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Best student credit cards for November 2020

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College and high school look a lot different this year. But whether students are on campus or learning at home this fall, there are still plenty of back-to-school expenditures. And if a student doesn’t already have a flush checking account in place, many of those purchases will need to be put on a credit card. But it’s not always easy for a student to get one from a typical credit card company — especially if they don’t already have a steady income and good credit.

Credit is a Catch-22: It’s important to have good credit, but hard to get — unless you already have it. Student credit cards address that conundrum. They provide a way in for those with a limited credit history by providing a small credit line. The card issuer takes the risk with the hope that most students will transition into full-time employment and stick around as profitable customers for years to come.

Best student credit cards

Best overall Best for students without a credit history Best for students who plan to carry a balance Best for students with a cosigner
Discover it Student Chrome Deserve Edu Credit Card Chase Freedom Student Bank of America Travel Rewards
Annual percentage rate (standard / penalty) 17.99% variable, with 0% for the first 6 months / None 18.74% variable / None 14.99% variable / None 14.99% to 22.99% variable
Late payment fee Up to $40 Up to $25 Up to $39 Up to $40
Cash back reward rate 2% on gas and dining (up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter), 1% on all other purchases 1% on all purchases 1% on all purchases; 4% cash back on Lyft until 2022 1.5% on all purchases
Eligibility requirements No credit history required, proof of income required No credit score required; no social security number required for international students Cosigners not allowed, proof of income required Cosigners allowed
Annual fee $0 $0 $0 $0

Most credit cards require applicants to have a high credit score (around 650 or so) and at least a few years of credit report history. To get a student credit card, however, you don’t necessarily need either — though some proof of financial experience and responsibility helps when it comes to securing a credit card offer. The card issuer looks at sources of income — even from part-time work or deposits from parents — as well as information about checking and savings accounts to get a sense of an applicant’s saving and spending. Luckily, once a student is able to get a card, simply making everyday purchases is an easy way to build credit (so long as the student is able to pay off their purchases).

In addition to more relaxed eligibility requirements, the best student credit card offers some of the following features:

  • Special rules for credit newcomers such as minimal late fees and no-penalty APRs
  • Lower credit limits — usually between $500 and $2,000
  • Cashback rewards program on spending
  • A “reasonable” APR — usually between 15 and 20%

We evaluated 19 credit cards marketed specifically to students. We selected four cards that stood out across a range of criteria including APR, forgiveness for credit mistakes, cash rewards and lenient eligibility requirements. Check out our picks below as well as some answers to frequently asked questions about student credit cards at the end of this article. We’ll update this list periodically.

The best student credit card overall

  • Standard APR: 17.99% variable (0% for the first 6 months)
  • Penalty APR: None
  • Late payment fee: Up to $40
  • Annual fee: $0
  • Cashback rewards: 2% on gas and dining, up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter; 1% on all other purchases 
  • Foreign transaction fee: 0%
  • Standout feature: No late fee for first late payment
  • Eligibility requirements: No credit history required, proof of income 

The Discover it Student Chrome offers a winning combination of cash back and other rewards as well as lenient terms for first-time credit card holders. You won’t get dinged by the credit card company for a late payment — at least the first one — or have to deal with an exorbitant penalty APR. And, of course, getting 1 to 2% back in rewards each month is a welcome bonus. Note that Discover offers another similar student credit card, the Discover it Student Cash Back credit card, but the rotating bonus categories make things overcomplicated, especially for first-time cardholders. 

Features and rewards

Most student credit cards offer 1% cash back. The Discover it Student Chrome card bests that with 2% cash back on gas and dining, plus a generous cashback match at the end of the first year. The match effectively doubles your first year’s bonus rewards, so if you receive $75 in cashback rewards during the first 12 months, Discover will chip in an additional $75. We also like that the Chrome student credit card incentivizes good grades: You can earn a $20 statement credit for each school year you maintain a GPA of 3.0 or higher. 

