Money Under 30 reviews the best credit cards for young adults. Got good credit? Get our picks to upgrade your rewards card or snag a cash sign-up bonus. New to credit? Find the best first credit card to build up your credit score.

Throughout the entire year, but especially just after the holiday season and immediately after New Years, I get asked this question:

“What are the best credit cards for young adults?”

Or I get asked this:

  • I’m a recent college graduate. What’s the best starter credit card for me?
  • What’s the best first credit card to get?
  • I’m a young professional with some credit history. I need a credit card for business travel—what should I get?

As a publisher of Money Under 30, I’m happy to dive in to answer the question. But more importantly, I want to really share with you not only the answer – that is which are the best credit cards for young adults and new credit card users – but also why.

The why is just as important in my book.

How I came up with the list of the top 10 credit cards for young adults

I’ve been covering credit and credit cards for over 10 years. When choosing the best credit cards for young adults, I looked for cards that:

  1. Offer better-than-average approval odds for consumers with shorter credit histories. (This is based upon issuer-provided guidelines and Money Under 30 data from readers who click from our Website to apply for a credit card.)
  2. Reward spending in categories most popular with our readers such as dining, travel or Amazon purchases
  3. Do not charge excessive fees

Where appropriate, I selected rewards cards with programs that reward any spending level—not just someone who can charge thousands a month to their card. I also tried to stick to cards with no annual fees, although there are two exceptions.

Overview: Best credit cards for young adults

In the event you don’t have much of a credit history yet, shopping for cards can be frustrating. You find a great credit card, only to be declined. If the most rewarding credit cards are still out of reach, there are still very good credit cards designed for consumers with average or limited credit.

CardBest for:Minimum Credit Score Required
Jasper Mastercard®New to credit/no creditNew to credit
Chase Sapphire Preferred® CardPremium Travel RewardsExcellent/good (700+)
Discover It® Cash BackCash Back
Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit CardDining and Entertainment
Chase Freedom Unlimited®Grocery store purchase
Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit CardCash BackAverage/fair/limited (600 – 699)
Capital One® Platinum Credit CardNo Annual Fee
Discover it® Student Cash BackStudents
Credit One Bank® Unsecured Visa with Cash Back Rewards Cash Back—No Security DepositPoor (300 – 599)
Capital One® Secured Mastercard®First Credit Card—Credit Builder

Best credit cards for young adults — new to credit/no credit

Jasper Mastercard®

In A Nutshell

The Jasper Mastercard® is the premium US-based Mastercard with a high credit limit, and no annual fee,³ especially helpful to customers who are new to credit in the U.S., such as young adults who have recently started their professional lives and professionals who have recently relocated to the U.S. for work.

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In A Nutshell

The Jasper Mastercard® is the premium US-based Mastercard with a high credit limit, and no annual fee,³ especially helpful to customers who are new to credit in the U.S., such as young adults who have recently started their professional lives and professionals who have recently relocated to the U.S. for work.

Read review
Credit score requirements: Credit Score requirements are based on Money Under 30’s own research of approval rates; meeting the minimum score will give you the best chance to be approved for the credit card of your choice. If you don’t know your credit score, use our free credit score estimator tool to get a better idea of which cards you’ll qualify for. *Money Under 30 uses a [FICO 8] [Vantage 3.0] score, which is one of many different types of credit scores. *A creditor may use a different score when deciding whether to approve you for credit. ?
  • New to Credit
Poor 500-599
Fair 600-699
Good 700-749
Excellent 750-850

What we like:

  • Helpful for young professionals in the U.S. who are new to credit and building credit from scratch

  • No Social Security Number² required to apply if you are new to the US and in the country on a work visa

  • No annual fee³, no security deposit, and no foreign transaction fees

  • *Jasper Legal Disclosure:
  • ² No SSN is required to apply for applicants who are new to the U.S. and are in the country on a work visa. SSN is required within 60 days of card activation. Card can only be activated from within the US.
  • ³Review the Jasper fee schedule
Intro APR Purchases
N/A
Intro Term Purchases
N/A
Intro APR Balance Transfers
N/A
Intro Term Balance Transfers
N/A
Regular APR
15.49% - 24.99% Variable
Annual Fee
$0³

Apply Now >>

Jasper Mastercard®

The Jasper Mastercard® is designed for new borrowers. You don’t need a credit history to apply if you don’t already have one and your monthly activity will be reported to both Equifax and TransUnion. Jasper Mastercard® uses technology to determine your credit limit, considering factors such as past and present employment, not just credit history. This is how they can offer up to a $5,000 credit limit even to customers who are new to credit.

