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Best Credit Cards For Young Adults & First Timers – March 2019

You can trust the integrity of our balanced, independent financial advice. We may, however, receive compensation from the issuers of some products mentioned in this article. Opinions are the author's alone, and this content has not been provided by, reviewed, approved or endorsed by any advertiser.

Money Under 36 reviews the best credit cards for young adults. Got good credit? Get our picks to upgrade your rewards card or snag a cash sign-up bonus. New to credit? Find the best first credit card to build up your credit score.

Find the best credit cards for young adults from Money Under 36.As publisher of Money Under 36, I often get asked: “What are the best credit cards for young adults?” or:

  • I’m a recent college graduate. What’s the best starter credit card for me?
  • What’s the best first credit card to get?
  • I’m a young professional with some credit history. I need a credit card for business travel—what should I get?

How I came up with the list of the top 10 credit cards for young adults

I’ve been covering credit and credit cards for over 10 years. When choosing the best credit cards for young adults, I looked for cards that:

  1. Offer better-than-average approval odds for consumers with shorter credit histories. (This is based upon issuer-provided guidelines and Money Under 36 data from readers who click from our Website to apply for a credit card.)
  2. Reward spending in categories most popular with our readers such as dining, travel or Amazon purchases
  3. Do not charge excessive fees

Where appropriate, I selected rewards cards with programs that reward any spending level—not just someone who can charge thousands a month to their card. I also tried to stick to cards with no annual fees, although there are two exceptions.

Overview: Best credit cards for young adults

CardBest for:Minimum Credit Score Required
Discover It(R) Cash BackCash BackExcellent/good (700+)
Chase Sapphire Preferred(R) CardPremium Travel Rewards
Capital One(R) Savor(R) Cash Rewards Credit CardDining and Entertainment
Bank of America(R) Travel Rewards Credit CardTravel Rewards, No Annual Fee
Capital One(R) QuicksilverOne(R) Cash Rewards CardCash BackAverage/fair/limited (600 – 699)
Editor’s Choice, March 2019: Capital One(R) Platinum Credit CardNo Annual Fee
Discover it(R) Student Cash BackStudents
Discover it(R) SecuredCash Back—No CreditPoor (300 – 599)
Capital One(R) Secured Mastercard(R)First Credit Card—Credit Builder

Choosing the best first or second credit card depends on whether you have already established a good credit score or not. Unsure? Our credit score estimator will give you a sense of the best credit cards for you.

Details: Best credit cards for young adults—good credit

The very best credit card offers look to attract new creditworthy customers with promotions like cash sign-up bonuses, 0-percent intro APRs and generous rewards programs.

These cards require good or excellent credit, which means you will need to:

  1. Have had open loan and credit card accounts for five years or more
  2. Have had no late payments in the last two years
  3. Have not applied for credit more than twice in the last year

If you’re a young professional with established credit, here are some of our recommended credit cards:

Discover it(R) Cash Back

Discover it® Cash Back

Credit Needed: Excellent, Good
  • INTRO OFFER: Discover will match ALL the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically. There's no signing up. And no limit to how much is matched.
  • Earn 5% cash back at different places each quarter like gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, Amazon.com and more up to the quarterly maximum, each time you activate.
  • Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - automatically.
Intro APR
Purchases
Intro Term
Purchases
Intro APR
Balance Transfers
Intro Term
Balance Transfers
Regular APRAnnual Fee
0%14 months0%14 months14.24% - 25.24% Variable$0

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My top cash back credit card pick for young adults is the Discover it(R) Cash Back.

The Discover it(R) Cash Back requires good credit but, if you have it, offers benefits that are hard to beat: Generous cash rewards, reasonable interest rates, top-rated US-based customer service, awesome account apps, and late payment forgiveness. I carried an earlier version of this card—the Discover More card—in my twenties and was blown away by Discover’s customer service.

The Discover it(R) Cash Back gives you 5 percent cash back in new bonus categories like gas, restaurants, Amazon and more—up to $1,500 every quarter you activate plus unlimited 1 percent cash back on all other purchases. Even better, you could turn $200 into $400 with the end of year match. Discover will automatically match all the cash back you earn at the end of your first year (new cardmembers only). This sign-up bonus is potentially a lot more valuable than the others seen on no-annual fee (between $100 and $200) if you’ll spend a lot the first year.

You’ll also get a 0 percent intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for 14 months. After the intro rate expires, the ongoing APR becomes 14.24% - 25.24% Variable.

Learn more: See card details/apply or read our complete Discover it(R) Cash Back review.

Chase Sapphire Preferred Card

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Credit Needed: Excellent Credit
  • Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Chase Sapphire Preferred named "Best Credit Card for Flexible Travel Redemption" - Kiplinger's Personal Finance, June 2018
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
Intro APR
Purchases
Intro Term
Purchases
Intro APR
Balance Transfers
Intro Term
Balance Transfers
Regular APRAnnual Fee
N/AN/AN/AN/A18.24% - 25.24% Variable$0 Intro for the First Year, then $95

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The Chase Sapphire Preferred(R) Card is definitely one of our favorite travel rewards cards, but don’t apply unless you’re a big spender (and a big traveler).

First the good. The Chase Sapphire Preferred(R) earns 2 points per $1 spent on travel and dining and 1 point per $1 spent on everything else. On top of that, you can get a whopping 50,000 sign up bonus points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That’s a $625 value – the highest in the business.

Here’s the kicker. There’s a $95 annual fee (waived in the first year). You really need to be a big spender to make this card worth your while. If you want to avoid the annual fee, we recommend looking at the alternative cards here. But if you’re living large, this is the perfect card for you.

Learn more: See card details/apply or read our Chase Sapphire Preferred(R) Card review.

