Which Credit Cards are Good for Students?

We've analyzed dozens of credit cards to find those with the best features for students, whether this is your first credit card or one to use whilst travelling abroad or even to earn rewards. See our recommended student credit cards, even if you have a limited credit history and no income. The most suitable card for you will depend on your individual financial situation and needs.

The guidance on this site is based on our own analysis and is meant to help you identify options and narrow down your choices. We do not advise or tell you which product to buy; undertake your own due diligence before entering into any agreement. Read our full disclosure here.

  • Learning
    How to Get a Student Credit Card?
  • Comparing
    Summary of the Best Student Credit Cards
  • Choosing
    How To Pick a Student Credit Card for You

The best student card for you will depend on your individual situation. Use the information in this guide to learn about different types of products in the UK marketplace to help you find the best card for your needs.

Best Student Credit Cards in the UK

It's generally a good idea to take out a credit card when you're a student. So long as you use the card beneficially, a credit card gives you the opportunity to start building your credit history and developing your credit score. After you graduate, having a solid credit history can help you with flat or house rental applications, loan and mortgage applications, and even job applications.

Getting a student card that's linked to a high street bank student current account is typically the way to get the lowest interest rate when you're a student. Here are three options:

Best First Student Credit Card for No Income: HSBC Student Credit Card

Consider this if you are a full-time student; there's no income requirement.

Purchase Rate (variable) 18.9%
0% on Purchases for up to n/a
0% on Balance Transfers for up to n/a
Initial Balance Transfer Fee 1.4%
FX Fee 2.99%
Cash Fee 2.99% (min £3)

The HSBC Student Credit Card is a great first credit card for students, provided you already have a HSBC student current account, or you are opening one. There's no income requirement because the balance in your current account shows you have the means to pay your bills. And there isn't a minimum credit history required to be eligible. How do you qualify? You need to be a UK resident and 18 years old (like all other cards mentioned on this page) and be a student.

To qualify as a student, you need to be: "studying, or intending to study, a qualifying undergraduate course of two years or more at a UK, Channel Islands or Isle of Man university/college or a part-time course with a Disability Student Allowance." When applying for the card you need to provide proof of your acceptance e.g. UCAS letter or letter from the university/college. Credit limits are modest, up to £500.

One potential perk is a higher credit limit than you'll find on RBS and NatWest student cards.

Pros
  • Open to Level 4+ apprentices
  • No income requirement
  • 18.9% variable APR
  • Credit-building card with high-street bank
  • No annual fee
  • Credit limit minimum £500
Cons
  • Requires an associated student current account

Best First Student Credit Card for No Income: NatWest Student Credit Card

Consider this if you are a full-time student.

Purchase Rate (variable) 18.9%
0% on Purchases for up to n/a
0% on Balance Transfers for up to n/a
Initial Balance Transfer Fee n/a
FX Fee 2.75%
Cash Fee 3% (min £n/a)

The NatWest Student Credit Card, like the other high-street student credit cards, is linked to a NatWest student current account. Like other official "student" credit cards, the interest rate on purchases is quite competitive—18.9% variable in this case.

To establish a good credit history, you'll need to pay your monthly minimum payment (if not more) on time and stay within your credit limit. That said, we recommend paying down your full balance every month in order to avoid paying interest charges altogether—just be sure that at least the minimum amount gets there and it arrives on time. In order to apply you must be a UK resident, 18+ and have a NatWest student current account. The maximum credit limit is £500.

Pros
  • 18.9% variable APR
  • Credit-building card with high-street bank
  • No annual fee
Cons
  • Requires an associated student current account
  • Lower credit limit of £250 to £500

Best First Student Credit Card for No Income: RBS Student Credit Card

Consider this if you're a full-time student.

Purchase Rate (variable) 18.9%
0% on Purchases for up to n/a
0% on Balance Transfers for up to n/a
Initial Balance Transfer Fee n/a
FX Fee 2.75%
Cash Fee 3% (min £n/a)

The RBS Student Credit Card is another another good option for students with no income to start building up a credit history. To apply you need to be over 18, a UK resident and hold a Royal Bank of Scotland Student Current Account. The balance in your student current account gives the bank comfort that you can pay your bills, even if you don't have an income. The maximum credit limit of £500 will prevent a large debt from racking up while you demonstrate responsible card management. While at a minimum you should stay within your credit limit and pay your monthly minimum payment, we recommend paying down your full balance every month to avoid paying any interest charges.

Pros
  • 18.9% variable APR
  • Credit-building card with high-street bank
  • No annual fee
Cons
  • Requires an associated student current account
  • Lower credit limit of £250 to £500

Best Credit Cards for Students Traveling Abroad

Student Travel Card for Travel: Aqua Advance

Consider this if you want a card to use overseas.