Rates and fees 

Discover’s rates and fees are generally lower than competitors’. The APR charged on purchases ranges between 12.99 and 21.99%, and there’s an introductory six-month period with 0% APR. Students with the Discover it Student Chrome also don’t have to worry about a penalty APR, which some issuers will institute if a card holder misses a payment. There’s no late fee for the first late payment, but for the second instance the credit card company charges up to $40, which is comparable to other cards. 

At the moment, most study abroad programs have been put on hold. That noted, the Chrome student credit card has no foreign transaction fees — though Discover isn’t as widely accepted outside of the US as Mastercard and Visa.

Best for students without a credit history

  • Standard APR: 18.74% variable
  • Penalty APR: None
  • Late payment fee: Up to $25
  • Annual fee: $0
  • Cashback rewards: 1% on all purchases 
  • Foreign transaction fee: 0%
  • Standout feature: Low late payment fee
  • Eligibility requirements: No credit score required; no social security number required for international students 

Deserve Edu Mastercard positions itself as an alternative to the traditional banks and credit card issuers, and specializes in credit cards for students and first-timers. And the Deserve Edu student credit card checks many of the boxes: It offers 1% back on all spending, features a relatively low late payment fee and comes with a flat 18.74% APR. While it offers a lower student rewards rate than others, its relaxed eligibility requirements are well suited for students with a brief or nonexistent credit history or other potentially disqualifying limitation — like not having a social security number, if you’re an international student. 

Features and rewards

The Deserve Edu student credit card offers 1% cash back on all purchases, which can be redeemed for statement credits in increments of $25. Card holders also get one year free of Amazon Prime Student — worth around $40 — and up to $600 of credit toward cell phone protection coverage when you pay your monthly bill with it. 

Rates and fees

The 18.74% variable APR is relatively low for a student credit card, and it’s not tied to your credit score, so you know exactly what the APR is at the outset. Rather, the APR is “variable” because it’s tied to the “prime rate” — a benchmark interest rate used by lenders that changes over time. With most other cards, you won’t know the exact APR certain until you’ve been approved — and if you have a limited or nonexistent credit history it could be on the higher end of the range of what the issuer advertises. If you miss a payment, there’s no penalty APR — though you may be charged a late payment fee of $25. (Still, that’s about $15 less than the fee charged by most other student cards.) Deserve doesn’t charge any foreign transaction fees.

Best for students who plan to carry a balance

  • Standard APR: 14.99% variable
  • Penalty APR: None
  • Annual fee: $0
  • Late payment fee: Up to $39
  • Cashback rewards: 1% on all purchases; 4% cash back on Lyft until 2022
  • Foreign transaction fee: 3%
  • Standout features: Free, unlimited access to credit score; Earn a credit limit increase after making 5 monthly payments on time
  • Eligibility requirements: No cosigners, proof of income

The student version of one of our favorite cashback credit cards, the Chase Freedom Student credit card has a lot to offer. The 14.99% variable APR is one of the lowest available for student credit cards, and you get a $50 credit when you sign up, a $20 bonus every year and a credit limit increase after five on-time payments.

Features and rewards

Chase offers cardholders free and unlimited access to their credit score, which can be an important tool for those building credit from scratch. The credit limit increase is another nice feature as credit utilization is a primary factor in a credit score. Most credit experts recommend using less than 30% of your total credit available, so the higher the limit, the easier it is to keep your utilization low.

Its 1% cash back on all purchases is consistent with the category average and the 4% back on Lyft rides is nice (though less practical for many in the coronavirus era). The $50 sign-on bonus can be triggered by making a single purchase in the first three months so you need not worry about hitting a high spending threshold. And the $20 annual reward can be redeemed for five years — as long as your account remains in good standing. 

Rates and fees

Every cardholder gets the 14.99% variable APR — so you know what you’re signed up for at the outset. It’s best not to maintain a balance month-to-month, but if it happens once or twice, the interest will be lower than with other cards.

A few words of caution: This card’s late payment fee can run as high as $39 for a first late payment; most other student cards have a lower penalty or no penalty for first-time offenders; and if you’re planning on studying abroad, this card will subject you to a 3% foreign transaction fee. 

