The Ultimate Guide to Credit Cards
Monday, July 13, 2020

24 Best Credit Cards for Recent College Graduates

24 Best Credit Cards for Recent College Graduates

credit card advice

Ray FitzGerald
By: Ray FitzGerald
Updated: October 22, 2019
Advertiser Disclosure

Finding the best credit cards for recent college graduates doesn’t have to be a thesis-level research endeavor. Sure, there are a lot of cards out there, but we’ve narrowed the list down to some of our top choices.

Graduation is exciting. The cap, the gown, the proud parents gathered ’round. Maybe a fancy dinner or graduation-present trip.

Then it’s over — and the Real World is at your door. You need to get a job, start paying bills, and do all that “adulting” you’ve heard so much about on the internet (#adulting).

For instance, adults build credit. And one of the easiest ways to establish and build a credit profile is through responsible credit card use. You may even earn rewards while you’re at it.

No/Limited Credit | No/Low Fees | Rewards

Best “No/Limited Credit” Cards for Recent Graduates

While 58% of graduates have at least one credit card, many students have yet to even establish credit, let alone build the good credit score needed to qualify for many of the best rewards credit cards.

Instead, because most new graduates will have no or limited credit history, new credit card options are going to be similarly limited. But there are a number of quality credit cards designed specifically for credit builders.

When choosing a card to build credit, you’ll need to decide between an unsecured credit card or a secured card. Both have advantages and disadvantages, so it’s often best to compare your options.

Unsecured | Secured

Best Unsecured Cards for No/Limited Credit

Unsecured cards are what most people think about when they think about credit cards; they’re a line of credit extended to you by the issuing bank that you can use to make purchases, all without a deposit.

However, the lack of a deposit makes unsecured credit cards riskier for the bank — which can make unsecured cards harder to get for someone with limited credit, so you’ll likely need to look for entry-level unsecured cards like our picks below.

Surge Mastercard® Review

at Celtic Bank'ssecure website

NO/LIMITED CREDIT RATING
★★★★★
4.7
OVERALL RATING
4.1/5.0
  • All credit types welcome to apply!
  • Free access to your Vantage 3.0 score From TransUnion* (When you sign up for e-statements)
  • Monthly reporting to the three major credit bureaus
  • See if you’re Pre-Qualified without impacting your credit score
  • Fast and easy application process; results in seconds
  • Free online account access 24/7
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
See website for Details
N/A
25.90% - 29.99%
See website for Details
Bad, Poor Credit
Indigo® Unsecured Mastercard® - Prior Bankruptcy is Okay Review

at the issuer'ssecure website

NO/LIMITED CREDIT RATING
★★★★★
4.7
OVERALL RATING
4.0/5.0
  • Pre-qualifying today will not affect your credit score
  • Less than perfect credit histories can qualify, even with prior bankruptcy!
  • Mobile friendly online access from anywhere
  • Fraud protection for stolen or lost cards
  • Account history is reported to the three major credit bureaus in the U.S.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
24.9%
$0 - $99
Fair/Good
Milestone® Mastercard® - Less Than Perfect Credit Considered Review

at the issuer'ssecure website

NO/LIMITED CREDIT RATING
★★★★★
4.5
OVERALL RATING
3.9/5.0
  • Prequalify for a card today and it will not impact your credit score
  • Less than perfect credit is okay
  • Mobile account access at any time
  • Protection from fraud if your card is stolen
  • Account history is reported to the three major credit bureaus in the U.S.
  • *Dependent on credit worthiness
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
24.9%
$35 - $99
Bad, Poor Credit

+See More Unsecured Cards for No/Limited Credit

Unsecured credit cards are risky for the banks because their only recourse if the cardholder defaults is to go through legal channels to try and get their money back (which can be expensive in and of itself).

One way credit card issuers offset some of this possible loss is through higher fees. This means unsecured cards that approve those with low credit scores or thin credit profiles often carry much higher interest rates than cards aimed at those with higher scores.

In other words? Carrying a balance on an unsecured starter card from month to month will likely be expensive, so always pay your credit card in full each month (which is just plain good credit card behavior in the first place).