Once you have the card, pay your bill on time each month and the information will be reported to Equifax and TransUnion, strengthening your credit score. The Jasper Mastercard® can even help with that. Just pay your bill on time or set up automated installments to make sure you never miss a payment.

Jasper also offers a straightforward 1% cash back on all eligible purchases, and you’ll earn that cash back as an automatic credit to your Jasper account each month (as long as your account is active and in good standing).

The APR on purchases is relatively low: 15.49% - 24.99% Variable and there’s no annual fee³ to keep your costs low. You can also earn a reward for each friend you refer to the card, upon approval and card activation. Terms apply.

Learn more: See card details/apply.

*Jasper Legal Disclosure
² No SSN is required to apply for applicants who are new to the U.S. and are in the country on a work visa. SSN is required within 60 days of card activation. Card can only be activated from within the US.
³Review the Jasper fee schedule

Details: Best credit cards for young adults—good credit

The very best credit card offers look to attract new creditworthy customers with promotions like cash sign-up bonuses, 0% intro APRs and generous rewards programs.

These cards require good or excellent credit, which means you will need to:

  1. Have had open loan and credit card accounts for five years or more
  2. Have had no late payments in the last two years
  3. Have not applied for credit more than twice in the last year

If you’re a young professional with established credit, here are some of our recommended credit cards:

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

In A Nutshell

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card sets the standard for travel rewards by offering an excellent 2x points on all travel and dining at restaurant purchases that you then can transfer to airline and hotel partners. And points are worth 25% more when you redeem travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards. That means that the killer 80,000 point sign-up bonus is worth $1,000 towards travel.

Read review
Apply Now On the Secure Website

In A Nutshell

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card sets the standard for travel rewards by offering an excellent 2x points on all travel and dining at restaurant purchases that you then can transfer to airline and hotel partners. And points are worth 25% more when you redeem travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards. That means that the killer 80,000 point sign-up bonus is worth $1,000 towards travel.

Read review
Credit score requirements: Credit Score requirements are based on Money Under 30’s own research of approval rates; meeting the minimum score will give you the best chance to be approved for the credit card of your choice. If you don’t know your credit score, use our free credit score estimator tool to get a better idea of which cards you’ll qualify for. *Money Under 30 uses a [FICO 8] [Vantage 3.0] score, which is one of many different types of credit scores. *A creditor may use a different score when deciding whether to approve you for credit. ?
  • Excellent
Poor 500-599
Fair 600-699
Good 700-749
Excellent 750-850

What we like:

  • A monster of an up-front bonus. 80,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 in the first three months

  • 2x points per dollar spent on all travel and dining at restaurants, worldwide

  • Points are worth 25% more when you redeem travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards

  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide, eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,000 toward travel.
  • Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on orders over $12 for a minimum of one year on qualifying food purchases with DashPass, DoorDash's subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.
  • Earn 5X points on Lyft rides through March 2022. That’s 3X points in addition to the 2X points you already earn on travel.
Intro APR Purchases
N/A
Intro Term Purchases
0 months
Intro APR Balance Transfers
N/A
Intro Term Balance Transfers
0 months
Regular APR
15.99%-22.99% Variable
Annual Fee
$95

Apply Now >>

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is definitely one of our favorite travel rewards cards, but don’t apply unless you’re a big spender (and a big traveler).

First the good. The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card earns 2 points per $1 spent on travel and dining and 1 point per $1 spent on everything else. On top of that, you can get a whopping 80,000 sign up bonus points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That’s a $1,000 travel value – the highest in the business.

Here’s the kicker. There’s a $95 annual fee. You really need to be a big spender to make this card worth your while. If you want to avoid the annual fee, we recommend looking at the alternative cards here. But if you’re living large, this is the perfect card for you.

Learn more: See card details/apply or read our Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card review.

Discover it® Cash Back

My top cash back credit card pick for young adults is the Discover it® Cash Back.

The Discover it® Cash Back requires good credit but, if you have it, offers benefits that are hard to beat: Generous cash rewards, reasonable interest rates, top-rated US-based customer service, awesome account apps, and late payment forgiveness. I carried an earlier version of this card—the Discover More card—in my twenties and was blown away by Discover’s customer service.

