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Best Credit Cards for Young Adults and Young Professionals: 2020

10 min read
Brendan Harkness By Brendan Harkness Sep 05, 2019 | Updated Jun 30, 2020

If you’re just starting your career, a credit card can be a valuable part of your financial toolbox. You may be thinking one (or more) of the following:

  • I’m spending a lot of money every month and know I could be getting some rewards. What’s a good, simple cash back card?
  • I travel occasionally for work and want to earn points. What travel card should I get?
  • I travel very frequently, and want a card to earn points and enhance my experience. Does it make sense to pay a high annual fee?
  • I don’t have any credit history. What should I get as my first credit card?
  • I got myself into some credit card debt during college. How can I reduce the amount of interest I’m paying?

We’ve surveyed the marketplace and here are our top credit card picks to suit your individual needs, whatever they may be.

Read more

Best Business Credit Cards

The Best Credit Cards for Young Adults and Professionals

Best for Card
All-Around Spending and Cash Back Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer (Review)
Travel Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card (Review)
Premium Travel Chase Sapphire Reserve® (Review)
Limited Credit History Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One® (Review)
Transferring or Carrying a Balance U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card

One of these might be a good fit for you, but keep in mind you don’t have to limit yourself to just one credit card. Having several credit cards will give you more spending power and can actually improve your credit scores. You can also come up with a strategy to optimize your spending across multiple cards to maximize rewards. As you build up your credit, you’ll be able to qualify for better cards.

Insider tip

If you’re new to credit cards, check out the Insider Academy, where you can learn about everything from how paying a credit card bill works to how you can build credit fast with credit cards.

Best for All-Around Spending and Cash Back

Looking for a simple rewards card you can use everywhere, without giving it a second thought? The Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer (Review) is that card.

Citi® Double Cash Card - 18 month BT offer

Our rating
Min. credit levelExcellent
Details
Annual Fee$0
Regular APR13.99% – 23.99% (Variable)
Apply Now

securely on the issuer's website

  • Earn cash back twice. 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.
  • Balance Transfer Offer: 0% intro APR on Balance Transfers for 18 months. After that, the variable APR will be 13.99% – 23.99%, based on your creditworthiness.
  • Balance Transfers do not earn cash back.
  • 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 a balance transfer fee of either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
  • The standard variable APR for Citi Flex Plan is 13.99% – 23.99% based on your creditworthiness. Citi Flex Plan offers are made available at Citi’s discretion.

Citi is a Credit Card Insider advertiser.

Rewards

Spending Rewards
  • 2% cash back for every purchase
    • 1% back when you make the initial purchase
    • 1% back when you pay for that purchase later on

Where most reward cards have bonus categories, the Double Cash cardholders 2% cash back rewards for everything you buy.

Key Terms & Features

  • Free FICO Score 8: Check your FICO credit score anytime you’d like, based on your Equifax credit report
  • Personal Concierge: Call for help with non-emergency tasks like making dining or travel reservations
  • Citi Private Pass: Preferred access and presale tickets to events in big cities around the U.S.
  • Quick Customer Service: Call and say “representative” to be connected with a human more quickly than usual
  • First late payment fee is waived
  • Balance Transfer APR: 0% for 18 months on Balance Transfers, followed by a regular rate of 13.99% – 23.99% (Variable)
  • Annual fee: $0

Read more in our Review of the Citi Double Cash Card

Runners Up

Chase Freedom Unlimited®

Our rating
Min. credit levelGood
Details
Annual Fee$0
Regular APR14.99 - 23.74% Variable
  • 5% cash back on Lyft rides (through 2020) and 1.5% cash back for every other purchase
  • $150 signup bonus for spending $500 in the first 3 months
  • Purchase APR: 0% for 15 months, then 14.99 - 23.74% Variable
  • Balance Transfer APR: 14.99 - 23.74% Variable
  • Annual fee: $0

 

Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa® card

Our rating
Min. credit levelGood
Details
Annual Fee$0
Regular APR13.99%-25.99% Variable
Apply Now

securely on the issuer's website

  • Earn a $150 cash rewards bonus after spending $500 in the first 3 months
  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash rewards on purchases
  • Enjoy 1.8% cash rewards on qualified digital wallet purchases, like Apple Pay® or Google Pay™, during the first 12 months from account opening
  • No category restrictions or sign ups and cash rewards don’t expire as long as your account remains open
  • Get up to $600 protection on your cell phone (subject to $25 deductible) against covered damage or theft when you pay your monthly cellular telephone bill with your Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa® card
  • $0 Annual Fee
  • Select “Apply Now” to learn more about the product features, terms and conditions
  • 1.5% cash back for every purchase
  • $150 signup bonus for spending $500 in the first 3 months
  • Purchase and Balance Transfer APR: 0% Intro APR for 15 months on qualifying balance transfers, then 13.99%-25.99% Variable
  • Annual fee: $0

 

Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card

Our rating
Min. credit levelGood
Details
Annual Fee$0
Regular APR15.49% - 25.49% Variable
Apply Now

securely on the issuer's website

The information related to Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card has been collected by Credit Card Insider and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer or provider of this product.

  • 1.5% cash back for every purchase
  • $150 welcome bonus for spending $500 in the first 3 months
  • Purchase and Balance Transfer APR: 0% for 15 months, then your rates will be 15.49% - 25.49% Variable
  • Annual fee: $0

 

Discover it® Miles

Our rating
Min. credit levelGood
Details
Annual Fee$0
Regular APRSee Terms

The information related to Discover it® Miles has been collected by Credit Card Insider and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer or provider of this product.

  • 1.5X miles for every purchase
  • Double miles your first year
  • Purchase APR: See Terms for See Terms, then your rate will be See Terms
  • Annual fee: $0
Read more

How Do Cash Back Credit Cards Work? Plus Our 9 Favorites

Best for Travel

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card (Review) is one of the most popular general travel credit cards, much-loved for its redemption bonus and point transfer options. The card also provides a host of attractive benefits.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Our rating
Min. credit levelGood
Details
Annual Fee$95
Regular APR15.99% - 22.99% Variable
Apply Now

securely on the issuer's website

  • Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That’s $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel
  • Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on orders over $12 for a minimum of one year on qualifying food purchases with DashPass, DoorDash’s subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.
  • Earn 5X points on Lyft rides through March 2022. That’s 3X points in addition to the 2X points you already earn on travel.

Rewards

Spending Rewards
  • 5X Ultimate Rewards points per dollar on Lyft rides
  • 2X Ultimate Rewards points per dollar spent on:
    • travel
    • dining at restaurants
  • 1X Ultimate Rewards point per dollar spent everywhere else
Introductory Bonus Offer
  • 60,000 Ultimate Rewards points for spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months after account opening
    • Value: $750–$1,200 (assuming 1.25–2 cents per point)
    • Return on spend: 18.75–30%

Ultimate Rewards points are usually worth 1 cent each, but the Sapphire Preferred adds a 25% bonus when you redeem for travel expenses. That will give you a cash back equivalent of 2.5% for travel and dining, with 1.25% for every other purchase. Your intro bonus points will be worth a lot more too.

You can also transfer your points to 13 different airline and hotel loyalty programs at a 1:1 rate. This could give you a better value per point, upwards of 2 cents each. At that rate you’d be getting a 4% cash back equivalent for travel and dining, with 2% back for everything else. That would be a pretty competitive redemption value for non-category purchases, equal to the Double Cash card above.

Key Terms & Features

  • 25% point bonus when redeeming for travel expenses through Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • 1:1 Point Transfers: To airline and hotel loyalty programs including JetBlue, Southwest, Marriott, and Hyatt
  • DoorDash membership: A free membership (DashPass) for at least a year, which provides free delivery and reduced service fees on orders over $12
  • Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection: Benefits at participating locations, like daily breakfast for two, late check-out, and more
  • Shop Through Chase: A selection of retailers where you can earn extra points, like Saks.com, Macy’s, and The Apple Store (current offers at the time of publication).
  • Chase Preferred Experiences: Access to exclusive events and experiences at big cities around the world
  • Visa Signature Concierge: Call at any time for help making reservations, finding interesting gifts, getting good tickets, and more
  • Direct Access to Customer Support: Call the number on the back of your card to be directly connected with a human customer service representative
  • Shopping and Travel Benefits: Including Purchase Protection, Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, and Baggage Delay Insurance
  • Foreign transaction fees: $0
  • Annual fee: $95

Read more in our Review of the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card

Insider tip

There are a lot of travel cards out there, so check out our picks for:

Runners Up

Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card

Our rating
Min. credit levelGood
Details
Annual Fee$0
Regular APR14.49% - 24.49% Variable
Apply Now

securely on the issuer's website

The information related to Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card has been collected by Credit Card Insider and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer or provider of this product.

