Student credit cards

Students can establish credit and learn to manage debt with low-fee credit cards geared specifically toward them.

By   |   Verified by David Boyd   |   Updated 31st March 2021

Comparing student credit cards

Bendigo Bank Low Rate First Credit Card

On Bendigo Bank's website

Bendigo Bank Low Rate First Credit Card

Balance transfer

6 months at 0% p.a.

Purchase rate

11.99% p.a. ongoing

Annual fee

$29.00 p.a. ongoing

Highlights

  • Low 11.99% p.a. purchase rate.
  • Exclusive for customers 18 to 25 years old.
  • 0% p.a. on balance transfers for 6 months. Purchase rate of 11.99% p.a. applies thereafter.
Bankwest Breeze Mastercard

On Bankwest's website

Bankwest Breeze Mastercard

Balance transfer

26 months at 0% p.a.

Purchase rate

10.99% p.a. ongoing

Annual fee

$0.00 for 1st year

Highlights

  • Enjoy 0% p.a. on balance transfers for 26 months (10.99% p.a. thereafter, 2% BT fee applies).
  • No annual fee for the first year.
  • Up to 55 days interest-free on new purchases.
  • Limited time only. Other fees, T&Cs apply. New Breeze Mastercard customers only.
St.George Vertigo Visa

On St.George's website

Apply by 28 September 2021

St.George Vertigo Visa

Balance transfer

28 months at 0% p.a.

Purchase rate

13.99% p.a. ongoing

Annual fee

$55.00 p.a. ongoing

Highlights

  • Enjoy 0% for 28 months on Balance Transfers with 0% balance transfer fee. Reverts to cash advance rate of 21.49% p.a.
  • Additional cardholder at no extra cost.
  • Up to 55 days interest free on purchases.

Pros

  • 0% p.a. for 28 months on balance transfers with no balance transfer fee.
  • The competitive purchase interest rate of 13.99% p.a.
  • Additional cardholder at no extra cost

Cons

  • Balance transfer rate reverts to 21.49% p.a. after 28 months.
  • There are no rewards program for this card.
Westpac Low Rate Credit Card

On Westpac's website

Apply by 7 September 2021

Westpac Low Rate Credit Card

Balance transfer

28 months at 0% p.a.

Purchase rate

13.74% p.a. ongoing

Annual fee

$0.00 for 1st year

Highlights

  • Enjoy 0% p.a. for 28 months on balance transfers with a 1% balance transfer fee. Reverts to variable cash advance rate of 21.49% p.a.
  • Low 13.74% p.a. interest rate on purchases.
  • $0 first year annual card fee ($59 p.a. thereafter).

Finty Rewards

More info
  • $50 cashback when you apply via Finty and are approved

Pros

  • 0% p.a. for up to 28 months on balance transfers.
  • Low 13.74% p.a. interest rate on purchases.
  • $0 first year annual card fee ($59 p.a. thereafter).

Cons

  • Balance transfer reverts to cash advance rate of 21.49% p.a. after 28 months.
Virgin Money No Annual Fee Credit Card

On Virgin Money's website

Virgin Money No Annual Fee Credit Card

Balance transfer

12 months at 0% p.a.

Purchase rate

12 months at 0% p.a.

Annual fee

$0.00 p.a. ongoing

Highlights

  • $0 annual fee for the life of the card.
  • Transfer your balance at 0% p.a. for 12 months on balance transfers (reverts to 20.99% p.a.)
  • 0% p.a. for 12 months on purchases (reverts to 18.99% p.a.)

Pros

  • No annual fee ever.
  • 0% p.a. interest rate for up to 12 months on balance transfers and purchases.
  • Up to 4 additional cards, also with $0 annual fee.

Cons

  • The revert interest rates for balance transfers and purchases are relatively high.
BankSA Vertigo Credit Card

On BankSA's website

Apply by 28 September 2021

BankSA Vertigo Credit Card

Balance transfer

28 months at 0% p.a.