You’ll get a See Terms intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for See Terms.  After the intro rate expires, the ongoing APR becomes See Terms.

The Discover it® Cash Back also gives you 5% cash back in new bonus categories like gas, restaurants, Amazon and more—up to $1,500 every quarter you activate plus unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases.

Even better, you could turn $200 into $400 with the end of year match. Discover it® Cash Back will automatically match all the cash back you earn at the end of your first year (new cardmembers only). This sign-up bonus is potentially a lot more valuable than the others seen on no-annual fee (between $100 and $200) if you’ll spend a lot the first year.

Discover it® Cash Back’s category for October, November, and December 2020

For this quarter of 2020 – (October, November, December) – Discover it® Cash Back’s rotating categories are Amazon.com, Walmart.com, and Target.com. You’ll earn 5% cashback on up to $1,500 in purchases.

Learn more: See card details/apply or read our complete Discover it® Cash Back review.

Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card

Disclaimer – The information about the Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card has been collected independently by MoneyUnder30.com. The card details have not been reviewed or approved by the card issuer.

With the Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card you can save big on dining and entertainment, plus you can snag an impressive cash sign-up bonus.

The Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card offers an unlimited 4% cash back on dining and entertainment. You’ll also earn 2% cash back at grocery stores and 1% cash back on all other purchases.

If that wasn’t enough, the card has a $300 sign-up bonus after you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first three months from account opening. That’s just as good as the best sign-up bonus credit cards out there.

For these robust rewards package, you will have to pay a price. The Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card’s annual fee is $95

Learn more: See card details/apply or read our Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card review.

Chase Freedom Unlimited®

In A Nutshell

The Chase Freedom Unlimited opens up with a terrific bonus opportunity where you’ll earn $200 cash back after spending $500 in the first three months. Tack on a 0% intro APR for 15 months on purchases (standard 14.99% – 23.74% variable APR) add to that a strong everyday rewards program and it’s a terrific option for anyone looking to save a ton of money on everyday purchases.

Read review
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In A Nutshell

The Chase Freedom Unlimited opens up with a terrific bonus opportunity where you’ll earn $200 cash back after spending $500 in the first three months. Tack on a 0% intro APR for 15 months on purchases (standard 14.99% – 23.74% variable APR) add to that a strong everyday rewards program and it’s a terrific option for anyone looking to save a ton of money on everyday purchases.

Read review
Credit score requirements: Credit Score requirements are based on Money Under 30’s own research of approval rates; meeting the minimum score will give you the best chance to be approved for the credit card of your choice. If you don’t know your credit score, use our free credit score estimator tool to get a better idea of which cards you’ll qualify for. *Money Under 30 uses a [FICO 8] [Vantage 3.0] score, which is one of many different types of credit scores. *A creditor may use a different score when deciding whether to approve you for credit. ?
  • Good/
  • Excellent
Poor 500-599
Fair 600-699
Good 700-749
Excellent 750-850

What we like:

  • Earn a $200 cash bonus after spending $500 in the first three months.

  • 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (not including Target® or Walmart® purchases) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year and an unlimited 1.5% cash back on all other purchases.

  • 0% intro APR on purchases for 15 months; then a variable APR of 14.99% – 23.74%

  • Earn a $200 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.
  • Earn 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (not including Target® or Walmart® purchases) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year.
  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on all other purchases.
  • Earn 5% on travel purchased through Chase, 3% on dining at restaurants and drugstores, and 1.5% on all other purchases.
  • No annual fee
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases, then a variable APR of 14.99 - 23.74%.
  • No minimum to redeem for cash back. Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open
Intro APR Purchases
0% Intro APR on Purchases for 15 months
Intro Term Purchases
15 months
Intro APR Balance Transfers
N/A
Intro Term Balance Transfers
0 months
Regular APR
14.99 - 23.74% Variable
Annual Fee
$0

Apply Now >>

With Chase Freedom Unlimited®, you get a signup bonus of $200 when you spend $500 in the first three months of opening your account. You’ll also get 0% Intro APR on Purchases for 15 months. But the real benefits are in the rewards.

Chase welcomes you with plenty of thank-you gifts with the signup bonus, but that first year also gives you another enticing bonus of 5% cash back on every dollar you spend on groceries, up to $12,000. The cash back doesn’t include purchases at Walmart or Target, but you will earn 1.5% cash back on all other purchases.

