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Student cards are typically for people enrolled in college, but there's an exception

CNBC Select reviews the requirements to open a student credit card and alternative ways to build credit if you're not a student.

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A college student credit card is geared toward credit newbies who want to build credit while in school. These cards often have more lenient credit requirements and can help you graduate college with a good credit score, when you spend within your means and pay your bills on time.

However, if you don't plan on attending college, you may wonder if you can still open a student card to establish credit.

Below, CNBC Select reviews the requirements to open a student credit card and alternative ways to build credit if you're not a student.

College student credit card requirements

As the name implies, you typically need to be a student to open a college student credit card. Though there is one exception: The Journey Student Rewards from Capital One, which doesn't require proof of college enrollment to qualify.

Meanwhile, most card issuers require you to be enrolled full-time or part-time in a two- or four-year college in order to qualify for a student card. Eligible schools you can list on the application often include universities, community colleges and graduate schools. Some issuers allow trade schools, as well.

In addition to meeting education requirements, you must:

  • Be 18 or older.
  • Be a U.S. citizen or resident.
  • Be able to show proof of income, such as through a job.

Many card issuers will also require you to enter your social security number (SSN). However, the Deserve® EDU Mastercard for Students is an exception that doesn't require a SSN, which makes this card a great choice for international students.

Alternative ways to build credit without a college student card

If you're 18 or older and not attending college, but still want to build credit, there are plenty of alternative options. The credit-building methods below provide a range of low-risk to moderate-risk ways to establish credit.

  • Become an authorized user: If you want a low-risk way to build credit, ask a family member or close friend with good credit to add you as an authorized user on their credit card account. This lets you piggyback off of someone else's credit and establish a credit file. You will be able to use the card like it's your own, but the primary account holder will be responsible for managing the account and making payments.
  • Get credit for paying eligible bills: If you don't want to open a credit account or join someone else's, you can get credit for paying monthly utility and cell phone bills on time with Experian Boost. This free service lets you link bank accounts, choose and verify positive payment history and instantly see your updated credit score.
  • Apply for a secured card: Student cards aren't the only credit card option for young adults — you can consider secured cards. These cards are built for people looking to build or rebuild credit and can be used just like an unsecured card, but you're required to make a security deposit (typically $200) in order to receive a line of credit.

Bottom line

Once you build a good credit score — whether it's with a student card or alternative method — you can qualify for some of the best financial products, such as rewards credit cards and 0% APR cards. With a good credit score you'll often receive lower interest rates and better terms on credit cards as well as personal loans, auto loans and mortgages.

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Information about the Journey Student Rewards from Capital One has been collected independently by CNBC and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of the card prior to publication.

Editorial Note: Opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the Select editorial staff’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any third party.