9 Best Credit Cards for Young Adults in 2022

Best Credit Cards for Young Adults

Best Credit Cards for Young Adults

There are plenty of credit cards on the market that are well suited to young adults. We’ve rounded up a list of nine favorites based on the features they offer and what type of consumer they are best for.

 Credit Cards Best For Annual Fee Regular APR Credit Score
Discover it Student Chrome Students $0 12.99% – 21.99% Fair
Chase Freedom Unlimited Everyday purchases $0 14.99% – 23.74% Good/Excellent
Citi Double Cash Cash back $0 13.99 – 23.99% Good/Excellent
American Express Gold Groceries and dining out $250 15.99% – 22.99% Good/Excellent
Discover it Cash Back Rotating rewards $0 $11.99% – 22.99% Good/Excellent
Wells Fargo Reflect Balance transfers $0 12.99% – 24.99% Good/Excellent
Chase Sapphire Preferred Travel rewards $95 15.99% – 22.99% Good/Excellent
Capital One Platinum Secured Low credit scores $0 26.99% Poor
Chase Ink Business Unlimited Entrepreneurs $0 $13.24% – 19.24% Good/Excellent

1. Best for students – Discover it Student Chrome

  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Regular APR: 12.99% – 21.99%
  • Credit Required: Fair

The Discover it Student Chrome credit card is perfect for young adults who are still in school. This card is perfect for young adults still working to build their credit histories, and you can qualify even if you only have fair credit.

Despite being designed for consumers just building their credit, the card also comes with generous cash back rewards. You’ll get the following rewards when you spend with the Discover it Student Chrome:

  • 2% cash back on up to $1,000 in combined gas station and restaurant purchases per quarter
  • 1% cash back on all other purchases
  • 2X cash back on your rewards earned in the first year

While the interest rate on this card can go up to 21.99%, Discover offers an introductory APR, where you’ll pay 0% on purchases for the first six months. This feature is great for young adults who have a large purchase planned that they want to pay back over several months.

Annual Fee

$0

Regular APR

12.99% – 21.99%

Credit Required

Fair

Annual Fee

$0

Regular APR

12.99% – 21.99%

Credit Required

Fair

Pros

  • Easy to qualify for
  • No annual fee
  • 6-month intro APR period
  • Elevated rewards on bonus categories

Cons

  • No welcome bonus
  • Cap on bonus rewards
  • 1% cash back on most spending

Pros

  • Easy to qualify for
  • No annual fee
  • 6-month intro APR period
  • Elevated rewards on bonus categories

Cons

  • No welcome bonus
  • Cap on bonus rewards
  • 1% cash back on most spending

2Best for everyday spending – Chase Freedom Unlimited

  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Regular APR: 14.99% – 23.74%
  • Credit Required: Good/Excellent

The Chase Freedom Unlimited is one of the most popular credit cards on the market for everyday spending, and it’s easy to see why. When you spend on this card, you’ll get cash back on all of your purchases, including elevated cash back in certain spending categories:

  • 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • 3% cash back on dining at restaurants, including takeout and delivery
  • 3% cash back on drugstore purchases
  • 1.5% cash back on all other purchases

In addition to the cash back, this card comes with plenty of other perks. For example, when you spend $500 in your first three months after opening the card, you’ll get a $200 bonus. You’ll also earn 5% cash back on gas station purchases up to $6,000 in the first year.

This card is also great for large purchases and balance transfers. When you sign up, you’ll get 0% APR on both purchases and balance transfers in the first 15 months. Other card perks include purchase protection, extended warranty protection, trip cancellation/interruption insurance, and rental car insurance.

Annual Fee

$0

Regular APR

14.99% – 23.74%

Credit Required

Good/Excellent

Annual Fee

$0

Regular APR

14.99% – 23.74%

Credit Required

Good/
Excellent

Pros

  • $200 welcome bonus
  • Excellent spending rewards
  • No annual fee
  • 15-month intro APR on purchases and balance transfers

Cons

  • Travel bonus only applies when booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards

Pros

  • $200 welcome bonus
  • Excellent spending rewards
  • No annual fee
  • 15-month intro APR on purchases and balance transfers

Cons

  • Travel bonus only applies when booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards

3. Best for cash back – Citi Double Cash Card

  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Regular APR: 13.99% – 23.99%
  • Credit Required: Good/Excellent

The Citi Double Cash card is one of the most popular cash back cards on the market thanks to its 2% cash back rate on all purchases. With many credit cards, the elevated cash back rate only applies to purchases in certain categories. But with the Citi Double Cash, it applies to all of your purchases. It also works a bit differently than other cards. Instead of getting 2% back when you spend, you’ll get 1% back when you spend and 1% back when you pay off the purchase.

