual fee and solid rewards programs, like cash back rewards or travel rewards. 

3. Review if you’re eligible

Credit card companies are usually pretty clear on their general requirements. Avoid applying unless you match all of their stated criteria, including minimum credit standards. 

4. Ask a parent or relative to cosign

A cosigner is a person with a stable and solid credit history who can vouch for your ability to pay your credit debt. The signer must step in and pay if you cannot.   

So, while many credit card companies are looser with their student card requirements, they still may need a certain credit score or a cosigner with good credit. This makes step three important. It doesn’t reflect well on your credit score to apply for a bunch of cards at once. Review the fine print before you apply.

Just a quick reminder: a credit card has the potential to seriously raise or seriously lower your credit score. 

On average, students have around $3,280 worth of credit card debt. We don’t want that for you. Remember to make on-time payments for your first credit card and only open a line of credit with an institution designed for student financial success. Make sure to avoid a credit card company that charges you for applying or doesn’t offer easy online access to your credit card balance.    

The best student credit cards make the credit card application simple and allow easy access to your credit card account. 

If you read the application details, analyze the issuer, and remember to pay your bills, then you should be good to go.

Alternatives to a student credit card

It’s okay if a student credit card seems a little daunting or if you can’t find the right lender to work with. There are other ways to get a credit line: special loans, store credit cards, and more. 

Plus, building credit with these alternatives can set you up for great student credit card eligibility in the future. Read on to learn all about your credit spending options. 

Secured credit card

These cards are nifty ways of building credit without needing a good credit score or even a cosigner. 

With a secured card, the cardholder can only spend up to the amount that has already been deposited on the card. That prevents the cardholder from incurring additional debt.

Some secured cards will allow for a smaller deposit and still give access to a larger amount of credit. However, almost all cards require at least a few hundred for the deposit, so you’ll need cash on hand. 

Secured credit cards may not work for everyone, but they are a decent method of building credit if you have the funds.   


Loans are scary. We get that. The US student loan debt alone stands at $1.745 trillion. However, paying back loans is an excellent way to build credit and access extra funds. There are just a few tips to keep in mind:

  • Take out only what you can pay back 

  • Mind the interest rate 

  • Look for loans built for students (there’s more than just student loans available) 

KoraCash is a personal loan option; get up to $3,000 that can help build credit history as you pay it back on terms you choose. This loan option is designed for students, so the application process is as simple as being over 18, having a social security number, and being enrolled in college or a recent grad. 

Get quick decisioning and easy access to credit! 

Store credit card

We’re all familiar with the store credit card offers, “Sign up now for 20% off your purchase”. It may seem sketchy, but these store credit cards hide potentially excellent credit building opportunities. 

Typically, these cards have lower credit score requirements and a blazing-fast approval process. Walk into Target and walk out with a new bank account, having contributed to your credit score. It’s that simple but mind the warranty. These aren’t gift cards. 

These cards are easier to qualify for than conventional credit cards but tend to have higher than normal interest rates. Cardholders must be conscious about usage, and we recommend only taking out one or two store credit cards. Plus, store credit cards may not offer the same high credit limit or cash back card perks as other traditional credit cards or even debit cards. 

Still, with a careful approach, a store credit card can build credit while you go about your normal shopping habits. 

Become an authorized user

Becoming an authorized user is like getting a backdoor into elite credit card status (picture whipping out that Capital One Mastercard or a new cash rewards credit card). A primary cardholder with the right card company can add you to their card policy. You’ll get your own credit card with all the same credit building and purchasing opportunities as the primary cardholder. 

Becoming an authorized user on someone else’s credit card can give you access to extra funds and the ability to build your credit. Authorized users may also get access to features like free balance transfers or student cash back. There is a catch, though. 

If the original user has poor credit habits, the same might reflect on your FICO score. Typically, there’s no separating their spending habits from yours. You’ll need to pick a primary cardholder you trust to make their monthly payments on time. 

Try KoraCash, cash that may build credit

Often, getting a credit card as a student first requires building your credit through creative methods like secured credit cards, loans, and becoming an authorized user.  

At Kora, we get how frustrating this whole process can be. Especially for the student strapped for cash and free time. We designed KoraCash to be a simple way for students to access cash. 

KoraCash may help you build credit while providing access to needed funds. Plus, our easy-to-use app and personal finance education features are designed around ease and student success. 

Check us out today and see if KoraCash could be the credit alternative you’ve been looking for. 

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