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Best credit cards for young adults and young professionals

These cards are easiest to obtain and help you start your credit journey.

The best credit cards for young adults and young professionals are those that are easiest to obtain while offering great value for the cost. When you’re younger, you’ll likely have limited credit history for lenders to consider when processing credit card applications. Our guide looks at what you can do about it and what your options are to help you build your credit even if you’re new to the credit world.

Best for young adults with no credit

Petal® 2 "Cash Back, No Fees" Visa® Credit Card

Finder rating 3.1 / 5 ★★★★★

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on WebBank's secure site
Terms apply, see rates & fees
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This card is a solid option for young adults who have no credit. Build your credit with responsible card use and get access to better cards and better loan terms in the future. Plus, earn cash back on all your purchases and you won't pay an annual fee for the card.

Best for young adults who often travel

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Finder rating 4.6 / 5 ★★★★★

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on Bankrate's secure site
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Young adults with good credit or higher who often travel should definitely check out this card. That's because you get to earn accelerated points on travel and dining. Plus, cardholders can earn one of Chase's largest available signup bonuses and get a solid redemption rate on travel purchases.

Best overall cashback credit card

Chase Freedom Flex℠

Finder rating 4.7 / 5 ★★★★★

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on Creditcards.com's secure site
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The Chase Freedom Flex℠ is one of the best cashback cards you can currently get. This credit card offers cashback rates on a variety of categories and can transfer rewards to the lucrative Chase Ultimate Rewards program. You also get to earn a solid signup bonus and you get to save money on interest with a 0% intro APR period. And you get all these benefits without paying an annual fee.

Best for students

Capital One SavorOne Student Cash Rewards Credit Card

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If you're a student, Capital One's new Capital One SavorOne Student Cash Rewards Credit Card comes with tremendous value. It's nearly identical to the standard SavorOne, trading the welcome offer and intro APR for a low barrier to entry. Plus, it earns big in the everyday categories you're likely to spend in most as a young adult.

Best for people new to the US

Capital One Platinum Credit Card

Finder rating 4.5 / 5 ★★★★★

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on Capital One's secure site
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The Capital One Platinum Credit Card allows you to apply with an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) if you don't have a Social Security Number. This makes it a good choice to start building credit if you've recently arrived in the US and you're not necessarily a student.

Methodology

We started our comparisons based on the handful of cards on the market that don’t require a credit check or are designed for those new to credit. Among these, we identified cards that served various needs that concern young adults and professionals such as rewards, intro APR on purchases or travel. Those that best performed in these key areas are highlighted in our list.

What’s changed in 2022?

With the last year update, Chase Freedom Flex℠ is now the most rewarding cashback card with no annual fee. We’ve also added two new cards to our list: the Capital One SavorOne Student Cash Rewards Credit Card and the Capital One Platinum Credit Card.

3 reasons you should get a credit card as a young adult

There are a few major benefits to getting a credit card when you’re young.

  1. Build your credit score. This is the most important reason you want to start using a credit card as soon as possible. The longer you use a credit card, the better your credit history will be. If you build an excellent credit score early on, you’ll have the score necessary down the line for the most rewarding credit cards, mortgages and loans. Most major credit card issuers report card usage to all three major credit bureaus.
  2. Large variety of credit card options. There are a surprising number of credit cards available to those with no previous credit score. These cards have more favorable interest rates and perks compared to cards designed for fair or poor credit and may even come with rewards. As your creditworthiness increases using these cards, more credit card offers await with improved rewards rates and additional perks.
  3. Earn rewards. The sooner you can start earning points on your everyday purchases, the sooner you can reward yourself with cash back, travel, gift cards or more. You’re making money for spending money! You’ll find cards that earn on bonus categories you’re likely to frequently spend on, such as gas stations, supermarkets, drugstores and more.

How to pick the best credit card for you

Choosing the right credit card when you’re young comes down to your short-term financial needs and long-term financial goals. Here are a few things to consider as you make your decisions.

Consider your immediate financial need.

This is the easiest and most important place to start.

Outside of building credit, do you need to save interest on existing debts? Or do you need an interest-free period for your first year to load up on college expenditures? Or are you especially jazzed about earning card rewards?

Your financial need will directly affect the pool of cards you’re best off obtaining, whether it’s an introductory APR card or a rewards card.

Review your existing credit score.

Your credit score influences which credit cards you can qualify for — the higher the score, the better. A poor credit score will lock you out of many options, so understanding your credit score range can help you choose based on the cards that are most likely to approve you.

Look for the benefits most appealing to you.

Different types of cards will come with different kinds of benefits to suit your financial needs.

For example, some balance transfer cards may come with a balance transfer fee waiver for a limited time. Or, rewards cards may offer travel rewards or purchase protection. Once you’ve chosen the type of card you want, these nitty-gritty details are where you should look next.

Look for a low APR.

As a best practice, strive to pay off your monthly credit card statement in full at the end of each billing period. But if you need to carry a balance, you’ll want a card with as low an APR as possible. Most cards offer variable APRs which can range based on your credit score.

Everyday rewards are the best credit cards for millennials

We’ve had plenty of inquiries about the best credit cards for millennials, who are collectively approaching the tail end of “young adult.”

Considering millennials are perennially beset by economic woes, most have turned to cashback rewards cards on everyday purchases as their cards of choice. Some of our favorite cards for this purpose include:

  • Citi Custom Cash℠ Card. This cashback card makes it easy to maximize rewards each month since you don’t have to worry about spending categories.
  • Citi® Double Cash Card. The Citi® Double Cash Card is another great choice thanks to above average 2% rate on all purchases (1% for the purchase and 1% when you pay your balance).
  • Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express. The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express is one of the most lucrative everyday cashback cards on the market and is particularly great for groceries if you don’t mind the card’s annual fee. (Terms apply, see rates & fees).
  • Chase Freedom Unlimited®. Chase’s flat-rate card spices up its 1.5% rate with several larger earning categories, including 4.5% back on dining and drugstores and 6.5% back on travel booked through Chase.

Credit cards for young adults

Here are a few of our favorite cards for young adults looking to start building their credit. Select up to four cards and choose Compare to view them side by side.

1 - 3 of 8
Name Product Filter values Minimum deposit required Purchase APR Annual fee Minimum Credit Score
Capital One Platinum Secured Credit Card
$49, $99 or $200
28.49% variable
$0
New to credit
A no-annual-fee secured card that separates itself from the pack with a $200 credit limit after making a more affordable than average deposit of $49, $99 or $200.
Capital One SavorOne Student Cash Rewards Credit Card
N/A
17.99% to 27.99% variable
$0
New to credit
Limited Time Offer: Earn $100 when you spend $100 in the first three months with this student card.
OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card
Starting at $200
18.89% variable
$35
300
Apply for this card with no credit check if you're new to credit or have bad credit.
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Compare up to 4 providers

Alternatives to credit cards for young adults

Not all credit card issuers offer a product specifically designed for the younger crowd. If you can’t find or qualify for a card that strikes your fancy, you can try to become an authorized user on a trusted friend or family member’s account. This can let you use a credit card you wouldn’t normally qualify for, and the cardholder handles account management and repayment.

Bottom line

The sooner you can get and start responsibly using your first credit card, the sooner you can take advantage of a strong credit score. Take your time, evaluate your options and pay off your card debt in full every month to get off on the right foot. With enough time, you’ll be able to take your pick from some of the best credit cards on the market.

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