The sad truth is, credit card companies are more than willing to dole out credit cards to college students. If you're enrolled in college, you have a very good chance of getting approved for a student credit card. Be wary, credit card companies are notorious for preying on college students. Start with only one credit card, no matter how many other offers you get.
Look closely at student credit card offers. Some of them are awful deals – high interest rates, annual fees – with a student label attached to make you think the credit card is just for you. That’s not necessarily true. A great first credit card has a lower APR, no annual fee, and may not have student in the title.
The bank of your checking or savings account
If you've been responsible with a checking or savings account, you can try applying for a credit card at your bank. Talk to a bank representative about opening up your first credit card. Having an existing relationship will improve your chances at getting a credit card application approved. You could simply apply online, but visiting a bank branch would put you face-to-face with a representative who may have more authority to get your application approved.
Department stores and gas companies typically have easy credit card approval. This can make getting your first credit card less complicated. On the downside, they have high interest rates that make it expensive to carry a balance from one month to the next.
Another downside of these cards is that you can only use them for that store or gas station. They limit what you can purchase, but encourages you to go on a spending spree by offering discounts.
When your (lack of) credit history keeps you from getting a standard credit card, you can apply for a secured credit card. With a secured credit card, you make a deposit against the credit limit of the account. The bank holds the deposit just in case you don't make your payments as agreed. Many credit card issuers will convert your secured credit card to an unsecured one as long as you make your monthly payments on time. Don’t worry that a secured credit card will hurt your chances at getting other credit cards – there’s nothing on your credit report to indicate you have a secured credit card.
How to Qualify
If you're over age 18, but under 21, the Credit CARD Act of 2009 requires the credit card issuer to confirm that you have your own income before they give you a credit card. And starting October 1, 2011, you can’t qualify for a credit card using mom and dad’s income, even if they’re going to pay your credit card bill. Your source of income can be a part-time job making just $300 a week, but the credit card company has to decide that your income is enough for the credit limit you're given.
Applicants under 21 without their own income can only get a credit card with a co-signer over 21 who does have the right income.
Choose a Credit Card for Moderate or Limited Credit
Certain websites review credit cards and include the type of credit history you must have to get approved for that credit card. If you have limited credit history or a fair credit score, look for credit cards that accept applicants with moderate credit to improve your chances of getting approved for a credit card. There’s no use applying for a credit card that requires excellent credit because you’re more likely to be denied.
Use Denials to Your Advantage
If you apply for a credit card and you’re denied, you’ll get a letter in the mail - an adverse action notice - that includes the specific reason you were denied. Use the information in this letter to figure out your next step. You may need to go for a different type of credit card or jumpstart your credit by using a secured credit card.