Okay, so you enrolled in college, took on a bunch of student loans, studied like crazy, and now you’re about to graduate – so don’t you think it’s about time you started getting your finances in order? If you want to have nice things later on in life, like a car or a house, you need to start building your creditworthiness now so that lenders will have a reason to trust you.
The easiest way to start building your credit score is with (big surprise here) a credit card. Though you might already have a card in your parents’ name, it’s really time to branch out and start building up your credit score on your own. That way, when you’re hiking across Europe or picking up Starbucks for the office in Manhattan, you’ll be able to positively impact your credit rating every time you make a purchase.
But with so many pieces of plastic available on the market, how do you decide which one is best for your unique lifestyle? Simple – you educate yourself. Here are the four best credit cards for the four most common types of college grads.
What We'll Cover
The “What’s a Credit Card?” Card
If you’ve never had a credit card before, then your choices for your first piece of plastic after graduation are pretty limited. If you don’t have a co-signer, your best bet will be a Capital One Secured MasterCard. It has a $30 annual fee and a $200 limit, but it also reports to the credit monitoring bureaus – unlike some other “bad credit” credit cards. The card also gives you the ability to raise your limit through responsible spending – and for what it’s worth, you can customize the image on the card face for free.
The Gainfully Employed Overachiever Card
You’re going places, kid. While the recession might have held back your friends’ careers, you managed to secure a cushy position at a big accounting firm in the city. Now you need a credit card to match your new lifestyle. If you built up your credit rating during college, then you should definitely apply for the Citi Dividend Platinum Select Card. Not only will you get $100 back after you spend your first $500, but you’ll get 5% cash back at the Home Depot until the end of June and 1% cash back for every other purchase you make on the card thereafter.
The “I Need to Find Myself (in Europe)” Card
If you plan on traveling abroad after graduation, consider an air miles card. We prefer the Capital One Venture Rewards Card, because it offers you 10,000 bonus miles, or $100 (good towards any travel expense) just for signing up. After that, you’ll earn two miles for every dollar you spend with the card, and you’ll never have to pay a foreign transaction fee. Though the card charges a $59 annual fee, it will be waived for the first year.
The Responsible Adult Card
For graduates who just want a straightforward credit card that will reward them for the purchases they make every day, we suggest the American Express Blue Cash Everyday Card. There’s no annual fee, 0% APR for the first year and a $100 signing bonus for spending $1,000 in the first three months of membership. The rewards structure is also simple but sweet. You get 3% cash back at gas stations, 2% back at supermarkets, and 1% back on everything else.
Life after graduation can be tough, but signing up for your own credit card can make at least one aspect of it a little easier. With a new piece of plastic in your pocket, you’ll be able to start building your credit score or start making improvements on the score you already have every time you make a purchase, no matter where you live or what you’re doing. And that’s definitely something worth growing up for.