Best Credit Cards For Young Adults (Plus, Tips on How to Choose Yours)

Best Credit Cards For Young Adults (Plus, Tips on How to Choose Yours) was originally published on The Muse, a great place to research companies and careers. Click here to search for great jobs and companies near you.

When you’re just starting out in your adult life, having good credit can really make a difference—especially when it comes to your financial independence. One way to get there is by getting a credit card. Use it wisely, and it will help you build a solid credit history, boost your credit score, and finance large purchases. But here’s the thing: Not all of them are created equal, and finding the best credit cards for young adults like yourself is key.

Some are going to be a great fit for where you are in life, while others may be inadvisable or inaccessible. So, what is the best credit card to open when you’re young? Let’s take a look at everything you need to know to choose your winner—including some of our picks for the best credit cards for under 30.

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Why you need a credit card as a young adult

You may be wondering, “should I get a credit card in my 20s?” or “is it good for a 20 year old to have a credit card?” Most of the time, the answer is yes—if you can use it responsibly.

Getting a credit card—as well as paying it on time every month and keeping balances low—can help build credit and improve your credit score. And “many financial aspects of our adult lives involve our credit score,” says Financial Educator and Coach Andrea Belzer.

For example, if you need a loan to buy a home or a car, the lender will look at your credit history and credit score. Using that information, they’ll determine whether you’re a worthy candidate for a loan—and, if so, what the interest rates and terms will be.

The higher your credit score—and the more solid your credit history—the better interest rates and terms you’ll be able to get, which can save you thousands (or even tens of thousands!) of dollars over the course of your loan.

Your credit history and score also have ramifications outside of applying for credit or a loan. For example, “your credit score also impacts your insurance rates, some employers will look at this for your job, and it will be used to determine if you will qualify to rent an apartment,” Belzer says.

Basically, your credit serves as an evaluation tool in multiple areas of your adult life—and so starting to establish a solid credit history and good credit score as a young adult will set you up for success as you make your way through adulthood.

What to look for in a credit card

Now that you know why it’s important to take this step in your 20s, let’s talk about what to look for when choosing the best first credit card for young adults (or, depending on your existing credit history, the best second credit card for young adults—or beyond).

When evaluating potential credit cards, make sure that you understand:

  • Fees. “Credit cards can have many fees; everything from annual fees to late payment and over-the-limit fees,” Belzer says—and those fees can quickly add up. When choosing a card, you want to have the lowest fees possible; that way, you’re spending your money on your balance—not on a bunch of unnecessary or unexpected fees.
  • Interest rates. Ideally, you’ll pay your credit card balance off in full each month and not accrue any interest. But in the case that you can’t pay it off completely, you want to make sure that the card you select has reasonable interest rates. “Look for cards with low-interest rates, especially if there’s a possibility of carrying a balance,” says real estate and finance expert Liz Hutz.
  • Credit requirements. “Determine what your needs are,” Belzer says. “For example, do you have no credit score? Then you’ll need a card good for those without credit.” In other words, the best credit cards for young adults with good credit are going to be different from the best credit cards for young adults with no credit history.

So, before you pick one, look at the current state of your credit and choose a card that aligns with where you’re at. “Be realistic about which cards you can qualify for based on your current credit score,” Hutz says.

  • Perks and bonuses. Another thing you’ll want to consider is how you spend your money and what you’re going to use your card for—then, look for a card that will offer the best bonuses based on that usage. “Consider what kind of rewards are offered—cashback, points, or travel miles—and choose a program that aligns with your spending habits,” Hutz says.

For example, if you’re a student who spends most of your money on food, you’ll want to look for a credit card that offers a cash back bonus for food purchases. Or, if you love to travel, you’ll want to look for a credit card that offers travel-related bonuses—like extra points for travel-related expenses or discounts on hotels or car rentals.

  • Introductory rate. If you’re planning to use your credit card to make a big purchase, look for a card that has a low introductory rate. “Some cards offer 0% APR for an initial period, which can be beneficial for large purchases or balance transfers,” Hutz says.

5 of the best credit cards for young adults to consider

Now that we’ve covered what to look for in a credit card, take a look at some of our picks and find the best one for you.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is a great option for adults with good credit and who like to travel.

While there is an annual fee of $95 (and a variable interest rate of 21.49-28.49%, as of May 2024), this card offers great rewards on travel, including an annual hotel credit and 5x points on travel purchased via the Chase Travel platform.

The card also offers a bonus of 75,000 points after spending $4000 in the first three months following account opening (which, when booking through Chase Travel, can be worth over $900).

Capital One Platinum Secured Credit Card

If you’re a young adult who is trying to rebound from past credit mistakes, you’ll definitely want to check out the Platinum Secured Credit Card from Capital One.

While this card requires a security deposit and has a higher-than-average interest rate (29.99% variable APR as of May 2024), it also has no annual fee—and once you prove you can use the card responsibly, you could earn back your deposit and get upgraded to a standard credit card.

Plus, the card offers automatic credit line reviews—and if you use it wisely, you can qualify for a higher credit line in as little as six months.

Discover it® Student Cash Back

If you’re a student, the Discover it® Student Cash Back card is a definite contender for best credit card for young adults with no credit.

This card is geared towards students, so having little to no credit history is not a problem. And that’s not all; not only does this card not have an annual fee, but it offers a generous 5% cash-back on rotating categories (and 1% cash-back for all other purchases).

Discover also offers an unlimited cash back match for the first year . For example, if you accumulated $100 in cash back over the year, Discover would give you another $100.

Wells Fargo Active Cash Card

If you’re new to credit, getting a card with an overly complex fee or rewards structure can be overwhelming—which is why the Wells Fargo Active Cash Card could be considered one of the best first credit cards for young adults.

This card is all about simplicity; there’s no annual fee and you earn 2% cash back on all purchases at all times. Plus, this card offers a 0% APR on purchases and balance transfers for the first 15 months following card activation—which is one of the most competitive intro rate periods available for young adults. (Following the introductory period, the variable APR will be 20.24%, 25.24%, or 29.99%, as of May 2024)

Bilt Mastercard

Rent is the largest monthly expense for many young adults. But paying for your rent with a credit card can often mean dealing with hefty transaction fees, which adds to the expense. That’s why the Bilt Mastercard is such a great choice for young adults; not only can you pay rent without incurring a transaction fee, but you can also earn rewards points on your rent payments (1 point per dollar spent).

The card also features other reward categories (like 2x points on travel and 3x points on dining) and has no annual fee—making it a potential pick for best first time credit card for young adults.