Also, if you own a Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card or Chase Sapphire Reserve® Card, you can transfer your points to that card for additional savings. Just spend your points in the Chase Travel Center to increase your cash back to as much as 7.5% on your grocery purchases.

There’s also no annual fee for the Chase Freedom Unlimited®, so as long as you pay your balance off each month, you can sit back and enjoy fee-free cash back for many years to come.

Learn more: See card details/apply or read our Chase Freedom Unlimited® review.

Details: Best credit cards for young adults—average/limited credit

Average credit usually means that you have:

  1. Had open loan and credit card accounts for three years or more
  2. Had no more than one late payment in the last year
  3. Not applied for credit more than twice in the last six months.

If you have some credit history or average credit due to a few missed payments, here are some cards to consider:

Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card

In A Nutshell

If you don’t have the excellent credit needed to score some of the bonuses other Capital One credit cards offer, consider the Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card. It’s a terrific card for average credit and you can still earn 1.5% cash back on all purchases with a modest $39 annual fee.

Read review

In A Nutshell

If you don’t have the excellent credit needed to score some of the bonuses other Capital One credit cards offer, consider the Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card. It’s a terrific card for average credit and you can still earn 1.5% cash back on all purchases with a modest $39 annual fee.

Read review
Credit score requirements: Credit Score requirements are based on Money Under 30’s own research of approval rates; meeting the minimum score will give you the best chance to be approved for the credit card of your choice. If you don’t know your credit score, use our free credit score estimator tool to get a better idea of which cards you’ll qualify for. *Money Under 30 uses a [FICO 8] [Vantage 3.0] score, which is one of many different types of credit scores. *A creditor may use a different score when deciding whether to approve you for credit. ?
  • Fair
Poor 500-599
Fair 600-699
Good 700-749
Excellent 750-850

What we like:

  • 1.5% cash back on all purchases

  • Be automatically considered for a higher credit line in as little as 6 months

  • No foreign transaction fees and a modest $39 annual fee

Learn More >>

If you are starting to build credit, the Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card provides a good chance of approval with a modest annual fee (waived the first year) and a generous 1.5% cash back.

With the Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card, you’ll earn 1.5% cash back on every purchase with no rotating categories or 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 in full each month to avoid finance charges.

Learn more: See card details/where to apply or Compare the Quicksilver vs QuicksilverOne in this review.

Capital One® Platinum Credit Card

In A Nutshell

Finding an unsecured credit card with average credit can be difficult, but the Capital One® Platinum Credit Card is happy to have your business. You won’t find many perks to owning this credit card, but it’s a great first card for young people looking to build a strong credit history and there’s no annual fee.

Read review

In A Nutshell

Finding an unsecured credit card with average credit can be difficult, but the Capital One® Platinum Credit Card is happy to have your business. You won’t find many perks to owning this credit card, but it’s a great first card for young people looking to build a strong credit history and there’s no annual fee.

Read review
Credit score requirements: Credit Score requirements are based on Money Under 30’s own research of approval rates; meeting the minimum score will give you the best chance to be approved for the credit card of your choice. If you don’t know your credit score, use our free credit score estimator tool to get a better idea of which cards you’ll qualify for. *Money Under 30 uses a [FICO 8] [Vantage 3.0] score, which is one of many different types of credit scores. *A creditor may use a different score when deciding whether to approve you for credit. ?
  • Fair
Poor 500-599
Fair 600-699
Good 700-749
Excellent 750-850

What we like:

  • Only average / fair / limited credit is required for approval

  • Be automatically considered for a higher credit line in as little as 6 months

  • No annual fee or foreign transaction fees

Learn More >>

The Capital One® Platinum Credit Card is a great basic credit card with no annual fee for applicants with average or limited credit.

If you have a little bit of credit history (or a fair one that you want to improve), the Capital One® Platinum Credit Card is an ideal starter credit card. You won’t earn rewards with this card, but there’s no annual fee to worry about, either.

One of the great things about Capital One is that they offer cards like this and great prime rewards cards. So if you start with a Platinum card and use it responsibly for a while, you may be able to upgrade your account.

Learn more: See card details/apply or read our Capital One® Platinum Credit Card review

Discover it® Student Cash Back

If you’re in college, the Discover it® Student Cash Back is an excellent first credit card, offering all the amazing benefits of a Discover card with an increased chance of approval.

