As a personal finance blogger who has a lot of personal experience with credit cards (both good and bad), I get the question “What are the best credit cards for young adults?” a lot. Or some variation:
- I’m a recent high school or college graduate, what credit cards are right for me?
- What’s a good first credit card?
- And when should somebody get a first credit card anyway?
The best credit cards for young adults are cards that offer a good chance of approval without charging unnecessary fees.
Choosing the right card all depends on whether you have already established credit or not. Do you already have at least one credit card? Do you have student loans? If you’re still unsure, check your credit score to find out what kinds of credit cards you’ll qualify for.
If you have no credit history, you’ll need to read up on building credit for the first time. In some cases you’ll need to get a special type of product called a secured credit card that works likes a debit card (with money you deposit in a bank account) but helps you build credit.
The best credit cards for young adults
Discover it® – Double Cash Back your first year
If you have excellent credit and want strong cash rewards, check out the Discover it® – Double Cash Back your first year card, which offers unlimited cash back and up to 5% in rotating categories. Read our full review. Note that this card requires a strong credit history but, if you have it, the combination of cash rewards, low interest rates, top-rated customer service, and late payment forgiveness make it an ideal choice for people new to credit. I carried the earlier version of this card — the Discover More card — for about eight years in my twenties.
Credit Needed: Excellent
- New! We'll DOUBLE all the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year. So if you earned $100 cash back, we'll double it to $200—Automatically. Only for new cardmembers.*
- 5% cash back in categories that change each quarter like department stores, Amazon.com and more -up to the quarterly maximum when you sign up.* 1% cash back on all other purchases.
- 0% intro APR* on purchases & balance transfers for 12 months—then a variable purchase APR applies, currently 10.99% – 22.99%. A 3% fee applies to each transferred balance.
- New Freeze It℠ on/off switch lets you prevent new purchases, cash advances & balance transfers on misplaced cards in seconds by mobile app & online.* Plus get 100% U.S.-based service.
- Track your recent FICO® Credit Scores for free in one easy-to-read chart on monthly statements & online.*
- No annual fee.* No overlimit fee. No foreign transaction fee. No late fee on first late payment & paying late won't raise your APR.*
- Each Discover purchase is monitored. If it's unusual, you're alerted by e-mail, phone or text and you're never responsible for unauthorized purchases on your Discover card.
- Click "Apply Now". *See rates, rewards, FICO® Credit Score terms & other information.
|Intro APRPurchases||Intro TermPurchases||Intro APRBalance Transfers||Intro TermBalance Transfers||Regular APR||Annual Fee|
|0%||12 months||0%||12 months||10.99% - 22.99% Variable*||$0|
Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card
If you are starting to build credit, the Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card provides a good chance of approval at a modest annual fee with a well-known national credit card bank. Even better, you’ll earn 1.5 percent cash back on every purchase with no rotating categories or other 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 off in full each month to avoid finance charges.
Barclaycard® Rewards MasterCard®
The Barclaycard® Rewards MasterCard® provides a solid rewards program to applicants with average credit. Note that you’ll need some credit history to get approved for this card, but if your credit falls short of the “good credit” category needed for other cards, this card will get you 2x cash back rewards on gas, groceries, and utilities and 1x cash back rewards on all other purchases.
Great For: Rewards for spending on gas and groceries
Credit Needed: Fair
- No annual fee
- 2X cash back rewards on purchases for gas, groceries and utilities
- 1X cash back rewards on all other purchases
- Cash back rewards are earned as points which can be redeemed for rewards such as cash back statement credits and gift cards starting at 1,000 points for $10
- Chip card technology, so paying for your purchases is more secure at chip-card terminals in the U.S. and abroad
- Reports to all 3 major credit bureaus monthly providing you the opportunity to rebuild your credit score
- Complimentary FICO® Scores as a benefit to active cardmembers.
|Regular APR||Annual Fee|
Not decided yet? See even more recommended credit cards »
What If I’m Under 21?
Good question. In 2010, the US Card Act created new laws designed to prevent some abusive practices in the credit card industry. Among these is a law that makes it more difficult for applicants under 21 to get a credit card. The law requires applicants under 21 to have a cosigner or prove their financial independence and ability to repay a debt. What this really means is, if you’re under 21, you should have either a cosigner or a documented income before apply for a credit card.
Disclaimer: One way I’m able to support my blogging while helping you is to link to products I like and earn a referral commission if you sign up. I only link to products I trust. That said, you should know that if you click the links to these cards and ultimately apply for and are approved for that card, I may be paid for that. If you choose to support Money Under 30 in that way, thanks!