Short Review of Best Credit Cards for College Graduates
|Name||Best for||Rewards Rate||APR||Apply|
|This card doesn't offer cash back, miles or points.||None||Apply now|
On Acceptedplatinum‘s website
First Access Visa® from The Bank of Missouri
|This card doesn't offer cash back, miles or points.||34.99% Regular.||Apply now|
On The Bank of Missouri‘s site
Petal® 2 “Cash Back, No Fees” Visa® from WebBank
|Beginner, No history||1% - 1.5%:Cash Back after making 12 on-time monthly payments.2% - 10%:Cash Back from select merchants.||12.99% - 26.99% Variable.||Apply now|
On WebBank‘s site
Evolve℠ from Sallie Mae Bank
|2% Cash Back on your two highest-spending eligible categories per month.1.5% Cash Back on everything else.||12.99% - 24.99% Variable APR.||Apply now|
On Sallie Mae Bank‘s site
First Progress Platinum Prestige Mastercard® Secured from Synovus Bank
|For bad credit||This card doesn't offer cash back, miles or points.||9.99% Variable.||Apply now|
On Synovus Bank‘s site
Deserve® EDU Mastercard from Celtic Bank
|Cash Back, Low Interest, Without SSN, Student||1% Cash Back on all purchases with your Deserve EDU Mastercard. Once approved, you'll automatically start earning Cash Back on all purchases.||18.74% Variable.||Apply now|
On Celtic Bank‘s site
QuicksilverOne from Capital One
|Fair credit||1.5% Cash Back on every purchase.||22.99% Variable.||Learn more|
Freedom Unlimited® from Chase
|Cash Back, 0 APR, No Annual Fee, Daily use||5% Cash Back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards.3% Cash back on dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery services.3% Cash Back on drugstore purchases.1.5% Cash Back on all other purchases.||14.99% - 23.74% Variable.||Learn more|
Sapphire Preferred® from Chase
|Travel, Restaurants, Daily use||$50 Earn up to $50 in statement credits each account anniversary year for hotel stays purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.5x Points on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, excluding hotel purchases that qualify for the $50 Anniversary Hotel Credit.3x Points on dining, including eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out.3x Points on online grocery purchases (excluding Target, Walmart and wholesale clubs).3x Points on select streaming services.2x Points on other travel purchases.1x Point per dollar spent on all other purchases.||15.99% - 22.99% Variable.||Learn more|
Secured Mastercard® from Capital One
|Single mom, Without SSN||This card doesn't offer cash back, miles or points.||26.99% Variable.||Learn more|
Cash Magnet® from American Express
|Cash Back, 0 APR||1.5% Earn unlimited Cash Back on all purchases.||13.99% - 23.99% Variable.||Learn more|
EveryDay® from American Express
|Honeymoon||20% Use your Card 20 or more times on purchases in a billing period and earn 20% more points on those purchases less returns and credits.2x Points at U.S. supermarkets, on up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1x.1x Points on other purchases.||12.99% - 23.99% Variable.||Learn more|
SavorOne from Capital One
|Cash Back, 0 APR, No Annual Fee, Restaurants, Entertainment, Daily use||3% Cash Back on dining, entertainment, popular streaming services and at grocery stores.1% Cash Back on all other purchases.||15.49% - 25.49% Variable.||Learn more|
Discover it® Miles from Discover Bank
|Low Interest, Daily use||1.5x Miles on every dollar of every purchase.||11,99% - 22,99% Variable APR.||Learn more|
WebBank Petal® 2 “Cash Back, No Fees” Visa®
If you’re just starting with credit, it’s a great card because you won’t pay any fees, and it will report your activity to the three major credit bureaus.
