The Ultimate Guide to Credit Cards
Saturday, May 18, 2024

7 Best Credit Cards for Recent College Graduates (May 2024)

Best Credit Cards For Recent College Graduates
Ray FitzGerald

Written by: Ray FitzGerald

Ray FitzGerald
Ray FitzGerald

Ray Fitzgerald has more than a decade of journalism experience, writing for national media outlets, including the Miami Herald and Investment Times. Ray is passionate about traditional and alternative investment strategies, but most enjoys sharing creative ways to budget and save money. Ray has personally written about hundreds of credit card offers from banks and credit unions across America and enjoys helping people find the best cards and rewards programs for their specific spending needs.

Edited by: Lillian Guevara-Castro

Lillian Guevara-Castro
Lillian Guevara-Castro

Lillian Guevara-Castro brings more than 30 years of editing and journalism experience to the CardRates team. She has written and edited for major news organizations, including The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the New York Times, and she previously served as an adjunct journalism instructor at the University of Florida. Today, Lillian edits all CardRates content for clarity, accuracy, and reader engagement.

See full bio »
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 67% 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.

Secured Chime Credit Builder Visa® Credit Card Review

at the issuer'ssecure website

NO/LIMITED CREDIT RATING
★★★★★
4.7
OVERALL RATING
  • No credit check to apply
  • Adjustable credit limit based on what you transfer from your Chime Checking account to the secured deposit account
  • No interest* or annual fees
  • Chime Checking Account and qualifying direct deposit of $200 or more required to apply. See official application, terms, and details link below.
  • The secured Chime Credit Builder Visa® Card is issued by The Bankcorp Bank, N.A. or Stride Bank, N.A., Members FDIC, pursuant to a license from Visa U.S.A. Inc. and may be used everywhere Visa credit cards are accepted.
  • *Out-of-network ATM withdrawal and OTC advance fees may apply. View The Bancorp agreement or Stride agreement for details; see back of card for issuer.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
N/A
$0
None
NO/LIMITED CREDIT RATING
★★★★★
4.7
OVERALL RATING
  • No annual or hidden fees. See if you're approved in seconds
  • Be automatically considered for a higher credit line in as little as 6 months
  • Help build your credit through responsible use of a card like this
  • Enjoy peace of mind with $0 Fraud Liability so that you won't be responsible for unauthorized charges
  • Monitor your credit score with CreditWise from Capital One. It's free for everyone
  • Get access to your account 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with online banking from your desktop or smartphone, with Capital One's mobile app
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
29.99% (Variable)
$0
Average, Fair, Limited
NO/LIMITED CREDIT RATING
★★★★★
4.7
OVERALL RATING
  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day
  • Early Spend Bonus: Earn $50 when you spend $100 in the first three months
  • Earn 10% cash back on purchases made through Uber & Uber Eats, plus complimentary Uber One membership statement credits through 11/14/2024
  • Enjoy peace of mind with $0 Fraud Liability so that you won't be responsible for unauthorized charges
  • Enjoy no annual fee, foreign transaction fees, or hidden fees
  • Lock your card in the Capital One Mobile app if it's misplaced, lost or stolen
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
19.99% - 29.99% (Variable)
$0
Average, Fair, Limited

+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.

Secured Chime Credit Builder Visa® Credit Card Review

at the issuer'ssecure website

SECURED RATING
★★★★★
4.9
OVERALL RATING
  • No credit check to apply
  • Adjustable credit limit based on what you transfer from your Chime Checking account to the secured deposit account
  • No interest* or annual fees
  • Chime Checking Account and qualifying direct deposit of $200 or more required to apply. See official application, terms, and details link below.
  • The secured Chime Credit Builder Visa® Card is issued by The Bankcorp Bank, N.A. or Stride Bank, N.A., Members FDIC, pursuant to a license from Visa U.S.A. Inc. and may be used everywhere Visa credit cards are accepted.
  • *Out-of-network ATM withdrawal and OTC advance fees may apply. View The Bancorp agreement or Stride agreement for details; see back of card for issuer.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
N/A
$0
None
OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card Review