The Citi Double Cash is also great for anyone who needs a balance transfer. You’ll get 0% APR on balance transfers for the first 18 months. Note that this special introductory rate doesn’t apply to purchases.

This card comes with a handful of other benefits, including identity theft solutions and special access to tickets on thousands of events, including presales.

Annual Fee

$0

Regular APR

13.99% – 23.99%

Credit Required

Good/Excellent

Annual Fee

$0

Regular APR

13.99% – 23.99%

Credit Required

Good/
Excellent

Pros

  • 2% cash back on all spending
  • No annual fee
  • 18-month intro APR for balance transfers

Cons

  • Few other card benefits
  • No welcome bonus
  • No intro APR on purchases

Pros

  • 2% cash back on all spending
  • No annual fee
  • 18-month intro APR for balance transfers

Cons

  • Few other card benefits
  • No welcome bonus
  • No intro APR on purchases

4. Best for groceries and dining out – American Express Gold

  • Annual Fee: $250
  • Regular APR: 15.99% – 22.99%
  • Credit Required: Good/Excellent

If you’re a young adult who spends a lot of your budget on food, then the American Express Gold card might be the right choice for you. This card offers an impressive 4X points on dining and restaurants, including takeout and delivery. You’ll also get 4X points on groceries up to $25,000 per year, 3X points on flights booked through American Express, and 1X points on all other purchases.

The points for your spending aren’t the only perk this card offers. You’ll get a welcome bonus of 75,000 Membership Rewards Points when you spend $4,000 in your first six months. Those points could be worth anywhere from 0.5 cents to 2.0 cents per point, depending on how you spend them.

Other perks the American Express Gold offers include:

  • $120 Uber Cash to be used for Uber Eats or Uber rides
  • $120 dining credit
  • Travel luggage insurance
  • Rental car insurance
  • No foreign transaction fees

Of course, all of these perks don’t come for free. The American Express Gold has the highest annual fee of any card on our list at $250.

Annual Fee

$250

Regular APR

15.99% – 22.99%

Credit Required

Good/Excellent

Annual Fee

$250

Regular APR

15.99% – 22.99%

Credit Required

Good/
Excellent

Pros

  • 4X points on dining and groceries, 3X on flights
  • High welcome bonus
  • Many ways to redeem points
  • Additional travel perks

Cons

  • $250 annual fee
  • No introductory APR
  • Low rewards points on non-bonus categories

Pros

  • 4X points on dining and groceries, 3X on flights
  • High welcome bonus
  • Many ways to redeem points
  • Additional travel perks

Cons

  • $250 annual fee
  • No introductory APR
  • Low rewards points on non-bonus categories

5Best for rotating rewards – Discover it Cash Back

  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Regular APR: $11.99% – 22.99%
  • Credit Required: Good/Excellent

The Discover it Cash Back card offers a bit of a unique rewards structure in that you earn higher rewards in bonus categories, and the bonus categories change each quarter. Throughout the year, they rotate through grocery stores, gas stations, restaurants, and online purchases. 

When you spend in the bonus category for that quarter, you’ll get 5% cash back. For all other purchases, you’ll get 1% cash back. Finally, Discover will match your cash back dollar for dollar after the first year, meaning you’ll double your rewards.

The other major perk of the Discover it Cash Back card is the introductory APR. When you sign up, you’ll pay 0% on purchases and balance transfers for the first 15 months. This feature makes it a great card for large purchases and balance transfers.