Read more about WebBank Petal® 2 “Cash Back, No Fees” Visa®
Capital One QuicksilverOne
The Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards Credit Card earns 1.5% cash back on every purchase you make, and you never have to activate rotating categories. In addition, your rewards never expire as long as your account is in good standing. You’ll also get protection in the form of $0 fraud liability on unauthorized transactions. You won’t pay any foreign transaction fees, so this is a good choice if you plan to travel outside the U.S.
The Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards Credit Card is a great starter card if you want to build your credit. Use it responsibly, and you’ll be automatically considered for a higher credit limit in as little as six months. You can monitor your credit profile for free with the CreditWise app and get customized alerts via the Capital One app to help you manage your account.
Read more about Capital One QuicksilverOne
Chase Freedom Unlimited®
The Chase Freedom Unlimited® rewards you with 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards, Lyft purchases (through March 2022), and grocery store purchases (excluding Target and Walmart) on up to $12,000 you spend during the first year. You’ll also get 3% cash back on dining and drugstore purchases and 1.5% cash back on everything else. You’ll receive a 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months and, if you spend $500 in the first three months, you’ll get $200 cash back. There is no annual fee for the card, and the APR is 14.99% to 23.74% variable.
The Chase Freedom Unlimited® is a card designed for those who want an all-purpose cash back card with a good bonus offer. If you’re a frequent Lyft user, you’ll do particularly well in the rewards category, and if you travel frequently, you’ll have access to valuable travel protections and insurances. If you want to maximize your rewards, you can transfer them to other Chase Ultimate Rewards credit cards.
Read more about Chase Freedom Unlimited®
Chase Sapphire Preferred®
The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is a good choice for those who love to travel, thanks to a $50 annual Ultimate Rewards Hotel Credit, no blackout or expiration dates, no point limits, and an additional 25% bonus on your rewards redeemed for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards portal. You can transfer points at 1:1 value to frequent flyer partner programs and pay for travel with points (either in full or partially). You can also combine points from other Chase credit cards, which work with the Chase Ultimate Rewards program. You’ll receive access to sports, entertainment, and culinary events through Chase’s VIP events and experiences, and a free DashPass subscription for one year, in addition to a host of benefits and perks related to travel. You’ll earn 5 points per dollar on all travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards (excluding hotel purchases that qualify for the $50 Anniversary Hotel Credit); 3 points per dollar on dining, select streaming services, and online grocery shopping; 2 points per dollar on other travel purchases; and 1 point per dollar on everything else.
If you travel and dine out frequently, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card might be a good fit for you. It’s a great first travel card and enables cardholders to stretch rewards points with travel redemptions. Although it comes with a $95 annual fee, you can get that $50 Anniversary Hotel Credit and make the rest up with the generous rewards structure in practically no time.
Read more about Chase Sapphire Preferred®
Capital One Secured Mastercard®
The Capital One Secured Mastercard® lets you see if you’re approved without any risk to your credit score. This card requires a refundable security deposit of $49, $99, or $200, which will give you a credit line of $200 (you can also deposit up to $1,000 to increase your credit line). You won’t pay foreign transaction, annual, replacement card, or authorized user fees. The card comes with a relatively high variable APR of 26.99%. You can get your deposit back and possibly upgrade to an unsecured Platinum card when you use the card responsibly. Capital One will also automatically consider cardholders for a higher credit limit in as little as six months, and it offers flexible payment due dates that work with your budget.
Although the Capital One Secured Mastercard® doesn’t offer a rewards program, it features a possibility of a lower security deposit, reasonable fees, and an easy way to get a higher credit line, which makes it a good card for those looking to build credit or who have made some credit mistakes in the past.
Read more about Capital One Secured Mastercard®
American Express Cash Magnet®
The American Express Cash Magnet® Card does not charge an annual fee, offers 1.5% cash back on every purchase you make, and will reward you with a $200 bonus (in the form of a statement credit) if you spend $2,000 in the first six months. The variable APR is from 13.99% to 23.99%, and you get 0% APR on purchases for 15 months. If you need to finance a large purchase after the introductory 0% APR period, you’ll have access to the Pay it Plan it feature, which allows you to pay it down over several months through installment payments with a fixed fee. You’ll also get a complimentary ShopRunner membership (for free shipping), $0 fraud liability, and purchase protection.
