First credit card for college freshman
August 15, 2017 6:19 PM   Subscribe

Are there any credit cards aimed at college freshmen without a credit history?

My oldest child doesn't have a credit history, and earned all of her money by baby-sitting (i.e., no paper trail with Social Security).

How does a person like that get their first credit card?
posted by wenestvedt to Work & Money (18 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
When I was young and trying to establish my credit (meaning i had no credit like your daughter), I ended up going to Bank of America and put down a $100 deposit for a credit card that had a $500 limit. When I paid my minimum balance on time every month for 6 months, I got my deposit back.

Your bank should have a similar program.
posted by littlesq at 6:29 PM on August 15, 2017


A the college I used to work for, Discover (and some other banks, but I forget who) would have a table in the student union signing kids up. I got my first CC that way 10 years ago, too.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 6:31 PM on August 15, 2017 [2 favorites]


Since I have good credit, I added both of my kids to my own credit card as authorized users, starting at age eighteen. We checked the older one's credit record a few months ago (via one of the free credit reports everyone is entitled to get each year) and it looks good, so I expect they would have no trouble getting their own cards now that they are over twenty-one. Being an authorized user of a credit card gives you a credit history after a while even if you don't yourself use the card.

Don't do this if your own credit rating is not good, because they would share that, as well. And of course you should do this only if you can trust them to not to abuse the card.
posted by artistic verisimilitude at 6:37 PM on August 15, 2017 [4 favorites]


In my experience, as soon as she sets foot on campus, there will be many, many credit card companies willing to give her a (shitty interest rate) card AND a t-shirt merely for being enrolled.
posted by jacquilynne at 6:37 PM on August 15, 2017 [11 favorites]


Additionally store cards (department stores, gas stations, electronics stores, etc.) aren't (or at least they didn't used to be) as picky as Visa, Mastercard, etc. Signing up for one or two of those and using them responsibly is a good way to establish a credit history.
posted by sardonyx at 6:42 PM on August 15, 2017 [2 favorites]


I got a Discover It card when I first started college, and am still using it. I had no real jobs at that point, and my initial credit limit was something like $800 a month. This was 5 years ago. I don't think I had to do anything special - I applied and put an expected $3000 / year of income, because that was about how much I would make working part time on campus.

I also second jacquilynne in that many credit card companies will be happy to give students a credit card.
posted by wym at 6:55 PM on August 15, 2017 [1 favorite]


Before my daughter went to college, we applied for a joint credit card with a modest credit limit ($1,000) at our credit union (rather than adding her as an authorized user to my card). She charged books and occasional personal expenses (gas, etc.) so we could establish a payment history. It was helpful for both of us because I was able to keep an eye on the account as a joint owner.
posted by Sweetie Darling at 6:56 PM on August 15, 2017 [2 favorites]


I've heard mixed things about authorized users counting towards their credit score. I'd check into it more before counting on that.

Secured cards are a thing, you deposit x$hundred and you get a credit limit of that much that you keep for a while to build a credit history before transitioning to a normal card.
posted by TheAdamist at 7:02 PM on August 15, 2017


I know some kids these days get amazon-branded Visas, either jointly with a parent or solo if they can, because you get a discount on ordering textbooks, etc. (And/or, kid can charge textbooks, parent can pay for textbooks.)

(Secured cards are definitely the first-card-with-no-parental-help-of-choice, though!)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:30 PM on August 15, 2017 [2 favorites]


I got a Capital One Visa card before I went to college to help pay for books, start a credit history, etc. They sent an offer in the mail - because student loans lists I'm sure. I think it was a $300 limit to start and then went to $500, then $1000 pretty shortly. I think I'm at $6K now 9 years later, no balance. Without ever asking for a credit increase.

Good customer service. I also have a car loan through them.

Definitely make sure you've got access if you help pay their bills and they have autopay or good reminders set up if they use it. I was pretty darn poor in college and young adulthood so it did get maxed out and such for a while but it helped pay expenses.
posted by Crystalinne at 7:39 PM on August 15, 2017 [1 favorite]


For reference, what littlesq referred to are called "secured" cards. Capital One offers several, with varying deposits and credit limits. They're generally aimed at credit repair. I used to have one, and it was cool. There's nothing about the appearance or use of the card to indicate it's secured; it's exactly like a normal card.
posted by kevinbelt at 4:19 AM on August 16, 2017 [2 favorites]


Many universities and colleges are associated with a credit union. That's where I got my first (500 dollar credit limit!) card.
posted by rockindata at 4:55 AM on August 16, 2017 [1 favorite]


As described above, most major card companies will have a product designed for the "new user" market. After all, they'd like to convert the owner to a lifelong customer. That being the case, the terms, fees, etc may vary from one company/bank to another, so it pays to shop around at least a little bit.

By the same token, your family's bank wants to keep your family's business, and will probably have an option worth checking out.
posted by SemiSalt at 6:26 AM on August 16, 2017 [1 favorite]


Note that the tables in the credit union and such are illegal after the CARD act so it's marginally harder to get a first card than it was. Issuers also cannot legally take into account parents' (or other supporters') income anymore for people in your daughter's situation.

That said, just look up "student" cards - here's a list - most/all of them will happily issue low-limit cards to students with no credit history, no problem. Depending on their approval processes, they may ask for proof of student status. Typically student cards would offer better perks than secured cards would.
posted by R a c h e l at 6:28 AM on August 16, 2017 [3 favorites]


Thanks for al the great answers so far!

R a c h e l:
Note that the tables in the credit union and such are illegal after the CARD act so it's marginally harder to get a first card than it was. Issuers also cannot legally take into account parents' (or other supporters') income anymore for people in your daughter's situation
Right, this is why I asked: back in the day everyone was throwing cards at young people, but it's way harder now.

Our credit union has a branded secured card, and I will compare that to what other issuers offer. I have also heard that Discover will still issue a card to a young person.

I am curious: if a person has cash income, should they declare that on their application, or leave it off because it's not "official" paycheck income?
posted by wenestvedt at 7:21 AM on August 16, 2017


I don't think they actually check income? I assumed not but definitely don't know for sure.
I started out with Capital One secured cards when I first moved to the US and started building credit. I ended up closing my account because they wanted to charge me a yearly fee despite having a very small credit limit.
Being an authorized user will help your credit while you are named on their account, but won't have an influence if you're ever removed. It counts toward your balance to credit limit ratio. It doesn't count towards your length of credit history though.
I love Discover these days. I have a bunch of credit cards with multiple companies but they're my favorite. Their customer service is fantastic. Their fraud department is amazing - being able to freeze your account can be very handy. Their cashback is my favorite. I use my card for absolutely everything, pay off my balance every month and I can then use my cashback as Amazon points or put it towards my bill. So free things ever month! Can't recommend them enough.
posted by shesbenevolent at 12:30 PM on August 16, 2017 [2 favorites]


if a person has cash income, should they declare that on their application, or leave it off because it's not "official" paycheck income?

The official legal answer is that you should declare the cash income to the IRS, as you should all income. The realistic answer is...be as honest as you can, and if they come asking for proof (which rarely-to-never happens), cross that bridge then.
posted by R a c h e l at 1:26 PM on August 16, 2017 [1 favorite]


I got an American Express card during college with a 500 collar limit. They were doing some kind of promotion on campus and that's how I signed up.
posted by southlanecherry at 8:57 PM on August 16, 2017


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