Annual Fee

$0

Regular APR

$11.99% – 22.99%

Credit Required

Good/Excellent

Annual Fee

$0

Regular APR

$11.99% – 22.99%

Credit Required

Good/
Excellent

Pros

  • 5% cash back on a quarterly bonus category
  • Double cash back in the first year
  • 15-month intro APR on purchases and balance transfers
  • No annual fee

Cons

  • No welcome bonus
  • Low rewards on non-bonus categories
  • Cap on bonus rewards
  • Must activate bonus category

Pros

  • 5% cash back on a quarterly bonus category
  • Double cash back in the first year
  • 15-month intro APR on purchases and balance transfers
  • No annual fee

Cons

  • No welcome bonus
  • Low rewards on non-bonus categories
  • Cap on bonus rewards
  • Must activate bonus category

6Best for balance transfers – Wells Fargo Reflect

  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Regular APR: 12.99% – 24.99%
  • Credit Required: Good/Excellent

If you’re struggling to pay off credit card debt and are looking for a balance transfer card, the Wells Fargo Reflect card might be the right choice. The card normally offers an 18-month introductory APR period where you’ll pay 0% on qualifying purchases and balance transfers. And for the time being, the card is offering a three-month extension on the introductory period when you make at least your minimum monthly payment on time. 

That brings you to a total of 21 months with 0% APR, which is longer than you’ll find with any other card. During that time, you could save hundreds — or even thousands — of dollars in interest and fully pay off your credit card debt.

The card offers a handful of other perks, including cell phone protection up to $600, emergency roadside assistance, and occasional cash back or deals on certain purchases.

Annual Fee

$0

Regular APR

12.99% – 24.99%

Credit Required

Good/Excellent

Annual Fee

$0

Regular APR

12.99% – 24.99%

Credit Required

Good/
Excellent

Pros

  • 21-month intro APR on purchases and balance transfers
  • No annual fee
  • $600 cell phone protection

Cons

  • No spending rewards
  • No welcome bonus

Pros

  • 21-month intro APR on purchases and balance transfers
  • No annual fee
  • $600 cell phone protection

Cons

  • No spending rewards
  • No welcome bonus

7.Best for travel rewards – Chase Sapphire Preferred

  • Annual Fee: $95
  • Regular APR: 15.99% – 22.99%
  • Credit Required: Good/Excellent

The Chase Sapphire Preferred is a great option if you’re looking to upgrade to a credit card with travel rewards. When you sign up, you’ll get 60,000 bonus points when you spend $4,000 in the first three months. Those points are worth $600 in cash, and with the Sapphire Preferred, points are worth 1.25 the value if you redeem them through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal. So your $600 bonus suddenly becomes $750.

In addition to the welcome bonus, this card offers several different ways to earn points, including:

  • 5X points on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • 2X points on other travel purchases
  • 3X points on dining, including delivery and takeout
  • 3X points on online grocery purchases
  • 3X points on streaming services
  • 1X points on all other purchases

Because it’s a travel credit card the Sapphire Reserve offers other travel perks such as no foreign transaction fees, trip cancellation/interruption insurance, rental car insurance, baggage delay insurance, trip delay reimbursement, and travel and emergency assistance services. Finally, you’ll get protection on your transactions, including purchase protection against damage or theft and extended warranty protection.

Annual Fee

$95

Regular APR

15.99% – 22.99%

Credit Required

Good/Excellent

Annual Fee

$95

Regular APR

15.99% – 22.99%

Credit Required

Good/
Excellent

Pros

  • Excellent rewards for certain spending categories
  • High welcome bonus
  • Many travel perks
  • 25% bonus on points when redeemed through Chase Travel Rewards

Cons

  • Annual fee
  • No introductory APR
  • Lower rewards value if not used on travel

Pros

  • Excellent rewards for certain spending categories
  • High welcome bonus
  • Many travel perks
  • 25% bonus on points when redeemed through Chase Travel Rewards

Cons

  • Annual fee
  • No introductory APR
  • Lower rewards value if not used on travel

8.Best for low credit scores – Capital One Platinum Secured

  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Regular APR: 26.99%
  • Credit Required: Poor

If you’re rebuilding your credit score and need a credit card that can help, then consider the Capital One Platinum Secured. This card is available to borrowers with poor credit, meaning even if you have a limited credit history or missed payments on your credit report, you may still qualify.

As with other secured credit cards, the Platinum Secured requires that you pay a security deposit when you qualify for the card. You’ll have an initial credit limit of $200, which will increase as you make regular on-time payments. If you use your card responsibly for a long enough period, you’ll get your security deposit back and can upgrade to an unsecured Capital One card.