With the no-annual-fee Discover it® Student Cash Back, you will get 5% cash back in new bonus categories like gas, restaurants, Amazon and more—up to $1,500 every quarter you activate and unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases. You can also earn a $20 statement credit each school year your GPA is 3.0 or higher for up to the first five years.

Discover it® Student Cash Back also comes with an intro See Terms APR on purchases for See Terms .  After that the ongoing APR becomes See Terms.

Learn more: See card details/apply or read our complete review of Discover it® Student Cash Back.

Details: Best first credit cards—no security deposit

If you’ve never had a credit card or loan before, a secured credit card offers your best chance of approval.

If you have no credit or very limited credit, 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 like a debit card (with money you deposit in a bank account) but helps you build credit.

Credit One Bank® Unsecured Visa® with Cash Back Rewards

In A Nutshell

Designed for consumers with modest credit histories, The Credit One Bank® Unsecured Visa® with Cash Back Rewards offers 1% cash rewards on eligible purchases, zero fraud liability and no annual fee. Terms Apply.

Read review
Apply Now On the Secure Website Rates & Fees

In A Nutshell

Designed for consumers with modest credit histories, The Credit One Bank® Unsecured Visa® with Cash Back Rewards offers 1% cash rewards on eligible purchases, zero fraud liability and no annual fee. Terms Apply.

Read review
Credit score requirements: Credit Score requirements are based on Money Under 30’s own research of approval rates; meeting the minimum score will give you the best chance to be approved for the credit card of your choice. If you don’t know your credit score, use our free credit score estimator tool to get a better idea of which cards you’ll qualify for. *Money Under 30 uses a [FICO 8] [Vantage 3.0] score, which is one of many different types of credit scores. *A creditor may use a different score when deciding whether to approve you for credit. ?
  • Poor
Poor 500-599
Fair 600-699
Good 700-749
Excellent 750-850

What we like:

  • 1% cash back on all eligible purchases

  • No annual fee. Terms Apply

  • No security deposit required; and your credit score is not affected when you pre-qualify

  • See if you Pre-Qualify in less than 60 seconds–without affecting your credit score. It's fast, easy, and secure.
  • Get 1% cash back rewards on eligible purchases including gas, groceries, and services such as mobile phone, internet, cable and satellite TV. Terms apply.
  • This is a fully functional, unsecured credit card–not a debit card, prepaid card, or secured credit card with deposit requirements.
  • Credit One Bank evaluates every account for credit line increase opportunities. We'll let you know as soon as you're eligible for a higher credit line.
  • Take advantage of free online access to your Experian credit score and credit report summary so you can track the key factors impacting your credit health. Terms apply.
  • Zero Fraud Liability protects you if your card is ever lost or stolen. Rest easy knowing you won't be held responsible for unauthorized charges.
  • Access your account easily from your computer, smartphone, or tablet at CreditOneBank.com or the Credit One Bank Mobile App. You can make payments, see recent transactions, and update your account preferences all at the click of a button.
  • Carry a card that makes you smile by choosing from over 20 unique card designs in Credit One Bank's card gallery. A fee may apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Intro APR Purchases
N/A
Intro Term Purchases
0 months
Intro APR Balance Transfers
N/A
Intro Term Balance Transfers
0 months
Regular APR
17.99% to 23.99% Variable
Annual Fee
$0 - $99

Apply Now >>

Build credit while also earning cash back on your purchases.

Because if you’re building credit – no problem. The Credit One Bank® Unsecured Visa with Cash Back Rewards lets you keep track of your credit, thanks to free access to your Experian score and credit report. You’ll be able to gradually see how your monthly payments are helping strengthen your score, and Credit One Bank automatically reviews your account with the potential of increasing your credit line.

You also get flexiblility on your credit score: you fill out one application and Credit One Bank® bases your interest rate, annual fee, and cash back rewards on your credit history.

But one of the best things about the Credit One Bank® Unsecured Visa with Cash Back Rewards is that you earn rewards for your purchases. You’ll get 1% cash back on eligible purchases on gas, groceries, and utilities, with the percentage based on your creditworthiness at the time of application.

In terms of annual fee, you’ll need to take into consideration the fact that the annual fee is assigned at the time of application and is variable between $0 - $99. But no security deposit is needed – a nice benefit here.

