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Best Credit Cards for Young Adults and Young Professionals: 2020
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.
5X Ultimate Rewards points per dollar on Lyft rides
2X Ultimate Rewards points per dollar spent on:
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% pointbonus 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
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.
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% pointbonus 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.
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.
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.
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.
It has a 0% APR balance transfer offer, but unlike most reward cards it has no balance transfer fee, ever. That’s a feature you won’t find very often, usually only on low-interest rate credit cards with no rewards.
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.
1X Membership Rewards point per dollar spent everywhere else
20% point bonus for making 20 or more purchases per billing period
Welcome Bonus Offer
15,000 Membership Rewards points for spending $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months after account opening
Value: $150–$300, depending on redemption method (assuming 1–2 cents per point)
Return on spend: 15–30%
The Amex EveryDay card, in addition to being an excellent choice for balance transfers, has an unusual rewards program. Unlike other credit cards, which generally provide the same reward rate no matter how often you use them, the EveryDay card provides a 20% bonus for making 20 or more purchases in a billing period.
If you get the bonus, you’ll effectively be earning 2.4X points at U.S. supermarkets and 1.2X points elsewhere.
The Membership Rewards points you earn can be redeemed in a few different ways. Basic redemptions for statement credits will only provide 0.6 cents per point, so avoid that method. Flight redemptions and certain gift cards will provide 1 cent per point. But the best redemption options are transfers to airline or hotel loyalty programs, which may yield 2 cents per point or more.
At 1 cent per point, you’ll be getting a cash back equivalent of 2.4% at supermarkets, assuming you get the 20% bonus. Other purchases provide 1.2% back.
Or, if you redeem for 2 cents per point, you’ll get twice as much cash back: 4.8% at supermarkets, and 2.4% back everywhere else.
Key Terms & Features
Transfer Points: To airline and hotel partners, including Delta, JetBlue, Hilton, and Marriott
Amex Offers: Discounts at a changing selection of merchants, like Pier 1 Imports, Uber, Marriott, and more
Complimentary ShopRunner membership: Free two-day shipping and returns at participating merchants, such as American Eagle, Glasses.com, and Staples
Shopping and travel benefits: Including Extended Warranties, Return Protection, a Global Assist Hotline, and Travel Accident Insurance, among others
Purchase and Balance Transfer APR: 0% for 15 months, then your rates will be 13.99%–24.99% Variable
There’s a beefed-up version of the Amex EveryDay card, the Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card (Review). It offers 3X points at supermarkets and 2X points at gas stations, with a 50% bonus for making 30 or more purchases per billing period. It has a 0% intro APR for purchases and balance transfers for 15 months, and then 13.99%–24.99% Variable, but in this case there is a transfer fee: 3%, or $5 minimum.
0% Intro APR on balance transfers for 21 months from date of first transfer. After that, the variable APR will be 13.74% – 23.74%, based on your creditworthiness. All transfers must be completed in first 4 months.
0% Intro APR on purchases for 12 months from date of account opening. After that, the variable APR will be 13.74% – 23.74%, 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 balance, are paid in full.
There is a balance transfer fee of either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater
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The standard variable APR for Citi Flex Plan is 13.74% – 23.74%, based on your creditworthiness. Citi Flex Plan offers are made available at Citi’s discretion.
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Purchase APR: 0% for 12 months, then 13.74% – 23.74% (Variable)
Balance Transfer APR: 0% for 21 months, then 13.74% – 23.74% (Variable)
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.
Selection Criteria: What Makes a Great Credit Card for Young Adults and Professionals?
Good rewards: Find a card that will provide the best reward rate for your regular, everyday spending. Signup bonuses can be very valuable as well.
Cost-saving travel benefits: Anyone spending a lot of money on travel every year could use perks on travel rewards cards for airport lounge access, travel credits, and upgraded member status with airlines and hotels.
For rates and fees of The Platinum Card® from American Express, please click here.
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.
Credit Card Insider receives compensation from advertisers whose products may be mentioned on this page. Advertiser relationships do not affect card evaluations. Advertising partners do not edit or endorse our editorial content. Content is accurate to the best of our knowledge when it's published. Learn more in our Editorial Guidelines.
The information related to Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card, Discover it® Miles, Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card, The Platinum Card® from American Express, Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One®, and Amex EveryDay® Credit Card have been collected by Credit Card Insider and have not been reviewed or provided by the issuer or provider of these products.
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