Purchase rate

13.99% p.a. ongoing

Annual fee

$55.00 p.a. ongoing

Highlights

  • Enjoy 0% for 28 months on balance transfers with 0% balance transfer fee. Reverts to cash advance rate of 21.49% p.a.
  • Additional cardholder at no extra cost.
  • Up to 55 days interest free on purchases.

Pros

  • 0% p.a. for 28 months on balance transfers with no balance transfer fee
  • The competitive purchase interest rate of 13.99% p.a.
  • Additional cardholder at no extra cost

Cons

  • Balance transfer rate reverts to 21.49% p.a. after 28 months.
  • There are no rewards program for this card.
Bankwest Zero Mastercard

On Bankwest's website

Bankwest Zero Mastercard

Balance transfer

9 months at 2.99% p.a.

Purchase rate

17.99% p.a. ongoing

Annual fee

$0.00 p.a. ongoing

Highlights

  • Pay no annual fee as long as you hold the card.
  • 2.99% p.a. for 9 months on balances transferred. Reverts to 17.99% p.a. thereafter.
  • Up to 55 days interest-free on purchases.

Overview

Starting out in higher education brings plenty of excitement, but also lots of financial challenges. Most students are on a tight budget, juggling study with part-time work in many cases. At the same time they may be navigating the demands of independent personal finances for the first time, with little or no credit history to show to potential lenders.

That's where a dedicated student credit card fits into the picture. They often have helpful features, such as:

  • Lower annual fee and interest rates than many standard credit cards
  • Lower income requirements
  • Relaxed eligibility in terms of credit history and score
  • Lower credit limits that are easier to manage
  • Little if anything in the way of rewards points and benefits hassle to get your head around

Payment convenience, but beware debt trap

Student credit cards make it easier to pay for items like Opal card top-ups, takeaway food and mobile phone plans, and are especially fast and convenient if your credit card links to a payment app so that you can pay with your phone. But they also present you with the temptation to spend money you may not have.

The best way to use any credit card is to take full advantage of the interest-free days during the monthly billing cycle, but always pay off the balance in full, on or before the due date. That way, you get to use the bank's money for free for up to 55 days in some cases, but avoid paying interest charges. Even though student credit card interest rates tend to be lower than those attached to premium credit cards, they are still relatively high, and if you don't clear your balance in full you may see your debt snowball as a result of interest charges.

However, its OK to run a balance from time to time if you know that you'll have money coming in to repay it in a short while. Just don't fall into the trap of spending money you will not have in the near future.

Managing your finances when using a student credit card

Here are a few basic tips to keep you out of trouble:

  • Have some life goals. This is a great starting point because it will motivate you to keep out of debt more than anything else. If you want to buy a car or house one day, you’ll have the incentive to live conservatively for the sake of the greater goal. Whatever money you get, try to put a little of it aside every week towards your goal, no matter what.
  • Make a budget and stick to it. Be realistic when you budget and include recreational spending, because this is normally where the money gets blown. If you know what you’ve got to spend, you’ll be more likely to stick to it. Break it down into a monthly and weekly budget. Get some help from a friend or online if you’re stuck.
  • Live within your means. That’s right, everyone else might be accumulating debt, but you’ll be so much better off spending only what you have or what you know you can pay off in full at the end of the month.
  • Have an emergency fund. Most people rely on their credit card for emergencies. You’ll do yourself a favour if you set aside some money in an emergency savings account. Then, when an emergency comes (which is inevitable), you won’t have to go into debt amidst an already stressful time.
  • Pay in cash as much as you can. Paying for things in cash means you’re paying for things with your own money. It’s much easier to lose track when you pay for everything with a plastic card.
  • Use your card as little as possible. Sometimes you need a credit card for online purchasing or other needs, but because student cards don’t generally have any rewards programs, and because they have low credit limits, you’re not doing yourself any favours by using it for the sake of using it. Keep it for when you have no other option.
  • Pay off your balance in full each month. You want to build up a good credit rating, stay out of debt and avoid interest charges. Paying off your balance and covering anything you’ve spent that month will accomplish that.

