Best debit cards for college students


Unlike credit cards, debit cards are usually linked to a current account and will not charge interest or require a credit check. Most banks will issue you an ATM or debit card when you open a current account (and sometimes even a savings account) so you can withdraw money, but you won’t be able to access a line of credit.

Debit cards give you low-risk access to your money, with your purchases being written directly from your linked bank account, but they generally don’t offer rewards or incentives like a student credit card will be. Still, there are a handful of third-party and bank-issued debit cards that allow students to earn rewards and even build risk-free credit.

One advantage of debit cards over credit cards is that you can’t rack up debt and you don’t have to worry about making payments on time. But you should still be careful not to go below your bank’s minimum balance requirements in order to avoid overdraft fees.

Some debit cards have monthly or annual fees, but most of our college debit card picks don’t. Keep in mind that not all of these cards allow you to withdraw cash, so you may need to keep your bank-issued debit card to access the cash. While this list is geared toward cards that maximize rewards on your college spending, you don’t have to be a student to take advantage of these debit cards.

Read more: Best Prepaid Debit Cards

For 1% cash back on all purchases

Awards: 1% cash back on up to $3,000 in purchases per month.

Costs: None

Current account: Discover only

ATM: 60,000 free ATMs in the United States

The Discover CashBack debit card earns you 1% on everything you buy, up to $3,000 in monthly spending. While there are other student debit cards that offer 1% cash back, many come with a monthly fee or require you to maintain a large minimum checking account balance. While there’s a monthly cap on the rewards you can earn, it’s much higher than some competitors – plus, you won’t be limited to earning rewards only on certain purchases like with other cards.

One downside is that you’ll need a Discover checking account to use this card — it doesn’t connect to any checking accounts like the other debit card choices on this list. If you don’t mind switching banks, this checking account is free, has no overdraft fees, and has access to over 60,000 ATMs with no fees.

Read more: Discover credit cards

For regular Target shoppers

Awards: Save 5% on all Target purchases

Costs: None

Current account: Any

ATM: Not applicable; Cash withdrawal up to $40 at Target checkout

With supplies like notebooks and project materials, clothing, snacks, and dorm furniture, Target sells a wide range of the most important student needs. The Target RedCard debit card earns the same rewards as the Target RedCard credit card – you’ll save 5% at checkout on all Target purchases, online or in-store. Other perks include free shipping on most purchases and an additional 30 days to process returns. Payments can take two to three business days to appear in your checking account, so if you’re not on top of your spending, it’s easy to accidentally overdraw with this card.

Since you’ll only earn rewards on Target purchases, and you won’t be able to use this card outside of the United States or at non-participating retailers, it’s not exactly a good substitute for all your shopping needs. debit card. If you’re not a frequent Target shopper, you should check out the other picks on our list.

For climate-friendly choices

Awards: 5% cash back on

  • Trains, buses, metro, metro, light rail and commuter rail
  • Online marketplaces for second-hand clothes and thrift stores
  • Electric vehicle charging
  • Bike shops (bikes, e-bikes, bike accessories and repairs)
  • Self-service electric scooters, mopeds and bicycles

1% on everything else

Costs: None

Current account: Any

ATM: No withdrawals, just purchases

FutureCard aims to encourage climate-friendly choices by rewarding purchases at thrift stores, electric vehicle charging stations, public transport, bike shops and more. You’ll earn 5% on these climate-focused purchases and 1% on all other purchases. If you believe a purchase qualifies for 5% cash back, you can email Future to request a rewards adjustment.

You can use this card to make purchases anywhere, but you can’t withdraw cash from ATMs with this debit card, so you’ll also want to keep your bank-issued debit card handy for money.

For more information, see our full FutureCard review.

Best college debit card for investing

Awards: Earn 0.125% stock on all your everyday purchases and up to 5% at select merchants with bonuses.

Costs: $1, $3 or $9 per month depending on your subscription

Current account: Hidden bank account and brokerage account

ATM: 19,000 free ATMs in the American network; otherwise $2.50 fee

The Stash debit card lets you earn money on every purchase you make, ranging from 0.125% to 5%, depending on where you shop. You also have the option to automatically invest your rewards if you are a student interested in building your investment portfolio. By default, the program gives you partial shares of stocks relevant to your purchases – so a slice of $HD when you make a purchase at Home Depot – although you can adjust your preferences to steer towards stocks of your choice. in the app. Stash automates this process for you, so it’s a good option if you prefer passive investing.

You need both a checking account and a brokerage account with Stash, so if you’re not interested in opening another bank account, this might not be the right one. debit card for you. If you don’t mind opening a new account, Stash is FDIC insured, but you’ll have to pay monthly fees ranging from $1 to $9 per month, depending on the investment plan you choose.

Build your credit with this debit card

Awards: Up to 1% on your transactions with the upgraded plan

Costs: $8 or $12 per month depending on plan

Current account: Any

ATM: None, purchases only

The additional debit card straddles the line between debit card and credit card. You get all the benefits of building credit without the hassle of a credit check or interest charges. At the end of each month, the company summarizes your transactions and sends the information to the three major US credit bureaus that oversee your credit score – Experian, Equifax and Transunion – just like a credit card would. But your payments are automatically taken from your bank account like a debit card, so you don’t have to worry about payments. The credit bureaus record this as responsible behavior, so over time using this card will help improve your credit score.

There are a few downsides to consider. First, charges can take a day or more to arrive in your account after you shop, so you’ll need to be careful with your spending to avoid accidental overdrafts. This card is also not free. There are two plans to choose from: Create Credits or Create Credits Plus Rewards. The Credit Building Plan costs $8 per month and allows you to build credit, but does not earn rewards. The build credit plus rewards option costs $12 per month and earns up to 1% on every purchase.

If you spend more than $400 per month with this card and earn 1% in rewards, you can get back the extra $4 you pay for this plan. If you’re spending less than that per month, you’re better off with the $8 subscription. You can also save 25% on either subscription if you pay annually, up front.

The rewards you earn can also only be redeemed for merchandise and gift cards, rather than cash back or statement credits. You also cannot use this card outside of the United States. Overall, not a great option for earning and redeeming rewards, but worth considering if you want to build your credit without opening a credit card.


Do you need to have a credit score to get a debit card?

Debit cards do not depend on your credit score or credit history for approval, as there is very little risk that the issuer will not get paid. Although banks don’t require a credit check, they do require you to link a checking account to your debit card so that your transactions are automatically taken from your free cash balance. Depending on your bank, there may be a minimum balance you must maintain in your checking account.

Should I get a debit card or a credit card?

Whether you opt for a debit card or a credit card will depend on your financial goals and risk appetite. Debit cards don’t hurt your credit, incur interest charges or late fees, and can’t get you into debt – although you may incur overdraft charges if you spend more than is available on your checking account. While credit cards carry these risks, they also offer more freedom to a disciplined user: you can cover a charge you may not have the money for right away, increase your credit, and earn better rewards and benefits. Decide which set of benefits and risks best suits your personal situation.

What is a secured credit card?

A secured credit card shares some similarities with a debit card, but it carries the risk of getting into debt and racking up interest charges. Secured credit cards are designed for anyone looking to build their credit. They require a security deposit that acts as a line of credit, and your payments are automatically taken from your security deposit each month. After you’ve built up your credit for a while, you may be able to upgrade to an unsecured credit card or a traditional credit card, which doesn’t require a security deposit and may offer better rewards and benefits.

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