  • 1.25X miles on all purchases
  • 20,000-mile welcome bonus for spending $1,000 in the first 3 months
  • Transfer miles to a variety of airline loyalty programs
  • Purchase APR: 0% for 12 months, then your rate will be 14.49% - 24.49% Variable
  • Annual fee: $0

 

Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card

Our rating
Min. credit levelGood
Details
Annual Fee$0
Regular APR13.99%-25.99% Variable
Apply Now

securely on the issuer's website

  • Earn 20,000 bonus points when you spend $1,000 in purchases in the first 3 months – that’s a $200 cash redemption value
  • $0 annual fee and no foreign currency conversion fee
  • Earn 3X points on eating out and ordering in
  • Earn 3X points on travel including flights, hotels, homestays and car rentals
  • Earn 3X points on gas stations, rideshares and transit
  • Earn 3X points on popular streaming services
  • Earn 1X points on other purchases
  • Select “Apply Now” to learn more about the product features, terms and conditions
  • 3X points for travel, dining, gas, and streaming services
  • 20,000-point welcome bonus for spending $1,000 in the first 3 months
  • Purchase and Balance Transfer APR: 0% Intro APR for 12 months, then your rates will be 13.99%-25.99% Variable
  • Annual fee: $0

 

Bank of America® Premium Rewards® Credit Card

Our rating
Min. credit levelGood
Details
Annual Fee$95
Regular APR18.24%–25.24% Variable
Apply Now

securely on the issuer's website

  • Receive 50,000 bonus points – a $500 value – after you make at least $3,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening
  • Earn unlimited 2 points for every $1 spent on travel and dining purchases and unlimited 1.5 points per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • If you’re a Bank of America Preferred Rewards member, you can earn 25%-75% more points on every purchase
  • No limit to the points you can earn and your points don’t expire
  • Redeem for cash back as a statement credit, deposit into eligible Bank of America® accounts, credit to eligible Merrill Edge® and Merrill Lynch® accounts, or gift cards or purchases at the Bank of America Travel Center
  • Get up to $200 in combined airline incidental and airport expedited screening statement credits + valuable travel insurance protections
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees
  • Low $95 annual fee
  • 2X points for travel and dining, 1.5X points for other purchases
  • 50,000-point signup bonus for spending $3,000 in the first 90 days
  • $100 annual Airline Incidental Statement Credit
  • $100 Global Entry or TSA Pre✓ application fee credit
  • Annual fee: $95

Best for Premium Travel

The Chase Sapphire Reserve® (Review) is the upgraded version of the Sapphire Preferred above, with better earning/redemption rates and luxury travel benefits.

It has a fairly high annual fee of $550, but this is offset quite a bit by the perks you’ll get. When considering expensive cards like these, take some time to be sure that you’ll be getting a positive expected value for the fee.

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

Our rating
Min. credit levelExcellent
Details
Annual Fee$550
Regular APR16.99%-23.99% Variable

Rewards

Spending Rewards
  • 10X Ultimate Rewards points per dollar on Lyft rides
  • 3X Ultimate Rewards points per dollar on:
  • 1X Ultimate Rewards point per dollar on all other purchases
Introductory Bonus Offer
  • 50,000 bonus points for spending $4,000 in the first 3 months after account opening
    • Value: $500–$1,000 (1–2 cents per point)
    • Return on spend: 12.5%–25%

The Sapphire Reserve earns Ultimate Rewards points, like the Sapphire Preferred. But in this case you’ll be earning 10X Ultimate Rewards points per dollar on Lyft rides, 3X points on travel and dining, with a 50% point bonus when redeeming for travel through Ultimate Rewards.

That means you’d be getting a 4.5% cash back equivalent for travel and dining, with 1.5% back for everything else. If you transfer those points to an airline or hotel program and get 2 cents per point, for instance, you’d be earning cash back equivalents of 6% in the first case, and 2% in the second.

