Banking •

November 9, 2022

Do you have to be a student to get a student credit card?

In most cases, you need to be enrolled in school to qualify for a student credit card. There are other options for non-students, though!

Credit card for students

Students often have access to exclusive products and services designed especially for them. For instance, student credit cards are meant to help college students build their credit history while enjoying perks like lower fees and even rewards.

But do you have to be a student to get a student credit card? And who exactly do banks consider to be “students”? 

Keep reading to learn more about student credit cards—what they are, if you need to be a student, how enrollment status is determined, and more.

What are student credit cards? 

Student credit cards function like normal credit cards, but they are designed specifically for college students. 

One key difference is that they are easier to get approved for than standard credit cards. Students with limited to no credit history may still be able to open a student credit card. 

For example, the Discover it Student Cash Back card specifically states that no credit score is required to apply. 

Since students often don’t have much credit history, this benefit is huge! Getting approved for any sort of loan or credit card can be very difficult if you don’t have an adequate credit history—but a student card can make that easier.

Many of these cards also offer other student-friendly perks, such as low annual fees. Some may even offer cash back rewards. And many have lower income requirements than traditional credit cards, making it easier for low-income students to apply. 

Do you have to be a student to get a student credit card?

In general, yes—you typically need to be a college student to open a student card.

Do you have to be a student to get a student credit card?

Most banks that offer student credit cards ask for enrollment information when you sign up. They will ask where you’re going to school, what year you’re in, etc. And many banks will take steps to verify your enrollment status when they process your application. 

Some banks specifically note this fact. On the application form for the Chase Freedom Student credit card, for instance, Chase states:

“This card is intended for students enrolled in college, university, career or trade school. We’ll verify the student’s enrollment status.”

Other banks are less specific—but chances are, most will require you to be a student. 

Banks may also have differing requirements for what is considered an eligible school. Most banks will include community colleges, universities, and state schools—but specialty schools and trade schools may be excluded in some cases. 

Student credit cards also require applicants to be at least 18 years old and US citizens. Applicants will be asked to provide their full name, Social Security number (SSN), address, annual income, and other personal information. Some cards may require fair credit, while others are available for those with bad credit (or no credit history at all). 

If you’re not currently enrolled in school, opting for a credit card for young adults may be a better option. We’ll go over other options for non-students below. 

How is enrollment status verified? 

Each bank uses its own process to run your application and verify your enrollment status. 

Many banks use a third-party enrollment verification service. The bank will send the information on your application (name, address, school, etc.) to this third party, which will then check the information against a database of currently enrolled students at your school. This process typically takes place within just a few seconds. 

Some banks may manually verify your enrollment by contacting the school that you listed. Others simply require the applicant to have a .edu email address. And others might not verify enrollment status at all! 

The bottom line is this: You need to be a college student to qualify for a student credit card. If you try to get around this rule, the bank will likely deny your application. 

Options for non-students 

So what should you do if you’re not currently a student? Student credit cards will likely be off-limits, so how can you build credit from scratch? 

Credit card options for non students

Don’t worry—you have a few options! 

Using a secured credit card 

Secured credit cards are available to folks who don’t have much (or any) credit history. They’re a unique financial product specifically designed to help build credit.

Secured credit card

A normal credit card is unsecured, which means there’s no asset backing the credit limit you’re given. Instead, the bank takes a risk by lending you money—and relies on your credit history to determine how risky that loan might be. 

If you don’t have much credit history, the bank can’t gauge your creditworthiness. This is where a secured credit card comes in handy. Secured cards are backed by an asset, which eliminates risk for the lending bank. 

Here’s how secured credit cards work:

  1. You apply for a secured credit card with a low limit (like $500).

  2. You place a $500 deposit into a locked account (the deposit required will typically be the same as your credit limit).

  3. You get a credit card with a $500 limit.

  4. You can’t touch the $500 deposit until you close the account.

  5. You can use the credit card as needed, making purchases and paying down the balance repeatedly.

  6. Each on-time payment you make helps to build your credit history and boost your credit score.

Secured credit cards essentially eliminate risk for the bank. The bank will be willing to give you a credit card because they can take the money in the locked account if you fail to make a payment.

If the credit limit is the same as the required deposit, what’s the point? Why not just use a debit card?

Well, from a credit reporting standpoint, secured credit cards are the same as standard credit cards. This means that using one can help you build credit. 

Each time you make an on-time monthly payment, you’ll build a positive credit history. Payments will be reported to the major credit bureaus and contribute to your overall credit report. 

Over time, this can help you establish credit and boost your credit score. Eventually, you’ll be able to apply for a standard credit card. 

When you close the secured card (or convert it to a standard card), you’ll get your security deposit back.

Becoming an authorized user 

Another option for credit building is to become an authorized user on someone else’s credit card. 

An authorized user is someone who shares access to an account. For example, a spouse may add their partner to their credit card account, or a parent might add their child. 

Authorized users have equal access to an account’s credit limit. They will receive their own credit card to make purchases with. 

And the account will be reported to the authorized user’s credit report. This means that a positive credit card account history can benefit the authorized user’s credit score!

For a young adult with a limited credit history, this can be a huge benefit. 

If someone who trusts you can add you as an authorized user, this can significantly boost your credit score. Consider asking a parent, sibling, or close family friend if they’d be willing to add you as an authorized user.

Using a starter credit card 

Starter credit cards are designed for people with a limited credit history. These cards usually have low credit limits, but they can be useful for building credit.

Many banks offer credit cards for fair or bad credit—a.k.a. starter credit cards. Many of these cards have high fees and average percentage rates (APR), so they’re not the best for long-term use. But opening a starter card and using it regularly while making on-time payments each month can help build your credit history.

Other financial products for students 

Student credit cards aren’t the only specialized financial product that students have access to!

Mos banking for students

Student loansscholarships, and other forms of financial aid can help you pay for college. College savings accounts like 529 plans can help you save for college expenses. And specialized apps can help you manage your money while you’re still in school! 

For the ultimate one-stop shop for student finances, check out Mos. Mos is a money app and debit card for college students that offers a host of student-friendly features. 

Here are just a few of the perks offered by Mos:

  • A zero-fee debit card

  • Cash back rewards

  • Access to advice on paying for school

  • Access to side hustles and side gigs

  • Help with navigating scholarships and financial aid

And much more.

Mos helps students manage every aspect of their personal finances all in one simple app. Get started today to learn why over 400,000 students are using Mos! 

Bottom line

You typically need to be a student to qualify for a student credit card. Most banks will take steps to verify your enrollment status.

If you’re not a student, you can build credit with a secured credit card or by becoming an authorized user on someone else’s account. 

Students can also benefit from a student debit card from Mos. Mos provides banking services for students—including a fee-free debit card, help finding scholarships and grants, and cash back rewards—all in its app. 

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