Having a credit card of their own can go a long way toward helping young adults begin a journey of freedom. That being said, some credit cards work better than others. This article captures the best credit cards for young adults and the benefits of each.
Best Credit Cards for Young Adults
- Chase Freedom Unlimited® – Best Overall
- Ink Business Cash® Credit Card – Best for Business Owners
- Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards Credit Card – Best for Flat-Rate Cash Back
- Petal 2 Visa® Credit Card – Best for Those With No Credit
- Discover it® Secured Credit Card – Best for Low Credit
- American Express® Green Card – Best for Young Professionals
- Citi Premier® Card – Best for Travelers
When finding the best credit cards for young adults, we considered the impact of annual fees while also taking a look at introductory bonuses and potential cash back benefits along the way. It was also important to look at regular APR and how high interest rates would get if users aren’t making monthly payments. Lastly, we looked at recommended credit scores for each card to give the best chance at approval.
Check out a more detailed explanation of our methodology here.
670 – 850
15.74% – 24.49% variable
$200 bonus after spending $500 in the first 3 months; 0% APR for 15 months
5% cash back at gas stations; 3% cash back on dining and drugstore; 1.5% cash back on everything else
700 – 850
13.99% – 19.99% variable
$750 bonus cash back after you spend $7,500 on purchases in the first 3 months; 0% APR for first 12 months
5% cash back on office supplies, internet, cable, phone services; 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants; 1% cash back on all other purchases
600 – 699
Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase
13.74% – 27.74% variable
1 – 1.5% cash back, plus 2% – 10% bonus cash back at select merchants
Double cash back of the cash back you’ve earned the first year
2% cash back at restaurants and gas stations; 1% cash back everywhere else
700 – 850
16.74% – 23.74% variable
45,000 points after spending $2,000 on purchases within the first six months
3x points at restaurants, on transit, and on travel; 1x points everywhere else
700 – 850
16.74% – 24.74%
60,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 in purchases within the first three months
No foreign transaction fees; 3x points at restaurants, gas stations, supermarkets, and on air travel and hotels; 1x points for all other purchases
If you have the credit score, Chase Freedom Unlimited becomes the best overall credit card for young adults with zero annual fees and up to 5% cash back just for using it. Chase even throws $200 your way for spending $500 within the first three months of activation. You’ll need to be wary of foreign transaction fees and high APR numbers if your credit can’t get you a better deal.
Why we chose it: No annual fees and plenty of cash back bonuses make Chase’s Freedom Unlimited card the best overall pick for young adults.
- No annual fee
- Up to 5% cash back on purchases
- Introductory cash bonus
- Requires high credit score
- 3% foreign transaction fee
- Potentially high APR
Chase Freedom Unlimited is one of a handful of credit cards free of annual fees. If you can keep up with your payments, using this card shouldn’t cost you a thing. This is a blessing compared to American Express’s Green Card, charging $150 per year.
Chase does require a good to excellent credit score for young adults looking to use the Freedom Unlimited card. Those looking to apply should shoot for at least 670, quite high compared to Petal 2 Visa’s no credit needed. Unless you’ve built up credit through some other means, Freedom Unlimited will likely not be your first card.
The Freedom Unlimited card features variable APR depending on your credit score when you sign up. 15.74% on the low end isn’t terrible, but those with weaker credit may look to pay upwards of 24.49%.
It’s possible to receive a $200 bonus simply by spending $500 on regular purchases within the first three months of card activation. Delay that big purchase until your Freedom Unlimited card arrives and benefit from free money. As you get your feet wet with the card, you won’t have to worry about APR for the first 15 months. Both offers stand out when Petal 2 Visa’s card doesn’t give a thing.
As you use your Chase Freedom Unlimited Card, you’ll earn cash back no matter where you are. Rates include 5% back at gas stations and 3% on dining and drugstore purchases. Everything else still brings in 1.5% cash back, which is the maximum you can get with the Petal 2 Visa card.
Ink Business Cash gives generous cash back on office purchases from supplies to internet and cable. You’ll need a high credit score to land the card, but there are no annual fees. If you’re spending $7,500 in the first few months to grab that $750 bonus, chances are you’ll hit the yearly rewards cap at $25,000. If your business takes you overseas, watch out for 3% foreign transaction fees.
Why we chose it: Business owners can take advantage of the Ink Business Cash’s introductory bonus and cash back offers on top of no yearly fees.
- No annual fees
- Incredible introductory offers
- Cash back deals on office supplies
- High credit score recommended
- 3% foreign transaction fees
- Rewards cap at $25,000
The Ink Business Cash card doesn’t have annual fees, just like Chase’s Freedom Unlimited or the Patel 2 Visa card. This speaks to business owners trying to keep costs to a minimum.
