Best Credit and Debit Cards for College Students

By Marina Krivonossova on February 16, 2019

Before turning 18, we rarely have to think about our own finances. We rely on our parents and the scarce cash in our pockets to get us through the week. But, when college starts and we migrate into the world of adulthood, the burden of finance falls on our shoulders. However, fear not! Managing your finances and getting the biggest bang for your buck doesn’t have to be scary. In fact, there are lots of money life-hacks to get you through college and beyond. I was fortunate enough to have my dad teach me some of these (as I picked up the rest on my own in later times), so the least I can do is share these pro-tips with my fellow college students to help you become the finance experts every adult aspires to be.

Have you considered the benefits of paying with a credit card? (image via

(1) Credit cards. There seems to be a stigma attached to these bad boys, as they’re perpetually followed by the negative notion of “debt ’till the end of your life.” Quite frankly, this is the biggest (and admittedly, most ridiculous) misconception out there. Credit cards are only problematic if you misuse them to buy things you know you can’t afford and fail to pay off your bill at the end of the month. Pro tip #1: Never use your credit card(s) to buy anything you couldn’t afford with the cash in your bank account. If you follow this tip, then a credit card is the perfect way to build your credit history, practice responsibility, and gain some awesome rewards. Here are some of my favorite credit cards and reasons why they might interest you:

Discover it Chrome. This credit card is perfect for beginners who have no credit history and have never owned a credit card in their life. It is free and easy to open one, and it’s the ideal card to start building your credit history with. It automatically provides you with 1% cash back on every single purchase you make, and 2% cash back on select other purchases. And, here’s the real kicker: this card pays you to get good grades. Insane, right? We’ve been conditioned to believe that our good grades will only one day pay off in the future, but the day is finally here — our good grades are being rewarded with cold, hard cash.

Journey Student. This credit card is super easy to open for credit beginners — just like the last one. It’s also the most straightforward one of my list. There’s no hidden fees and no confusing instructions on how to maximize benefits. For someone looking to start building their credit history with a no-frills credit card experience, this is the card to shoot for. And, just like every credit card I talk about, it’s free to open, and there are no annoying annual fees.

Capital One Quicksilver. This credit card is free to acquire, gives you 1.5% cash back on every single purchase (which literally means you get cash back in your pocket for simply buying things you need/want), and no foreign transaction fees (which is great for someone who travels abroad regularly). If you stick to Pro Tip #1, all this card provides is benefits, without any hidden drawbacks.

Because carrying one debit card is a whole lot easier, not to mention safer, than having to deal with a wad of bills (image via

(2) Debit cards. You have one, your cousin has one, that dude living across the street has one. Everybody with a bank account, by default, has a debit card. People tend to view this as a safer choice than credit cards, but the reality of the situation is that they’re equally beneficial or dangerous, depending on the money management skills of the owner. You can accidentally spend more money than is in your bank account and ending up paying crazy overdraft fees if you’re not careful, but you can also end up saving money at the ATM or earning a nice interest rate on your checking/savings account, if you know what company to open a debit card with. That’s why I’m here — to introduce you to a couple smart choices.

Charles Schwab Checking Account. More specifically, the “Schwab Bank High Yield Investor Checking Account,” but I’m not here to throw you off track with these long names. This bank account provides you with a debit card that you can use at any ATM worldwide, without having to pay any attached ATM transaction fees. You can trust me when I say that this sort of thing saves you a lot of money because transaction fees really add up. Not only that, but this account is totally free to open/maintain, and you get paid an interest rate (albeit small, but an interest rate nonetheless) on money you keep in not only your savings account but also your checking.

Capital One 360. This bank account is free to open and free to maintain, and also comes with no hidden fees. Another very simple, straightforward checking account to maintain. And you can earn up to 2% interest on the money in your account, depending on how much you keep in there! Not to worry, however — there is no minimum balance.

Now, I hope I’ve shed some light on the realities of owning credit/debit cards, and that I’ve shown you some simple ways to ease yourself into the world of money management and finance. Do you have any of your own money-saving tips that I didn’t touch on? Do you know of any awesome credit/debit cards that we should all check out? Feel free to leave your own suggestions in the comments!

By Marina Krivonossova

Uloop Writer
Now that she has completed her undergraduate degree at UC Irvine, Marina is a Leiden University graduate student pursuing a major in political science with a focus in international organization. She has an educational background in business, economics, teaching, and politics. Her passions include creative writing, experimenting with new baking recipes, and traveling the world.

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