Best Secured Cards for No/Limited Credit

Secured credit cards are also good credit-building cards, but they’re a little more involved than unsecured cards. Specifically, you’ll be required to provide a cash deposit to open a secured credit account.

Because secured cards are less risky to the issuer, they often have lower interest rates and fees, as well as offering additional perks. For example, some of our top secured cards come with no annual fee and may even offer cash back rewards.

OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card Review

at Capital Bank'ssecure website

SECURED RATING
★★★★
4.0
OVERALL RATING
2.9/5.0
  • No credit check necessary to apply. OpenSky believes in giving an opportunity to everyone.
  • The refundable* deposit you provide becomes your credit line limit on your Visa card. Choose it yourself, from as low as $200.
  • Build credit quickly. OpenSky reports to all 3 major credit bureaus.
  • 99% of our customers who started without a credit score earned a credit score record with the credit bureaus in as little as 6 months.
  • We have a Facebook community of people just like you; there is a forum for shared experiences, and insights from others on our Facebook Fan page. (Search “OpenSky Card” in Facebook.)
  • OpenSky provides credit tips and a dedicated credit education page on our website to support you along the way.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
17.39% (variable)
$35
Poor
First Progress Platinum Prestige MasterCard® Secured Credit Card Review

at First Progress'ssecure website

SECURED RATING
★★★★
3.9
OVERALL RATING
2.9/5.0
  • Invest your tax refund to improve your credit by making the refundable deposit for your new secured card today
  • No Credit History or Minimum Credit Score Required for Approval
  • Monthly Reporting to all 3 Major Credit Bureaus to Establish Credit History
  • Credit Line Secured by Your Fully-Refundable Deposit of $200 -- $2,000 Submitted with Application
  • Nationwide Program though not yet available in NY, IA, AR, or WI *See Card Terms.
  • Apply in just a few moments with no negative impact to your credit score; no credit inquiry will be recorded in your credit bureau file
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
9.99% (V)
$49
Bad / No Credit
The First Progress Platinum Elite MasterCard® Secured Credit Card Review

at First Progress'ssecure website

SECURED RATING
★★★★
3.8
OVERALL RATING
2.3/5.0
  • Invest your tax refund to improve your credit by making the refundable deposit for your new secured card today
  • Receive Your Card More Quickly with New Expedited Processing Option
  • No Credit History or Minimum Credit Score Required for Approval
  • Quick and Complete Online Application
  • Full-Feature Platinum MasterCard® Secured Credit Card
  • Nationwide Program though not yet available in NY, IA, AR, or WI *See Card Terms.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
19.99% (V)
$29
Poor/Limited/No Credit

+See More Secured Cards for No/Limited Credit

With a secured card, your deposit acts as collateral. Essentially, the deposit you make secures the credit line against default, ensuring the bank won’t lose money if you can’t pay your balance.

As such, the size of your deposit will typically determine the size of your credit line. In many cases, you’ll be able to make a deposit larger than the minimum to secure a larger credit line.

One of the best parts about secured credit cards is that your deposit is completely refundable, provided you keep your account in good standing. You can recover your deposit at any time by closing your credit card account.

Best “No/Low Fee” Cards for Recent Graduates

In the modern educational world, student loans are a big part of the picture for many students. In fact, 40% of adults under the age of 30 have student loan debt weighing down their finances.

Of course, even if you do manage to escape college with both your degree and no debt, chances are good you won’t exactly be rolling in the cash for a while yet, which makes saving money wherever you can a top priority.

And one of those places you can save is your credit card. Between cards with no annual fee and cards with no-interest offers, you can often build credit without burdening your budget.

No Annual Fee | 0% APR New Purchases | 0% APR Balance Transfers

Best Cards with No Annual Fee

One of the largest costs associated with credit cards is that pesky annual fee, which can range anywhere from $30 up to $2,500, depending on the perks and rewards. While annual fees can be worth it for some cards and consumers, they’re likely more of a drain than a boon to a new graduates budget.