at Capital Bank N.A.'ssecure website

SECURED RATING
★★★★★
4.8
OVERALL RATING
  • New feature! Earn up to 10% cash back* on everyday purchases
  • No credit check to apply. Zero credit risk to apply!
  • Looking to build or rebuild your credit? 2 out of 3 OpenSky cardholders increase their credit score by an average of 41 points in just 3 months
  • Get free monthly access to your FICO score in our mobile application
  • Build your credit history across 3 major credit reporting agencies: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion
  • Add to your mobile wallet and make purchases using Apple Pay, Samsung Pay and Google Pay
  • Fund your card with a low $200 refundable security deposit to get a $200 credit line
  • Apply in less than 5 minutes with our mobile first application
  • Choose the due date that fits your schedule with flexible payment dates
  • Fund your security deposit over 60 days with the option to make partial payments
  • Over 1.4 Million Cardholders Have Used OpenSky Secured Credit Card To Improve Their Credit
  • *See Rewards Terms and Conditions for more information
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
25.64% (variable)
$35
Poor
Discover it® Secured Credit Card Review

at Discover Card'ssecure website

SECURED RATING
★★★★★
4.7
OVERALL RATING
  • No credit score required to apply.
  • No Annual Fee, earn cash back, and build your credit history.
  • Your secured credit card requires a refundable security deposit, and your credit line will equal your deposit amount, starting at $200. Bank information must be provided when submitting your deposit.
  • Automatic reviews starting at 7 months to see if we can transition you to an unsecured line of credit and return your deposit.
  • Earn 2% cash back at Gas Stations and Restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter, automatically. Plus earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases.
  • Discover could help you reduce exposure of your personal information online by helping you remove it from select people-search sites that could sell your data. It’s free, activate with the mobile app.
  • Get an alert if we find your Social Security number on any of thousands of Dark Web sites. Activate for free.
  • Terms and conditions apply.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
10.99% Intro APR for 6 months
28.24% Variable APR
$0
New/Rebuilding

+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.

7. Chase Freedom Flex℠

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

Additional Disclosure: The information related to Chase Freedom Flex℠ credit card has been collected by CardRates.com and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card.

Discover it® Cash Back Review

at Discover Card'ssecure website

BEST OVERALL RATING
★★★★★
4.9
OVERALL RATING
  • INTRO OFFER: Unlimited Cashback Match for all new cardmembers – only from Discover. Discover will automatically match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year! There’s no minimum spending or maximum rewards. You could turn $150 cash back into $300.
  • Earn 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places you shop each quarter like grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations, and more, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases—automatically.
  • Redeem your rewards for cash at any time.
  • Discover could help you reduce exposure of your personal information online by helping you remove it from select people-search sites that could sell your data. It’s free, activate with the mobile app.
  • Get a 0% intro APR for 15 months on purchases. Then 17.24% to 28.24% Standard Variable Purchase APR applies, based on credit worthiness.
  • No annual fee.
  • Terms and conditions apply.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% Intro APR for 15 months
0% Intro APR for 15 months
17.24% - 28.24% Variable APR
$0
Excellent/Good
Discover it® Miles Review

at Discover Card'ssecure website

BEST OVERALL RATING
★★★★★
4.8
OVERALL RATING
  • UNLIMITED BONUS: Unlimited Mile-for-Mile match for all new cardmembers—only from Discover. Discover gives you an unlimited match of all the Miles you’ve earned at the end of your first year. You could turn 35,000 Miles to 70,000 Miles. There’s no signing up, no minimum spending or maximum rewards. Just a Miles-for-Miles match.
  • Automatically earn unlimited 1.5x Miles on every dollar of every purchase
  • No annual fee
  • Turn Miles into cash. Or redeem as a statement credit for your travel purchases like airfare, hotels, rideshares, gas stations, restaurants and more.
  • 0% intro APR for 15 months on purchases. Then 17.24% - 28.24% Standard Variable Purchase APR will apply.
  • Discover could help you reduce exposure of your personal information online by helping you remove it from select people-search sites that could sell your data. It’s free, activate with the mobile app.
  • Discover is accepted nationwide by 99% of the places that take credit cards.
  • Terms and conditions apply.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% Intro APR for 15 months
0% Intro APR for 15 months
17.24% - 28.24% Variable APR
$0
Excellent/Good

+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.

Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards credit card Review

at Bank Of America'ssecure website

0% INTRO APR RATING
★★★★★
4.8
OVERALL RATING
  • $200 online cash rewards bonus after you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening.
  • Earn 3% cash back in the category of your choice, automatic 2% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs (up to $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club quarterly purchases) and unlimited 1% on all other purchases.
  • Choose 3% cash back on gas and EV charging station, online shopping/cable/internet/phone plan/streaming, dining, travel, drug store/pharmacy or home improvement/furnishings purchases.
  • If you're a Bank of America Preferred Rewards® member, you can earn 25%-75% more cash back on every purchase. That means you could earn 3.75%-5.25% cash back on purchases in your choice category.
  • No annual fee and cash rewards don’t expire as long as your account remains open.
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 billing cycles for purchases, and for any balance transfers made in the first 60 days. After the Intro APR offer ends, a Variable APR that’s currently 19.24% - 29.24% will apply. A 3% Intro balance transfer fee will apply for the first 60 days your account is open. After the Intro balance transfer fee offer ends, the fee for future balance transfers is 4%.
  • Contactless Cards - The security of a chip card, with the convenience of a tap.
  • This online only offer may not be available if you leave this page or if you visit a Bank of America financial center. You can take advantage of this offer when you apply now.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% Intro APR for 15 billing cycles for purchases
0% Intro APR for 15 billing cycles for any balance transfers made in the first 60 days (Balance Transfer Fee 3% for 60 days from account opening, then 4%)
19.24% - 29.24% Variable APR on purchases and balance transfers
$0
Excellent/Good

Additional Disclosure: Bank of America is a CardRates advertiser.

Bank of America® Unlimited Cash Rewards credit card Review

at Bank Of America'ssecure website

0% INTRO APR RATING
★★★★★
4.8
OVERALL RATING
  • $200 online cash rewards bonus after you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening.
  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases.
  • If you're a Bank of America Preferred Rewards® member, you can earn 25%-75% more cash back on every purchase. That means you could earn 1.87%-2.62% cash back on every purchase with Preferred Rewards.
  • No annual fee.
  • No limit to the amount of cash back you can earn and cash rewards don’t expire as long as your account remains open.
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 billing cycles for purchases, and for any balance transfers made in the first 60 days. After the Intro APR offer ends, a Variable APR that’s currently 19.24% - 29.24% will apply. A 3% Intro balance transfer fee will apply for the first 60 days your account is open. After the Intro balance transfer fee offer ends, the fee for future balance transfers is 4%.
  • Contactless Cards - The security of a chip card, with the convenience of a tap.
  • This online only offer may not be available if you leave this page or if you visit a Bank of America financial center. You can take advantage of this offer when you apply now.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% Intro APR for 15 billing cycles for purchases
0% Intro APR for 15 billing cycles for any balance transfers made in the first 60 days (Balance Transfer Fee 3% for 60 days from account opening, then 4%)
19.24% - 29.24% Variable APR on purchases and balance transfers
$0
Excellent/Good

Additional Disclosure: Bank of America is a CardRates advertiser.

Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card Review

at Bank Of America'ssecure website

0% INTRO APR RATING
★★★★★
4.8
OVERALL RATING
  • Earn unlimited 1.5 points per $1 spent on all purchases, with no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees and your points don't expire as long as your account remains open.
  • 25,000 online bonus points after you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening - that can be a $250 statement credit toward travel purchases.
  • Use your card to book your trip how and where you want - you're not limited to specific websites with blackout dates or restrictions.
  • Redeem points for a statement credit to pay for travel or dining purchases, such as flights, hotel stays, car and vacation rentals, baggage fees, and also at restaurants including takeout.
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 billing cycles for purchases, and for any balance transfers made in the first 60 days. After the Intro APR offer ends, a Variable APR that’s currently 19.24% - 29.24% will apply. A 3% Intro balance transfer fee will apply for the first 60 days your account is open. After the Intro balance transfer fee offer ends, the fee for future balance transfers is 4%.
  • If you're a Bank of America Preferred Rewards® member, you can earn 25%-75% more points on every purchase. That means instead of earning an unlimited 1.5 points for every $1, you could earn 1.87-2.62 points for every $1 you spend on purchases.
  • Contactless Cards - The security of a chip card, with the convenience of a tap.
  • This online only offer may not be available if you leave this page or if you visit a Bank of America financial center. You can take advantage of this offer when you apply now.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% Intro APR for 15 billing cycles for purchases
0% Intro APR for 15 billing cycles for any balance transfers made in the first 60 days (Balance Transfer Fee 3% for 60 days from account opening, then 4%)
19.24% - 29.24% Variable APR on purchases and balance transfers
$0
Excellent/Good