Key Terms & Features

  • 50% point bonus when redeeming for travel expenses through Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • 1:1 Point Transfers: To a variety of popular airline and hotel loyalty programs, like British Airways, United, IHG, and Marriott
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit: Good for any travel expenses, including airfare and hotel stays
  • Priority Pass Select membership: Complimentary access for you and two guests to hundreds of airport lounges around the world (additional guests cost $27)
  • $100 Global Entry or TSA Pre✓ Credit: Get a credit for the application fee for Global Entry ($100) or TSA Pre✓ ($85) once every four years
  • Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection: Perks at participating locations, like daily breakfast and room upgrades
  • Elite Hotel Benefits at Relais & Châteaux: Accelerated progress towards Club 5C status at Relais & Châteaux
  • Visa Infinite Concierge: Call for help with whatever you may need, like finding a nearby hotel with open rooms or good concert tickets
  • Car Rental Privileges: Upgrades, discounts, and promotional offers at Avis, Silvercar, and National Car Rental
  • Lyft Pink membership: One free year of Lyft Pink, which includes 15% off rides, relaxed cancellations, surprise offers, and priority airport pickup
  • DoorDash membership: A free membership (DashPass) for a year, which provides free delivery and reduced service fees on orders over $12
  • $60 annual DoorDash credit: Get $60 in DoorDash credits in 2020, and $60 in credits in 2021.
  • Foreign transaction fees: $0
  • Annual fee: $550

Read more in our Review of the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card

Runners Up

The Platinum Card® from American Express

Our rating
Min. credit levelGood
Details
(Rates & Fees)
Annual Fee$550
Regular APRN/A
Apply Now

securely on the issuer's website

  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in purchases in your first 3 months.
  • Enjoy VIP status and up to $200 in Uber savings on rides or eats orders in the US annually. Uber Cash and Uber VIP status available to Basic Card Member only.
  • 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel.
  • 5X Membership Rewards points on prepaid hotels booked on amextravel.com.
  • Enjoy access to the Global Lounge Collection, the only credit card airport lounge access program that includes proprietary lounge locations around the world.
  • Receive complimentary benefits with an average total value of $550 with Fine Hotels & Resorts® program at over 1,000 properties. Learn More.
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit, up to $200 in statement credits per calendar year in baggage fees and more at one qualifying airline.
  • Get up to $100 in statement credits annually for purchases at Saks Fifth Avenue on your Platinum Card®. That’s up to $50 in statement credits semi-annually. Enrollment required.
  • $550 annual fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees

American Express is a Credit Card Insider advertiser.

  • 5X points per dollar for:
    • flights booked directly with airlines
    • flights and prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel
  • 60,000-point welcome bonus for spending $5,000 in the first 3 months
  • $320 Streaming & wireless telephone credit with U.S. providers (up to $20 per month each, until 12/31/20).
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit for incidental charges (not flight tickets)
  • $200 in annual Uber credits ($15 per month, $35 in December)
  • $100 Global Entry or TSA Pre✓ application fee credit
  • Global Lounge Collection airport lounge access, including Centurion Lounges, Priority Pass, Delta Sky Clubs, and more
  • Fine Hotels & Resorts Collection
  • Foreign transaction fees: None
  • Annual fee: $550

 

U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve Visa Infinite® Card

Our rating
Min. credit levelExcellent
Details
Annual Fee$400
Regular APR17.24% Variable
Apply Now

securely on the issuer's website

  • 3X points per dollar for travel and mobile wallet purchases.
  • 50,000 bonus points for spending $4,500 in the first 90 days of membership, equivalent to $750 in travel redemptions.
  • $325 annual travel credit.
  • Application fee credit for either Global Entry ($100) or TSA Pre✓ ($85), once every four years.
  • Enhanced status at Relais & Châteaux hotels and resorts.
  • 12-month membership to Priority Pass Select for airport lounge access.
  • 12 complimentary Gogo Inflight WiFi passes per year.
  • No foreign transaction fees.
  • $400 annual fee, $75 for additional authorized users.
  • 3X points per dollar for eligible travel and mobile wallet spending
  • 50,000-point signup bonus for spending $4,500 in the first 90 days
  • $325 Annual Travel Statement Credit
  • $100 Global Entry or TSA Pre✓ application fee credit
  • 12-month Priority Pass Select membership
  • 12 complimentary Gogo Inflight Wi-Fi passes per year
  • Fine Hotels & Resorts Collection
  • Foreign transaction fees: None
  • Annual fee: $400

Best for Limited Credit History

If you’re just beginning your credit journey, you’ll need to start somewhere.

The Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One® (Review) is a good first credit card, and it doesn’t actually require you to be a student, despite the name. Unlike most card offers made for limited credit, this one actually provides a bit of cash back.

Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One®

Our rating
Min. credit levelLimited Credit History
Details
Annual Fee$0
Regular APR25.99%–26.99% Variable
Apply Now

securely on the issuer's website

The information related to Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One® has been collected by Credit Card Insider and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer or provider of this product.

Rewards

Spending Rewards
  • 1% cash back for every purchase
    • Pay on time and that goes up to 1.25% cash back

It’s a very simple rewards program. Pay on time to get a 25% bonus on your 1% cash back, but you should always make timely credit card payments whether you get a bonus or not. Payment history is one of the biggest factors in your credit scores, and late payments will bring your scores down significantly.

After using cards like this responsibly for some time and building up your credit, you’ll be able to qualify for more valuable rewards cards, including the premium travel cards in this post.

Key Terms & Features

  • Access a higher credit line: You may be automatically considered for a higher credit line after six months.
  • Capital One CreditWise: Monitor your VantageScore 3.0, based on your TransUnion credit report, and see data from that report as well
  • Capital One Second Look Account Monitoring: Real-time fraud monitoring to help keep your account secure
  • Shopping and Travel Protections: Including Extended Warranties, Travel and Emergency Assistance, Travel Accident Insurance, and more
  • Foreign transaction fees: None
  • Annual fee: $0

Read more in our Review of the Capital One Journey Student Card

Insider tip
With limited or no credit, your card options will be relatively restricted. You may want to look into secured credit cards, which require a security deposit to fund the credit line. The Discover it® Secured (Review) is our best pick among secured cards. With responsible use, your security deposit may be returned, and you can continue using the card; this is a handy feature to have for a secured card.

If you’re a college student, you might want to start off with a more rewarding student card instead. See our picks for the Best Student Credit Cards.

Or, for another option to build your credit besides credit cards, check out credit builder loans through Self (formerly known as Self Lender).

Best for Transferring or Carrying a Balance

The U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card excels at balance transfers.

Why? It has an exceptionally long 0% APR balance transfer offer, giving you more time than most other credit cards.

If you’re already dealing with credit card debt, making a balance transfer to a 0% card like this will give you time to pay it off at no interest.

U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card

Our rating
Min. credit levelFair
Details
Annual Fee$0
Regular APR14.99%–24.99% Variable
Apply Now

securely on the issuer's website

  • 0% introductory APR for 20 billing cycles on purchases and balance transfers, then 14.99%–24.99% Variable
  • Savings at various retailers through Visa Discounts
  • Travel and shopping protections
  • Cell Phone Protection
  • Free VantageScore based on your TransUnion credit report
  • No annual fee

Key Terms & Features

  • Free Credit Score: Check your VantageScore 3.0 credit score, based on your TransUnion credit report, for free.
  • Purchase APR: 0% for 20 billing cycles, then your rates will be 14.99%–24.99% Variable
  • Balance Transfer APR: 0% for 20 billing cycles, then 14.99%–24.99% Variable
  • Balance Transfer fee: 3%, $5 minimum
  • No penalty APR
  • Annual fee: $0

Runners Up

Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card

Our rating
Min. credit levelExcellent
Details
Annual Fee$0
Regular APR14.74% – 24.74% (Variable)
Apply Now

securely on the issuer's website

  • 0% Intro APR for 18 months on purchases from date of account opening and 0% Intro APR for 18 months on balance transfers from date of first transfer. After that the variable APR will be 14.74% – 24.74%, 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 3% 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.
  • Shop with confidence knowing that you have dependable protection benefits, including $0 Liability on Unauthorized Purchases and Citi® Identity Theft Solutions.
  • The standard variable APR for Citi Flex Plan is 14.74% – 24.74%, based on your creditworthiness. Citi Flex Plan offers are made available at Citi’s discretion.

Citi is a Credit Card Insider advertiser.