Capital One(R) Savor(R) Rewards Credit Card

This offer requires Excellent/Good credit.

    Card Highlights

    • Earn a one-time $500 cash bonus after you spend $3000 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening
    • Earn unlimited 4% cash back on dining and entertainment, 2% at grocery stores and 1% on all other purchases
    • Receive a monthly statement credit for a Postmates Unlimited monthly membership through Dec. 2019 with the Capital One Savor Card
    • View Capital One(R) Savor(R) Cash Rewards Credit Card details and how to apply »

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With the Capital One(R) Savor(R) Rewards Credit Card you can save big on dining and entertainment, plus you can snag an impressive cash sign-up bonus.

The Capital One(R) Savor(R) Rewards Credit Card offers an unlimited 4 percent back on dining and entertainment. You’ll also earn 2 percent at grocery stores and 1 percent on all other purchases.

If that wasn’t enough, the card has a $500 sign-up bonus after you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first three months from account opening. That’s just as good as the best sign-up bonus credit cards out there.

For these robust rewards package, you will have to pay a price. The Capital One(R) Savor(R) Cash Rewards Credit Card has a $95 annual fee, but it’s waived the first year.

Learn more: See card details/apply or read our Capital One(R) Savor(R) Rewards Credit Card credit card review.

Bank of America(R) Travel Rewards credit card

Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card

Credit Needed: Excellent/Good
  • Earn unlimited 1.5 points per $1 spent on all purchases, with no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees and your points don't expire
  • 25,000 online bonus points if you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening - that can be a $250 statement credit toward travel purchases
  • Use your card to book your trip how and where you want – you’re not limited to specific websites with blackout dates or restrictions
Intro APR
Purchases
Intro Term
Purchases
Intro APR
Balance Transfers
Intro Term
Balance Transfers
Regular APRAnnual Fee
0% Introductory APR on purchases12 billing cyclesN/AN/A17.24% - 25.24% Variable APR on purchases and balance transfers$0

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The Bank of America(R) Travel Rewards credit card features a signup bonus of 25,000 bonus points for new customers who spend $1,000 on purchases within 90 days of account opening. That’s good for $250 in travel.

Though you can’t beat the double miles on the Capital One Venture Card, it does charge a modest annual fee after the first year. If you’d rather not pay a fee, the Bank of America(R) Travel Rewards credit card is your next best bet. It’s our top pick for simple, flexible travel rewards with no annual fee.

You also earn an unlimited 1.5 points per dollar spent on most purchases. Each point is worth one cent as statement credits towards travel purchases. Also, existing Bank of America(R) checking and savings account holders can earn a 10 percent customer points bonus, which equates to 1.65 cents per dollar spent.

Like the Venture Card, the Bank of America(R) Travel Rewards credit card has no foreign transaction fee.

Learn more: See card details/apply or read our Bank of America(R) Travel Rewards credit card review.

Details: Best credit cards for young adults—average/limited credit

In the event you don’t have much of a credit history yet, shopping for cards can be frustrating. You find a great credit card, only to be declined. If the most rewarding credit cards are still out of reach, there are still very good credit cards designed for consumers with average or limited credit.

Average credit usually means that you have:

  1. Had open loan and credit card accounts for three years or more
  2. Had no more than one late payment in the last year
  3. Not applied for credit more than twice in the last six months.

If you have some credit history or average credit due to a few missed payments, here are some cards to consider:

Capital One(R) QuicksilverOne(R) Cash Rewards Card

This offer requires Average/Fair/Limited credit.

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If you are starting to build credit, the Capital One(R) QuicksilverOne(R) Cash Rewards Credit Card provides a good chance of approval with a modest annual fee (waived the first year) and a generous 1.5 percent cash back.

With QuicksilverOne, you’ll earn 1.5 percent cash back on every purchase with no rotating categories or hoops to jump through.

This card does feature a higher APR than others on this page, but is ideal if you’re going to pay your balance in full each month to avoid finance charges. If you have good credit, the similar Quicksilver card offers even better perks.

Learn more: See card details/where to apply or Compare the Quicksilver vs QuicksilverOne cards in this review.

Editor’s Choice, March 2019:

Capital One(R) Platinum Credit Card

This offer requires Average/Fair/Limited credit.

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The Capital One(R) Platinum Credit Card is a great basic credit card with no annual fee for applicants with average or limited credit.

If you have a little bit of credit history (or a fair one that you want to improve), the Capital One(R) Platinum Credit Card is an ideal starter credit card. You won’t earn rewards with this card, but there’s no annual fee to worry about, either. One of the great things about Capital One is that they offer cards like this and great prime rewards cards. So if you start with a Platinum card and use it responsibly for a while, you may be able to upgrade your account.

Learn more: See card details/apply or read our Capital One(R) Platinum Credit Card review.

If you know you have some credit but have been turned down for credit cards in the past, you can browse more of our Credit Cards For Young Adults

  • Rewards Credit Cards
  • Cash Back Credit Cards
  • Travel Rewards Credit Cards
  • Balance Transfers Credit Cards
  • Credit Cards Sign-up Bonus Offers
  • Credit Cards For International Travel
  • No Foreign Transaction Fee Credit Cards
  • Students Credit Cards
  • Credit Cards For Military Members
  • 0 APR Credit Cards
  • No Annual Fee Credit Cards
  • Low Minimum Spend
  • Credit Cards For Building Credit
  • Secured Credit Cards
  • Low APR Credit Cards
  • Gas Credit Cards
  • Credit Cards For Grocery Stores Purchases
  • Hotel Credit Cards
  • Store Credit Cards
  • Prepaid Cards
  • Business Credit Cards
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