Updated Oct 12, 2021 | Published Sep 05, 2019 • 8 min read
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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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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?
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.
Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
Enjoy new benefits such as a $50 annual Ultimate Rewards Hotel Credit, 5X points on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3X points on dining and 2X points on all other travel purchases, plus more.
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.
With Pay Yourself Back℠, your points are worth 25% more during the current offer when you redeem them for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories
Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on eligible orders over $12 for a minimum of one year with DashPass, DoorDash's subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.
Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more.
Get up to $60 back on an eligible Peloton Digital or All-Access Membership through 12/31/2021, and get full access to their workout library through the Peloton app, including cardio, running, strength, yoga, and more. Take classes using a phone, tablet, or TV. No fitness equipment is required.
1X Ultimate Rewards point per dollar spent everywhere else
Introductory Bonus Offer
60,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months
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
$60 Peloton credit: Enroll to get up to $60 back for an eligible Peloton Digital or All-Access Membership (through 2021). No fitness equipment is required.
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.
Earn 50,000 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®
$300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year. Through December 31, 2021, gas station & grocery store purchases will also count towards earning your Travel Credit
Earn 5X total points on air travel and 10X total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3X points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $750 toward travel
With Pay Yourself Back℠, your points are worth 50% more during the current offer when you redeem them for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories
1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
Access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select and up to $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®
Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more
Hotel stays and Car rentals through Ultimate Rewards (after the full travel credit is used)
Lyft rides (through 3/31/22)
5X Ultimate Rewards points per dollar on Air travel through Ultimate Rewards (after the full travel credit is used)
3X Ultimate Rewards points per dollar:
Travel (after the full travel credit is used)
1X Ultimate Rewards point per dollar on all other purchases
50,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months
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
$300 annual travel credit: You’ll get a $300 travel credit every year that will be automatically applied to any travel-related expenses you charge to your card.
Priority Pass Select membership: Cardholders get complimentary Priority Pass Select membership, which provides access to over 1,000 airport lounges and restaurants worldwide. You must manually activate this benefit, and you’ll receive a Priority Pass Select member card in the mail.
Global Entry/TSA PreCheck application fee credit: Every four years you’ll get up to a $100 credit towards the application fee for either Global Entry ($100) or TSA PreCheck ($85).
Elite hotel benefits at Relais & Châteaux: Cardholders get accelerated progress towards Club 5C member status with Relais & Châteaux luxury hotel and resort properties; just stay two nights at qualifying properties in a 12-month period. Club 5C status provides benefits like a VIP welcome, room upgrades, access to a unique experience at each property, and invitations to exclusive events. You must book using the Visa Infinite Concierge.
$120 Peloton credit: Enroll to get up to $120 back for an eligible Peloton Digital or All-Access Membership (through 2021). No fitness equipment is required.
Visa Infinite Concierge: Call 1-877-660-0905 for non-emergency help of all kinds, like making dinner reservations or finding good tickets to a show. You can also ask for travel recommendations, for flights, tourist attractions, the best shopping spots, restaurants, night clubs, etc. This benefit is probably most useful when visiting a new city.
Special car rental privileges: You can access your special car rental privileges by logging in to Chase Ultimate Rewards and following the instructions to enroll. You’ll get perks at Avis, Silvercar, and National Car Rental like rental upgrades, discounts, and occasional promotional offers.
Lyft Pink membership: One-year exclusive saving opportunities with Lyft Pink membership, providing 15% off rides, relaxed cancellation fees, priority dispatch at airports, and more
DoorDash membership, $60 annual DoorDash credit: Chase will pay for a DoorDash subscription for two years (a DashPass). You’ll also get $60 in DoorDash credits in 2020, and $60 in 2021 (learn more about Chase DoorDash benefits).
Earn 100,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $6,000 on purchases on the Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership.
Plus, earn 10x points on eligible purchases on the Card at restaurants worldwide and when you Shop Small in the U.S., on up to $25,000 in combined purchases, during your first 6 months of Card Membership.
Earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points for flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year and earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel.
