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Slide Show | March 2012

7 Great Credit Cards for Students and Young Adults

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Not so long ago, any college student who could sign his name could qualify for a credit card. But the Credit Card Reform Act mandates that applicants be evaluated on their own ability to pay the bill -- meaning they must have income or savings. Issuers can no longer look at overall household income when they consider an application.

Here are seven credit cards that offer good deals -- reasonable rates, generous rewards and no annual fee. All the rates are variable and will increase if the Prime Rate goes up. Each sends e-mail and/or text alerts to remind cardholders to pay on time -- and some include tips to help them develop good money management habits. Some issuers permit cosigners for student credit cards, but before you agree to that, see Kiplinger editor Janet Bodnar’s note of caution.


7 Great Credit Cards for Students and Young Adults

Bank of America Student Platinum Plus Visa

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Source: Bank of America

Interest rate: 14.24% (variable)

Cosigner permitted? Yes

Web site: Bank of America

Financial education is an important part of this card. It comes with a financial-literacy handbook and an interactive Web site with useful information about building a good credit history, budgeting and identity theft. The card offers access to the bank’s Add It Up program, where cardholders can earn up to 20% cash back on online purchases at participating retailers. Bank of America looks at summer and/or part-time jobs when it evaluates whether a student is creditworthy. The card comes with a 14.24% interest rate, and the average credit limit is a little over $1,000.

Bank of America Student Platinum Plus Visa

Capital One Journey Student Rewards

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Source: Capital One

Interest rate: 19.8%

Cosigner permitted? No

Web site: Capital One

This card offers 1% cash back on all purchases plus a 25% bonus on the amount you earn each month that you pay on time. You can earn an extra 15% cash back for purchases on Capital One’s Perk Central network. The interest rate is a steep 19.8%, and students generally receive only a $300 to $500 credit limit. Students are eligible for a credit increase after six months of paying on time and staying under their credit limit.

Capital One Journey Student Rewards

Citi Dividend Platinum Select Visa Card for College Students

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Source: Citi

Interest rate: 12.99% to 20.99%

Cosigner permitted? No

Web site: Citi

Students can earn 5% cash back on purchases at supermarkets, drugstores, gas stations and utilities for the first six months. They earn 2%, on a rotating basis, for spending at department stores, hotels and restaurants, and other categories, and 1% on everything else. Shop at retailers that participate in the Citi Bonus Cash Center and you earn an average 5% cash back with no cap. After a seven-month 0% introductory rate, interest rates range from 12.99% to 20.99%, depending on creditworthiness.

Citi Dividend Platinum Select Visa Card for College Students

Citi Forward

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Source: Citi

Interest rate: 12.99% to 21.99%

Cosigner permitted? No

Web site: Citi

This card rewards students for good financial behavior. Pay on time and stay under the credit limit three months in a row and your interest rate (0% introductory rate for seven months, then 12.99% to 21.99%, depending on creditworthiness) drops 0.25 percentage point. You can reduce your rate as much as two percentage points overall. You earn five ThankYou points for every dollar spent at restaurants and on books and music, and one point for all other spending. You get an extra 100 points each month for paying on time and staying under the credit limit. ThankYou points can be used for travel, statement credits, gift certificates or merchandise.

Citi Forward

Discover Student More

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Source: Discover

Interest rate: 12.99% to 19.99%

Cosigner permitted? Yes

Web site: Discover

Discover offers a 5% cash-back bonus in categories, such as restaurants, travel and groceries, that change quarterly and up to 1% on everything else. Shop at the online mall and earn a 5% to 20% cash-back bonus. The interest rate ranges from 12.99% to 19.99% after a six-month 0% introductory rate, and the average credit limit is $1,000.

Discover Student More

Discover Student Open Road

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Source: Discover

Interest rate: 12.99% to 19.99%

Cosigner permitted? Yes

Web site: Discover

Students with cars on campus might like this card. You receive 2% cash back on up to $250 a month spent at gas stations and restaurants. On everything else, you get 0.25% back on up to $3,000, then 1% back. After a six-month 0% introductory rate, the interest rate is 12.99% to 19.99%, depending on your credit history. You can receive your reward as a gift card, merchandise or cash, or donate it to charity. The average credit limit is $1,000.

Discover Student Open Road

Target Red Card

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Target

Interest Rate: 22.90%

Cosigner Permitted? No

Web site: Target

If you're going to apply for a retail credit card, register at a store you frequent rather than one you visit occasionally just to purchase big-ticket items, says Linda Leitz, a financial planner based in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Applying for a retail card at a mass chain such as Target, which sells everything from groceries to clothes to laptops, may be a smart option for a 20-something looking to further build their credit history. The card allows you to get free shipping on online purchases. When you use it to fill five prescriptions at a Target pharmacy, you’ll get a rewards certificate for 5% off your next purchase, in addition to the 5% discount you get on all Target purchases as a cardholder. Keep in mind, however, that you’re only able to use the card at Target stores.

Target Red Card

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