Compare the best credit cards for young adults

If you're a young adult in 2023, see how a credit card can help you manage your finances, and what cards are best suited for young people.

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Credit cards that might be suitable for young adults

Table: sorted by representative APR, promoted deals first
Name Product Finder score Annual/monthly fees Initial credit limits Minimum income Representative APR Incentive Link
Additional account needed
HSBC Student Credit Card Visa
3.5
★★★★★
£0
Min. limit £250, max. limit £500.
Not specified
18.9%
Available alongside an HSBC Student Account (receive £100 and a 1-year subscription to Headspace when you open a new student account).
Representative example: When you spend £500 at a purchase rate of 18.9% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 18.9% APR (variable).
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Barclaycard Forward Credit Card
4.0
★★★★★
£0
Min. limit £50, max. limit £1,200.
£3000
33.9%
Rate discounts: 3% interest rate reduction if you make all your repayments on time for the first year, and a further drop of up to 2% more if you continue to do so in the second year.
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 33.9% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 33.9% APR (variable).
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118 118 Money Guaranteed Rate Card
3.5
★★★★★
£0
Min. limit £500, max. limit not specified.
£8400
34%
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 34% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 34% APR (variable).
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Zable credit card
3.5
★★★★★
£0
Min. limit £200, max. limit £1,500.
£9,600
48.9%
Representative example: Representative 48.9% APR (variable). Based on assumed borrowing of £1200. Rate of interest 48.9% (variable) annual.
Check eligibility
Additional account needed
AIB Student Credit Card
4.0
★★★★★
£0
Min. limit £300, max. limit not specified.
Not specified
12.9%
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 12.2% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 12.9% APR (variable).
Additional account needed
TSB Student Credit Card
3.5
★★★★★
£0
Min. limit £500, max. limit £1,000.
Not specified
21.9%
Representative example: When you spend £1,000 at a purchase rate of 21.95% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 21.9% APR (variable).
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Name Product Finder score Finder score Purchases Annual/monthly fees Initial credit limits Representative APR Link Incentive Representative example
Additional account needed
HSBC Student Credit Card Visa
3.5
★★★★★
★★★★★
Expert analysis
18.9%
£0
Min. limit £250, max. limit £500.
18.9% APR (variable)
Go to site
Available alongside an HSBC Student Account (receive £100 and a 1-year subscription to Headspace when you open a new student account).
Representative example: When you spend £500 at a purchase rate of 18.9% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 18.9% APR (variable).
Barclaycard Forward Credit Card
4.0
★★★★★
★★★★★
Expert analysis
0% for 3 months reverting to 33.9%
£0
Min. limit £50, max. limit £1,200.
33.9% APR (variable)
Go to site
Rate discounts: 3% interest rate reduction if you make all your repayments on time for the first year, and a further drop of up to 2% more if you continue to do so in the second year.
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 33.9% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 33.9% APR (variable).
Additional account needed
AIB Student Credit Card
4.0
★★★★★
★★★★★
Expert analysis
12.2%
£0
Min. limit £300, max. limit not specified.
12.9% APR (variable)
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 12.2% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 12.9% APR (variable).
Additional account needed
TSB Student Credit Card
3.5
★★★★★
★★★★★
Expert analysis
21.95%
£0
Min. limit £500, max. limit £1,000.
21.9% APR (variable)
Representative example: When you spend £1,000 at a purchase rate of 21.95% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 21.9% APR (variable).
Ocean Credit Card
3.5
★★★★★
★★★★★
Expert analysis
39.94%
£0
Min. limit £200, max. limit £8,000.
39.9% APR (variable)
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 39.94% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 39.9% APR (variable).
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Name Product Finder score Purchases Balance transfers Annual/monthly fees Representative APR Incentive Link
The Co-operative Bank 3 Year Fixed Rate Credit Card
3.5
★★★★★
8.9%
8.9%
(0% fee)
£0
8.9% APR (variable)
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 8.9% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 8.9% APR (variable).
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Overview

Used sensibly, a credit card can be a handy financial tool. It can help you to spread the cost of an expensive purchase, it provides important purchase protection and it can help you improve your credit rating.

However, when you’re younger, credit cards can be harder to access simply because you’re unlikely to have much of a credit history. This means that lenders have no way of being able to assess how responsible you are with credit and your credit card options are likely to be more limited compared to someone with a credit history spanning several years.

Should I be getting a credit card?

Whether you should apply for a credit card will depend on your personal circumstances. First of all, keep in mind that if you’re under 21, you will only be accepted for a credit card if you have your own independent source of income – typically, if you’re employed or receiving a student loan. If that isn’t the case, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to get one.

Secondly, if you’re completely new to banking and have never, for example, had a current account, you should probably start from there. A regular current account with a debit card and overdraft facility will usually cover most of your financial needs.

However, if you have a regular income and you’re looking for some extra flexibility if you’re periodically strapped for cash, or if you want to start building more of a credit history, a responsibly-used credit card could be a good idea.

What are my options?

When applying for a credit card, it’s important to understand which type of card you’re most likely to get accepted for. Given you’re young and won’t yet have an established credit history, you’re unlikely to get accepted for credit cards that offer a wide range of rewards, nor are you likely to qualify for the longest 0% interest deals. These are usually reserved for those with excellent credit records.

