What is a student credit card?

Student credit cards work in the same way as other credit cards, but they are designed to be more likely to accept people studying full time.

Every credit card comes with different rules on who it will lend to. Many will turn down your application if your income is not high enough or you have no credit history, but student credit cards are more lenient.

Pros and cons of student credit cards

  • Higher interest rates

  • Lower credit limits

  • Danger of getting into debt

  • Charges and fees

Can you get one?

Before you get offered a credit card, the provider will check some or all of the following:

  • You live in the UK

  • You are at least 18 years old

  • You do not hold another student credit card with another bank

  • You have a UK bank account

  • You have not had previous debt problems like bankruptcy

  • You are studying or about to start studying a suitable course*

*A suitable course will usually be an undergraduate course of at least two years at a college or university in the UK. You may need to prove that you have been accepted onto the course.

Some providers only offer deals to existing customers and some cards are only available if you open a student bank account with them as well.

What income do you need?

Most credit card companies will only accept your application if you have a regular income.

Student credit cards are different: they will usually consider your application if your income is your student loan, regular payments from your parents or a wage from a part time job.

What happens after you graduate?

You can usually keep your student credit card after graduating or leaving your course.

However, you may be able to get a card with better perks like cashback, rewards or interest free purchases once you start work if you have kept up with the repayments on your student credit card.

How to get a credit card

Avoid applying for several credit cards at once because it can harm your credit history.

How much does a student credit card cost?

They often charge a higher interest rate than other credit cards. They can also come with annual fees or charges if you miss a payment or break any other terms of the card.

What can go wrong?

The interest and fees on a credit card can be dangerous because you could get further into debt if you do not meet the card's repayments.

Credit cards also come with a credit limit, which is the most you are able to owe on it at once. Spending more than this amount will result in a fee of about 12.

You can damage your credit history if you go over your credit limit or miss repayments.

How to manage your card

Pay off your credit card bill in full each month and avoid breaking its rules - this means you will pay no interest or fees.

This guide to managing your card explains everything you need to know to run your card and keep its costs as low as possible.

Alternatives to a student credit card

If you want to avoid getting a credit card, there are other ways to borrow or access money in an emergency.

  • Get an interest free overdraft - they can be a much cheaper way to borrow and come with most student current accounts.

  • Grants and student loans can be one of the cheapest ways to fund your education. Check what is available using GOV.UK, the Student Loans Company and The Student Room.

  • Become a secondary cardholder on a parent's credit card instead, which would give your own card to use in an emergency. Your parent would be in charge of paying the bill and managing the account, so would have to trust you not to overspend.

Read our guide to student finances and our student budget planner guide for some tips on staying on top of your finances.