Other types of credit cards suitable for students

Not every credit card suitable for students has the label 'Student credit card' hanging round its neck. You may find a card that will work for you among credit cards for first-timers, or cards with no annual fee or low interest. Work out which features are most important to you, check that you can meet your chosen card's eligibility requirements, assemble your documentation, and apply online for a faster response.

Learn about student credit cards

Are you a student and would want to have a credit card? Check here if there's something for you.

  • Pros & cons

  • Tips

  • FAQs

  • Guides

Payment convenience

Sometimes it's easier to pay with a credit card than with cash. Online shopping and bill payments, topping up your Opal card, grabbing a coffee on the run while paying with your phone, all become possible when you have a credit card.

Financial training

Managing a credit card responsibly will teach you a lot about taking care of your personal finances. Ideally you will learn the importance of having a budget and not spending beyond your means, how interest charges work and their effect, and the role of your credit history and score.

Build credit history

If you never borrow money you won't have much detail in your credit history, and your credit score is likely to be low. So, although you might have stayed out of debt as a student, there will come a time when you need a car loan or a home mortgage. This type of borrowing will be much easier to organise, and come at a lower cost, if you have a good credit history. The best way to start building your credit history is to have a credit card and use it responsibly.

Unsure of what your credit report contain about you? Check your credit report here.

High interest rates

Although many student credit cards have lower-than-normal interest rates, this is not always the case. And even when a credit card interest rate is low, it's still likely to be very high compared with other forms of borrowing, such as a personal loan.

Getting into debt

Don't let your first credit card burn a hole in your pocket. If you're not good at financial discipline, a credit card can seem like an invitation to spend money you don't have, a course of action that's very likely to lead to long-term and expensive debt.

Possible credit score damage

Using a credit card in the wrong way could lead to starting off your credit history with black marks in your file. You can damage your credit score by making too many credit card applications within a short time frame, by constantly maxing out your credit limit, by failing to make the minimum payment on time, missing payments, and, in the worst case scenario, defaulting on your credit card debt. A credit card can be a useful financial tool, but if used wrongly it can turn around and bite you.

Features to look for in a credit card for students

Ideally, look for a card with:

Check the eligibility requirements before you apply

Every time you apply for a credit card, a note will be made in your credit history that a lender asked for a copy of your credit report. This is known as a 'hard enquiry', and each time it happens your credit score will go down a little. Since you don't want to damage your score with too many applications that didn't have a chance of succeeding, check the cards eligibility requirements before you apply to make sure that you can meet any stipulated income and credit score.

Avoid taking cash advances

Taking a cash advance from your credit card is a bad idea, unless you have no other option. Unlike purchases and bill payments, cash advances have no interest-free days, so you'll start paying interest – often at a higher rate than the rate for purchases – from the day you take the advance until the day you repay it in full. There's also a fee of several dollars payable each time you take a cash advance, further adding to the cost.

What are the benefits of a student credit card?

A student credit card is a good opportunity to learn how to use a credit card responsibly in a fairly low risk way. The credit limit is kept intentionally quite low, meaning you can only overspend to a limited amount before your card maxes out.

Student credit cards are also affordable. They typically have a $0 or very low annual fee.

They're also great for building credit history. If you pay off your debts on time, it shows future credit card companies that you can be trusted with a more powerful card because you’ve been responsible with the last one you had.

What's the difference between a student credit card and a regular credit card?

Student credit cards usually have lower annual fees and may have a lower interest rate than many other cards. Their eligibility requirements in terms of income and credit history also tend to be lower, and credit limits are lower, in line with the typical student cardholder's limited income.

How can I get a student credit card in Australia?

You need to be at least 18 years old to have your own credit card account. If you're under 18 you could ask a parent to add you as a supplementary cardholder on their account, and work out a way of repaying them for purchases you make with the card. Or you could use a debit card or prepaid card until you're old enough to apply for a credit card.