  • Purchase APR: 0% for 18 months, then 14.74% – 24.74% (Variable)
  • Balance Transfer APR: 0% for 18 months, then 14.74% – 24.74% (Variable)
  • Annual fee: $0

Citi Simplicity® Card - No Late Fees Ever

Our rating
Min. credit levelGood
Details
Annual Fee$0
Regular APR14.74% - 24.74% (Variable)
Apply Now

securely on the issuer's website

  • No Late Fees, No Penalty Rate, and No Annual Fee… Ever
  • 0% Intro APR on balance transfers for 18 months from date of first transfer. All transfers must be completed in first 4 months. After that, the variable APR will be 14.74% – 24.74%, based on your creditworthiness.
  • 0% Intro APR on purchases for 18 months from date of account opening. After that, the variable APR will be 14.74% – 24.74%, based on your creditworthiness.
  • If you transfer a balance with this offer, after your 0% Intro purchase APR expires, both new purchases and unpaid purchase balances will automatically accrue interest until all balances, including your transferred balances, are paid in full
  • There is a balance transfer fee of either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
  • The standard variable APR for Citi Flex Plan is 14.74% – 24.74%, based on your creditworthiness. Citi Flex Plan offers are made available at Citi’s discretion.
  • Stay protected with Citi® Quick Lock and $0 liability on unauthorized charges

The information related to Citi Simplicity® Card - No Late Fees Ever has been collected by Credit Card Insider and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer or provider of this product.

  • Purchase APR: 0% for 18 months, then 14.74% - 24.74% (Variable)
  • Balance Transfer APR: 0% for 18 months, then 14.74% - 24.74% (Variable)
  • Annual fee: $0

Is a New Credit Card Right For You?

Getting a new credit card can be a bit intimidating, especially if you’re going to be a first time cardholder. Applying for new cards is simple, but if you’ve never done it before the credit card application process can be intimidating. You may want to learn a bit first.

As a young adult, you may or may not have established a credit history. Even if you’ve never had a credit card before, student loans, auto loans, and personal loans will all contribute to your credit profile because they’re reported to the three major credit bureaus. So a good first step is to check your credit reports and scores to see where you stand.

If you have good credit already, that’s great! That means you’ll meet the standard for most credit cards, although factors like income and monthly rent payments also play a role in your overall creditworthiness — so approval is definitely not guaranteed just because you have good credit.

If you haven’t started building credit yet, or you have poor credit scores, you’ll still have quite a few credit card options. Some cards are designed for people with limited or no credit, while others are designed for people with bad credit.

Whatever your credit scores might be, you should check to see if you’re pre-qualified for any credit card offers before applying. This can give you an idea of the types of cards you’ll be approved for, and you may even find a private offer featuring a better-than-usual signup bonus.

Maybe you already have a credit card or two, and you’re concerned that opening more cards will hurt your credit. But not to worry: As long as you use your cards responsibly, having multiple credit cards won’t have an overall negative impact on your credit. In fact, it will generally have a positive effect because you’ll be lowering your credit utilization, a measure of how much of your total credit limits you’re using. Lower utilization is better for your credit scores.

No matter what type of card you get or how many you have, maintain good credit behavior. This means understanding the terms and always paying your bills on time. We recommend paying the statement balance in full each billing period, which will let you completely avoid interest on purchases. It’s good for your credit utilization too.

Treat your credit cards a bit like debit cards to help you stay on track — pay them off every month, and never carry a balance. Once you start accruing interest on a credit card, it’s easy for that balance to spiral out of control.

What Makes a Great Credit Card for Young Adults and Professionals?

What’s the Best Credit Card for Beginners?

The best credit card for someone new to the world of credit, or an up-and-coming professional, will usually be a card with no annual fee, although not always.

Our favorite cards for first-time users and young adults include:

How Old Do You Have to Be to Get a Credit Card?

By law, you need to be at least 18 to get your own credit card (those under 18 may be able to become authorized users).

If you’re younger than 21, you’ll also be held to a higher standard when it comes to proving that you’ll be able to make payments. Credit card issuers ask about your income when you apply, to help determine your ability to pay off the card; if you’re under 21, you can only report your own independent income (most credit card issuers don’t allow cosigners).

If you’re 21 or older, however, you can include your overall household income, which can include your spouse’s income. And that extra cash flow can make it easier to qualify for credit cards.

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At a glance

Building a healthy credit history as a young professional is an important pillar of financial wellness. Secure a card that offers rewards, an affordable annual fee, or a 0% intro period as a bonus to improving your credit.

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