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The 11 best credit cards for recent college graduates of 2022

If you're a new college graduate and looking to get a credit card, here are some of the best starter, cash-back, or travel cards for wherever life takes you.

Insider's experts choose the best products and services to help make smart decisions with your money (here’s how). In some cases, we receive a commission from our our partners, however, our opinions are our own. Terms apply to offers listed on this page.

Graduating college is no easy feat and for many, getting a diploma is a symbol of new beginnings. Whether you're hitting the road for the trip of a lifetime, moving back in with your family, or heading out on your own, there's a credit card for you.

No matter what your next step is, the right card can earn you valuable cash back or points when you spend on food delivery, Uber rides, gas, or even rent. Some cards even come with terrific benefits and travel perks that can save you hundreds toward your next vacation. 

Plus, if had a student or starter card in college you'll have a leg up, because you'll already have some credit history. But even the cards for folks with limited credit can be more than worthwhile when placed in the right hands. 

Here are the 11 best credit cards for recent college graduates.  

We're focused here on the rewards and perks that come with each card. These cards won't be worth it if you're paying interest or late fees. When using a credit card, it's important to pay your balance in full each month, make payments on time, and only spend what you can afford to pay.

Compare the best credit cards for college grads

Best credit cards for recent college graduates reviews

Discover it Cash Back Card

The Discover it® Student Cash Back is one of our favorites for students. If you had the student version in college and are ready to move on after graduation, you can request an upgrade to the almost identical Discover it® Cash Back for a Discover it® Cash Back annual fee. 

The Discover it® Student Cash Back is ideal for folks with at least a good credit score who want to earn high cash back in rotating spending categories. Cardholders can activate their 5% cash-back earning category for up to $1,500 in combined spending each quarter, then 1% Discover It Cashback rotation.

Like most no-annual-fee cards, the Discover it® Student Cash Back doesn't offer much in terms of benefits. But it does come with a Discover it® Cash Back (then a Discover it® Cash Back APR). That can come in handy if you have larger purchases coming up or debt from previous cards to pay off. 

Review: Discover it Cash Back review

Bilt Mastercard

The Bilt Mastercard® is the first (and only) credit card to earn rewards on rent payments for no additional fees. So if you're officially leaving the nest and heading out on your own (or with a few roommates), it could be the perfect card for you. 

A great thing about the Bilt card is how flexible the redemption options are, including being able to redeem points through the Bilt Travel portal or transfer them to airline and hotel partners. You can also use Bilt points for Amazon purchases, fitness classes, merchandise, rent, or even toward a down payment on a mortgage (the value of your Bilt points will vary based on how you redeem them). 

With the Bilt Mastercard® you'll earn: 

The card doesn't offer a welcome bonus, which is a bummer, but it does offer a solid selection of useful benefits like cell phone protection, purchase security, merchant discounts, and a handful of decent travel protection features. 

If you're not a renter, you should consider a different rewards credit card

Review: Bilt Mastercard review

Chase Freedom Flex

The Chase Freedom Flex℠ is one of the best no-annual-fee credit cards on the market with excellent reward rates in various everyday spending categories. And if you frequently spend on Lyft, DoorDash, Instacart, or Gopuff, the Chase Freedom Flex℠ card is currently offering exclusive cardholder perks that can save you a bunch of cash on these services.

Although it's marketed as a cash-back card, it actually earns Chase Ultimate Rewards® points. With the Chase Freedom Flex℠ you'll earn: 

New Chase Freedom Flex℠ can earn a welcome bonus offer of Chase Freedom Flex℠.

The card comes with a solid set of benefits, including select World Elite Mastercard benefits that don't often come with no-annual-fee cards. It also gets cardholders cell phone protection, car rental insurance, purchase protection, trip cancellation and interruption insurance, and more. 

You'll also get bonus points on Lyft purchases (through March 2025), Instacart benefits (until July 31, 2024), complimentary DoorDash DashPass membership, and $10 per month in Gopuff credits (ends December 31, 2023). 

Review: Chase Freedom Flex review

Chase Freedom Unlimited

If you like the Chase Freedom Flex℠, but would rather avoid juggling spending categories, you should consider the Chase Freedom Unlimited®. Like the Flex, the Chase Freedom Unlimited® is a high-earning rewards card for a Chase Freedom Unlimited® annual fee. It earns: 

With the Chase Freedom Unlimited®, new cardholders can earn Chase Freedom Unlimited®. That means with the bonus, you'll actually earn 6.5% back on travel purchases, 4.5% back on dining and drugstore purchases, and 3% back on all other eligible purchases.

It offers many of the same benefits as the Chase Freedom Flex℠, except it's not a World Elite Mastercard — it's a Visa — so it's missing a couple of perks, like cell phone protection. You can read more about the differences in our comparison of the Chase Freedom Flex and Unlimited.

Review: Chase Freedom Unlimited review

Chase Sapphire Preferred Card

If you want to travel after graduation but can't afford a high annual fee, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is a great beginner travel card. For only a Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card annual fee, you can earn valuable Chase Ultimate Rewards points in various travel and dining categories, including: 

New Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card cardholders can earn Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card. That's worth around Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card in travel, based on Insider's valuation of Chase points.

Chase Ultimate Rewards points can be redeemed for flights, hotels, and car rentals through the Chase Travel Portal, but the most valuable way to use your points is by transferring them to Chase's airline and hotel partners

With that, another factor that makes this card so great is the excellent benefits you'll get along with it. The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card now offers up to $50 in annual statement credits toward hotel purchases made through the Ultimate Rewards travel portal, as well as a 10% anniversary point bonus, primary car rental insurance, trip delay insurance, and other top travel protections

Plus, cardholders also receive a complimentary DashPass membership (through December 31, 2024), Instacart benefits (through July 31, 2024), and Gopuff credits (through December 31, 2023). 

