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Ambition Mastercard® review: Build credit in college on your terms

Our take: The Ambition Mastercard® can help college students build credit from scratch with easy approval, flexible spending power, and no interest charges. However, the card charges a monthly fee, and its rewards program is nothing to write home about.

Who is Ambition Mastercard® good for?

The Ambition Mastercard may be worth considering if you're a current or incoming college student with no credit history. While there are other student credit cards available, many of them require at least some credit history, and if you're under 21, income requirements are more stringent.

Due to the Ambition Mastercard's hybrid structure, you may have an easier time getting approved. And while there is a secured component to the card, it offers far more flexibility than a standard secured credit card.

Who shouldn’t get the Ambition Mastercard®?

If you're hoping to start building your credit history, but you aren't a college student, the Ambition Mastercard won't be an option for you. Even if you are a student, there are other starter credit cards that offer better rewards and don't charge monthly or annual fees.

Credit cards similar to Ambition Mastercard®

The Ambition Mastercard offers an excellent opportunity for college students to build credit from scratch. But if you aren't a student or you simply want to compare other card options, here are a couple of alternatives to consider.

Ambition Mastercard®

Upgrade OneCard

Chase Freedom Rise℠

Annual fee

Annual fee

Annual fee

$2 monthly (waived for the first six billing cycles)






1.25% cash back on food delivery, rideshare, and streaming
0.5% back on all other purchases

3% cash back for common everyday purchases at convenience stores, drugstores, restaurants and bars—including deliveries—and gas stations, as well as recurring payments on utilities and monthly subscriptions including phone, cable, TV and other streaming services

Our take

Our take

Our take

The Ambition Mastercard is best suited for students who have limited options.

The Upgrade Secured OneCard doesn't require a credit check, but you need to put up a security deposit.

The Freedom Rise is ideal for those new to credit, with improved approval odds if you have a Chase checking account.

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Upgrade OneCard vs. Ambition Mastercard®

The Upgrade OneCard functions similarly to the Ambition Mastercard, setting your spending power based on your balance in your linked secured deposit account, as well as an Upgrade Rewards Checking account. It also offers 3% cash back for common everyday purchases at convenience stores, drugstores, restaurants and bars—including deliveries—and gas stations, as well as recurring payments on utilities and monthly subscriptions including phone, cable, TV and other streaming services. 2% back on everything else when you meet certain criteria; otherwise, you’ll earn 1.5% cash back on every purchase.


The Upgrade Secured OneCard doesn't charge interest if you pay your balance in full each month. However, you can also opt to pay down your purchases over time in monthly installments. The card has no annual fee, but you are required to deposit at least $200 to get started—there's no minimum after that. Also, you can't apply for the card directly. Instead, you'll need to open an Upgrade checking account and see if you're eligible for the secured card.

Chase Freedom Rise℠ vs. Ambition Mastercard®

The Chase Freedom Rise℠ is a starter credit card that doesn't require a security deposit. It's specifically designed for college students and other people who are new to credit. To improve your odds of getting approved, Chase suggests maintaining at least $250 in a Chase checking account.

In addition to building credit, you'll also earn 1.5% cashback on all purchases you make, plus a $25 statement credit after signing up for automatic payments within the first three months of opening your account. The card doesn't charge an annual fee.

Ambition Mastercard®: How to earn rewards

The Ambition Mastercard doesn't offer a welcome bonus. On an ongoing basis, the card offers 1.25% cash back on select spending categories, including food delivery, rideshare, and streaming.

On all of your other purchases, though, you'll earn a paltry 0.5% cash back. In general, 1% back is the standard minimum for cash-back credit cards, so the Ambition Mastercard's base rate could be a deal-breaker for many students.

How to redeem Ambition Mastercard® rewards

Each month, College Ave will deposit the rewards you've earned during the previous billing cycle into your secured deposit account. You'll receive the rewards no later than five business days after your statement due date.

Once you have the funds, you can keep them in the account to maintain your spending power, pay down your balance, or transfer them to an external bank account.

Ambition Mastercard® Overview

The Ambition Mastercard® by College Ave is part of a new trend of debit-credit hybrid cards. Technically a secured card, it determines your credit limit based on your secured deposit account balance. But unlike a traditional secured credit card, you'll retain access to the funds in the deposit account. There's no interest rate, but you are required to pay your bill in full each month.

In other words, you can make additional deposits, withdraw funds, and even use your deposit account funds to pay your monthly bill. While there's a $50 minimum opening deposit, there's no ongoing minimum balance requirement—just keep in mind that your spending power is equal to your deposit account balance.

Like other hybrid cards, the Ambition Mastercard® doesn't perform a credit check when you apply, but it does require you to be at least 18 years old and a current or incoming college student. The card offers rewards on your everyday purchases, but the rewards rates are low compared to other hybrid cards and traditional student credit cards. Also, while College Ave boasts no annual fees, it does charge a $2 monthly fee starting seven months after you open the account.

Ambition Mastercard® rates and fees

  • Annual fee: $2 monthly after the first six months

  • Foreign transaction fee: 3%

  • Purchase APR: None

Additional benefits

The Ambition Mastercard doesn't offer any other benefits.

Is the Ambition Mastercard® right for you?

The Ambition Mastercard offers an easier path to building credit compared to many traditional starter credit cards. You'll also get a lot of flexibility with your deposit.

That said, the card's monthly fee and inferior rewards rates diminish its overall value. Depending on your situation, you may be able to get better rewards, no monthly or annual fees, and even no security deposit requirement with a different card.

Before you apply for your first credit card, take some time to research and compare several options to ensure you get the best one for you.

Frequently asked questions

What is the Ambition Mastercard by College Ave credit limit?

Your card's credit limit will be equal to the balance in your secured deposit account. There's no minimum balance requirement after the initial $50 deposit, but the maximum limit you can have is $2,500.

What credit score do I need for the Ambition Mastercard?

There is no credit check when you apply for the Ambition Mastercard, which means there's also no minimum credit score.

About the author

Ben Luthi is an award-winning personal finance writer who specializes in credit cards and rewards programs. Over the past decade, he has used dozens of credit cards to earn tens of thousands of dollars in travel and cash-back rewards. Ben lives in Salt Lake City with his two kids and two cats.

Please note that card details are accurate as of the publish date, but are subject to change at any time at the discretion of the issuer. Please contact the card issuer to verify rates, fees, and benefits before applying.

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