Should you get a student credit card?

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Used sensibly a student credit card can provide peace of mind and help you start building that all important credit record.

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Getting a credit card when you are a student can make it easy to spend money you haven’t got. However, a credit card can be useful in an emergency and help you start building a credit history. Find out more about the pros and cons with our guide.

What is a student credit card?

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

Every credit card provider has different rules on whom they 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.

You can find out what cards might accept you, and see your chances of getting a card by using the eligibility checker with our partner Uswitch.

The pros and cons of student credit cards

Useful for emergency fundsHigher interest rates
Protection on your purchasesLower credit limits
Build your credit historyDanger of getting into debt
Some offer interest free periodsCharges and fees

Can you get a student credit card?

When you apply for a credit card the provider will check:

  • 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.

Do you need an income to get a student credit card?

To get a student credit card you will have to demonstrate that you have some income. This can come from: :

  • Your student loan

  • Regular payments from your parents

  • A wage from a part-time job

If you apply for a standard credit card, most lenders will expect you to have a regular income from work.

How to get a student credit card

  • Compare every credit card that will consider applications from students

  • Use a free eligibility checker to find out what cards you are likely to be accepted for. Making a real application leaves a trace on your credit file that could affect your credit score and future credit applications. An eligibility checker makes a 'soft' check that doesn't appear on your record to other lenders, so it's a much better idea.

  • Double check you meet the card's eligibility terms

  • Check the credit limit is high enough for your needs 

  • You can then take out the card you choose. Here is how to apply

If your application is declined, avoid applying for more credit cards immediately because it can harm your credit history.

Instead, wait at least six months, during which you should take steps to improve your credit score. You can read more about how to improve to your credit here.

Getting your first credit card

How much do student credit cards cost?

All credit cards charge interest on what you borrow if you don't pay off your balance every month.

Student credit cards often charge higher interest rates than other credit cards, making them more expensive. Credit cards also charge you if you miss a payment or break any other terms of the card and some have annual fees. Here's how to understand credit card charges and avoid them

What can go wrong?

Credit cards can make it very easy for cash-strapped students to get into debt.

This is why it is really important that you don’t spend more than you can realistically afford to repay on your credit card. 

If you don’t pay your bill in full each month interest will be charged. This can quickly cause your debt to spiral, especially if you only make the minimum repayment.

Should you go over your credit limit (the maximum you can put on your card) or miss a payment, fees will be added to your debt and you will also damage your credit history.

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 benefits like cashback, rewards or interest free purchases once you start work. 

If you have managed your student credit card well, you should have built up a good credit history and be in a better position to borrow than those that haven’t had a credit card before.

What are the alternatives to student credit cards?

There are other ways to borrow or access money in an emergency:

  • Interest-free overdrafts: they can be a cheaper way to borrow and are offered with most student current accounts.

  • As a secondary cardholder on a parent's credit card: This would give you a card to use in an emergency. Your parent would be in charge of paying the bill and managing the account, so they would have to trust you not to overspend. Here are more student finances tips and our student budget planner has some tips on staying on top of your finances.

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

Find the best credit card for you, whether you're looking for 0% card for balance transfers or purchases or day to day spending and rewards

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