$200 Hotel Credit: Get $200 back in statement credits each year on prepaid Fine Hotels + Resorts® or The Hotel Collection bookings with American Express Travel when you pay with your Platinum Card®.
$240 Digital Entertainment Credit: Get up to $20 in statement credits each month when you pay for eligible purchases with the Platinum Card® at your choice of one or more of the following providers: Peacock, Audible, SiriusXM, and The New York Times. Enrollment required.
$155 Walmart+ Credit: Cover the cost of a $12.95 monthly Walmart+ membership with a statement credit after you pay for Walmart+ each month with your Platinum Card. Cost includes $12.95 plus applicable local sales tax.
American Express has expanded The Centurion® Network to include 40+ Centurion Lounge and Studio locations worldwide. Now there are even more places your Platinum Card® can get you complimentary entry and exclusive perks.
$200 Airline Fee Credit: Get up to $200 in statement credits per calendar year in baggage fees and more at one select qualifying airline.
$200 Uber Cash: Enjoy Uber VIP status and up to $200 in Uber savings on rides or eats orders in the US annually. Uber Cash and Uber VIP status is available to Basic Card Member only.
$300 Equinox Credit: Get up to $25 back each month on select Equinox memberships when you pay with your Platinum Card®. Enrollment required.
$179 CLEAR® Credit: Use your Card and get up to $179 back per year on your CLEAR® membership.
Flights booked directly through airlines or through Amex Travel (on up to $500,000 spent per calendar year, then 1X)
Prepaid hotels booked through Amex Travel
2X Membership Rewards points per dollar on other eligible travel expenses booked through Amex Travel
1X Membership Rewards point per dollar on other eligible purchases
100,000 bonus points for spending $6,000 in the first 6 months; 10X points on eligible purchases at restaurants worldwide and when you Shop Small in the U.S., on up to $25,000 in combined purchases, during the first 6 months
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.
Access a higher credit line: You may be automatically considered for a higher credit line after six months.
$60 streaming credit: $5 per month for 12 months on select streaming services, when you pay on time
Capital One CreditWise: The CreditWise service provides free access to one of your VantageScore 3.0 credit scores, based on your TransUnion credit report. You can monitor your score over time and get alerts about any changes.
Capital One Second Look account monitoring: Keep an eye on your account with Second Look, and get access to account alerts to be notified of any activity on your account.
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.
0% Intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for 20 billing cycles. After that, a variable APR currently 14.49% - 24.49%.
Great offer from U.S. Bank, a 2021 World's Most Ethical Company® - Ethisphere Institute, February 2021.
No Annual Fee*
Flexibility to choose a payment due date that fits your schedule.
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 U.S.Bank Visa® Platinum Credit Card. Certain terms, conditions, and exclusions apply.
Foreign Transaction Fee2% of each foreign purchase transaction or foreign ATM advance transaction in U.S. Dollars 3% of each foreign purchase transaction or foreign ATM advance transaction in a Foreign Currency
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 on purchases, then your rates will be 14.49% - 24.49%* Variable
Balance Transfer APR: 0%* intro on BTs for 20 billing cycles on balance transfers*, then 14.49% - 24.49%* Variable
Balance Transfer fee: Either 3% of the amount of each transfer or $5 minimum, whichever is greater
0% Intro APR for 21 months on balance transfers from date of first transfer and 0% Intro APR for 12 months on purchases from date of account opening. After that the variable APR will be 13.74% - 23.74%, 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 5% 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 13.74% - 23.74%, based on your creditworthiness. Citi Flex Plan offers are made available at Citi’s discretion.
No Late Fees, No Penalty Rate, and No Annual Fee... Ever
0% Intro APR for 21 months on balance transfers from date of first transfer and 0% Intro APR for 12 months on purchases from date of account opening. 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 5% 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
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?
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.
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.
Brendan has been writing about personal finance for over eight years, and is now taking on the challenge of bringing high-quality credit education to the masses. He makes sure that Credit Card Insider is covering the most important credit topics transparently and precisely, and that we have up-to-date reviews of credit cards so you can find cards that are right for you.
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