Purchase Rate (variable) 34.9%
0% on Purchases for up to n/a
0% on Balance Transfers for up to n/a
Initial Balance Transfer Fee 3%
FX Fee none
Cash Fee 3% (min £3)

The Aqua Advance can be a great option for students needing a credit card to use abroad. This is one of the few student-eligible cards that charges no fees on foreign transactions, so you won't be hit with non-sterling fees when you make purchases abroad.

Withdrawing cash is another matter, and we don't recommend it. You'll pay a 3% cash withdrawal fee (£3 minimum) and interest will start accruing immediately at a high variable rate, minimum 39.9%. If you do find yourself desperate for cash while travelling and need a cash advance, get online and pay back the balance ASAP after you've taken your cash. Top tip: When using the Aqua Advance abroad, opt to pay in the local currency and let MasterCard manage the exchange rate for you instead of the retailer to get a better exchange rate.

It's critical to note that the interest rate on the Aqua Advance starts out much higher than the high street bank student credit cards listed above. While the Aqua advance interest rate on purchases starts off high (34.9% variable), by staying within your credit limit and paying at least the minimum payment on time each month, your interest rate will drop by 5% a year for three years.

After three years of good account management, your interest rate can be 19.9% which is in line with the above-mentioned student cards linked to student current accounts. Regardless, try to pay not just your minimum payment but the full balance every month, so that you avoid interest charges altogether.

Pros
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Interest rate may reduce by 5% a year for good account management
  • Free text alerts
  • No annual fee
  • Eligibility checker
Cons
  • Higher interest rates—34.9% variable APR

There are some options available for those new to credit if you want a credit card that isn't linked to a student account—but these have higher interest rates so carrying a balance from month to month can be quite expensive.

First Student Credit Card: Vanquis Credit Builder Card

Consider this if you are a student with no credit history.

Purchase Rate (variable) 39.9%
0% on Purchases for up to n/a
0% on Balance Transfers for up to n/a
Initial Balance Transfer Fee n/a
FX Fee 2.99%
Cash Fee 3% (min £3)

The Vanquis Classic will consider students with no credit history for a first credit card or even those with bad credit. As a starter/poor credit card, the initial credit limit will be lower than average, between £150 and £1000, and the interest rates are higher. Therefore this card . Stay within your credit limit and pay your monthly minimum payment on time, and you may be eligible for credit limit increases. This "good behaviour" may also help to improve your credit rating, as it shows responsible card management.

Since the interest rates are higher than average on cards for those with no credit history or bad credit, it is wise to fully pay down your balance every month. This way you can avoid potentially large interest charges. Use Vanquis's Express Check eligibility checker to see your odds of being accepted before you apply.

Pros
  • Possible first student credit card (applications with no credit history are considered)
  • Low initial credit limit
  • Possible credit limit increases
  • No annual fee
  • Express Check eligibility checker
Cons
  • Higher interest rates—39.9% variable APR

Best Student Credit Card for Some Credit History: Capital One Classic

Consider this if you want a credit-building card.

Purchase Rate (variable) 34.9%
0% on Purchases for up to n/a
0% on Balance Transfers for up to n/a
Initial Balance Transfer Fee 3%
FX Fee 2.75%
Cash Fee 3% (min £3)

The Capital One Classic doesn't offer any student-specific features as a credit-builder card, per se, but it is a solid card for students who are more focused on their studies than on working, as there is no strict income requirement. You do, however, need some credit history in the UK, perhaps in the form of a current account in which you've set up direct debits to pay for a mobile phone, gas, or electric bill. The card is targeted at those with bad credit or building credit, and proper use can help you establish a good payment history.

By paying your monthly minimum payments on time and staying within your credit limit, you may be eligible to receive two optional credit limit increases a year, which may improve your credit rating. What this card lacks in extra perks it makes up for in reputation—the Capital One Classic is Capital One's most popular card, with over 4 million people accepted, and quite impressive customer reviews. Additionally, you can check your odds of being accepted using Capital One's eligibility checker, QuickCheck, which won't harm your credit score.

As with the Aqua Advance, the interest rate on this card is quite a bit higher than on the student cards linked to student current accounts.

Pros
  • No income requirement
  • Credit-building card
  • No annual fee
  • Two possible credit limit increases per year
  • QuickCheck eligibility checker
  • Free text alerts
Cons
  • Need some credit history in UK
  • Higher 34.9% variable APR

Best Student Credit Cards for Part-Time Jobs: Barclaycard Forward

Consider this if you want a credit-builder card with free text alerts and access to Experian Credit Score.

