[Update: Some offers mentioned below have expired. You can view the current offers from our partners here — Journey Student Rewards Visa from Capital One, Barclaycard Rewards MasterCard, Citi ThankYou Preferred card and Discover it. Disclosure: Cards from our partners are mentioned below.]
May is the time of year for new beginnings as students graduate from high school and college and start on their next phase of life. With this transition, many graduates will have new financial requirements as well, and may need their first credit card. Yet with hundreds of different cards offered by dozens of issuers, it can be very difficult for new credit card users to find a product that will meet their needs, and one that they can be approved for.
Credit Cards for High School Grads
High school graduates age 18 and older can apply for their own credit card accounts, but only under certain conditions. The Credit CARD Act of 2009 requires that applicants under 21 be able to show some proof of income so that they can repay any loan they take. So until they reach the age of 21, college students and other young adults will need some kind of job in order to receive a new credit card as the primary account holder. Thankfully, there are several cards offered with students in mind.
BankAmericard Credit Card for Students
This card offers a relatively low APR of 10.99-20.99% (depending on the applicant’s credit history) and has no annual fee. In addition, new cardholders will receive 0% APR promotional financing on new purchases for 15 months. This card is also a great choice for applicants who already have a checking or savings account with Bank of America.
Journey Student Rewards Visa From Capital One
This card features 1% cash back on all purchases, plus a 25% bonus on the cash back earned each month when cardholders make their payments on time. Other benefits include an automatic credit line increase after you make your first five payments on time, no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees.
Citi ThankYou Preferred Card for College Students
This version of Citi’s ThankYou Preferred card offers double points for dining and entertainment purchases, and one point per dollar spent elsewhere. Points can be redeemed for many different kinds of rewards including merchandise, gift cards, travel or loan repayments. In addition, new cardholders receive 2,500 bonus points when they spend $500 within three months of account opening, as well as seven months of 0% APR introductory financing. There is no annual fee for this card.
Credit Cards for College Graduates
Once graduates exit college, they will no longer be eligible for student credit cards, but they will still be able to qualify for several entry-level cards. Further, secured credit cards are a fail-safe option for graduates who have not yet built a credit history, or who had credit problems in the past and want to rebuild.
Wells Fargo Secured Visa Card
With this secured card, applicants submit a refundable deposit of at least $300 upon opening their account, which becomes their credit limit. After that, this card works much like a standard credit card. Cardholders receive a statement every month, and must make a minimum payment. In addition, cardholders will incur interest at 18.99% APR when they carry a balance. One of the nice features is a cellphone protection plan that covers theft or damage of up to $600 with a $25 deductible, so long as account holders pay their bills with their card. There is a $25 annual fee for this card.
Barclaycard Rewards MasterCard
This is an entry-level card that is offered to applicants with good credit. Cardholders receive double points for gas, grocery and utility purchases, and one point per dollar spent elsewhere. Rewards points are worth one cent each towards cash back, starting at 1,000 points for $10. There is no annual fee for this card.
Discover is well known for it customer service, and the Discover it card has features to appeal to a broad segment of applicants, including new graduates. Cardholders earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 spent each quarter at select merchants and merchant categories, plus 1% cash back on all other purchases. Cardholders also can have their first late payment waived automatically, and there is no annual fee for this card.
Before you apply for any credit product, you should always have a clear picture of where your credit scores stand. You can get free annual credit reports at AnnualCreditReport.com and you can get two of your credit scores for free every month on Credit.com.
Note: It’s important to remember that interest rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products frequently change. As a result, rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products cited in these articles may have changed since the date of publication. Please be sure to verify current rates, fees and terms with credit card issuers, banks or other financial institutions directly.
At publishing time, the Journey Student Rewards Visa from Capital One, Barclaycard Rewards MasterCard, Citi ThankYou Preferred card and Discover it cards are offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com will be compensated if our users apply for and ultimately sign up for any of these cards. However, this relationship does not result in any preferential editorial treatment.
More on Credit Cards:
- 6 Smart Credit Card Strategies
- How Secured Cards Can Help Build Credit
- How to Get a Credit Card With Bad Credit