As a business card with high rewards, young adult company owners will have the best chance of approval with credit scores above the 700 mark. This isn’t far off from Chase’s recommended 670.
Even on the high end, the Ink Business Cash card’s standard APR rates are lower than most cards. A 19.99% worst case for Ink is still quite a bit better than Petal 2 Visa’s 27.74%.
Ink Business Cash has a massive $750 bonus for business owners who can spend $7,500 within the first three months of card use. This shouldn’t be too much of a challenge if setting up an office space for the first time. While accruing debt, you won’t need to worry about APR for the first 12 months.
Cardholders receive 5% cash back on all office supplies, phone, internet, and cable services. There’s also 2% cash back for gas stations and restaurants, with 1% on everything else you buy while using the card.
There’s something magical about knowing you’re earning 1.5% cash back every time you make a purchase. Rewards have no upper limit and never expire, and you can trade them in for cash or gift cards. As you build rapport with Capital One, the company will review your credit line and increase it over time. There aren’t any introductory offers, a high APR, and an annual fee you’ll have to come to terms with.
Why we chose it: The Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards Credit Card lets you earn 1.5% cash back any time, anywhere, with no limit.
- 1.5% cash back on all purchases
- Automatic credit line reviews
- Unlimited rewards with no expiration
- $39 annual fee
- High regular APR
- No introductory offers
Capital One charges a $39 yearly fee for the use of its QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards card. While not a ton of money, it doesn’t look great next to Chase Freedom Unlimited’s lack of fees.
You’ll need to have a decent credit score to have a shot at the QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards card. Chances are you can get approved with a score of 600, a bit lower than Chase Freedom Unlimited’s 670.
The QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards’ regular APR rate is incredibly high and locked in initially at 26.99%. This is not a card you’ll want to miss payments on.
There’s no introductory offer for the QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards card. Not a deal-breaker, it’s still a bummer when looking at the $200 bonus Chase’s Freedom Unlimited card gives.
This cash back card really shines here, with a 1.5% return on every single purchase you make. Best of all, there’s no limit to how much you can earn, and rewards never expire. You can exchange them for cash or gift cards any time you’d like.
The Petal 2 Visa card is a great way to grow credit score, offering cash back incentives for young adults who pay off debt on time. There are no credit requirements to sign up and zero fees to worry about down the road. You won’t have any introductory offers to look forward to, and those with questionable history may have to deal with high APR numbers.
Why we chose it: The Petal 2 Visa card screams “pick me” for any young adult without credit. Zero annual fees and cash back options sweeten the deal further.
- Zero annual fees
- No credit score needed to sign up
- Up to 10% cash back at select merchants
- Limited benefits
- No introductory offers
- Potentially high APR
Young adults will rejoice that the Petal 2 Visa card doesn’t charge annual fees for use. Not having to deal with this charge is a breath of fresh air compared to Citi Premier’s $95.
The biggest draw of the Patel 2 Visa card is the lack of a credit score requirement. This isn’t a guarantee that you’ll be approved, but it is certainly easier for those without a credit history. Furthermore, it’s a great card to build credit and lower your APR rate.
The Petal 2 Visa has a significant regular APR range that varies depending on a few factors when you apply. 13.74% on the low end is solid, especially next to Capital One QuicksilverOne’s 26.99% starting rate. On the high end, the Petal 2 can be just as high at 27.74%.
There are no introductory offers for the Petal 2 Visa card. It’s uncommon to see deals on an entry-level card.
You can snag 1% cash back on purchases right out of the gate with the Petal 2 Visa card. If you make regular payments, you can increase this amount to 1.5% over time. These numbers are comparable to everyday purchases from even Chase Freedom Unlimited. Picking the right vendors could award you up to 10% cash back.
Young adults with low credit need not worry about applying for the Discover It Secured card. If you’re accepted, you won’t have to worry about yearly fees and get to generate cash back every time you make a purchase. As a secured card, you will have to drum up a $200 security deposit and deal with a high regular APR. Although a great beginner card, a low maximum credit limit doesn’t bode well for big purchases.
Why we chose it: Discover It Secured has no fees and pays you in cash back bonuses as you work to build credit.
- No annual fees
- No credit requirement to sign up
- Lucrative cash back offers
- High fixed initial APR
- $200 security deposit required to open an account
- Low maximum credit limit
Just like the Chase Freedom Unlimited card, Discover It Secured doesn’t charge any annual fees. Users can instead focus on making purchases and building credit.
Contrary to Chase Freedom Unlimited’s 670 credit score minimum, the Discover It Secured card has no such requirements. Even those with bad credit can apply, although there’s no guarantee of acceptance.
