Best Credit Cards for Young Adults and Young Professionals: 2018

Brendan Harkness

Brendan Harkness

Updated Jul 05, 2018

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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:

  • 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 a lot for work and want to earn points. What travel card should I get?
  • I don’t have any credit history. What should I get as my first credit card?
  • I got myself in some credit card debt during college. How can I reduce the amount of interest I’m paying?

We took a look at hundreds of credit cards available on the market and came up with some top picks that should help you with the answers to those questions.

The Best Credit Cards for Young Adults

Best for Card
All-around spending and cash back Citi® Double Cash Card
Frequent travel Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
Limited credit history Capital One® Platinum Credit Card
Transferring or carrying a balance Chase Slate®

One of these cards 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 your credit, you’ll be able to qualify for better cards.

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

Citi® Double Cash Card

Looking for a simple rewards card you can use everywhere, without giving it a second thought? The Double Cash is that card.

You’ll get:

  • 2% cash back on every purchase you make:
    • 1% back when you make the initial purchase
    • 1% back when you pay for that purchase later on
  • Signup bonus: $100 cash bonus for spending $500 in the first 3 months after account opening
  • 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months
  • 24/7 Personal Concierge Service
  • Quick Access to customer service – just say “representative” when you call
  • Shopping and Travel Protections

This is a solid card that offers good rewards for no annual fee: the 2% cash back is the best you’ll find being regularly offered on a rewards card like this. The 0% intro APR is also quite long at 15 months, giving you some extra time to pay off purchases for free.

There aren’t a lot of bells and whistles, but the personal concierge service is a rare find on a simple card like this. You can use it like a personal assistant to help you find goods or services or look up information, and it can come in very helpful when you’re on the road and don’t know the area.

These features make the Double Cash useful anytime and anywhere you go, and it could easily have a permanent place in your wallet.

Looking for other great cards that give cash back or points? Check out the Best Rewards Credit Cards

Best for Frequent Travelers

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

This is one of the most popular general travel credit cards, much-loved for its bonus points and travel discounts.

You’ll get:

  • 2 points per dollar on travel expenses and dining at restaurants
  • 1 point per dollar on all other purchases
  • 40,000 bonus points for spending $4,000 in purchases in the first 3 months
  • 5,000 bonus points for making a purchase and adding an authorized user in the first 3 months
  • 20% off travel when you redeem points through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • 1:1 point transfer with a number of frequent travel programs
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Shopping and Travel Protections

Use this card to save up points for travel, or get it to pay for your upcoming trip. If you pay for an expensive trip with this card you can get pretty close to the threshold for the 40,000 points, and use those points to pay for your next one. You’ll earn points for your travel expenses and at restaurants when you go out to eat.

Be aware that there’s a $95 annual fee, which is waived for the first year. So make sure that you’ll earn enough points with this card to offset that fee every year after that.

This is a very traveler-friendly card, not only for the 20% discount but also because you can transfer the points you earn to frequent traveler programs. If you’re part of a frequent flier or hotel program you get a lot of value from, you can transfer your less-valuable Sapphire Preferred points over to get more out of them.

You’ll also be able to use this card outside the country worry-free because it has no foreign transaction fees, unlike many reward cards.

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

Best for Limited Credit History

Capital One® Platinum Credit Card

If you don’t already have credit history established, you’ll want to start as soon as you can, since account age is a factor in credit scores. Then, you can work your way up to more rewarding cards. This is a very basic card that can provide you with a starting point.

There are no points or cash back with this card, but you’ll get:

  • No Annual Fee
  • Platinum MasterCard Benefits including extended warranties on purchases, auto rental insurance, and price protection.

This card will provide you with some basic credit card benefits for your everyday spending and give you a way to start establishing credit history.

You can also take advantage of Capital One’s Credit Steps program, where you may qualify for a higher line of credit after making your first 5 monthly payments on time. This can help you build credit faster by keeping your utilization low.

Once you’ve used this card for a while and established some credit history, you may be able to upgrade it to a different Capital One card that earns rewards. Building credit history will also help you qualify for more rewarding cards from other issuers.

If you’re a college student, you might want to start off with a credit card designed for students instead. See our favorite student cards here.