For most cards you'll also need to be an Australian citizen or permanent resident. If you're an international student, you'll need to check out our list of credit cards for temporary residents.

You'll also need to prove that you are enrolled in a TAFE, university or other accredited course, and you'll need to demonstrate an income – for example, from working, Centrelink or scholarships – even if it is low.

Finally, although you don't need to have much credit history, if any, you do need to have a credit report free of any past payment defaults or other evidence of financial mismanagement.

Are there drawbacks to a student credit card?

Unfortunately, yes. Even though the credit limits are low, any credit card can open the door to building up debt. And student credit card interest rates, though lower than those of some other cards, are still high, making debt even easier to accrue. If a student doesn’t fully understand how interest works and isn’t organised enough to make their repayments punctually, they could easily get themselves in trouble.

Can I get a credit card when I already have student loans?

You need to include details of any HECS, HELP or other debt in your credit card application. The card issuer will take your debts into account when assessing your ability to make repayments on your credit card. It make make it more difficult to be approved, but won't necessarily disqualify you. HECS and HELP in particular, because you're not required to repay them (through the income tax system) until you are are earning enough, shouldn't be too much of a problem.

Can a student with no income get a credit card?

Don't forget that Centrelink payments and scholarships can count as income in some cases. But if you have no job and no income at all, you're going to find it difficult to get your card application approved. Consider being added as an additional cardholder on a parent's account instead, or use a debit card or prepaid card.

Can you still get a student credit card with a brief or non-existent credit history?

Yes. Credit card providers understand that students haven't had time to build up much credit history, if any. So they relax their credit history and credit score requirements when it comes to credit cards for students. However, it will be a problem if your brief credit history already contains some negative information, such as late bill payments or payment defaults.

What proof will be required for an application?

The documentation and information you'll need to provide includes:

  • Personal details. Name, date of birth, address, email and phone contact details.
  • ID. If you don't already have an account with the bank you're applying to, you'll need to provide 100 points of ID. Acceptable documents include passports, driver's licences and Medicare cards.
  • Student status verification. The name of the university, TAFE or other accredited college you're attending, and your course enrolment details.
  • Employment income. If you're working, provide information about your employer and income, possibly including recent payslips.
  • Other income. Details of any Centrelink payments or scholarships.
  • Assets and debts. List any bank savings or deposit accounts, and any other loans you have, such as student loans.
  • Expenses. The application form may ask you to provide an estimate of your regular expenses, such as rent, groceries, utility bills and transport.

Can international students get a credit card from an Australian bank?

Yes, you can get an international student credit card. You may have a more limited choice than Australian citizens or permanent residents do, but there are still a few credit cards for international students that will accept your student visa. Check out our credit cards for temporary residents page for more information.

What happens if I can’t make a payment?

If you don’t make your monthly repayments on a credit card, you’ll get charged interest. If you just let the debt sit there without paying it down, it will automatically grow astronomically. Additionally, if a credit provider sees that you’re not paying down your debt, they can even increase your interest rate and you’ll be in even more trouble. In addition to accumulating overwhelming debt, you will damage your credit rating. This will affect any future credit card applications and can even hinder you getting a rental property or loan of any kind, including a car or home loan. If you want to keep your options open in the future, do not go down this track. If you’re in trouble and need help, there are a wealth of resources online, in local libraries and in credit centres everywhere.

Should I go with a credit or debit card?

Debit cards function very similarly to credit cards except for one major difference. Debit cards use money you already have, while credit cards use money you don’t have (and can put you into debt unless you manage your account). Unless you absolutely have to spend money you don’t have, a debit card is more than fine for pretty well anything you’d use a credit card for, including online shopping. The best part is it eliminates the risk of losing track of spending and getting into debt. If you’re worried about needing funds in an emergency, start putting aside some money each week for that very purpose.