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Best Credit Cards for Young Adults and Young Professionals

If you’re just starting your career, a credit card can be a valuable part of your financial toolbox. The best credit cards for young adults have good rewards and benefits but low fees. The best credit cards for young adults all have a few things in common. They all have low (or no) annual fees. They all report to the major credit bureaus on a monthly basis, giving you the chance to steadily improve your credit score. And they all provide their fair share of perks. But the best credit cards for young adults differ in some important ways, too, just like young adults themselves. Some are attainable only for young professionals who’ve already built good credit. Others serve the needs of people with limited credit experience or a history of financial mistakes. Some require an active college or university email address, while others cater to young adults who’ve already entered the “real world.” They also come from several different credit card issuers. As such, their rates, fees, rewards and

Best Credit Cards for Young Adults and Young Professionals List

Citi® Double Cash Card

The Citi® Double Cash Card is an interesting cash back credit card with a unique offer.It offers 1% cash back on purchases when they are initially made, and then an additional 1% when those purchases are actually paid for. With no annual fee and a 18-month introductory APR of 0% on balance transfers, this is, by the numbers, one of the most rewarding general-purpose cash back credit cards available.

Chase Sapphire Preferred Card

The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card is a popular card among travelers. It offers a hefty signup bonus, flexible points that transfer to many frequent traveler programs, and big discounts when redeeming points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards.You’ll get 2X points per dollar on travel and dining at restaurants. Use this card for all your travel and dining spending, and then use the points for travel expenses.People also like this card because it’s made of metal. It’s one of our picks for Best Travel Credit Cards.

Amex EveryDay Credit Card

The Amex EveryDay Credit Card is a good rewards card for people who make many purchases, spending a lot on groceries. It offers points for purchases, as well as a bonus for using the card more each month.You can get the most value for your points by transferring them to a travel partner. But the normal redemption options are pretty good too, providing up to 2.4% cash back depending on how you earn and redeem points.There’s an upgraded version of this card as well, the Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card. See how they compare in our Review of the Amex EveryDay Cards.

Capital One® Journey® Student Credit Card

The Capital One® Journey® Student Credit Card is good for students with limited or average credit who want to build credit and get rewarded for it.This card is actually available to anyone, whether you’re a student or not. It’s a solid option to build or improve your credit, while earning a bit of cash back too.

Chase Sapphire Reserve

The Chase Sapphire Reserve Card is a brand new card, offering some of the best travel rewards and benefits on the market.You’ll get 3X points on travel and dining, as well as 50,000 point bonus for spending $4,000 in the first 3 months (worth $1,500 when redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards).You’ll also get a $300 travel credit each year, and other benefits and features that are worth hundreds of dollars. This is a Visa Infinite card, providing even more valuable services than Visa Signature.This card has a large annual fee of $450, so make sure you’ll be using it often enough to pay for the cost.

Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card

The Citi Diamond Preferred® Card is a solid credit card, offering an introductory APR of 0% for 21 months on balance transfers and 12 months on purchases. There are some fairly good benefits too. See how this card stacks up to a similar one in our comparison: The Citi Simplicity® Card vs. The Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card.

Airline Credit Cards

Citi® / AAdvantage® Gold World Elite™ Mastercard®

  • 0% Intro APR on balance transfers and purchases for 15 months; after that, the variable APR will be 16.99% - 24.99% based on your creditworthiness
  • There is a balance transfer fee of either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater
  • Earn 25,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after making $750 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Receive 25% savings on in-flight food and beverage purchases when you use your card on American Airlines flights
  • Earn 1 AAdvantage® mile for every $1 spent on purchases
  • Reduced Mileage Awards: Fly for 5,000 fewer AAdvantage® miles roundtrip to select destinations

Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard®

  • For a limited time, earn 60,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after making $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • First checked bag is free on domestic American Airlines itineraries for you and up to four companions traveling with you on the same reservation
  • Enjoy preferred boarding on American Airlines flights
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases
  • Receive 25% savings on in-flight food and beverage purchases when you use your card on American Airlines flights
  • Double AAdvantage® miles on eligible American Airlines purchases
  • Earn 10% of your redeemed AAdvantage® miles back – up to 10,000 AAdvantage® miles each calendar year

Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard®

  • Earn 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after spending $5,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Admirals Club® membership for you and guests with you
  • Complimentary Admirals Club® lounge access for authorized users
  • Earn 10,000 AAdvantage® Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs) after you spend $40,000 in purchases within the year
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases
  • Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases and 1 AAdvantage® mile for every $1 spent on other purchases
  • First checked bag is free on domestic American Airlines itineraries for you and up to eight companions traveling with you on the same reservation

CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Mastercard®

  • Designed for businesses
  • For a limited time, earn 60,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after making $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • First checked bag is free on domestic American Airlines itineraries for you and up to four companions traveling with you on the same reservation
  • Enjoy preferred boarding on American Airlines flights
  • Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles per $1 spent on eligible American Airlines purchases
  • Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent on purchases at telecommunications, car rental merchants and at gas stations
  • Earn 1 AAdvantage® mile per $1 spent on other purchases

AAdvantage® AviatorTM Red World Elite MasterCard®

  • First checked bag free for the primary cardmember and up to 4 companions on eligible bags when traveling on domestic itineraries operated by American Airlines
  • Earn 2X miles for every one dollar you spend on eligible American Airlines purchases
  • Group 1 boarding for the primary cardmember on domestic itineraries operated by American Airlines
  • Earn 1X miles on all other purchases
  • 10% of your redeemed miles back (10,000 maximum per calendar year)
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 25% inflight savings on food, beverages, and headsets on American Airlines-operated flights
  • $95 annual fee

What is a credit card for young adults?

A credit card for young adults is a line of credit that is designed for young adults, such as college students and recent graduates. In some cases, your line of credit is self-funded via a security deposit (more on that below). Other times, a bank funds your line of credit, and then you repay the bank by sending payments to your credit card company.

Selection Criteria: What Makes A Great Credit Card For Young Adults And Professionals?

  • Affordable annual fee: There are many cards without annual fees, but if you choose to pay for a credit card be sure you're getting your money's worth.
  • Fits your credit history: If you have limited or no credit history, your card options will be limited as well. But you should look for pre-approved offers, because you might qualify for cards you didn't expect.
  • Good rewards: Find a card that will provide the best reward rate for your regular, everyday spending. Signup bonuses can be very valuable as well.
  • Cost-saving travel benefits: Anyone spending a lot of money on travel every year could use perks on travel rewards cards for airport lounge access, travel credits, and upgraded member status with airlines and hotels.
  • 0% intro rates: Avoid carrying a balance on credit cards, unless you're using a card with a 0% APR.
  • No foreign transaction fees: If you're traveling outside the country or paying in foreign currency, look for cards without foreign transaction fees. This feature isn't very important otherwise.
  • Reliable customer service: Bad customer support can be a nightmare, especially if you're new to credit cards. The major credit card issuers generally have decent customer support.

Best Credit Card Tips for Young Adults

Get a Credit Card as Soon as Possible: Putting off your credit card application is a bad idea because it simply delays your credit-building efforts. A credit card is the most efficient credit-improvement tool available because it reports information to the major credit bureaus on a monthly basis and can be free to use.

As long as your account is in good standing, the information that gets reported will be positive and your credit score will rise. Your account will stay in good standing if you pay your bill on time each month or if you don’t make any purchases and simply maintain a balance of zero. In other words, you don’t actually need to use a credit card to build credit with one.

Set Up Automatic Monthly Payments: Payment history is the biggest component of a credit score, and setting up automatic monthly payments from a bank account is the easiest way to make sure you don’t lose credit just because you have a lot going on. That’s especially important for young adults, who often have a lot of new obligations. Just make sure you always have enough money in your bank account to cover at least your card’s minimum monthly payment.

Use Less Than 30% of Your Credit Limit: The amount of a credit card’s spending limit that you use each month, also known as credit utilization, is an important ingredient in your credit score and one of the easiest to control. In addition to spending less and making a bigger payment, you can also reduce your credit utilization by paying a credit card’s bill multiple times per month. Credit utilization is calculated using the balance listed on your monthly statement.

Review Your Transactions Each Month: Luxuries can quickly become necessities if you aren’t careful. Plus, avoiding debt and maximizing savings are key when you’re young because you want compounding – interest applying to interest that’s already been assessed – to work for you, rather than the other way around. You don’t want to wind up paying for fraudulent purchases, either. These are all good reasons to at least scan the purchases listed on your monthly credit card statements.

Keep an Eye on Your Credit Score: You may be able to improve your credit score enough to qualify for an even better credit card in a matter of months. Watching your credit score rise will help you determine when the time is right to apply.

Bottom Line

As a young adult, you’re still at the beginning of your credit journey. Whether you’re just starting out with credit or trying to recover from some bad decisions, there’s a credit card that can help you get on track.

Though you might be tempted to avoid credit altogether, there are advantages to building credit at a young age. After all, your credit score may determine whether you get approved for things such as an apartment rental or an auto loan.

Also, the length of your credit history contributes to your credit score, so starting early can give you the benefit of time (assuming your credit history is not full of missed payments and derogatory marks).

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