When Should You Upgrade From a Student Credit Card?
Your first student card helps you establish credit, but has relatively low limits and rewards compared to premium cards. At some point it makes sense to graduate to better options.
In this guide, we’ll discuss signs indicating you’re ready to upgrade from student cards. We’ll also look at top cards to consider after college based on spending categories and lifestyle.
Let’s explore how to time a prudent upgrade to cards that align with your financial growth.
You’ve Developed Good Credit History
The primary goal of a student card is building credit history and your score. Once you’ve diligently built good history, an upgrade often makes sense.
Signs your profile is ready:
- You have 2+ years of positive payment history
- Your credit score is 700+
- You have low credit utilization below 10%
- You have no missed payments or bankruptcies
At this point your profile demonstrates responsible usage over time deserving of an upgrade with higher limits and rewards potential.
You Have Steady Income
As a student, income mainly came from financial aid, loans, allowances, or part-time work. After graduation, you’ll hopefully secure full-time reliable employment or graduate program funding.
Steady verifiable income makes you eligible for premium card offers unavailable previously. Don’t upgrade prematurely before income stabilizes. Wait until any probationary employment periods end.
Your Expenses Have Grown
Student living comes with limited costs. But post-college adult expenses grow significantly across categories like:
- Dining out
- Professional wardrobe
- Student loan payments
With grown-up costs comes justification for upgraded credit lines and rewards on spending.
You Need Better Rewards
Premium credit cards offer expanded rewards like:
- More cashback or points on categories like grocery, dining, and gas
- Lucrative sign-up bonuses worth hundreds after meeting minimum spend
- Hotel elite status and lounge access
- Annual travel credits to offset fees
- Detailed account management features and tools
The right card aligns elevated rewards with your lifestyle.
Your Credit Limit Is Stagnant
As your income and expenses rise, student card limits can lag behind. They often cap at only a few thousand dollars.
If you’ve diligently requested student limit increases with no success, this indicates it’s time for a graduate card with higher potential limits.
You Have Major One-Time Expenses Coming
Big post-college costs like moving, travel, rent deposits, and new professional wardrobes all require financial flexibility.
More expansive limits and signup bonuses from new cards provide necessary spending power student cards can’t.
Your Issuer Offers a Graduation Pathway
Many student card issuers like Discover and Bank of America offer graduation to unsecured cards after 12-24 months of responsible use.
Take advantage of preset programs that invite you to accept better rewards cards as your profile develops.
Which Post-Grad Cards Should You Consider?
Here are some top options for life after student cards:
Chase Sapphire Preferred®
- 60,000 point signup bonus
- 5x points on travel booked through Chase
- 1:1 point transfers to frequent flyer partners
Citi® Double Cash Card
- 0% APR for 18 months on balance transfers
- 2% unlimited flat-rate cashback
- $200 cashback signup bonus
Citi Custom Cash® Card
- 5% cashback in your highest eligible spend category each billing cycle
- $200 cashback signup bonus
- 0% intro APR for 15 months on purchases
Capital One SavorOne® Cash Rewards
- 8% cashback on dining and entertainment
- 3% cashback at grocery stores
- $200 signup bonus
Consider both short term bonuses and long term category rewards when choosing your next card.
Should You Close Your Student Account?
Ideally, keep your first student card open indefinitely to anchor your length of credit history. But close newer ones:
- Once you have 2-3 graduating unsecured cards established
- If old student cards levy annual fees you no longer want to pay
- To remove leftover temptation if they encourage overspending
Avoid cancelling your very first card since this dings history depth. Downgrade or diversify additional accounts.
Closing Thoughts on Upgrading
The right student credit card manages prudently in early years establishes positive financial behaviors for decades to come.
But at some point you outgrow the low rewards, thin credit depth, and training wheels. Grab the next levels of benefits you’ve earned through diligent profile management.
Talk to issuers about pre-approval and graduation path opportunities to seamlessly upgrade to mainstream cards matching your grown-up needs. But never relinquish the sound habits that got you there.