But you don’t need to shell out the big bucks for a quality credit card, not even if you want awesome rewards. Many of our favorite annual-fee-free credit cards offer the whole package, including purchase rewards and solid sign-up bonuses.

BEST OVERALL RATING
★★★★★
5.0
OVERALL RATING
5.0/5.0
  • Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening
  • Earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate. Enjoy new 5% categories each quarter!
  • Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - it's automatic
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 14.99 - 23.74%.
  • 3% intro balance transfer fee when you transfer a balance during the first 60 days your account is open, with a minimum of $5.
  • No annual fee
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% Intro APR on Purchases 15 months
0% Intro APR on Balance Transfers 15 months
14.99% - 23.74% Variable
$0
Good/Excellent
8

Discover it® Cash Back

This card is currently not available.

Best Overall Rating
★★★★★
N/A
OVERALL RATING
N/A
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
9

Discover it® Miles

This card is currently not available.

Best Overall Rating
★★★★★
N/A
OVERALL RATING
N/A
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A

+See More Cards with No Annual Fee

An important thing to remember when it comes to cards without an annual fee is that you may still be charged other types of fees. If you let your balance carry over from month to month, for example, you’ll likely be charged interest fees.

And other transaction types can also come with fees, including balance transfers and cash advances, which both come with service fees as well as their own interest fee rates. Understand the possible charges before making these types of transactions with your card.

Best Cards with 0% Intro APR on New Purchases

Ah, interest fees, the pain-in-the-neck fees that can turn a relatively small purchase into an expensive one in a matter of months. While you can avoid accruing interest fees by paying your balance in full every month, sometimes that simply isn’t an option — especially on a recent-grad budget.

Credit cards that come with introductory 0% APR offers can provide 12 months or more of interest-free purchasing, helping you make those important “real world” purchases while working your way up the corporate ladder. Many of our top-rated offers even come with no annual fees.

0% INTRO APR RATING
★★★★★
4.9
OVERALL RATING
5.0/5.0
  • Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.
  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases.
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases, then a variable APR of 14.99 - 23.74%.
  • No annual fee
  • No minimum to redeem for cash back
  • Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% 15 Months
N/A
14.99%–23.74% Variable
$0
Good/Excellent
0% INTRO APR RATING
★★★★★
4.9
OVERALL RATING
5.0/5.0
  • Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening
  • Earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate. Enjoy new 5% categories each quarter!
  • Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - it's automatic
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 14.99 - 23.74%.
  • 3% intro balance transfer fee when you transfer a balance during the first 60 days your account is open, with a minimum of $5.
  • No annual fee
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% Intro APR on Purchases 15 months
0% Intro APR on Balance Transfers 15 months
14.99% - 23.74% Variable
$0
Good/Excellent
Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card Review

at Bank Of America'ssecure website

0% INTRO APR RATING
★★★★★
4.7
OVERALL RATING
4.7/5.0
  • 3% cash back in 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
  • 1% cash back on all other purchases
  • You’ll earn 3% and 2% cash back on the first $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club purchases each quarter, then earn 1%
  • There's no annual fee and your cash rewards don't expire. Each month, as you plan for future purchases, you can change your 3% choice category online or through our mobile app.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% Intro APR for 15 Billing Cycles
0% Intro APR for 15 Billing Cycles (for balance transfers made in the first 60 days)
13.99% - 23.99% (Variable)
$0
Excellent/Good

+See More Cards with 0% APR on New Purchases

A key consideration when using 0% APR offers is to remember that they’re temporary. Once your introductory period has expired, your new purchase APR will revert to the default rate listed on your cardholder agreement.

This means any balance from new purchases remaining on your card after the terms expire will start accruing interest at the default rate, so be sure to pay off your balance in full before the promotion expires to avoid being charged interest fees.

Best Cards with 0% Intro APR on Balance Transfer

If more than half of college graduates have at least one credit card, that means at least half of graduates may be leaving college with credit card debt. And chances are good that debt is accruing interest at a high rate.

