THE BLOG
09/30/2016 05:28 pm ET Updated Oct 01, 2017

Do You Have to Be a Student to Get a Student Credit Card?

By Kevin Cash

Student credit cards are meant to ease new borrowers into the world of credit, allowing them to use and pay off a simple card with a relatively low credit limit. Does that mean you have to be a student to start building credit with a student card? Usually yes, but don't give up if you aren't. If you're looking to build your credit, you still have options for achieving this important goal.

Benefits of establishing credit early


Getting a credit card as soon as you can is a good idea for several reasons:

It helps build good habits: The only way to build a good credit score is to use borrowed money responsibly. Practicing good credit behavior such as paying your bill on time each month and keeping your balances low helps improve your credit and will ultimately save you money in the form of lower interest rates in the long run.

It gives you more time to establish credit: The length of your credit history makes up 15% of your FICO score, so the longer you have accounts in your name, the better. Of course, simply having accounts open for a long time will not excuse bad credit behavior in other areas.

You can get better credit cards earlier: If students maintain sound spending habits, they'll eventually have the opportunity to move on to higher-tier cards with more features. Upper-level credit cards usually come with big sign-up bonuses and extensive reward offerings that can save cardholders money on everyday purchases.

Generally, student credit cards are for students


As the name suggests, student credit cards are almost always reserved for students, and most require applicants to provide their school information. One notable exception to this rule is the Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One®, which does allow non-students to apply.

A great option for both students and non-students with average credit, the Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One® offers 1% cash back on all purchases, plus a bonus of 25% of your cash back earned when you pay your bill on time each month, for a total of 1.25%. Cardholders also get access to a higher credit line after making five monthly payments on time. So if your limit is a little lower than you'd like, maintain good habits from the start and your credit line may soon grow.

If you are a student looking for a student card, options like the Discover it® for Students and the Citi ThankYou® Preferred Card for College Students are also worth a look.

Not in school but want to build your credit?


For non-students looking to build on average credit, there are still plenty of options available outside of student cards. Here are some of the Nerds' favorites:

For above-average cash back on everything: The Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card

If you have average credit and are looking for a card that offers cash back on all purchases, the Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card has one of the highest rewards rates available. This card offers an unlimited 1.5% cash back on all spending, which means no rotating rewards categories and no wondering if you're spending at the right time in the right place.

The Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card also offers access to a higher credit line after making five monthly payments on time. This card is even a candidate for large purchases and balance transfers with 0% on Purchases and Balance Transfers for 9 months, and then the ongoing APR of 23.24% Variable APR.

There is an annual fee of $39, but if you use the Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card as your main card throughout the year, the cash back should balance that out in no time.

If you spend heavily on gas, groceries and utilities: The Barclaycard Rewards MasterCard®

People who spend on gas, groceries and utilities will feel right at home with The Barclaycard Rewards MasterCard®, earning an unlimited 2 points per dollar spent in each of those three categories, with 1 point on all other purchases. That's a solid deal considering how common the 2X rewards categories are; few people will find it difficult to spend in any of those areas. Redemption is flexible, and cardholders can exchange points for statement credit, gift cards or merchandise.

Although the Barclaycard Rewards MasterCard® does not offer a 0% intro APR period, its annual fee is $0. So if you're not transferring a balance or financing a purchase, and you'd like to earn a little more on three everyday categories, this card may be the better choice of the two.

Student or not, many cards are available for people trying to get a head start on building credit. As always, it's best to find an option that fits your particular spending needs.

This article originally appeared on NerdWallet.

Kevin Cash is a staff writer covering credit cards and consumer credit for NerdWallet. Follow him on Google+.