Additional Disclosure: Bank of America is a CardRates advertiser.

+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
★★★★★
4.8
OVERALL RATING
  • 0% Intro APR for 21 months on balance transfers from date of first transfer and 0% Intro APR for 12 months on purchases from date of account opening. After that the variable APR will be 18.24% - 28.99%, based on your creditworthiness. Balance transfers must be completed within 4 months of account opening.
  • 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.
  • No Annual Fee - our low intro rates and all the benefits don’t come with a yearly charge.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% 12 months on Purchases
0% 21 months on Balance Transfers
18.24% - 28.99% (Variable)
$0
Excellent, Good

Additional Disclosure: Citi is a CardRates advertiser.

Discover it® Chrome Review

at Discover Card'ssecure website

0% BALANCE TRANSFER RATING
★★★★★
4.8
OVERALL RATING
  • INTRO OFFER: Unlimited Cashback Match for all new cardmembers – only from Discover. Discover will automatically match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year! There’s no minimum spending or maximum rewards. Just a dollar-for-dollar match.
  • Earn 2% cash back at Gas Stations and Restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter, automatically. Plus earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases.
  • Redeem your rewards for cash at any time.
  • Discover could help you reduce exposure of your personal information online by helping you remove it from select people-search sites that could sell your data. It’s free, activate with the mobile app.
  • No annual fee.
  • Terms and conditions apply.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% Intro APR for 6 months
0% Intro APR for 18 months
17.24% - 28.24% Variable APR
$0
Excellent/Good
0% BALANCE TRANSFER RATING
★★★★★
4.8
OVERALL RATING
  • Earn $200 cash back after you spend $1,500 on purchases in the first 6 months of account opening. This bonus offer will be fulfilled as 20,000 ThankYou® Points, which can be redeemed for $200 cash back.
  • 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. Plus, for a limited time, earn 5% total cash back on hotel, car rentals and attractions booked on the Citi Travel℠ portal through 12/31/24.
  • Balance Transfer Only Offer: 0% intro APR on Balance Transfers for 18 months. After that, the variable APR will be 19.24% - 29.24%, based on your creditworthiness.
  • Balance Transfers do not earn cash back. Intro APR does not apply to purchases.
  • 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 an intro balance transfer fee of 3% of each transfer (minimum $5) completed within the first 4 months of account opening. After that, your fee will be 5% of each transfer (minimum $5).
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
0% Intro APR Period 18 months on Balance Transfers
19.24% - 29.24% (Variable)
$0
Excellent, Good, Fair

Additional Disclosure: Citi is a CardRates advertiser.

+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.

Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards credit card Review

at Bank Of America'ssecure website

CASH BACK RATING
★★★★★
4.9
OVERALL RATING
  • $200 online cash rewards bonus after you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening.
  • Earn 3% cash back in the category of your choice, automatic 2% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs (up to $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club quarterly purchases) and unlimited 1% on all other purchases.
  • Choose 3% cash back on gas and EV charging station, online shopping/cable/internet/phone plan/streaming, dining, travel, drug store/pharmacy or home improvement/furnishings purchases.
  • If you're a Bank of America Preferred Rewards® member, you can earn 25%-75% more cash back on every purchase. That means you could earn 3.75%-5.25% cash back on purchases in your choice category.
  • No annual fee and cash rewards don’t expire as long as your account remains open.
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 billing cycles for purchases, and for any balance transfers made in the first 60 days. After the Intro APR offer ends, a Variable APR that’s currently 19.24% - 29.24% will apply. A 3% Intro balance transfer fee will apply for the first 60 days your account is open. After the Intro balance transfer fee offer ends, the fee for future balance transfers is 4%.
  • Contactless Cards - The security of a chip card, with the convenience of a tap.
  • This online only offer may not be available if you leave this page or if you visit a Bank of America financial center. You can take advantage of this offer when you apply now.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% Intro APR for 15 billing cycles for purchases
0% Intro APR for 15 billing cycles for any balance transfers made in the first 60 days (Balance Transfer Fee 3% for 60 days from account opening, then 4%)
19.24% - 29.24% Variable APR on purchases and balance transfers
$0
Excellent/Good

Additional Disclosure: Bank of America is a CardRates advertiser.

Discover it® Cash Back Review

at Discover Card'ssecure website

CASH BACK RATING
★★★★★
4.9
OVERALL RATING
  • INTRO OFFER: Unlimited Cashback Match for all new cardmembers – only from Discover. Discover will automatically match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year! There’s no minimum spending or maximum rewards. You could turn $150 cash back into $300.
  • Earn 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places you shop each quarter like grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations, and more, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases—automatically.
  • Redeem your rewards for cash at any time.
  • Discover could help you reduce exposure of your personal information online by helping you remove it from select people-search sites that could sell your data. It’s free, activate with the mobile app.
  • Get a 0% intro APR for 15 months on purchases. Then 17.24% to 28.24% Standard Variable Purchase APR applies, based on credit worthiness.
  • No annual fee.
  • Terms and conditions apply.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% Intro APR for 15 months
0% Intro APR for 15 months
17.24% - 28.24% Variable APR
$0
Excellent/Good
CASH BACK RATING
★★★★★
4.8
OVERALL RATING
  • INTRO OFFER: Earn an additional 1.5% cash back on everything you buy (on up to $20,000 spent in the first year) - worth up to $300 cash back!
  • Enjoy 6.5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Travel, our premier rewards program that lets you redeem rewards for cash back, travel, gift cards and more; 4.5% cash back on drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery service, and 3% on all other purchases (on up to $20,000 spent in the first year).
  • After your first year or $20,000 spent, enjoy 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Travel, 3% cash back on drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery service, and unlimited 1.5% cash back on all other purchases.
  • No minimum to redeem for cash back. You can choose to receive a statement credit or direct deposit into most U.S. checking and savings accounts. Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open!
  • Enjoy 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 20.49% - 29.24%.
  • No annual fee – You won't have to pay an annual fee for all the great features that come with your Freedom Unlimited® card
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
20.49% - 29.24% Variable
$0
Good/Excellent

+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.

Discover it® Miles Review

at Discover Card'ssecure website

AIR MILES RATING
★★★★★
4.9
OVERALL RATING
  • UNLIMITED BONUS: Unlimited Mile-for-Mile match for all new cardmembers—only from Discover. Discover gives you an unlimited match of all the Miles you’ve earned at the end of your first year. You could turn 35,000 Miles to 70,000 Miles. There’s no signing up, no minimum spending or maximum rewards. Just a Miles-for-Miles match.
  • Automatically earn unlimited 1.5x Miles on every dollar of every purchase
  • No annual fee
  • Turn Miles into cash. Or redeem as a statement credit for your travel purchases like airfare, hotels, rideshares, gas stations, restaurants and more.
  • 0% intro APR for 15 months on purchases. Then 17.24% - 28.24% Standard Variable Purchase APR will apply.
  • Discover could help you reduce exposure of your personal information online by helping you remove it from select people-search sites that could sell your data. It’s free, activate with the mobile app.
  • Discover is accepted nationwide by 99% of the places that take credit cards.
  • Terms and conditions apply.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% Intro APR for 15 months
0% Intro APR for 15 months
17.24% - 28.24% Variable APR
$0
Excellent/Good
AIR MILES RATING
★★★★★
4.9
OVERALL RATING
  • $0 annual fee and no foreign transaction fees
  • Earn a bonus of 20,000 miles once you spend $500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $200 in travel
  • Earn unlimited 1.25X miles on every purchase, every day
  • Miles won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how many you can earn
  • Earn 5X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of trip options
  • Use your miles to get reimbursed for any travel purchase—or redeem by booking a trip through Capital One Travel
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 15 months
0% for 15 months
19.99% - 29.99% (Variable)
$0
Excellent, Good
AIR MILES RATING
★★★★★
4.8
OVERALL RATING
  • Enjoy a one-time bonus of 75,000 miles once you spend $4,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on every purchase, every day
  • Earn 5X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of trip options
  • Miles won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how many you can earn
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your miles to get reimbursed for any travel purchase—or redeem by booking a trip through Capital One Travel
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
19.99% - 29.99% (Variable)
$95
Excellent, Good

