How to Get Approved for Credit Cards and Earn Bonus Offers as a College Student

Disclosure: Well Traveled Mile has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Well Traveled Mile and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers.

[Disclaimer: One thing to understand before applying for a credit card is that not paying off your balance in full every month is a losing proposition and will negate the value of the miles and points earned. The bottom line is that you have to be responsible with your credit card usage and pay your balance off in full every month.]

If you are like many college students or someone who has a limited credit history, but want to learn how to take advantage of lucrative welcome bonuss that allow you to travel for free--this article is for you. Since you found this website, you probably already understand how you can apply for credit card offers to book amazing trips for close to free. The trick is getting into the game and approved for your first couple cards to begin building a strong credit score.

I started applying for credit cards while I was in college and by the time I graduated I had over 500,000 miles across different airline loyalty accounts. Here’s how to get started on earning miles and points as a college student.

Start with a student credit card

College is the ideal time to build a strong credit score so you can start taking advantage of credit card bonus sign up offers. Look at it this way, the sooner you start, the more card offers you can take advantage of. The problem many students or first time credit card applicants face is they haven't established a credit score or don’t have a long enough credit history, making it difficult to be approved for a new card--let alone a couple of cards at a time.

After you have a strong credit score (above 700) you can easily be approved for 3-6 cards in one day. On my last round of credit card applications I was approved for six new cards and earned 370,000 points.

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Start with a student credit card

The easiest and best way to establish a credit history is by opening a student credit card like the Discover it card for students or Chase Freedom cash back card. The chances of being approved for student cards are much better than a premium card such as the Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard® or Chase Ink, and you can still reap the benefits of the cash back offers. Both the Chase Freedom and Discover it cards are great options for students.

Make sure to monitor your credit score for free using Credit Sesame. You should see your credit score improve after a few months as long as you don't utilize too much of your credit limit and do pay your balance off in full every month. This service uses an Experian proxy to estimate, and does not hard pull your credit so there will not be any negative impact for checking your score. Credit Karma also offers a similar product and I have found both to provide similar scores.

After using a student credit card for a few months and paying off your account in full every month, the next step would be to apply for a more lucrative welcome bonus that you have been eying. This is where the mile-earning game begins.

Build up your credit score

As my total credit line increased from adding more accounts tied to my credit score, my score improved significantly--around 100 points.


Check your credit score for free

Check your credit score for free

Everyone's score may be affected differently because of their credit situation, but my score increased by around 100 points in a matter of six months. Once my score was above 700, I was able to apply and be approved for almost every welcome bonus that I applied for. It is important to spread out your credit card application and understand how hard inquires effect your credit score. Since then my score has hovered at the same level even though I have continued to apply for many cards and have earned more than a million miles.

Piggyback on your parents credit score

If your parents have great credit, one of the easiest way to grow your average age of open credit lines is to have your parents add you as an authorized card user to one of their oldest accounts. This will essentially tie your credit score to their account history and increase the length of your average credit history.

Minimum age and reporting your income

If you are between the ages of 18 and 21 you are required by the Credit CARD Act of 2009 to have your own income before being approved for a credit card. You also have to report your own income, meaning you cannot submit your parent's income. That being said, some applications ask for a household income as well as your income, both of which you can estimate for the coming year. One important rule is to never lie on credit card applications.

Your source of income can come from any type of earning, but in the end the credit card company has to decide whether your income is enough for the credit limit you are given. If you are under 21 and do not have your own income you will need someone over 21 that has proof of sufficient income to co-sign for you.

I don’t have any personal experience with this method, but I have heard of some college students being approved for cards by claiming their 529 college plan withdrawals as income. This may be something to consider mentioning if you have to call the reconsideration line or consider calling before applying to ask a representative if this would qualify you for the card.

Choose a credit card for moderate or limited credit

Credit card companies generally offer different credit card products for each type of credit history. There are certain websites that review credit cards and the type of credit you must have to be approved for that card.

Since most college students have a limited credit history, it is a good idea to first apply for a credit card that approves applicants with moderate credit. Your chances of being approved for a card of this kind are much higher than for a credit card targeted for people with excellent credit. The idea is to start small by getting your foot in the door, building up credit, and then taking advantage of the lucrative welcome bonuses after your credit score is high enough.

Retail store cards are known for being the easiest cards to offer approval for students and serves as a great method to open the doors to other cards.

Call the Reconsideration Number and Be Persistent

If after applying you are given a notice of your application being under review and will need to wait 7-10 business days, go ahead and call the reconsideration line to see if there is any other information you can offer to help the approval process.

Call the credit card reconsideration telephone line within 30 days and ask them to review your application:


I’ve listed the credit card reconsideration telephone numbers below:

American Express Credit Card Reconsideration

  • 866-314-0237 (Reconsideration BEST)
  • 877-399-3083/866-379-3643 (New accounts)
  • 800 582 6471 (New accounts/Reconsideration)

Discover Credit Card Reconsideration

Bank Of America Credit Card Reconsideration

Barclay’s Credit Card Reconsideration

Chase Credit Card Reconsideration

  • 888-245-0625 (Direct connection to a personal card credit analyst)
  • 800-453-9719 (Direct connection to a business card credit analyst)
  • 888-609-7805 (Connects to the application status department)

Citibank Credit Card Reconsideration

  • 800-695-5171/800-763-9795 (Credit department)
  • 866-606-2787 (Application Status)
  • 888-201-4523 (Application Status)

US Bank Credit Card Reconsideration

  • 800-947-1444 (Reconsideration)
  • 800-685-7680 (Reconsideration)

Use Denials to Your Advantage

If you weren’t approved for a credit card you will get a letter (an adverse action notice) in the mail that will state the reason behind why you were denied. Use this information to your advantage. It is basically telling you what you need to do to improve your credit score so that you could be considered for card approval. This may mean that you need to go for a different card type or even start from the bottom by using a secured credit card (a card that you prepay a deposit and then use).

The Bottom Line

By building your credit and taking advantage of welcome bonuses while still in school, you can use the points to travel for free on your breaks or plan an around-the-world trip after graduation.

How did you get your first credit card? Do you have any tips or advice?

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Advertiser Disclosure: Well Traveled Mile has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Well Traveled Mile and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers.

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