Annual Fee

$0

Regular APR

26.99%

Credit Required

Poor

Annual Fee

$0

Regular APR

26.99%

Credit Required

Poor

Pros

  • Available to borrowers with poor credit
  • Helps you boost your credit score
  • Can eventually upgrade to an unsecured card

Cons

  • Requires a security deposit upon sign-up
  • High purchase APR
  • No rewards

Pros

  • Available to borrowers with poor credit
  • Helps you boost your credit score
  • Can eventually upgrade to an unsecured card

Cons

  • Requires a security deposit upon sign-up
  • High purchase APR
  • No rewards

9.Best for entrepreneurs – Chase Ink Business Unlimited

  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Regular APR: 13.24% – 19.24%
  • Credit Required: Good/Excellent

More and more young adults are choosing to start their own businesses rather than enter a traditional corporate career. If you’re a young entrepreneur, then you might like the Chase Ink Business Unlimited card.

This card offers $750 cash back when you spend $7,500 on purchases in the first three months. You’ll also get 1.5% cash back on all of your purchases. And as an added bonus for business owners just getting started, the Ink Business Unlimited offers 0% APR for the first 12 months. You can make any big purchases necessary to get your business started and then pay them off over the course of an entire year.

Annual Fee

$0

Regular APR

13.24% – 19.24%

Credit Required

Good/Excellent

Annual Fee

$0

Regular APR

13.24% – 19.24%

Credit Required

Good/
Excellent

Pros

  • No annual fee
  • 12-month intro APR
  • 1.5% back on all spending
  • High welcome bonus

Cons

  • High spending threshold for welcome bonus
  • No bonus rewards categories
  • No other business perks

Pros

  • No annual fee
  • 12-month intro APR
  • 1.5% back on all spending
  • High welcome bonus

Cons

  • High spending threshold for welcome bonus
  • No bonus rewards categories
  • No other business perks

How to Choose the Best Credit Card for Young Adults

As a young adult, a credit card can go a long way in helping you to build a financial foundation, especially when it comes to building a credit history and growing a strong credit score.

But many young people also rush into getting a credit card and don’t give it the necessary thought. Unfortunately, this can lead to getting a credit card that doesn’t offer the right benefits or getting yourself into credit card debt.

If you’re ready to apply for your next (or first) credit card, here are some tips to help you:

 

1. Check your credit score

One of the most important factors that determines what credit cards you’re eligible for is your credit score. Most credit cards are available to borrowers with good credit or better, but some are specifically designed to serve lower-credit borrowers. On the other hand, some credit cards only accept applicants with excellent credit.

When you apply for a credit card, it appears on your credit report as a hard inquiry. To avoid having unnecessary hard inquiries appear on your credit, check your credit before applying for any cards to ensure you’re applying only to those where you have a good chance of acceptance.

 

2. Look at your spending habits

Every credit card offers different perks and is best suited to people with certain spending habits. For example, some credit cards offer higher cash back on restaurant purchases, while others reward you for travel. Some offer rewards in the form of cash back, while others allow you to redeem your points for flights and hotels.

Ultimately, the best credit card for you is the one that aligns well with your spending habits and will offer the greatest rewards value. With a quick internet search, you can find credit card rewards calculators that will use your spending habits to tell you what benefit you can expect to get from different credit cards. Those calculators can be great starting points if you’re unsure what card is best for you.

 

3. Understand the rates and fees

The last thing you want is to get hit with unexpected interest charges and fees. Before signing up for a credit card, be sure to carefully read the terms and conditions, so you know what it will cost you.

First, pay attention to the interest rate on each card and whether they offer an introductory APR period. It’s best to pay your credit card off in full each month and avoid carrying a balance. But if you must carry a balance, look for cards with that introductory APR so you can have extra time to pay off a large purchase or balance transfer.

Additionally, while most of the cards on our list don’t have an annual fee, there are many cards that do. Be sure to budget for that fee and calculate the benefit you get from the card to make sure the benefit outweighs the cost of the fee.

The Bottom Line

Each of the credit cards on our list is well-suited to young adults, and each offers some key benefits that will be perfect for certain borrowers. Whether you’re starting a business or just building your credit for the first time, we’ve included a card that can help you. Be sure to follow the tips above and research each card before applying to ensure you find the best card for your situation and spending habits.

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"‘You don’t have to be a miser, just be wiser with your money.’"

Dorethia Conner Kelly

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