Instead, because this might be the first time you’ve applied to borrow money and there won’t be much to see on your credit file, lenders will view you as higher risk.

For this reason, if you do get a credit card, you’ll probably be offered a low credit limit and possibly a higher interest rate. If you use the card correctly, this shouldn’t matter too much as long as you clear your balance in full every month, you won’t be charged any interest at all. However, if you don’t, a credit card can quickly become a very expensive way of borrowing money.

Below, we’ve outlined some credit card options to explore, depending on your personal and financial circumstances:

  • A student credit card. If you’re enrolled in college or uni, you might get accepted for a student credit card. These usually have lower credit limits and higher interest rates, but there’s not usually an annual fee.
  • A credit builder card. These credit cards are designed for those who have little to no credit history – they usually won’t charge an annual fee but have high interest rates. Because of this they’re best treated as a “stepping stone” to products with better rates.
  • A low-rate card with no annual/monthly fee. To get approved for one of these cards, you’ll probably need to be in full-time employment and in your 20s. Don’t be surprised if you’re offered a card, but at a slightly higher rate – card issuers only have to offer the advertised representative APR to 51% of successful applicants. The remaining 49% could be offered a higher rate.

As well as credit cards, there are a number of other options you could explore to get access to extra cash, or to improve your credit score so that you can secure better deals in the future. These include:

  • A fee-free overdraft. If you only occasionally need a little extra cash to make it to the end of the month, an overdraft might be an option to consider – many student bank accounts offer fee-free overdrafts and the limit often increases while you progress with your studies. Limits can be as high as £2,000 or £3,000 in the best cases.
  • A prepaid card. If you’re a complete newbie when it comes to banking, a prepaid card is probably a better option. It’s very different from a credit card – you are not borrowing any money – but you can top it up and use it for your daily spending.
  • Credit-building tools. If you’re seeking to kickstart a good credit record and aren’t so fussed about borrowing money, tools such as Loqbox offer an innovative approach.

How can I find a competitive credit card?

Using a comparison tool, such as that on offer from Finder, will help to make your life a little easier when it comes to hunting out the right credit card. It’s also worth following the steps below:

Step 1: Work to improve your credit score

There are a number of simple ways you can improve your credit score, including registering on the electoral roll and paying bills on time. You won’t see an immediate impact, but you should start to see an improvement in your credit score after a few months. Head to the bad credit section of our website to learn more.

Step 2: Think about what you need, but also about what you can get

In your search, don’t waste time looking for credit cards that offer the best rewards or interest-free deals as you’re unlikely to qualify for them. Instead, think about why you need a credit card. Are you looking to use it when you’re temporarily strapped for cash or are you hoping to improve your credit score, or both? Prioritise the features that will give you most of what you need.

Step 3: Compare

Credit cards have dozens of different features, but once you know what you need, you’ll also know which ones to compare. Look for credit cards that don’t charge an annual fee and don’t have strict income requirements. Interest rates may be higher than you expect and the credit limits will probably be low. If you opt for a student card, bear in mind that they’re usually tied to a student bank account meaning you have to have both with the same bank.

Step 4: Use an eligibility tool

Once you think you’ve made a choice, it’s a good idea to use an eligibility checker, like Finder's free tool, before you apply in full. This will tell you which cards you’re most likely to get accepted for and, as they use a “soft credit check”, this won’t appear on your credit report.

Step 5: Apply

If you haven’t skipped any of the previous steps, this one should be a piece of cake. Have all your personal and financial details ready and always provide accurate information. You can usually apply online and it shouldn’t take longer than 10-15 minutes.

Step 6: Set up a direct debit for repayments

Protect your credit score by setting up a direct debit to cover at least the minimum required payment each month. If you can, set it up to clear the full balance each month – that way you’ll usually avoid interest altogether.

Pros and cons of getting a credit card as a young adult

Pros

  • It allows you to spread your costs. This can be handy for those months when you have several expenses to deal with.
  • It helps you build your credit score. This can enable you to get access to more competitive deals in the future.
  • You might bag a few perks. Don’t expect much when it comes to rewards – they probably shouldn’t be your primary focus – but you may be able to collect a few loyalty points as you spend.
  • You learn early on how credit cards work. This means that when the time comes to get a new, better credit card, already be familiar with how to use one.

Cons

  • Low credit limits. Lenders will be wary about offering you a high credit limit early on. But, if you can show that you’re responsible with your credit, credit limits can be reviewed once you’ve had a card for a while.
  • High interest rates. Try to avoid carrying a balance from month to month so that you don’t pay these rates.
  • Risk of getting into debt. It can be easy to spend more than you can afford to repay on a credit card and your debt can quickly spiral out of control.
  • Risk of damaging your credit score. If you don’t use your credit card responsibly (missing repayments, going over your limit, etc), your credit score will drop and you could find it harder to get accepted for credit again in the future.

Frequently asked questions

We show offers we can track - that's not every product on the market...yet. Unless we've said otherwise, products are in no particular order. The terms "best", "top", "cheap" (and variations of these) aren't ratings, though we always explain what's great about a product when we highlight it. This is subject to our terms of use. When you make major financial decisions, consider getting independent financial advice. Always consider your own circumstances when you compare products so you get what's right for you.

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