Review: Chase Sapphire Preferred review

Petal 2 Visa Card

If you're new to the world of credit or have a limited credit history, you should consider the Petal® 2 "Cash Back, No Fees" Visa® Credit Card. Although the Petal® 2 "Cash Back, No Fees" Visa® Credit Card doesn't come with any of the fancy bells or whistles that some of the other cards on this list offer, that's not its purpose. This card is designed for folks who need to improve their credit scores through responsible use. 

That said, you won't earn a welcome bonus and the reward rates aren't the highest. Cardholders earn:

Petal rewards can be redeemed through the Petal app or online as statement credits in any amount up to your current balance or you can request an ACH transfer or check (minimum $20) when you call the number on the back of your card. 

Otherwise, the best feature of the Petal® 2 "Cash Back, No Fees" Visa® Credit Card is the Petal Leap program, which allows cardholders to increase their credit limit through goals. But keep in mind that completing the goals doesn't guarantee an increase. 

Review: Petal 2 Visa Card review

Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature

If you're a big Amazon.com or Whole Foods shopper, the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card  is a terrific card for earning rewards. Plus, if you're already paying for a Prime membership (usually $139 per year), there's no annual fee.

Whether you're decorating your first apartment, preparing for the holiday season, or partaking in a little retail therapy, the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card  is worth considering. 

The cards earn points on a variety of everyday spending categories, including: 

The easiest way to use your rewards is on Amazon purchases at checkout, but you can also redeem them as statement credits, a direct deposit, gift cards, or travel. 

The Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card is currently offering a bonus of a Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card

The card gets you strong benefits like interest-free monthly payments, car rental insurance, lost luggage reimbursement, purchase protection, Visa Signature concierge, and more. 

Review: Amazon Prime Rewards Card review

Amex Blue Cash Everyday

If you frequently shop online but don't want to be limited to just Amazon.com, the recently improved, no-annual-fee Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express is an excellent choice for everyday shopping purchases, including online retail. It earns: 

The Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express is now offering new cardholders a Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express

However, there aren't many redemption options available. You can mainly only redeem for statement credits, but you won't be able to apply those credits to the minimum balance on your card. 

On the other hand, the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express does get you a Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express (then a Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express APR). That's handy if you have large purchases you want to pay for over time without incurring high interest charges.

Review: Amex Blue Cash Everyday review

Citi Double Cash Card

If you don't like keeping track of bonus categories or spending caps, you should check out the Citi® Double Cash Card. It earns a simple 2% back (1 point per dollar when you purchase and 1 point per dollar when you pay your bill) on all purchases, and has a Citi® Double Cash Card annual fee. 

The Citi® Double Cash Card is also great for folks looking to consolidate debt by transferring a balance from another credit card to avoid accruing interest as it offers a Citi® Double Cash Card (then a Citi® Double Cash Card APR). But it doesn't currently offer a welcome bonus. 

This card earns valuable Citi ThankYou points, which you can redeem for travel through the Citi portal, cash back, gift cards, and more. However, you can get even more value from your rewards if you later open the Citi Premier® Card, because you can then combine your points and transfer them to all of Citi's airline and hotel partners for award travel.

Review: Citi Double Cash review

Bank of America Customized Cash Rewards

The Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards Credit Card is a great card for graduates looking for more control over how they earn rewards, for no annual fee, with a customizable 3% earning category. Plus, if you're able to plan ahead, you could customize your rate to match your highest spending category every month. 

With the Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards Credit Card, you'll earn: 

But keep in mind that in order to earn the maximum number of rewards each quarter, you'll need to remember to manually shift your 3% rewards earning category to match your current expenses. 

With the Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards Credit Card you can earn a Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards Credit Card. The card also offers a Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards Credit Card (then a Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards Credit Card APR). 

Review: BofA Customized Cash Rewards review

Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards

The no-annual-fee Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card is an appealing card for almost anyone since it offers great reward rates on popular spending categories, including:

Plus, there's an excellent welcome offer: Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card

If you spend a lot on Uber and Uber Eats, the Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card is an excellent card since it currently offers cardholders a complimentary Uber One membership, which gets you benefits like unlimited $0 delivery fees and member-exclusive promotions. 

Review: Capital One SavorOne review

Credit cards for college graduates frequently asked questions (FAQ)

What happens to my college credit card when I graduate? 

Often, your student credit card will automatically reclassify as the non-student version of that card and will continue to work. If you have the Discover it® Student Cash Back, for example, you'll be able to switch to the Discover it® Cash Back after you've graduated.

But depending on which card you own and the card's issuer, the process may vary, and it's best to look into the terms of your specific credit card.

Does closing a student credit card hurt your credit score?

Generally, the longer your card is open the better it is for your credit score. Coincidentally, that usually means your score will take a hit if close your card (especially if there's a quick turnaround). If that's the case, you'd be better off keeping your current card and trying to upgrade it (if possible) to a non-student version or higher earning card.  

What's the best way for a college graduate to build credit?

The easiest way to build up your credit score is through responsible financial habits. The key is to pay your credit card balance in full on time each month, every month. So if you're routinely using your card and paying your full balance, your credit score should go up. 

If you're new to credit, you can check out Insider's guide to building credit with credit cards to help you improve your credit history faster. 

Read the original article on Business Insider


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