Best for students who have a cosigner

  • Standard APR: 14.99% to 22.99% variable
  • Penalty APR: Up to 29.99%
  • Late payment fee: Up to $40
  • Annual fee: $0
  • Cash back rewards: 1.5% on all purchases
  • Foreign transaction fee: 0%
  • Eligibility requirements: Allows cosigners

Bank of America is one of the few card issuers that allows cosigners, who can be a parent, guardian — or anyone with a good credit score who’s willing to share the legal liability. On the other hand, any late or missed payments or high outstanding balances will also negatively affect the cosigner’s score. 

Features and rewards

This student credit card is essentially the same as Bank of America’s Travel Rewards card, which means it offers higher risks and rewards than most other student cards. You get a higher cash rewards rate — 1.5% back on all purchases — but fewer of the relaxed requirements for credit novices. And points can be redeemed only as statement credits against travel purchases; so, unless 1.5% of your spending is on taxis, Uber or Lyft, flights, baggage fees, hotels, rental cars, buses, trains, amusement parks or campgrounds, this card’s rewards aren’t particularly valuable.

Bank of America will grant you 25,000 points — equivalent to $250 — when you sign up if you spend $1,000 during the first three months. That’s a higher threshold than you’ll find with other student cards, but also a higher reward. Bottom line: If you can time your credit card application with a large purchase, it’s worth it.

Rates and fees 

Bank of America offers an introductory 0% APR for the first year and no foreign transaction fees. That being said, this student credit card doesn’t mess around when it comes to penalties: The standard APR runs between 14.99% and 22.99% depending on your credit score — but if you’re late with a payment, you could be hit with the 29.99% penalty APR. That’s exorbitant — and it comes in addition to a $40 late payment fee. Students at risk of paying late should avoid this card at all costs.

How does a student credit card work?

Student credit cards offer those with limited or no credit a way to start building credit and create a credit history. They generally come with lower credit limits than typical credit cards and don’t charge annual fees. And they often have novice-friendly features, including late payment forgiveness, incremental credit limit increases over time and credit education resources. Reward rates may be lower than standard cashback and travel credit cards, however, making student credit cards a lower risk, lower reward financial tool.

Are secured credit cards a good option for first-time credit card holders?

Secured credit cards offer a way to build good credit or repair bad credit — but they’re better suited for those who have bad credit or a nonexistent credit history. Secured credit cards also require an upfront security deposit in the amount of your credit limit; for $1,000 of credit, you have to give the bank $1,000. In effect, the bank is loaning your own money back to you — sometimes with an annual fee or high interest rate. If you don’t have another option, a secured credit card may make sense. But a secured card shouldn’t be the first choice for a credit newbie.

What do you need to qualify for a student credit card?

Most credit cards require an applicant to have a credit score of at least 650 and a substantial credit history. Student cards don’t. Still, you may need to demonstrate some financial responsibility — including a source of income, even from part-time work or deposits from your parents. The card issuer may also want to see information about your checking and savings accounts to get a sense of your spending habits and confirm that you’ll have sufficient funds to pay the minimum monthly payment. 

How do cashback rewards work?

For all the cards listed above, “cash back” refers to a statement credit that’s applied to your account to lower your balance. For the Bank of America Travel Rewards card, for example, you can only redeem rewards against travel purchases. But for most other cards, cash rewards can be applied toward a balance regardless of expense type.

Read moreThe best cashback credit cards

Cards we researched

  • CapitalOne Journey Student Rewards
  • Discover it Student Chrome 
  • Discover it Student Cash Back 
  • Deserve EDU Student
  • Bank of America Cash Rewards for Students
  • CapitalOne Secured Mastercard
  • Bank of America Travel Rewards for Students 
  • Citi Rewards + Student
  • OpenSky Secured Visa
  • BankAmericard for Students 
  • StateFarm Student Visa 
  • Wells Fargo Cash Back College 
  • Petal Visa 
  • Chase Freedom Student
  • CapitalOne Platinum
  • Discover it Secured
  • Chase Freedom Unlimited
  • Citi Double Cash Card
  • CapitalOne Quicksilver Cash

Disclaimer: The information included in this article, including program features, program fees and credits available through credit cards to apply to such programs, may change from time-to-time and are presented without warranty. When evaluating offers, please check the credit card provider’s website and review its terms and conditions for the most current offers and information. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.