+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.

Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card Review

at Bank Of America'ssecure website

POINTS & GIFTS RATING
★★★★★
4.9
OVERALL RATING
  • Earn unlimited 1.5 points per $1 spent on all purchases, with no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees and your points don't expire as long as your account remains open.
  • 25,000 online bonus points after you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening - that can be a $250 statement credit toward travel purchases.
  • Use your card to book your trip how and where you want - you're not limited to specific websites with blackout dates or restrictions.
  • Redeem points for a statement credit to pay for travel or dining purchases, such as flights, hotel stays, car and vacation rentals, baggage fees, and also at restaurants including takeout.
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 billing cycles for purchases, and for any balance transfers made in the first 60 days. After the Intro APR offer ends, a Variable APR that’s currently 19.24% - 29.24% will apply. A 3% Intro balance transfer fee will apply for the first 60 days your account is open. After the Intro balance transfer fee offer ends, the fee for future balance transfers is 4%.
  • If you're a Bank of America Preferred Rewards® member, you can earn 25%-75% more points on every purchase. That means instead of earning an unlimited 1.5 points for every $1, you could earn 1.87-2.62 points for every $1 you spend on purchases.
  • Contactless Cards - The security of a chip card, with the convenience of a tap.
  • This online only offer may not be available if you leave this page or if you visit a Bank of America financial center. You can take advantage of this offer when you apply now.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% Intro APR for 15 billing cycles for purchases
0% Intro APR for 15 billing cycles for any balance transfers made in the first 60 days (Balance Transfer Fee 3% for 60 days from account opening, then 4%)
19.24% - 29.24% Variable APR on purchases and balance transfers
$0
Excellent/Good

Additional Disclosure: Bank of America is a CardRates advertiser.

POINTS & GIFTS RATING
★★★★★
4.8
OVERALL RATING
  • Earn 75,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,125 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Travel℠.
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Travel℠ immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Travel℠. For example, 75,000 points are worth $1125 toward travel.
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™; Select and up to $100 application fee credit every four years for Global Entry, NEXUS, or TSA PreCheck®
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
22.49%-29.49% Variable
$550
Good/Excellent
POINTS & GIFTS RATING
★★★★★
4.8
OVERALL RATING
  • Earn 75,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's over $900 when you redeem through Chase Travel℠.
  • Enjoy benefits such as 5x on travel purchased through Chase Travel℠, 3x on dining, select streaming services and online groceries, 2x on all other travel purchases, 1x on all other purchases, $50 Annual Chase Travel Hotel Credit, plus more.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Travel℠. For example, 75,000 points are worth $937.50 toward travel.
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more.
  • Get complimentary access to DashPass which unlocks $0 delivery fees and lower service fees for a minimum of one year when you activate by December 31, 2024.
  • Member FDIC
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
21.49%-28.49% Variable
$95
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.

Advertiser Disclosure

CardRates.com is a free online resource that offers valuable content and comparison services to users. To keep this resource 100% free, we receive compensation for referrals for many of the offers listed on the site. Along with key review factors, this compensation may impact how and where products appear across CardRates.com (including, for example, the order in which they appear). CardRates.com does not include the entire universe of available offers. Editorial opinions expressed on the site are strictly our own and are not provided, endorsed, or approved by advertisers.