Learn more: See card details/apply or read our Credit One Bank® Unsecured Visa with Cash Back Rewards review.

 

Capital One® Secured Mastercard®

In A Nutshell

Owning a secured credit card can be a necessary step in bring your credit profile out of the gutter and the Capital One® Secured Mastercard® is one of the strongest secured credit cards on the market today. It’s rare to find one that doesn’t charge an annual fee and Capital One will automatically review your credit limit in as little as six months.

Read review

In A Nutshell

Owning a secured credit card can be a necessary step in bring your credit profile out of the gutter and the Capital One® Secured Mastercard® is one of the strongest secured credit cards on the market today. It’s rare to find one that doesn’t charge an annual fee and Capital One will automatically review your credit limit in as little as six months.

Read review
Credit score requirements: Credit Score requirements are based on Money Under 30’s own research of approval rates; meeting the minimum score will give you the best chance to be approved for the credit card of your choice. If you don’t know your credit score, use our free credit score estimator tool to get a better idea of which cards you’ll qualify for. *Money Under 30 uses a [FICO 8] [Vantage 3.0] score, which is one of many different types of credit scores. *A creditor may use a different score when deciding whether to approve you for credit. ?
  • Poor
Poor 500-599
Fair 600-699
Good 700-749
Excellent 750-850

What we like:

  • Start off with an initial credit line of $200 w/ a minimum deposit of $49, $99 or $200

  • Be automatically considered for a higher credit line in as little as 6 months with no additional deposit needed

  • No annual fee and no foreign transaction fees

Learn More >>

Capital One® Secured Mastercard®

The Capital One® Secured Mastercard® has no annual fee and immediately allows you to begin building credit with responsible use.

A secured credit card works like a prepaid debit card—you must first make a deposit. Unlike a prepaid card, however, a secured credit card builds credit (because you make payments, rather than spend your deposit) when used responsibly, with regular reporting to the three major credit bureaus.

With the Capital One® Secured Mastercard®, you will get an initial $200 credit line after making a security deposit of $49, $99, or $200. Then get access to a higher credit line after making your first six monthly payments on time with no additional deposit needed.

Learn more: See card details/where to apply or read our Capital One® Secured Mastercard® review.

Summary of the best credit cards for young adults

Credit cardRewardsUnique features
Jasper Mastercard®1% cash back on all eligible purchasesMonthly activity is reported to two of the main credit
bureaus to start building your credit score
Discover It® Cash Back5% cash back on quarterly rotating categories when you activate and 1% cash back on everything elseDiscover will match all of the cash back you earn the first year
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card2 points per $1 spent on travel and dining, and 1 point per $1 spent on everything elseYour points are worth 25% more when you redeem travel through Chase Unlimited Rewards
Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card4% cash back on dining and entertainment, 2% cash back at the grocery store and 1% cash back on all other purchasesA $300 cash bonus after spending $3,000 in the first three months

Chase Freedom Unlimited®5% cash back on grocery purchases for the first 12 months (up to $12,000 spent) and 1.5% unlimited cash back on all other purchases
Signup bonus of $200 when you spend $500 within the first three months of opening your account
Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card1.5% cash back on all purchasesAccess to a higher line of credit if you make your first six payments on-time
Capital One® Platinum Credit CardNoneNo annual fee or foreign transaction fees
Discover it® Student Cash Back5% cash back in rotating categories up to $1,500 every quarter you activate and unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchasesDiscover will match all of the cash back you earn the first year
Credit One Bank® Unsecured Visa with Cash Back RewardsRewards 1% cash back on gas, groceries, and utilitiesInterest rate and cash back amount based on your credit score and free access to your credit report
Capital One® Secured Mastercard®None Access to a higher line of credit if you make your first six payments on-time

Frequently asked questions

Can I get a credit card if I’m under 21?

Good question. In 2009, the U.S. CARD Act created new laws designed to prevent some abusive practices in the credit card industry. Among these is a law that regulates companies issuing credit cards to minors. Today, you must be at least 18 years old to get a credit card.

Applicants under 21 need to prove their financial independence via either income or assets—in other words, your ability to repay the debt. In many cases, even a small part-time job may be enough to qualify you for a credit card with a modest credit limit.

If you’re under 21 and do not have enough independent income, you’ll need a cosigner to apply for a credit card.

In either case, remember that you will have the financial responsibility to pay your credit card every month. If you can’t afford it, don’t apply!