The comments on this article are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

Read more: Best balance transfer credit cards of 2020

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A Look Back At Housing 2020: Rental Housing Gets Riskier

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According to the American Housing Survey cited in a recent article, there are about 48 million rental housing units in the United States ranging from single-family homes to large multifamily apartment complexes. Of those 48 million units about 23 million are owned by individuals, according to a recent Rental Housing Finance Survey; that’s more than half of the occupied units in the country. Yet private rental housing providers have been under relentless attack in recent years increasing risks and costs. This has worsened in 2020 as I have pointed out. More risk means fewer housing units and higher prices, not a good outlook for the future.

Any business based on renting assets is based on risk. Think about the last time you went bowling. When you rent the shoes, the person behind the counter often will hold a driver’s license? Why? It’s a way of offsetting the risk that you’ll go home with the shoes either on purpose or accidentally. Nobody wants to deal with a lost driver’s license. Offsetting this risk has absolutely nothing to do with you or your trustworthiness; it is uniformly applied and routine.

Housing providers have to similarly offset the risk of allowing a stranger occupy their private property. There are several ways of doing this, including using credit checks. But lately, politicians are beginning to eliminate the credit check from the tools that housing providers can use to offset risk. Minneapolis for example has eliminated credit checks arguing that they are a “barrier” to housing.

Is race a factor in bad credit and thus a barrier to people of color to get housing? The fact is, yes, African American people have more credit issues. But would eliminating credit checks help them? The answer is, “No.”

An article in the Washington Post, “Credit scores are supposed to be race-neutral. That’s impossible,” is emblematic of how this issue plays among the public and policy makers. The author says two contradictory things. First,

“This would lead one to think that credit-score calculations can’t be biased. But factors that are included or excluded in the algorithms used to create a credit score can have the same effect as lending decisions made by prejudiced White loan officers.”

Then she writes,

“One quick way to impact your credit history is a court-ordered judgment. And Black borrowers are more likely to fare badly when taken to court by their creditors. Debt-collection lawsuits that end in default judgments also disproportionately go against Blacks, according to a 2020 Pew Charitable Trusts report.”

Logically, the right way to state this is that credit measures are biased against people who have default judgments against them, and African Americans have higher rates of defaults. Then the next question would be, “Why?” The most obvious answer is the right one, poverty is disproportionately concentrated among people of color.

But eliminating credit checks for housing won’t help that problem. If a housing provider is unable to evaluate risk based on past financial performance her only option will be to raise rents and deposit amounts in case there is a problem; that extra cash would provide a buffer if a resident stops paying rent. This won’t help anyone with less money. What’s the response to that? Ban rent increases by imposing rent control! That’s a bad idea too and won’t help either.

The answer is to figure out how people who have less money and therefore have more issues making ends meet can solve that problem and improve their credit scores. The author of the Washington Post article makes a sensible suggestion: include steady rent payments in credit scores. Some housing providers do, and it’s a great idea. But it is a positive one that actually helps the family; banning quantitative measures of past financial performance doesn’t.

The danger that unfolded in 2020 is that justifiable outrage about racism could lead to interventions that don’t address poverty and it’s negative consequences like default judgments but elimination of accepted measures of those consequences. Eliminating the evidence of poverty – struggling to pay bills – doesn’t help pay the bills! At best, these kinds of measures sweep the problem under the rug ensuring higher rents and making housing a risky business only big corporations will be able to do.

The answer is to address the broader underlying issues of poverty and increasing housing production. When there is more supply of housing providers compete with providers for residents and will be forced to bargain with potential residents, even those with dings or dents or completely destroyed credit. Housing abundance solves a housing problem while eliminating measure of risk only makes that risk higher and actually creates a housing problem.

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Can My Cosigner Take My Car?

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Cosigners don’t get any rights to the vehicle they signed the loan for. However, if the cosigner is trying to take your car, it may be time to take some action.