When signing up, you’re stuck with a rather high 23.74% APR. Its variable nature means it can shift over time, but it’s important to make every effort to pay up on time.
Just for being a customer, Discover pays out double the cash back you’ve earned during your entire first year of use. This is a one-time deal, but that extra money can go a long way.
The It Secured card rewards you with 2% cash back at restaurants and gas stations just for making a swipe. All other charges bring in 1%, a bit lower than Chase Freedom Unlimited’s 1.5%.
A 45,000 point introductory offer is an enticing welcome gift, especially when you can navigate the pitfalls of American Express’s point system and get the biggest bang for your buck. If your job has you traveling, the Green Card gives bonus points for flights and transit to and from the office. There is a steep annual fee, and you’ll want a high credit score before you apply.
Why we chose it: The American Express Green Card awards bonus points for purchases young professionals need to find success in their endeavors.
- Bonus points on travel, transit, and dining
- Impressive introductory offer
- No foreign transaction fees
- $150 annual fee
- High credit score needed
- Uses point system for rewards
American Express charges a lofty $150 annual fee for its Green Card. This amount really stands out when next to Chase Freedom Unlimited or Petal 2 Visa and their free-to-use cards.
A card for young professionals demands a high credit score. Your best chances of success come with a score of 700 or higher, which is no different than the Ink Business Cash card.
APR ranges between 16.74% and 23.74%, depending on a number of factors when you sign up. These numbers are quite similar to Chase’s Freedom Unlimited card.
American Express uses a point system for rewards, where a point translates to somewhere between 0.5 and 1 cent when cashing them in. Young adults able to spend $2,000 within the first six months of opening their Green Card will receive a whopping 45,000 points toward rewards of their choice.
You’ll typically earn one point for every dollar you spend using the American Express Green card. When it comes to restaurants, travel, and transit, American Express hands out triple the points instead.
Once you’ve mastered the confusing point system, you’ll see how the 60,000 point introductory offer equates to $600 in gift cards to spend at your leisure. The Citi Premier card appeases young adult adventurers with bonus points on travel expenses and zero foreign transaction fees. You will need a high enough credit score for approval and have to pay $95 each year to continue using the card.
Why we chose it: A lack of foreign transaction fees and bonus points for travel expenses make the Citi Premier card a great travel companion.
- 3x points for all travel purchases, including hotels
- No foreign transaction fees
- $600 introductory offer
- $95 annual fee
- High credit score needed
- Uses a point system for rewards
Citi’s Premier Card has a $95 annual fee to keep your account active. While steep, it’s still cheaper than American Express’s Green Card’s $150 yearly charge.
You’ll need to be at the upper end of the credit score spectrum to maximize your chances of landing a Premier card. This is notably higher than the Petal 2 Visa or Discover It Secured card, but the benefits are also higher.
The Citi Premier card’s APR lands right in the same range as the Chase Freedom Unlimited card or the American Express Green card. If you can’t pay your debt off on time, expect to see interest rates between 16.74% to 24.74%.
Like American Express, Citi uses a point system for its rewards, with one point equal to a cent. Should you spend $4,000 within the first three months of signing up, Citi will reward you with 60,000 bonus points usable in the form of gift cards. Time to book that flight!
There’s no need to worry about foreign transaction fees when you travel with the Citi Premier card. You’ll also earn 3x points on air travel, hotels, restaurants, supermarkets, and on gas. All other purchases still earn one point per dollar spent.
Methodology for the Best Best Credit Cards for Young Adults
When choosing a credit card, you want to find one that works for you. We considered the following when picking out the best credit cards for young adults.
- Annual Fees: Fees can put a damper on anyone’s plans. The best credit cards for young adults either don’t have a fee or is low enough that the rewards outweigh the price.
- Recommended Credit: Credit scores are a major factor when it comes to getting approved for a credit card. Certain cards are designed for those looking to establish credit, while others are for those who have already done so.
- Regular APR: APR only becomes a factor if you’re not able to keep up with monthly payments. In those situations, it’s crucial to have a low enough APR that you don’t drown financially.
- Introductory Offers: Introductory offers bring a nice boost to an already great credit card. Top offers include bonus cash or no APR for a fixed number of months.
- Benefits: What’s better than a credit card that pays you back? The best credit cards for young adults provide cash back on all the things you already buy. Some cash back cards can reach as high as 5% for specialty purchases.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) for Best Credit Cards for Young Adults
Credit cards can be a confusing topic for young adults and parents alike. This FAQ answers some of the top questions you may have.
Bottom Line on the Best Credit Cards for Young Adults
Having a credit card can do wonders for a young adult trying to find his or her place in the world. However, individuals need to be wary of interest rates and fees that can drain the bank. The best credit cards are manageable, offering incentives while building credit at the same time.