Best Credit Cards for Young Adults and Young Professionals – 2016

Brendan Harkness

Brendan Harkness | Editor's Best Card Picks

Jan 10, 2016 | Updated Sep 28, 2016

The cards on this page have been chosen from the widest possible selection of cards that we could find when the page was last updated on September 28, 2016. Although Credit Card Insider does receive compensation from some card issuers as advertisers, this does not in any way influence our choice of cards or the order that cards appear on the page. We have attempted to determine the best cards in this category, regardless of our advertising relationship with the issuers.

Learn more about how we rate credit and charge cards.

Finding the Right Credit Card for You

Credit cards are a great tool to include in your financial toolbox, and the sooner you get into them, the better.

For young professionals and anyone on a career path, credit cards can save both time and money, especially while traveling, and they provide lesser-known benefits that can really help in a pinch.

Even if you don’t have a credit card you’ve probably already built up some credit, maybe with student loans or auto loans. As long as you’ve been paying your bills responsibly you should be able to get a pretty valuable rewards credit card, offering points or cash back for purchases as well as some additional perks.

Are you a student? Take a look at the Best Credit Cards for College Students – 2015.

Credit cards come in several flavors, designed for different purposes and to fit different lifestyles. There are simple cards that provide a basic reward everywhere you shop, cards meant to help with grocery or holiday shopping, cards specifically designed to help you save money traveling, and more.

Here we’ll take a look at the best credit card for young adults in the following categories:

  • All-around spending – an easy card you can take and use anywhere
  • Frequent traveling – a card you can use to get great discounts on travel and at hotels
  • Carrying a balance – a card you can use to pay down large balances while avoiding hefty interest payments

If you don’t own a credit card, chances are that one of these will be good for you (as long as you commit to responsible credit use).

Don’t be afraid of having multiple credit cards – if you have a legitimate need for them, having several credit cards will give you more spending power and will actually improve your credit score. Many people own and use several, combining a general rewards card with others that have more specific purposes, like buying gas, flying, or paying for a large expense.

The Best Credit Cards for Young Adults

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
  • 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.

Hey! Click here to read my full review of the Citi Double Cash Card!– Brendan Harkness, Editor, Credit Card Insider

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.

Insider Tip: Looking for other great cards that give cash back or points? Check out the Best Rewards Credit Cards for 2015

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.

Hey! Click here to read my full review of the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card!– Brendan Harkness, Editor, Credit Card Insider

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.

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

Best for 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.

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).

Hey! Click here to read my full review of the Chase Slate Card!– Brendan Harkness, Editor, Credit Card Insider

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 for Young Adults and Professionals

Want to apply for these cards or learn more? Just click the name below.

Citi® Double Cash Card

For People with
Excellent Credit

  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Interest Rate: 13.24% - 23.24% *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*
  • 0% Intro APR on Balance Transfers and Purchases for 15 months. After that, the variable APR will be 12.99%-22.99%, 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

For People with
Good Credit

  • Annual Fee: $95 - Waived first year
  • Interest Rate: 16.24% - 23.24% *Variable
Quick Card Facts
  • Earn 40,000 bonus points when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $500 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.

Chase Slate®

For People with
Good Credit

  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Interest Rate: 13.24% - 23.24% *Variable
Quick Card Facts
  • Chase Slate named "Best Credit Card for Balance Transfers" two years in a row by Money Magazine
  • $0 Introductory balance transfer fee for transfers made during the first 60 days
  • 0% Introductory APR for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers
  • New Free Monthly FICO® Score and Credit Dashboard
  • 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? Are you using any of these to help lighten the load on your wallet? Let us know in the comments below!

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