Cosigners and Ownership

Can My Cosigner Take My Car?Cosigners can’t take the vehicle they cosigned for because their name isn’t listed on the title. A cosigner isn’t responsible for making the monthly payments, maintaining car insurance, or really anything else. Cosigners simply lend you their good credit score to help you get approved for the auto loan, and if you can’t make payments, the lender can require them to pick up the slack.

Since you’re the primary borrower on the vehicle and your name is listed on the car’s title, you have ownership rights. Your cosigner can’t come to your residence and take possession of the vehicle – even if they’re the one making the car payments right now.

If you do default on the loan and the vehicle is repossessed, the cosigner still can’t take the car.

But My Cosigner Did Take My Car!

If your cosigner did somehow take your keys and your vehicle without permission, it’s considered theft. If you want to take action, you can report the car as stolen.

However, a better first step is probably contacting the cosigner and letting them know that they don’t have any ownership rights (if you want to maintain a relationship with them). You can ask them to return the vehicle and explain that their name isn’t on the title.

Removing a Cosigner From a Car Loan

If things are dicey with your cosigner, then it may be time to consider removing them from the auto loan. The easiest way to remove a cosigner is by refinancing.

Refinancing is when you replace your current loan with another one. You can work with your current lender or another one, but most borrowers look for another lender to refinance with.

You don’t need a perfect credit score to refinance your car loan – it just has to be good or better than it was when you first got the loan. Another common requirement of refinancing is that you’ve had the loan for at least one year.

Other common requirements for refinancing are:

  • You’ve stayed current on payments throughout the loan
  • You have equity or your loan balance is equal to the vehicle’s value
  • Your car has less than 100,000 miles and is less than 10 years old

Most borrowers usually refinance to lower their loan payments. Since you’re replacing your current auto loan with another one, many borrowers try to qualify for lower interest rates or extend their loan to lower their payments. If your credit score has improved, you may even be able to get a better interest rate and remove your cosigner!

Can’t Refinance to Remove the Cosigner?

Refinancing isn’t in the cards for everyone. However, another efficient way to remove a cosigner is by selling the car. Cosigners don’t have to be present at the sale of the vehicle, since they don’t have to sign the title to transfer ownership.

If you sell the car and get an offer large enough to cover the entire balance of your loan, you and the cosigner can walk away from the auto loan scot-free.

However, many borrowers need cosigners because their credit score isn’t the best. If you want to sell your vehicle to remove your cosigner, but you’re worried you can’t get a car loan by yourself, consider a subprime auto loan for your next vehicle.

Bad Credit Auto Loans

Since many traditional car lenders don’t work with borrowers who have poor credit histories or lower credit scores, they often ask them to bring a cosigner. But what if you don’t want a cosigner (or can’t get one) on your next auto loan? Enter subprime car loans.

Subprime lenders are teamed up with special finance dealerships, and they operate remotely. When you apply for financing with a special finance dealer, you work with the special finance manager who acts as the middleman between you and the lender.

You need documents to prove you’re ready to take on an auto loan – typical things like check stubs, proof of residency, valid driver’s license, a down payment, and other assorted items depending on your credit situation. If you qualify, the lender determines what your maximum car payment can be, and you choose a vehicle you qualify for from there.

What sets subprime auto loans apart from traditional car loans is that they assist borrowers in tough credit situations and offer the opportunity for credit repair. Some in-house financing dealerships that don’t check credit reports don’t report their auto loans, which means your timely payments don’t improve your credit score.

Finding a Car Dealership Near You

The best way to improve your credit score is by paying all your bills on time. Payment history is the most influential piece of the credit score pie. There are many lenders willing to work with bad credit borrowers, you just have to know where to look!

Here at Auto Credit Express, we’ve already done the searching, and we’ve created a nationwide network of dealers that are signed up with subprime lenders. Get matched to a dealership in your area, with no cost and no obligation, by filling out our car loan request form.

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United Way hoping to raise thousands of dollars on Giving Tuesday –

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“We have partnered with Carter Meyers Associates in the community and developed what we call Driving Lives Forward, an automobile loan program to help families that maybe have no credit or bad credit to access resources to have an affordable loan to purchase a reliable used car,” said Barbara Hutchinson, the Vice President of Community Impact for the United Way of Greater Charlottesville.

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