This no-annual-fee card is another good pick for those who want a flat rate of rewards without worrying about enrollment or categories. Additionally, if you’re making a large purchase, you can take advantage of the Pay it Plan it program.
Read more about American Express Cash Magnet®
American Express EveryDay®
Get the American Express EveryDay® Credit Card, and you can earn 10,000 Membership Rewards Points after you spend $1,000 during the first three months. Rewards come in the form of 2 points per dollar on U.S. supermarket purchases (up to $6,000 per year, then 1%), 2 points per dollar spent on amextravel.com, 1 point per dollar on other purchases, and a 20% bonus when you make 20+ purchases during a billing cycle. The card comes with an APR of 12.99% to 23.99%.
If you use your card a lot — and spend a lot on groceries — this could be the card for you. It’s a no-annual-fee card that earns a nice rewards rate, and you can transfer your points to American Express airline partners to get the most out of them.
Read more about American Express EveryDay®
Capital One SavorOne
The Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card rewards cardholders with 3% cash back on dining, entertainment, grocery stores (excluding Walmart and Target) and streaming services, 8% on tickets at Vivid Seats through January 2023, and 1% on all other purchases.
Foodies would be a good match for the card because the Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards gives 3% cash back on dining and grocery stores. It’s also a good choice for those who like to travel, thanks to its no foreign transaction fees, travel accident insurance, and 24/7 travel assistance services.
Read more about Capital One SavorOne
Discover Bank Discover it® Miles
The Discover it® Miles offers a unique reward for the first year, called Discover Match. You’ll rack up 1.5 miles per dollar on all of your purchases, pay no annual fee, and at the end of your first year, Discover will match all of the miles you’ve earned. Plus, you’ll get a 0% introductory APR on purchases for the card’s first 14 months, after which the interest rate ranges from 11.99% to 22.99%. In addition, there is no fee for your first late payment and no foreign transaction fees, plus you’ll have free access to your FICO score. You can redeem rewards in a number of ways, including statement credits for various travel-related expenses or just cash.
This is a solid card for those who want a high rate of return on simple rewards and a travel card with few restrictions. You won’t pay an annual fee and get flexible redemption options, making it a nice card.
Read more about Discover Bank Discover it® Miles
How to choose the right credit card after graduation?
Recent grads should keep in mind that there is no “one” best credit card. There’s simply the one best for you. So, when making a decision, consider essential features for you, interest rates, and rewards programs.
Before you apply for a credit card, there are a few steps you should take. First, check your credit score to figure out which cards make the most sense for you to apply for. If it’s high, you’ll likely be able to qualify for offers from the top cards with the best rewards. On the flip side, if your score is low, your choices will be more limited. You can check your credit score for free every 12 months at AnnualCreditReport.com.
Next, decide which types of rewards you want to earn. Is cash back most important to you? Airline or hotel points? Or flexible rewards points? Once you figure out what you want, it will narrow your options. Also, look for the perks you need most, such as travel protection, extended warranties, no foreign transaction fees, rental car coverage, etc.
Because many graduating college students haven’t found jobs yet, it’s always a good idea to look for a card with no annual fee. There are plenty of them out there, so it shouldn’t be hard to find one. If you go for a card that charges an annual fee, decide if the rewards and benefits are worth paying for.
What should you do with your student credit card after graduation?
New graduates might already have student credit cards when they finish college, and there’s no reason to get rid of them. In fact, keeping your oldest student credit card can help raise your credit score because the length of credit history counts for 15% of your FICO score. Consider putting a recurring monthly bill on it so that it still contributes to your credit score.
