How to Switch From a Student to Regular Credit Card
Once you graduate college and enter the working world, it makes sense to upgrade from student starter cards to more robust products. Here’s how to time the switch seamlessly.
In this comprehensive guide, we’ll discuss when to make the move to regular credit cards, finding the right card for your needs, and closing student accounts responsibly. Let’s explore proven strategies to graduate to cards that best fit your lifestyle.
When to Switch from a Student Card
Consider upgrading to regular credit cards when:
- You’ve built good credit – 700+ scores show responsible history
- Your income is higher and more reliable after college
- You have grown-up expenses like travel, rent, utilities, etc.
- You need higher credit limits to keep utilization low
- You want to earn more rewards on spending
- Your old student card charged an annual fee after graduation
The first few years after college mark an ideal transition window as your profile matures.
Finding the Right Post-Grad Card
Look for regular credit cards that offer:
- Higher cashback, points or miles rates on key categories like groceries, gas, dining, etc.
- Lucrative signup bonus opportunities, especially when you have big purchases upcoming
- Increased credit limits to accommodate adult expenses
- Benefits like rental car insurance, travel protections, and extended warranty coverage
- Visa Signature status for amenities like hotel perks, dining upgrades, and exclusive events
Match cards to your individual spending and goals. Broad cashback cards work for flexibility while travel rewards align well with heavy travel spenders. Seek cards with perks that best complement your habits and needs.
Evaluating Top Regular Card Issuers
Here are some top mainstream issuers to consider after outgrowing student card products:
Chase – For flexible Ultimate Rewards points and travel redemptions
Citi – For solid bonus category earn rates and no annual fee options
Capital One – For easy flat-rate cashback through Savor and Quicksilver cards
American Express – For premium rewards, credits, and points transfers on spend
Bank of America – For solid cashback bonuses on top monthly spending categories
Wells Fargo – For rotating category bonuses and cell phone protection
All offer graduated products when you’re ready to leave student cards behind.
Timing Your Application
Apply for your next card when:
- You have at least 12 months of positive history on your student card
- Your credit profile demonstrates responsible management over time
- You have verifiable steady income from your career or graduate program
- You already have plans for a major purchase to earn the signup bonus
- You won’t carry a balance and negate rewards with interest charges
Apply with confidence once you’ve set up habits for success.
Should You Close Old Student Accounts?
Ideally keep your first student account open indefinitely to anchor your credit history length. But other guidelines for old student cards:
- Close them if they have annual fees not justified by rewards or card benefits
- Close newer ones if you already have several unsecured cards established in good standing
- Consider downgrading to a no-fee version to preserve credit longevity
- Ensure your credit utilization stays low when closing cards
Your oldest accounts demonstrate long, responsible usage – keep them open.
Closing Accounts Responsibly
When closing student cards:
- Pay balances to $0 first before calling to cancel
- Review cards for upcoming renewals to avoid annual fees
- Check that closure won’t drastically reduce your total credit and hike utilization
- Cancel via phone and request closure confirmation in writing
- Note card closure dates for your personal records
Closing responsibly protects your score and provides closure.
Graduating Secured Cards to Unsecured
If you started building credit with a secured card, issuers like Bank of America provide a pathway to upgrade to unsecured cards over time if you:
- Maintain your secured card in good standing by making all payments on time
- Keep credit utilization low by maintaining balances under 30% of the limit
- Wait at least 7 months before requesting to graduate based on responsible activity
- Call and request an unsecured card – with approval your security deposit is refunded
Don’t wait indefinitely to graduate – ask for an unsecured card once you’ve demonstrated diligence.
Choosing Between Personal and Business Cards
Business credit cards make sense once you have:
- Formal business formation documents like articles of incorporation
- An Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the IRS
- Business revenue and expenses to earn rewards against
Otherwise stick with personal cards initially tied to your social security number until you formalize business needs.
Closing Thoughts on Switching to Regular Cards
The transition from student life to grown-up financial realities makes it an ideal time to graduate to more rewarding credit products.
With an established history and improved credit from early student card management, you can qualify for robust premium card approvals offering bigger bonuses, higher limits, and greater perks.
The plastic may change, but the good habits don’t. Let your next card represent the same diligence and responsibility demonstrated prudently during your academic years.