One of the best ways to lower your interest rate is to transfer your balance to a credit card with a 0% intro-APR. The best balance transfer cards, like our top picks below, can provide 12 months or more interest-free to pay down your balance.

0% BALANCE TRANSFER RATING
★★★★★
4.9
OVERALL RATING
4.7/5.0
  • No Late Fees, No Penalty Rate, and No Annual Fee... Ever
  • 0% Intro APR on balance transfers for 21 months from date of first transfer. All transfers must be completed in first 4 months. After that, the variable APR will be 14.74% - 24.74%, based on your creditworthiness.
  • 0% Intro APR on purchases for 12 months from date of account opening. After that, the variable APR will be 14.74% - 24.74%, based on your creditworthiness.
  • If you transfer a balance with this offer, after your 0% Intro purchase APR expires, both new purchases and unpaid purchase balances will automatically accrue interest until all balances, including your transferred balances, are paid in full
  • There is a balance transfer fee of either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
  • The standard variable APR for Citi Flex Plan is 14.74% - 24.74%, based on your creditworthiness. Citi Flex Plan offers are made available at Citi's discretion.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 12 months
0% for 21 months
14.74% - 24.74% (Variable)
$0
Excellent/Good
0% BALANCE TRANSFER RATING
★★★★★
4.9
OVERALL RATING
4.6/5.0
  • 0% Intro APR on balance transfers for 21 months from date of first transfer. After that, the variable APR will be 13.74% - 23.74%, based on your creditworthiness. All transfers must be completed in first 4 months.
  • 0% Intro APR on purchases for 12 months from date of account opening. After that, the variable APR will be 13.74% - 23.74%, based on your creditworthiness.
  • If you transfer a balance with this offer, after your 0% Intro purchase APR expires, both new purchases and unpaid purchase balances will automatically accrue interest until all balances, including your transferred balance, are paid in full.
  • There is a balance transfer fee of either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater
  • Get free access to your FICO® score online.
  • With Citi Entertainment℠, get special access to purchase tickets to thousands of events, including concerts, sporting events, dining experiences and more.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 12 months
0% for 21 months
13.74% - 23.74% (Variable)
$0
Excellent/Good
0% BALANCE TRANSFER RATING
★★★★★
4.8
OVERALL RATING
4.8/5.0
  • Earn cash back twice. Earn 2% on every purchase with unlimited 1% cash back when you buy, plus an additional 1% as you pay for those purchases.
  • To earn cash back, pay at least the minimum due on time.
  • Balance Transfer Offer: 0% intro APR on Balance Transfers for 18 months. After that, the variable APR will be 13.99% - 23.99%, based on your creditworthiness.
  • Balance Transfers do not earn cash back.
  • If you transfer a balance, interest will be charged on your purchases unless you pay your entire balance (including balance transfers) by the due date each month.
  • There is a balance transfer fee of either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
0% for 18 months
13.99% - 23.99% (variable)
$0
Excellent/Good

+See More Cards with 0% APR on Balance Transfers

One thing to note about balance transfers is that most credit cards will charge a balance transfer fee to move a balance to that card. These fees can range from 3% to 5% of the total balance you want to move and can reduce the amount that can be transferred.

Additionally, you can’t transfer a balance between cards from the same issuer. For example, you can’t transfer a Chase credit card balance to another Chase credit card. Finally, keep in mind that you generally won’t earn any rewards for transferred balances, nor will they count toward the spending requirement for a signup bonus.

Best “Rewards” Cards for Recent Graduates

For those diligent graduates who worked to build good credit while still in school, the options for an after-graduation credit card may be a whole lot more expansive than those available to their no-credit classmates.

And those options include a wealth of awesome rewards credit cards that can turn almost any purchase into a rewarding buy.

Rewards credit cards come in three main types: cash back, air miles, and points. The type of rewards you should seek out will depend on your personal spending style, as well as how you’re most likely to redeem your rewards.

Cash Back | Air Miles | Points

Best Cash Back Rewards Credit Cards

Cash back rewards are most often the simplest to redeem, with the option to cash in your rewards for a statement credit or a deposit into a qualifying bank account.

