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How To Apply For a Credit Card as a Student

Applying for a credit card as a student might be your very first time filling in a credit card application. It can be somewhat daunting. Luckily, the process in which you go about applying for a credit card is roughly the same across many banks.

Questions like..

  • Does applying for a credit card as a student mean you have to put no income?

AND

  • Are there certain elements to include that increase approval odds?

Will all be answered here. Let’s get into what this process looks like for a college student applying for a credit card.

Methods of Application

When it comes to applying for a credit card, there a more than a few ways you can actually go about it. Some say the application format used affects the actual underwriting involved, (i.e. your approval/denial decision) swaying your odds towards a certain outcome.

While I generally disagree with this, there are certain perks to applying online or in-branch as opposed to other methods. Most “perks” listed below are related to applicant convenience, but they are worth noting.

Whatever route you decide to take, the questions asked will be the exact same. If I am speaking honestly, this part of the process shouldn’t be too difficult to decide on. Just apply in-branch if you can, otherwise apply online.

Online

This is probably the easiest way to apply. Just head to the Issuer’s website and click “Apply Now”.

In-Branch

Banks like Chase have physical locations and let you apply for a credit card in-person. This can be a good option if you have additional questions you would like to ask a Banker. Sometimes certain cards have in-branch bonuses too.


Over the phone

Look. It is an option, so I listed it. Just know this is a pretty antiquated way of applying for a credit card.

Mail

Don’t do this. It will take forever to get a decision when you could get one instantly online.

For the purpose of this guide, we will focus on the online application. Every method will be almost identical anyway.

Popular Student Credit Cards To Apply For

This is definitely the hardest part of filling out a credit card application, both as a student and a graduate. Figuring out the answer to:

What Credit Card should I apply for?


It is a loaded question, as it should be.

Below I assembled a list of our recommended student starter cards. Not only are these the most popular, but they will get you on the right track so that you can begin to build a meaningful relationship with the big banks. This comes into play later when you want more credit, whether that be in the form of another card or something bigger, like a mortgage.

Chase Freedom Student

The Chase Student Credit Card is an excellent first choice for a student credit card. The welcome bonus is very easy to attain, good grade rewards are offered, and the card opens up a relationship with one of the best banks for credit cards.

What are the downsides? Well, the credit card student chase is going after must be one with extremely good credit, because historically this card has been hard to get students even approved for. Seems a little counter-intuitive if you ask me.

Discover It Student Chrome

Applying for a Discover card as a student is always a great choice. Not only are they quite lenient with their underwriting, but they indisputably offer the best rewards of any beginner credit card. Not to mention, they have one of the best cashback sign-up bonuses in the game.


The Student Chrome is the easier to manage of the two since there are no rotating categories. If you want a no-frills card with decent reward potential as a student, this is your card.

Discover It Student Cash Back

Discover’s flagship card, the CashBack card, also comes in a student form. The only difference is that it offers a good grade reward and you enjoy the fact that all Discover Student Card requirements are not nearly as extensive as the normal cashback card. By this I mean, the Discover Student Card’s application is more geared toward getting students approved.

For those who are ok with paying attention to the quarterly categories, this is my favorite credit card for students.

Wells Fargo Cash Back College Card

This is a great choice for a first card. It offers a decent welcome bonus as well as a cash-back feature. It also hosts a bunch of benefits that can be relatively useful if you decide to fully utilize them.

However, it is a little less competitive due to it’s low spend multiplier. If you’d like to learn more, we have a full review of the card that you can check out.


Related read: Credit Card Features

Filling Out Your Student Credit Card Application

Once you have selected the card you want, it’s time to apply! We will first go over a quick step-by-step, then take a closer look at some of the touchy points so that you can get a better understanding of what to put on your student card application.

Here is the quick step-by-step to get you rockin’ and rolling:

Time needed: 15 minutes.


  1. Click “Apply Now”

  2. Fill in Personal Information

  3. Enter Income

    Look to see if the Issuer wants your Adjusted Gross Income (also knows as “AGI”…you can find this in your 1040 from last year) or your Gross Income. Gross Income includes wages, tips, scholarship money after tuition, and allowance. If unsure, always err on the side of caution and put the lower amount.

  4. Enter Monthly Rent

    If you split this amount with another individual, only put the amount YOU pay!

  5. Review ALL terms and conditions

    It is important for you to understand what is expected of you as a cardholder by the lender.

  6. Click Submit

What Should I Put For Income?

Income is always a tricky topic when it comes to applying for a credit card. The subject becomes even more convoluted when you realize that different Issuers allow different things to be considered income. Some banks, like American Express, want your Adjusted Gross Income. This is your Gross Income – Above The Line Deductions. Read more on AGI here.

Other banks, like Discover, want your Gross Income. Credit Cards for Students by Chase also call for “Total Gross Annual Income”.

Gross Income and AGI include all your earnings from side gigs and full-time jobs. (Check out this excellent article for more information on why and how to begin Freelancing.)

My advice would be to click on the little question bubble next to “Income” on the student card application. This will bring up a menu that details what the bank is ok with you calling your “Income”. Sometimes this menu will automatically pop up when you put your cursor in the income box.


Putting your cursor in the income box (or clicking the little help bubble) will bring up the acceptable income menu.

Reviewing Terms and Conditions

This is relatively straightforward. It is important you know what you are getting yourself into with each credit card you apply for. Things such as your APR, late payment fee, foreign transaction fees, and overall cardmember agreement are important elements you need to be aware of.

The fine print is all too easy to skip over, but in this case, just don’t do it.

Outcomes

a millennial woman

A credit card application can go three different ways:


  • Instant Approval
  • Pending Decision
  • Instant Denial

An approval is always great news! Enjoy your credit card and use it responsibly!

A pending decision or a denial is a little heartbreaking though. Fortunately, it isn’t the end of the road for you. If your get a message similar to “We need more time, please check back in 7-10 days”, it means that either a human needs to verify your information or the information your provided makes for a very borderline situation. This is pretty commonly seen when applying for Chase student credit cards.

In general, until you receive word stating otherwise, your chances aren’t completely squandered.

For those who are instantly denied or denied later on, all hope is not lost. There is a little trick called “Reconsideration“. This means that you call up the Issuer’s lending department and plead your case. There are many articles explaining the best way to do this. I recommend checking out this one. We will also have a detailed article on this topic in the coming months.



Conclusion

Hopefully, this article helped you get approved for your first student credit card! Be sure to check back on our website for more detailed articles about credit cards and how students can best leverage them. We will also be posting credit card news, so if there is ever an Apple Card for students, you can hear it here first.

Remember, if you didn’t get approved, you can always go for a secured credit card. Learn more about these and other credit building techniques here. Follow a few of them and you will have your first credit card in no time!

If you did get approved for a card, comment which one you chose below!

Until next time guys!


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