Best for Transferring or Carrying a Balance

Chase Slate®

This is a card with a single purpose: to help you pay off large purchases or balances without paying interest. If you are already in some credit card debt, doing a balance transfer to a card like this can help you reduce your interest payments while you pay off your debt.

There are no points or cash back, but you’ll get:

  • 0% intro APR for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers
  • No fee for balance transfers when they are made in the first 60 days (then $5 or 5% of the balance)
  • Free FICO® Credit Score
  • No Annual Fee
  • No Penalty APR

Use the long intro APR to pay for major expenses, or to transfer balances from credit cards where you’re paying a lot of interest every month. You won’t have to worry about an annual fee or a Penalty APR for making a mistake (like a late payment).

This is the card to use because it has no fee for balance transfers, letting you move your balance for free. Most cards charge 3% or 5% of the balance for this service, which will be quite expensive for large balances.

You’ll also have free access to your FICO credit score, which will probably be a good thing if you’re dealing with large balances. This will let you monitor your credit score as you pay off your debts.

Applying For A Credit Card

If you apply for one of these cards and get denied, don’t get discouraged, because you have other options. You could:

Want to apply for or learn more about one of these cards we picked? Just click the name below.

Citi® Double Cash Card
Apply Now

Citi® Double Cash Card

For People with
Excellent Credit

  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Interest Rate: 14.99%–24.99% Variable
Quick Card Facts
  • The only card that earns you cash back twice on every purchase with: unlimited 1% cash back when you buy, plus an additional 1% cash back as you pay for those purchases*
  • $100 cash bonus for spending $500 on purchases in the first 3 months after account opening
  • 0% Intro APR on Balance Transfers and Purchases for 18 months. After that, the variable APR will be 14.99%–24.99%, based on your creditworthiness*
  • There is a balance transfer fee of either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater
  • No Category Restrictions, No Caps, No Enrollments in Rotating Categories
  • No Annual Fee
Chase Sapphire Preferred Card
Apply Now

Chase Sapphire Preferred Card

For People with
Good Credit

  • Annual Fee: $95 - Waived first year
  • Interest Rate: 17.49–24.49% Variable
Quick Card Facts
  • Earn 50,000 bonus points when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 in travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • Earn 5,000 bonus points after you add the first authorized user and make a purchase in the first 3 months from account opening
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases
  • No foreign transaction fees, plus chip-enabled for enhanced security and wider acceptance
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading frequent travel programs at full value - that means 1,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points equal 1,000 partner miles/points
  • Premium Travel and Purchase Protection Benefits, including Trip Cancellation/Trip Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Purchase Protection and more
  • 24/7 direct access to dedicated customer service specialists
  • Introductory Annual Fee of $0 the first year, then $95

The information for Chase Sapphire Preferred Card has been collected independently by Credit Card Insider. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Capital One® Platinum Credit Card
Apply Now

Capital One® Platinum Credit Card

For People with
Fair Credit

  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Interest Rate: 24.99% Variable
Quick Card Facts
  • Pay no annual fee
  • Get access to a higher credit line after making your first 5 monthly payments on time
  • Fraud coverage if your card is lost or stolen
  • Use online banking to access your account, even from your smartphone with our mobile app
  • Pay by check, online, or at a local branch, all with no fee - and pick the monthly due date that works best for you
  • Get access to your account 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
  • Help strengthen your credit for the future with responsible card use
  • Free access to your credit score and learn how everyday decisions can affect your score using Capital One® Credit Wise
Chase Slate
Apply Now

Chase Slate

For People with
Good Credit

  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Interest Rate: 16.49%–25.24% Variable
Quick Card Facts
  • $0 Intro balance transfer fee for the first 60 days your account is open. After that, the fee for future transactions is 5% of the amount transferred with a minimum of $5.
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers. After that, 16.49% - 25.24% variable APR.
  • See monthly updates to your FICO® Score and the reasons behind your score for free
  • No Penalty APR - Paying late won't raise your interest rate (APR). All other account pricing and terms apply
  • $0 Annual Fee

The information for Chase Slate has been collected independently by Credit Card Insider. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

What’s your favorite credit card? Let us know in the comments below!

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