How do I get a credit card if I have no credit history?

Regardless of your age or student status, if you don’t have any credit history yet (for example, you’ve never had a student loan, car loan, or credit card), you may have a hard time getting approved for any traditional credit card.

Secured credit cards are an exception to this rule, and they’re the best way to build credit for the very first time.

At first, a secured card works more like a debit card; you deposit money into a bank account before you can use the card.

The difference, however, is that the secured credit card will report your responsible use of the card to credit bureaus and help you build credit in a way that debit and prepaid cards do not.

Learn more about ways to build credit for the first time or check your credit report to see if you’ve begun building credit yet.

Do you have any tips for using a credit card for the first time?

Credit cards can offer a ton of unique benefits, including fancy rewards, travel benefits, cash back, and more. But don’t forget, the main reason to start using credit cards is to build your credit score.

Applying for a credit card (and being approved for it) is just the start of the process. Now you have to use that credit card responsibly, which means:

  • Use the card – Your credit score will tick up as you borrow money from the issuer (using your credit card) and then pay them back. If you don’t use the card, that can’t happen.
  • Pay off your balance in full – Many of the credit cards on this list have a high APR, especially available for people with poor credit. That means that if you don’t pay off your balance in full, you’ll be stuck with high-interest payments on the remainder of your balance. Don’t get sucked in with the allure of minimum payments. Pay in full each month.
  • Pay off your balance on time – You might think it’s not a big deal to be late with a payment by a day or two. But it is a big deal. If you use this credit card and don’t pay your balance on time, your credit score will fall.

Remember, credit cards can be a source of tremendous value – if you use them correctly.

Summary

If you’re under 35, the best credit card for you is the card you can get approved for that offers benefits that will save you—not cost you—money.

If you don’t feel like playing with spreadsheets for hours to determine the best personal rewards rate you can find, just pick a rewards credit card that sounds good to you and be done with it. Do not, however, blindly choose a rewards card only to carry a balance every now and then! If you want a credit card with which to pay off purchases over time, focus on the card’s APR, not the rewards.

Finding a credit card for which you will be approved will be more difficult if you have limited or damaged credit, but there are options. If you don’t get approved the first time, wait six months, focus on paying all of your bills on time, and try again.

Want to improve your chances of getting approved for a credit card? Finding the right credit card for you is much simpler if you know your credit score, and can narrow your search to only the cards you know you’ll get approved for. We’ve made it easy for you. If you don’t already know your score, use our quick and free Credit Score Estimator tool – then find the perfect card for you!

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About the author

Total Articles: 353
David Weliver is the founder of Money Under 30. He's a cited authority on personal finance and the unique money issues he faced during his first two decades as an adult. He lives in Maine with his wife and two children.

Article comments

We invite readers to respond with questions or comments. Comments may be held for moderation and will be published according to our comment policy. Comments are the opinions of their authors; they do not represent the views or opinions of Money Under 30. Comments have not been reviewed or approved by any advertiser, nor are they reviewed, approved, or endorsed by our partners. It is not our partner’s responsibility to ensure all posts or questions are answered.
21 comments
Jake says:

Couldn’t agree with the reviewer more. I opened a Best Buy credit card when I started school, so I was already building my credit from day one. But then I found out I was being charged an insane 29.99% interest rate! Needless to say, my debt climbed higher than I could manage, so I started looking into balance transfer cards.

I signed up for the Discover it® 18-month Balance Transfer Offer, and now, a year later, I am nearly done paying everything off. This was the best move I could have made for my credit.

Danny says:

I just graduated college and am paying off my student loans. So, obviously, I have no credit history to speak of. Is there a credit card for me? Will I get approved if I apply for any of these?

Good news!

Yes, you are likely to get approved for most of these cards. In fact, your situation is exactly what these cards are catering towards.

Banks and credit card companies understand that a recent college graduate hasn’t had the time or life experience to build up a large credit portfolio, and they make a lot of allowances for this. As long as you are holding down a job, making a steady income, and don’t have any glaring marks against you, you are in good shape for most of these cards.

