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INSIDER SECRET: With a card that’s specific to the airline or hotel chain you use most, you’ll be able to gain more points and miles through sign-up bonuses and you’ll have greater potential to gain elite status.
College graduation is a great time to beef up your credit card portfolio. If you built up a credit history while you were still in school, you probably have a good chance of getting approved for cards that will earn you cash or points and miles faster. The gradual switch from “full-time student” to “full-time employee” also expands the credit options for college grads, so we have a list of cards to meet the needs of different budgets, credit histories and spending plans.
Top Credit Cards for Recent College Graduates
1. Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card
The Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card is great for those who aren’t interested in getting bogged down keeping track of points. It gives you cold cash back. Plus, it allows the cardholder to choose the highest-earning spending category.
With this card, you’ll get 3% cash back on the category of your choice (gas, online shopping, dining, travel, drug stores, or home improvement/furnishings), 2% cash back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs (up to $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club quarterly purchases; then 1% cash back) and 1% cash back on everything else. So, whether you’re big on shopping or big on travel, you can tailor the card to meet your needs.
Currently, the Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card is offering $200 when cardholders spend $1,000 in purchases within the first 90 days of being a cardholder. It’s hard to go wrong — especially when there’s no annual fee.
2. Chase Sapphire Preferred Card
The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card is considered the ideal card for beginners interested in points and miles. Its high earning potential and its reasonable annual fee make it attractive for those who are getting ready to upgrade their credit-card portfolio without paying the big bucks.
You earn Chase Ultimate Rewards points, which are valuable and widely transferable. You have lots of choices for redeeming them. Plus, the card earns you 2x points (2% return) on travel and dining and 1x point (1% return) on everything else.
The current bonus for signing up for the card is 60,000 points after you spend $4,000 within the first three months of holding the card, which comes with travel and purchase protection and without a foreign transaction fee. For $95 per year, this card delivers on value.
3. Chase Freedom Unlimited
Sometimes it takes a couple of years of establishing a credit history to qualify for a card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred. Plus, some people don’t want to pay the annual fee. The perfect solution for those who eventually want a card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred or its big brother, the Chase Sapphire Reserve, is the Chase Freedom Unlimited card. It provides cash back, has no annual fee and allows cardholders to establish a history with Chase.
Cardholders earn 3% cash back on all purchases in their first year (up to $20,000). After that, you’ll earn 1.5% cash back on all purchases.
4. Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card
This card is versatile, has no annual fee and allows cardholders to gain valuable Venture miles each time they use it.
Currently, the spending categories for the Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card are super simple: 1.25x miles back on everything, plus 10x miles back on thousands of hotels (when booked and paid via a dedicated Hotels.com link), through January 31, 2020. And there is a 20,000-mile bonus when cardholders spend $1,000 within the first three months of opening the card.
5. Cobranded Airline or Hotel Card
After graduation, you might want to get more from your frequent spending with a specific airline or hotel chain. You can make good use of a cobranded card.
For example, let’s say you’re moving to Atlanta for your first full-time job. Delta might become your favorite airline, so you could get the Blue Delta SkyMiles Credit Card (with no annual fee) or the Gold Delta SkyMiles Credit Card (with a $95 annual fee, waived the first year).
My recommendation? Take a look at the card options for your airline or hotel of choice — preferably ones with lower annual fees. Here are options for a few airline cards to look into (with no or relatively low annual fee), depending on where you want your loyalty to lie:
- Delta Air Lines: Blue Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express or Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express
- American Airlines: American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp Card or Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard
- United Airlines: United TravelBank Card or United Explorer Card
There are so many amazing opportunities to earn from what you spend, even if you’ve just graduated from college. Whether you’re just starting to build credit or you’re well along in building a credit-card portfolio, there’s a card out there that will meet your needs.
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