Purchase Rate (variable) 33.9%
FX Fee 2.99%
Cash Fee 2.99%, min £2.99

The Barclaycard Forward Credit Card is designed for those with limited to no credit history BUT you must have a recommended income of £3,000 per year. Customer service told us that proof of your first month's paycheck from a part-time job may be enough to be accepted. Besides being employed, you should have lived at your current address for at least three months. By staying within your credit limit and making your minimum payments on time, your interest rate (which starts at 34.9% variable) should reduce by up to 5% over two years. Barclaycard also offers a free pre-application eligibility check that won't adversely affect your credit rating.

Pros
  • Chance to reduce interest rate by 5% over two years
  • 0% on purchases first three months
  • Free text alerts
  • No annual fee
  • Eligibility checker
Cons
  • Need income from part-time employment
  • Higher interest rates—34.9% variable APR

How to Get a Student Credit Card

You generally have two options when it comes to getting a credit card as a student with no income and/or no credit history. Either go for a credit card that is linked to a high-street bank student current account (e.g., HSBC, RBS, NatWest, etc.) or apply for a credit-builder card that does not require you to open an associated bank account but probably charges a much higher interest rate (e.g., Vanquis or Barclaycard Forward).

Cards linked to current accounts will generally sport a lower interest rate around 19%, but you must already have or apply to open a student account with the bank in order to get one of these student credit cards. Regardless of which card you choose, be sure to always pay at least the minimum monthly payment on time and stay within the credit limit.

Summary of Student Credit Cards

Below is a summary of student card across different categories.

Best For...CardQuick Overview
No Job/Credit HistoryHSBC Student Card
  • Must have HSBC student current account
  • lower-than-average student interest rate
  • open to Level 4+ apprentices
No Job/Credit HistoryNatWest Student Card
  • Must have NatWest student current account
  • lower-than-average student interest rate
No Job/Credit HistoryRBS Student Card
  • Must have RBS student current account
  • lower-than-average student interest rate
Credit-BuildingCapital One Classic
  • Higher interest rate
  • Must have some credit history in UK
  • QuickCheck eligibility check
Very Limited Credit History/Bad CreditVanquis Credit BuilderGood first credit card as no credit history requirement
Part-Time JobBarclaycard Forward
  • Interest rate may drop by 5%
  • Must show income of £3,000
  • Eligibility check
TravelAqua Advance
  • No foreign transaction fees when used abroad
  • Interest rate may drop

Which Student Card is Best?

There are student credit cards for all kinds of situations: new to credit, building credit, poor credit, part-time income, no income, etc. Finding the right student credit card for you can be easy if you consider a few defining features of your financial situation:

  • Do you have an income (even a part-time job paying £2,000 - £3,000 a year)?
  • Is this your first credit card or do you have a healthy credit history already?
  • Are you looking for a simple credit-building card or do you want perks (e.g., no foreign transaction fees)?

No Income Student Credit Cards: You have a few options when it comes to finding a student credit card with no income: either a credit card that is linked to a current account (e.g., HSBC, RBS, NatWest, etc.) or a card that charges a higher-than-average interest rate. Where possible, use an eligibility check to tell you your odds of being accepted before you apply.

Students with some credit history: Only those with a bit of responsible payment history and a decent credit score are likely to be accepted for credit cards with perks, like cashback rewards (e.g., rewards credit cards) and no foreign transaction fees (e.g., Aqua Advance).

If you're applying for your first credit card, you may be limited to a simple, no frills card that will enable you to build up a history of staying within your credit limit and paying on time. Once you've established a healthy credit history, you can think about upgrading for a card with perks.

You'll notice that a feature of the cards suitable for students is a relatively low credit limit. A key component of your future credit rating is staying within this credit limit so be sure you're aware of it. Cards open to applicants with no credit history are likely to have lower initial credit limits. Most cards offer a "soft" eligibility checker that will tell you if you're likely to be accepted or not. If you're unsure if you satisfy the credit history requirements (which can be a bit vague), this is a useful step in the application process.

How to Improve Credit History

Students applying for their first credit card face a challenge if they don't have much credit history. While there are credit cards that accept students with no to limited payment history, taking steps to build up your credit rating will improve your eligibility to a wider selection of cards. There are ways to start building up a credit history, even without a credit card. The Money Advice Service suggests:

Ways to Build Your Credit History
Open and Manage a Bank Account
  • Keep enough money in your current account to cover any payments
  • An interest-free overdraft is an alternative to a credit card
Set Up Direct DebitsSet up regular direct debits to pay gas, electricity, or mobile phone bills
Pay All Bills On TimeMissed or late payments will negatively affect your credit score
Erin Yurday

Erin Yurday is the CEO, Co-founder and Editor of NimbleFins. Prior to NimbleFins, she worked as an investment professional and as the finance expert in Stanford University's Graduate School of Business case writing team. Read more on LinkedIn.

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The guidance on this site is based on our own analysis and is meant to help you identify options and narrow down your choices. We do not advise or tell you which product to buy; undertake your own due diligence before entering into any agreement. Read our full disclosure here.