You’ll typically find two types of cash back cards. The first simply provides the same rewards rate for every card purchase, while the second also offers bonus rewards for specific types of purchases. Our list of favorite cash back cards includes the best of both worlds.

CASH BACK RATING
★★★★★
5.0
OVERALL RATING
5.0/5.0
  • Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.
  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases.
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases, then a variable APR of 14.99 - 23.74%.
  • No annual fee
  • No minimum to redeem for cash back
  • Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% 15 Months
N/A
14.99%–23.74% Variable
$0
Good/Excellent
CASH BACK RATING
★★★★★
4.9
OVERALL RATING
4.8/5.0
  • Earn cash back twice. Earn 2% on every purchase with unlimited 1% cash back when you buy, plus an additional 1% as you pay for those purchases.
  • To earn cash back, pay at least the minimum due on time.
  • Balance Transfer Offer: 0% intro APR on Balance Transfers for 18 months. After that, the variable APR will be 13.99% - 23.99%, based on your creditworthiness.
  • Balance Transfers do not earn cash back.
  • If you transfer a balance, interest will be charged on your purchases unless you pay your entire balance (including balance transfers) by the due date each month.
  • There is a balance transfer fee of either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
0% for 18 months
13.99% - 23.99% (variable)
$0
Excellent/Good
Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card Review

at Bank Of America'ssecure website

CASH BACK RATING
★★★★★
4.8
OVERALL RATING
4.7/5.0
  • 3% cash back in 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
  • 1% cash back on all other purchases
  • You’ll earn 3% and 2% cash back on the first $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club purchases each quarter, then earn 1%
  • There's no annual fee and your cash rewards don't expire. Each month, as you plan for future purchases, you can change your 3% choice category online or through our mobile app.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% Intro APR for 15 Billing Cycles
0% Intro APR for 15 Billing Cycles (for balance transfers made in the first 60 days)
13.99% - 23.99% (Variable)
$0
Excellent/Good

+See More Cards with Cash Back Rewards

To choose the right cash back card, consider where you spend the most each month, and select a card that complements those purchases. For example, if you spend a lot on gas, groceries, and other common purchases, choose a card that offers bonus cash back for those categories.

If, on the other hand, your spending doesn’t fall into common categories, you’ll likely be better off with an unlimited flat-rate cash back card that offers 1.5% or better on all purchases.

Best Air Miles Rewards Credit Cards

Each year, many new graduates strap on their backpacks and head out on a travel adventure before they have to join the workforce. But traveling the world isn’t exactly cheap, which is where travel rewards credit cards can be handy.

With a good travel rewards credit card, like those on our list below, you can earn miles that can be redeemed for free flights, hotel stays, and other travel-related expenses, turning an expensive pipe dream into a more affordable reality.

AIR MILES RATING
★★★★★
4.8
OVERALL RATING
4.8/5.0
  • Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel
  • Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on orders over $12 for a minimum of one year on qualifying food purchases with DashPass, DoorDash's subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.
  • Earn 5X points on Lyft rides through March 2022. That's 3X points in addition to the 2X points you already earn on travel.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
15.99% - 22.99% Variable
$95
Good/Excellent
Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card Review

at Bank Of America'ssecure website

AIR MILES RATING
★★★★★
4.8
OVERALL RATING
4.7/5.0
  • Earn unlimited 1.5 points for every $1 you spend on all purchases everywhere, every time and no expiration on points
  • Enjoy no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees while earning points to use for a statement credit to pay for flights, hotels, vacation packages, cruises, rental cars or baggage fees
  • Introductory 0%† APR for your first 12 billing cycles for purchases.  After that, a Variable APR that's currently 14.99% to 22.99% will apply.
  • 25,000 online bonus points if you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of your account opening – which can be redeemed for a $250 statement credit toward travel purchases
  • Preferred Rewards members earn 25%-75% more points on every purchase
  • That means you could earn up to 2.62 points for every $1 you spend, everywhere, every time.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% Intro APR for 12 billing cycles
N/A
14.99% - 22.99% (Variable)
$0
Excellent/Good
AIR MILES RATING
★★★★★
4.8
OVERALL RATING
4.8/5.0
  • New Offer! Earn 100k bonus points after you spend $15,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,250 toward travel when redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Earn 3 points per $1 on the first $150,000 spent on travel and select business categories each account anniversary year
  • Earn 1 point per $1 on all other purchases - with no limit to the amount you can earn
  • Points are worth 25% more when you redeem for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • Redeem points for travel, cash back, gift cards and more - your points don't expire as long as your account is open
  • No foreign transaction fees
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
15.99% - 20.99% Variable
$95
Good/Excellent

