Best Credit Cards for College Graduates

When you graduate, the world feels like it is at your fingertips, especially if you have a new job and have started getting regular paychecks.

Once you begin to show signs that you’re on your feet financially, like regular income or passing a new rental background check, credit card companies will notice and probably start flocking to you with alluring offers in an attempt to get your business.

It’s okay to be flattered, you earned the chance to be a card-carrying member of the economy. But you do want to proceed carefully. It’s OK — even smart — to get a credit card and use it sparingly in order to build credit. You may also find that you’re diligent enough to put all of your monthly purchases on the card and pay the balance off in-full at the end of every month.

What you do not want to do is open a credit card and treat your newfound credit line as “found money”. Speaking from experience long ago, that is the fastest way to set your financial progress back by years.

That said, when you feel confident enough to begin using a credit card responsibly, it’s totally OK to enjoy your success, and go ahead and get yourself a new credit card!

But before you sign up for any old offer that comes through your mailbox, we urge you to think about what makes the best credit card for college graduates – and more specifically, for YOU.

7 Best Credit Cards for College Graduates

Chase Freedom

Chase Freedom Credit Card

Here’s an all-around good first credit card with unlimited cashback.

This would make a great credit card for a new college graduate, and it would be especially good for you if you had a big move coming up for a small amount of debt left over from college that you want to pay off interest-free.

  • Annual Fee: None
  • Balance Transfer Fee: $5 or 3%, whichever is greater
  • Perks and Bonuses: $150 Bonus after spending $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening. 5% cashback on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter (must activate rewards every quarter). Unlimited 1% cashback on all other purchases.

Chase Freedom Unlimited

Chase Freedom Unlimited Credit Card

The Chase Freedom Unlimited card is another great balance transfer card that also rewards you with an unlimited 1.5% cashback on all purchases.

  • Annual Fee: None
  • Balance Transfer Fee: $5 or 3%, whichever is greater
  • Perks and Bonuses: Earn a $150 bonus after spending $500 on purchases in the first 3 months of account opening.

Chase Sapphire Preferred Card

chase sapphire preferred credit card
  • earn 60,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months

If you know you’ll be traveling for your new job, consider getting a travel rewards credit card that gives you some trip cancellation protections and also puts money back in your pocket when you go out to eat.

This particular offer gives you the opportunity to earn up to $750 in travel rewards in the first 3 months. If you sign up for this card, you better ask for new luggage as a graduation gift.

This card also comes jam-packed with travel protections such as on-call emergency assistance services, $10,000 trip cancellation insurance in the event of severe weather or sickness, baggage delay insurance to cover the essentials when your luggage is lost, and primary car rental insurance both in the U.S. and abroad.

Along with travel protection, you also get some perks while shopping! With this card, your major retail purchases are covered for extra theft and damage protection up to $10,000 per incident and $50,000 per year.

  • Current Promotional Offer: Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.
  • Annual Fee: $95
  • Perks and Bonuses: Earn 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants. Plus, Chase partners over 10 international airline and hotel partners where you can apply your Chase Ultimate Rewards Points directly to your purchases at a 1:1 ratio. And when you book through Chase, your points stretch further than dollars. For example, 60,000 points = $750 in travel credit.

Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card

Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card

If you see international travel on your horizon, consider this card with no foreign transaction fees and premium travel rewards at luxury hotels across the globe.

  • Current Promotional Offer: 20,000 mile bonus when you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months of opening your account. That’s the same as $200 in travel and hotel rewards. And that’s not all – enjoy 0% intro APR on purchases for the first 12 months then a variable APR of 14.49% – 24.49%.
  • Annual Fee: $0 in the first year
  • Premium Hotel and Travel Rewards: No foreign transaction fee allows you to stay in luxury hotels anywhere in the world, 24-hour travel assistance, and earn cash value in VentureOne® miles that you could spend at one of 10+ travel partners including
  • Perks and Bonuses: Unlimited 1.25 miles per dollar on every purchase.

Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card

Capital One Quicksilverone Credit Card

If you’re just starting out in the credit card game, this credit card is great for building credit.

You might begin with a low credit line, but you’ll get access to a higher credit line after making your first 5 monthly payments on time.

  • Annual Fee: $39
  • Cash Back Rewards: Unlimited 1.5% Cash Back on every single purchase.
  • Other Protections: $0 Fraud Liability Coverage if your card is ever lost or stolen. With this card, you will never be responsible for fraudulent purchases.

Capital One® Platinum Credit Card

Capital One Platinum Credit Builder Card

Here’s a no-frills card that gives you access to international travel with a 0% foreign transaction fee.

Also great for credit newcomers, this card gives you the option to establish a credit history with a credit limit of as low as $300.

Keep your sights set on growing that number, and with 5 months of on-time payments, you’ll watch it increase with time.

  • Annual Fee: None
  • Biggest Benefit: Boost your credit limit after making on-time payments for your first five months.
  • Other Perks: $0 Fraud Liability Coverage if your card is ever lost or stolen. With this card, you will never be responsible for fraudulent purchases.

Capital One® SavorOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card

capital one savor cash rewards credit card
  • 0% apr on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months

Here’s another great 0% APR card for graduates with expenses to take care of before their money starts rolling in.

Earn a $150 welcome bonus to make that cross-country move a little easier, and enjoy generous cashback on regular spending once you get on your feet.

  • Current Promotional Offer: 0% Introductory APR on Purchases and Balance Transfers in the first 15 months, then a variable APR of 15.49% – 25.49%. $150 cash bonus on your first $500 spent in the first 3 months.
  • Annual Fee: None
  • Balance Transfer Fee: 3%
  • Other perks: No foreign transaction fees. Unlimited 3% cashback on dining and entertainment. 2% cashback at grocery stores. 1% cashback on all other purchases.

What Kind of Credit Card do Recent College Graduates Need?

best credit cards for recent college graduatesThe first question to think about when asking what is the best credit card to get after graduating college is this: What will my life be like?

There are a number of questions to help you imagine your life and consider what you will need out of your new credit card, for example:

Will you have to travel for your new job and need a travel rewards credit card?

Will you be moving to a new city and benefit from a 0% APR Introductory Offer to give you a way to cover upfront costs of relocation and pay it back over 12-15 months before interest starts to accrue?

Maybe you have a small amount of debt left over from college that you’d like to put on a card with a 0% APR offer for balance transfers.

Or – perhaps you like to keep things simple and want a no-frills cash back rewards card that puts 1-1.5% cashback in your pocket for every dollar you spend.

No matter what, there is an option for you.

David Weliver

David Weliver

David Weliver is the Credit Cards Editor at Millennial Money. He is the Founder of Money Under 30 and is widely regarded as one of the top credit card rewards experts in the world. David has been writing about personal finance and credit cards since 2006 and been featured in The New York Times, NPR, USA Today, Forbes, and many others.
David Weliver

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Millennial Money has partnered with CardRatings and for our coverage of credit card products. Millennial Money, CardRatings and may receive a commission from card issuers. This site does not include all financial companies or financial offers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities.

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