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Best Credit Cards for Graduates

Last update: Dec 23, 2014
Best Credit Cards for Graduates
Whether you’re graduating high school or college, it’s imperative that you begin building credit as soon as possible. One’s credit history influences loan approval, interest rates, insurance premiums, the likelihood of being able to lease a car or an apartment, and suitability for professions that require the handling of money or a security clearance.
Of all the financial products that help consumers build credit, credit cards are the most efficient because they allow users to add positive information to their major credit reports on a monthly basis by simply keeping their accounts in good standing.
But all credit cards aren’t created equal. They have drastically different approval requirements, rates, rewards, and fees. That’s why we compared more than 1,000 different offers (some of which originate from CardHub advertising partners) in order to identify those that best suit the needs of recent high school and college graduates. You can check them out below, along with expert tips for starting your financial career.
Non-College Students: The number of credit card options available to high school graduates is largely dependent on their college plans. If you’re attending college, you’ll be able to qualify for a college student credit card once you have your school email address. If you’re not attending college, your best option is to either place a deposit on a secured card that charges little in the way of annual or monthly fees or to apply for a normal credit card for people who are new to credit.
College Students: Recent college graduates will likely get the best deal by using a still-active university email address to qualify for a student credit card. Issuers tend to offer students better terms than their credit experience would warrant in light of their heightened earning potential. Within the student card segment, recent grads should only consider offers that do not charge annual fees, as they will enable low-cost credit building. Rewards and low interest rates are of secondary importance.
  • College Students - Best Initial Bonus

    Spending at least $500 during the first 90 days that you have this card will score you a $100 cash bonus. On an ongoing basis, you’ll get 3% cash back on gas and 2% on groceries (on the first $1,500 spent in those categories each quarter) in addition to 1% on everything else. You’ll also get a 10% rewards bonus when you redeem for a BofA bank account contribution. There is no annual fee.
  • College Students - Best Ongoing Rewards

    This card is both lucrative and conducive to responsible money management. It offers 1% cash back across all purchases and provides a 25% cash back bonus in months that you pay your bill on time. This card does not charge an annual fee.
  • College Students - Best 0% Offer

    This student BankAmericard offers 0% on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months. While it charges a 3% balance transfer fee, this card does not have an annual fee.
  • Non-College Students

    This is a great starter card for new entrants to the workforce who pay their bill in full every month, offering 1.5% cash back across all purchases and charging only a $39 annual fee.
  • All Grads - Best Secured Cards

    This is great card for recent grads with little credit who want to take a post-graduation trip. Placing a refundable security deposit of at least $300 will pretty much guarantee approval, and you’ll get 10k bonus miles after your first purchase. That’s nearly enough for a free one-way domestic flight through American Airlines (a LanPass partner), which will run you 12,500 miles. You also get 1 mile per $1 spent, and there is no annual fee in the first year ($25 thereafter).
  • You’ll get 5k bonus miles after your making your first purchase with this card, as well as a free companion ticket for a round-trip flight between the U.S. and Mexico after account approval. This card also provides 2miles per $1 spent on gas and groceries, 1 mile per $1 on everything else, and a 10% discount on rewards bookings. It does not charge an annual fee during the first year ($25 thereafter) and requires a security deposit of at least $300.
  • This secured card, which requires a minimum security deposit of $300, stands out because it does not charge an annual fee. Your deposit will serve as your credit line and will be returned to you with interest, minus any outstanding balances, upon account closure. Cardholders also get a $10 Harley-Davidson gift certificate after first purchase as well as one rewards point for every dollar they charge.
  • This is a partially secured card, which means you can get a credit line of up to $3,000 in return for your security deposit of $49, $99 or $200, depending on your credit standing and disposable income. It has a $29 annual fee.

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Our editors' recommendations for the Best Credit Cards for Graduates are a reflection of their own subjective opinions, and they should not be relied upon as the sole basis for choosing your credit card. We work hard to present you with the most accurate credit card information, however, the credit card terms and conditions do not originate from us and thus we do not guarantee the accuracy of the information. Before applying for a credit card we recommend that you verify the credit card terms and conditions on the credit card company's web site. Please let us know if you have any questions or suggestions.

Ad Disclosure: Certain offers originate from paying advertisers, and this will be noted on a card's details page using the designation "Sponsored Card", where applicable. Advertising status does not affect which cards show up on this page but may impact the order in which they appear. At CardHub we try to list as many credit card offers as possible and currently have more than 1,200 offers, but we do not make any representation of listing all available offers.
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