+See More Cards with Air Miles Rewards

When comparing air miles cards, you’ll come across both co-branded and bank-branded cards. Co-branded cards earn frequent flyer miles for specific airlines, and those miles can only be redeemed for flights with those airlines.

The more flexible travel rewards cards are those only branded with the issuing bank (e.g., Chase, Capital One), as these points and miles can often be redeemed directly for travel on any airline (or with any hotel brand).

Best Points Rewards Credit Cards

With the ability to redeem points for both cash back and travel in many cases, points rewards credit cards are often the best choice for those who want versatile rewards and a variety of redemption options.

As with other types of rewards cards, points rewards come in two flavors: unlimited flat-rate rewards or bonus category rewards. Given that the best pick for you will depend on your personal spending habits, it can be beneficial to explore both types, starting with our top picks below.

POINTS & GIFTS RATING
★★★★★
4.9
OVERALL RATING
4.8/5.0
  • Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel
  • Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on orders over $12 for a minimum of one year on qualifying food purchases with DashPass, DoorDash's subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.
  • Earn 5X points on Lyft rides through March 2022. That's 3X points in addition to the 2X points you already earn on travel.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
15.99% - 22.99% Variable
$95
Good/Excellent
POINTS & GIFTS RATING
★★★★★
4.8
OVERALL RATING
4.6/5.0
  • The Citi Rewards+℠ Card - the only credit card that automatically rounds up to the nearest 10 points on every purchase - with no cap.
  • Earn 15,000 bonus points after you spend $1,000 in purchases with your card within 3 months of account opening; redeemable for $150 in gift cards at thankyou.com
  • 0% Intro APR on balance transfers and purchases for 15 months. After that, the variable APR will be 13.49% - 23.49%, based on your creditworthiness. Balance transfer fee — either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
  • Earn 2X ThankYou® Points at Supermarkets and Gas Stations for the first $6,000 per year and then 1X Points thereafter. Plus, earn 1X Points on All Other Purchases.
  • The standard variable APR for Citi Flex Plan is 13.49% - 23.49%, based on your creditworthiness. Citi Flex Plan offers are made available at Citi's discretion.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 15 months
0% for 15 months
13.49% - 23.49% (Variable)
$0
Good/Excellent
POINTS & GIFTS RATING
★★★★★
4.8
OVERALL RATING
4.8/5.0
  • Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
  • 3X points on travel immediately after earning your $300 travel credit. 3X points on dining at restaurants & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases. $0 foreign transaction fees.
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $750 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,000+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
16.99%-23.99% Variable
$550
Good/Excellent

+See More Cards with Points Rewards

Although points rewards can usually be redeemed for a wide range of things, including cash back, travel, and gift cards, not all redemption options offer the same per-point value.

In many cases, redeeming points directly for travel or by transferring to a qualifying hotel or airline partner (when available) can provide the best per-point value.

Start Off Your Professional Life with Good Credit Decisions

After years of hard work, lectures, and exams, graduating can be a huge relief — right up until you realize you now have to start being an adult.

One of the most important things you can do to start your post-college financial life off right is to start responsibly building credit. But the keyword here is responsibly.

Establishing a credit profile will do you little good if you start by building bad credit, so be sure to practice responsible credit behaviors.

This includes always (always, always) paying your debts and bills on time, maintaining low credit card balances, and being stingy about opening new credit lines.

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