Key takeaways

  • Credit cards can be used to pay college tuition and fees, or to cover additional higher education expenses like textbooks and supplies.
  • A credit card for start-ups can even help you launch a brand new business, provided your credit is solid enough to qualify.
  • If you decide to use credit cards to make a career change, you'll want to choose cards that offer 0 percent APR for a limited time and keep long-term debt at a minimum.

Whether you want to switch jobs to grow professionally or you just want to earn more money, you may be considering a career change. A recent report from Gallup noted that millennials are more likely to switch jobs than older generations were. Gallup notes that 60 percent of individuals born between 1980 and 1996 are “open to new opportunities,” or willing to switch to a new job for a better deal.

While switching career tracks may be tempting, it can also be challenging. After all, it’s one thing to make major life changes when you’re fresh out of college and have fewer responsibilities, but it’s another when you’re older, have a mortgage and people are depending on you for their care.

Fortunately, credit cards can help facilitate a career change in some ways you may not expect. This is true whether you decide to head back to college for an advanced degree, you opt to complete a new certification or you decide to start your own business.

How can credit cards help you switch career tracks?

Credit cards make it possible to switch careers later in life, but they’re best for people who have a concrete plan to pay the money back. Here are some ways you can use cards to cover expenses related to going back to school, pursuing additional certificates and courses or starting a brand new business.

Using credit cards to fund college tuition and fees

First off, you should know that you can sometimes pay college tuition and fees with a credit card (depending on whether your institution allows it), though it isn’t usually the best option for most people. Using a credit card might make sense if you qualify for a card that offers 0 percent APR and have the bandwidth to pay back what you owe before the card’s introductory period ends.

You may even be able to earn rewards for college tuition and expenses, which could come in the form of cash back or flexible points. If you have the option to redeem your rewards for statement credits, you could even refund yourself in rewards and lower the amount you pay for school.

Unfortunately, the high interest rates credit cards charge in perpetuity make them a poor option for funding college expenses for the long run. After all, the average interest rate for all credit cards came in at over 20 percent in May 2024. If you need more than the 15 to 21 months most 0 percent intro offers last for, you’ll want to pick another funding option.

The vast majority of the time, federal student loans are best for paying for college tuition and fees. Not only do these loans qualify for federal protections like deferment and forbearance, but they let you pay back amounts you owe on income-driven repayment plans that base your monthly payment on how much you earn and your household size. They also have a much lower interest rate than credit cards.

Using credit to pay for additional certifications and courses

While using credit cards to pay for tuition for a four- or two-year program probably doesn’t make sense, they are a solid option when it comes to funding additional certifications and courses – mostly because these learning opportunities can be relatively inexpensive. Once again, using a card for payment unlocks the option to earn rewards on this spending, and many cards with rewards have intro APR offers that can lead to interest savings.

Again though, you’ll want to make sure you have a plan to pay the money back and avoid interest in the process.

Using cards for non-tuition expenses like books and travel

Credit cards can also be a valuable tool when it comes to paying for extra expenses related to pursuing a college degree or a certification, even if you’re using student loans to pay for tuition and fees. For example, you can use a 0 percent APR credit card to pay for college textbooks, transportation to and from school, project supplies and more.

Credit card rewards could also be redeemed to pay for some extra expenses for school, whether you use rewards for statement credits, gift cards or merchandise.

Opening business cards to start a new business

It’s possible your career change may involve starting a business or a side hustle of some kind. This new business may require an upfront investment, including inventory, supplies, equipment or machinery.

A small business credit card can be a valuable tool in this case, particularly if you opt for one with a 0 percent intro offer, rewards for spending or both. The credit card rewards you earn on business cards can also help with business expenses, both at launch and along the way as your business grows.

Use loans and credit cards strategically

Whether you decide to start your own business or head back to college to facilitate your career change, you have to figure out how to pay for it. We already mentioned how student loans work well for college tuition and materials, and are worth pursuing in many circumstances. This is because federal student loans have low, fixed interest rates, and you can delay payments until after you’ve graduated.

Because such loans are generally not dischargeable in bankruptcy, however, you’re usually stuck with them until you pay in full. Private student loans can help, too, but their rates are often higher than federal loans.

Credit cards can also be used for your education, but they work best when you have a plan to avoid interest on purchases. If you can earn rewards along the way, that’s another major benefit to consider.

Which credit cards are best for a career change? Consider the following options:

  • Wells Fargo Reflect® Card: The Wells Fargo Reflect® Card gives you 21 months of interest-free financing through a 0 percent intro APR for 21 months from account opening on purchases and qualifying balance transfers (variable APR of 18.24 percent, 24.74 percent or 29.99 percent applies after the introductory period; balance transfers must be completed within 120 days of account opening to qualify and fees apply). There’s no annual fee, either.
  • Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card: The Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards credit card, which offers a 0 percent intro APR on new purchases for 15 months (followed by a variable APR between 19.99 percent and 29.99 percent), is also worth a look. This card also offers 5 percent cash back on hotels and car rentals booked through Capital One Travel, 3 percent back on dining, entertainment, popular streaming services and at grocery stores and 1 percent back on other purchases with no annual fee.
  • Capital One Spark Classic for Business*: If your next professional step is to launch your own business, the right accounts will be instrumental in building your business credit and helping you get funding. The Capital One Spark Classic for Business is a solid option for new start-ups because it only requires fair credit, it has no annual fee and cardholders earn 1 percent cash back on all purchases. Plus, if you need to travel for work, this card offers 5 percent cash back on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel.

The bottom line

The right credit card can help you fund a range of expenses related to switching careers, whether you decide to go back to college, you want to earn a new certification or you prefer to branch out with your own small business instead.

That said, credit cards can be an expensive borrowing option over the long haul, so you won’t want to charge expenses you need years to pay back. If you need to borrow money for college or a certification and you prefer to make payments over the longterm, you should look at federal student loan options instead.

*The information about the Capital One Spark Classic for Business has been collected independently by The card details have not been reviewed or approved by the card issuer.