You can always ask your issuer to upgrade your student card to something more appropriate for post-grads. And if you like the card, choosing one after college might be as easy as getting it reclassified by the issuer, so it’s no longer considered a student card. Keep in mind that once you start a job, you can always ask the issuer to increase your credit limit or lower your APR (assuming you’ve always paid on time).
Should you get a student card if you are about to graduate?
Student card issuers typically ask for verification that you are indeed enrolled in college, so if you’re about to graduate, it’s not a great time to sign up for one. That said, the Journey Student Credit Card Capital One is unusual as it does not require proof of enrollment, so you can consider applying for this card if you really like it.
How can recent graduates use credit cards responsibly?
College graduates, just like all adults, must learn to use their credit cards responsibly. The best advice for anyone with a credit card is to pay off the balance each month, which will enable you to avoid paying interest and keep your credit score where you want it. In addition, creating a budget and sticking to it will likely allow you to make those payments easily. If you can’t pay off the balance, make sure you send in the minimum payment on time.
Use your card for things that you really need, not just want. Purchase items you would buy even if you didn’t have a credit card — think groceries, gas, restaurants. And, when you make purchases, think about how they will affect your rewards. For example, if you have a card that rewards you more for groceries or gas, make sure you use it for those purchases.
Never spend to the point where you’re close to your card’s limit because it will increase your credit utilization. Credit utilization is how much you owe compared to your limit. The general rule of thumb is to keep it at 30% or below.
Which credit card offers the best rewards for recent graduates?
Of all the cards we reviewed, Chase Freedom Unlimited® offers the best rewards for recent grads.
The current offer includes a $200 bonus when you spend $500 on the card during your first three months of having the card, plus you’ll earn 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (excluding Target and Walmart) for up to $12,000 during the first year.
You’ll also earn 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase, 3% on dining (including takeout) and drugstores, and 1.5% on all other purchases. Your cash back rewards won’t expire, and there is no minimum amount required to redeem them.
Partner benefits include three free months of DashPass, DoorDash's subscription service ( must activate by Dec. 31, 2021), and 5% cash back on Lyft rides through March 2022.
The Chase Freedom Unlimited® comes without an annual fee, plus a 0% intro APR for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers. After that, you’ll pay a variable APR of 14.99% to 23.74%.
This card also comes with many built-in benefits, including zero liability, extended warranty and purchase protection, trip cancellation/interruption insurance; fraud protection and alerts; and auto rental collision waiver.
Another excellent feature for recent grads is access to Chase’s Credit Journey, a program that gives you insights to help you manage your credit. You can get your credit score for free and utilize other resources, such as score simulator and score factor breakdown, to help you understand your credit health.
What are other credit cards to consider?
Because many college graduates are just beginning to build their credit, they may not qualify for premium cards. New grads typically have better odds of being approved for the cards on our list, plus some others: Citi Simplicity® Card, and Bank of America Cash Rewards for Students.
Can you apply for a credit card if you are unemployed?
The short answer is yes; new graduates can get approved for a card even if they haven’t found a job yet. Because credit card issuers consider your overall capability to pay your debts, you can include money you might have besides actual income on your application. This might be an allowance, a legal settlement, scholarships and grants, or a trust fund distribution.
What is the best credit card for a college student with no credit?
College students with no credit might find their choices limited. But there are several secured cards they can get approved for with no credit at all. Secured cards require you to deposit money with the issuer to open an account. That money acts as a security deposit, which is often refundable. Once you build your credit with a secured card
, it should be easy to open a traditional, unsecured
Which is the best overall credit card for recent college graduates?
The best overall credit card for college graduates is the one that best fits their needs and one that they can reasonably expect to be approved for. Because everyone’s situation is different, it’s simply not a “one card fits all” situation.
Once you find the card that’s right for you, you can continue to build your credit and later, considering your financial situation and needs, apply for cards usually reserved for those with higher credit. Meanwhile, you’ll be on your way to getting better rates not just on credit cards but also on mortgages and other types of loans