How to Get Approved for a Student Credit Card
Getting your first student credit card allows you to start establishing a credit history and building your credit score. But as a college student, you may not have much income or existing credit yet.
In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explain what issuers look for when approving student card applications. We’ll also provide tips to boost your approval odds as a student, plus alternatives if you don’t qualify yet.
Let’s explore proven strategies to get approved for your ideal student rewards card.
Why Get a Student Credit Card?
Here are some of the key benefits student credit cards provide:
- Establish a credit history – On-time payments are reported to the credit bureaus
- Build your credit score – Responsible usage improves your score over time
- Earn rewards like cashback or points on spending – Get something back for your purchases
- Gain financial literacy – Learn to manage accounts properly while limits are low
- Access to credit for emergencies – Balance provides a cushion for unexpected costs
- Fraud protections – $0 liability if card numbers get stolen
Ready to apply for your first card? Let’s examine how issuers evaluate applications.
What Banks Look For When Approving Student Cards
Student credit card issuers analyze these key factors when considering applications:
- Credit history length – Do you have any prior credit accounts opened? Many students don’t.
- Credit score – What are your current FICO and VantageScore credit scores? 700+ scores improve approval odds substantially.
- Income – What is your annual income from financial aid, grants, part-time jobs, or parents? Most require at least $2,000.
- Debt-to-income ratio – How much existing debt do you have relative to income? Mortgages, loans, other credit card balances are considered.
- Banking relationship – Are you an existing checking or savings customer with the card issuer? This can improve approval chances.
- College enrollment – Can you provide proof of current enrollment at a college or university? This is often required.
Banks will approve students they deem responsible and able to repay balances based on these criteria.
Minimum Requirements to Get Approved
Here are typical minimum qualifications for student card approval:
- Current enrollment in a 2-4 year college or university
- At least 18 years old in most cases (21+ for some issuers)
- Verifiable annual income over $2,000
- Credit score of at least 670 – higher scores improve odds
- No recent bankruptcies or accounts in collections
- U.S. citizen or permanent resident
- Low existing debt-to-income percentage
- History with the card issuer helps but is not required
Meeting these requirements provides the best approval odds for most advertised student cards.
How to Boost Your Odds of Approval
Follow these tips to maximize your chances of successfully being approved:
- Apply for your first card individually rather than as an authorized user to establish independent credit history
- Choose your oldest/primary bank where you have savings and checking accounts already
- Ask your parents to make you an authorized user on their card periodically to build history
- Maintain a low credit utilization on current balances below 30%
- Check your credit report and dispute any errors before applying
- If denied, wait 6+ months for any negative impacts to fade before reapplying
- Provide documentation to verify income – paystubs from part-time jobs or grant award letters
Avoid applying for multiple student cards at once to prevent denial. Student cards provide great credit building opportunities if approved!
Student Cards for Average Credit Scores
Those with limited credit histories often have average scores initially in the 600s. But some student cards cater to this segment:
- Deserve® EDU Mastercard for Students
- Discover it® Student Cash Back
- Capital One Journey Student Rewards
- Bank of America Cash Rewards for Students
- Wells Fargo Cash Back College Card
Research student cards marketed specifically to those with average scores between 650-700.
Getting Approved with No Credit History
Students with no prior credit accounts or loans can still qualify for student cards by:
- Applying for cards specifically designed for those with limited or no credit history
- Meeting minimum income requirements through part-time job earnings or financial aid awards
- Starting with your primary bank where you hold checking/savings accounts
- Obtaining an authorized user card first to establish some payment history
- Providing documentation to verify income, enrollments status, and identity
- Calling reconsideration lines and asking what criteria led to denial then reapplying
Be persistent and take steps to incrementally improve your profile if initially denied.
Alternatives if You Don’t Qualify for a Student Card
If you can’t get approved yet, consider these options instead of waiting:
Secured Cards – Require refundable security deposit used as your credit limit but builds history.
Retail Store Cards – Often easier qualifications but only useful for purchases with that retailer.
Become an Authorized User – Get added to a parent’s or guardian’s card account responsibly.
Prepaid Debit Cards – No credit check needed but no credit benefit. Buy items you can already afford.
Student Loans – Federal student loans appear on credit reports and reflect positive payment history.
Don’t give up credit building just because standard student cards remain out of reach currently. Persistence pays off.
Handling Denials and Building Your Profile
If your student card application gets denied, here are some tips:
- Review the reason provided and work to resolve those issues. Common reasons include limited credit history and low income.
- Hold off at least 6 months for negative impacts to fade before reapplying. New hard inquiries within a short period raises risk.
- Become an authorized user on your parent’s or guardian’s credit card to build payment history.
- Take out a small student loan and diligently pay it each month to demonstrate responsible behavior.
- Increase your income through more hours at a part-time job.
- Check your credit reports for errors that may be impacting your score unfairly. Dispute any inaccurate information.
- Write a letter to reconsideration lines explaining why you deserve approval after taking steps to improve your financial profile.
Persistence and diligently building your profile pays off. Don’t let initial denials deter you long-term.
Closing Thoughts on Getting Approved
As adult financial life quickly approaches, getting approved for your first student credit card opens doors through establishing credit history and responsible usage.
Apply with card issuers focused on the student market that offer tailored programs. Provide documentation verifying your status as a student. Start with your primary bank first before applying for competing offers.
While approval remains a privilege requiring meeting issuers’ qualifications, take steps to strengthen your profile through authorized user status, student loans, and part-time income.
With a properly used student card that helps build your financial foundations, you’ll secure your financial future through prudent management and diligent payments.