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Should you get a student credit card?

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Written by Martin Lane, Managing Editor

13 March 2020

A student credit card could be useful in emergencies and help you build your credit record, but they can be expensive. Here's how to find the right student credit card and use it wisely.

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 who 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 our eligibility checker.

Pros

  • Useful for emergency funds

  • Protection on your purchases

  • Build your credit history

  • Some offer interest free periods

Cons

  • Higher interest rates

  • Lower credit limits

  • Danger of getting into debt

  • Charges 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 student credit card?

Student credit card providers usually consider your application if your income is 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 will need you to have a regular income.

How to get a student credit card

  1. Compare every credit card that will consider applications from students

  2. Make sure you meet the card's eligibility terms

  3. Check the credit limit is high enough for what you want to spend

  4. You can then take out the card you choose; here is how to apply

If your application is declined, avoid applying for several credit cards at once because it can harm your credit history.

Instead, wait at least six months, during which you should take steps to improve your credit. 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.

Some cards also have annual fees or charges if you miss a payment or break any other terms of the card. Here's how to understand credit card charges and avoid them

What can go wrong?

You could go further into debt because of credit card interest and fees if you are late or miss any repayments

Credit cards also come with a credit limit, which is the most you are allowed to owe at any one time. 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 student credit card

Pay off your credit card bill in full and on time each month - this means you will pay no interest or fees.

Find out more about how to manage your credit card and keep the cost as low as possible.

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 cashbackrewards or interest free purchases once you start work.

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.
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.
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 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.

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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