If you want to start out with a sure deal, then a secured card like the Capital One® Secured Mastercard® or the Discover it® Secured card are both great options. You can quickly graduate to a higher credit limit card once you’ve shown you’re responsible. If you think you want to try for something with a higher limit from the start, opt for a card like the Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards credit card or the Discover it® for Students. Not only do these cards work with students and recent graduates specifically, but you get a lot more rewards from them as well.

amy says:

Hi Brian,

I am looking for a credit card that i can transfer a current balance to. I am ready to make significant payments each month but the interest is making it somewhat difficult. Which credit card would you recommend? Ideally i am hoping to completely pay off my current credit card(chase freedom) within the next 4-5 months if possible.

lupe says:

hi i want to know whats a good credit card to get approved on for first time .. i dont have any credit so i dont know if that will affect me from being able to get a credit card.

Natalia says:

Hi David, Im 19 with no credit card and Im trying to get my first credit card but Im not sure for which one apply for what would you advise me?

Scott says:

I’m 19 and I have three credit cards including the discover it card, honestly if you have no credit get a secured credit card and use it for about eight months and you should be elegable to get a better card as long as you use it right.

Molly says:

Hey there! I am looking into applying for another credit card. I have one through wells fargo and I do have a credit history through a student loan I used via a smaller state bank and my current wells fargo cash back card. I am looking into Chase or Citibank. Which one will not ding me the most after the first year with interest? Which one has the best rewards? Thanks!

Jon Maroni says:

David,
I love the Chase Amazon.com rewards card, it allows you to build up points that we have used for books (a regular expense for my wife who is in graduate school). Do you feel that using a credit card responsibly is the best way for a young person to build credit? I’ve heard that it is wisest to avoid credit cards and focus on making your rent/student loan payments on time. Your thoughts?

Travis says:

I’m 19 with no credit history and just got approved for an American Express Gold charge card. I’ve been told that’s kinda crazy. Just wondering what’s going on. Did I slip through the cracks?

George says:

Travis, I am not sure if you realized this when you applied, but unless you are in the military, that card has a fee of $195. If you are in the military you can activate your SCRA benefits and the fees are waived.

caroline says:

I need advice on credit and what i should do in regards to credit cards. i just recently turned 18 and need to start building credit since i have no credit. so i applied for a capital one credit card, i got denied for my first application so i applied for another credit card the secured capital one credit card because i saw that it said it helps build credit. i should of done my research before even applying for any card but at the moment i was so eager to get one, which wasn’t good. I got approved for the secured credit card from capital one and paid the one time fee to get my card. I feel stupid in doing that because shortly after applying i found out that there was a student credit card journey from capital one which is much more convinient for me because of its rewards and there isnt annual fees like the secured card has. I called them and asked to see if i can switch to the journey card but they said no because they are not similar cards. I want to know if i should close the secured card from capital one and open up the journey card. But i dont want to hurt my credit score.

David Weliver says:

Hi Caroline, It’s hard to know whether you would’ve been approved for the Journey card or any other card at 18 with no credit yet. Although the secured card has fees, it’s not a bad way to start building credit, and has the advantage of helping you begin using a credit card without the risk of going into debt right off the bat.

If I were you I would keep the secured card for 6 months or a year and then apply for a second card—perhaps a student card if you’re a full-time college student (a requirement for these cards). After you get that second card you can cancel the secured card. Let us know how it works out.

Shelby says:

Is the Capital One MTV Visa card a good deal for a student with established credit and a score of 724?

Thanks

Catherine Walker says:

Hey,

I wanna thank you so much. Not only did your recommendations help me in finally figuring out my credit score but also helped me in getting all my student loans in order. I’m a newly graduated engineer and needed help finding and figuring out my credit and getting a credit card. You helped me understand all of what I needed to know to start working on my credit. I’ve recommended your website to all of my college buddies. Thank you again, I was so lost and you helped figure things out without trying to put me into more debit like what some banks and credit companies try to do. 🙂 🙂

S.T. says:

Hey David– thoroughly enjoy your website– especially the credit card information. Thank you for your insight. I am a 27 yr old graduate student and I’m wanting to establish some credit. I have not had a major credit card yet, just a department store one (which I’ve always paid on time) and a 4 yr car loan. I was hoping this credit would give me enough to get a Chase Freedom Cash Back card, but I was turned down. My credit report did not reflect my car payments (I’m currently trying to get that corrected), but now I’m hoping to get any form of credit card started. My out-of-state graduate school is expensive (aka my loans are large), but I WILL pay the balance every month and at age 27, will not abuse it in any way. I’m just 15 months from a real job and hopefully a home someday, etc. Should I still go for a “student” credit card? A secured credit card? Cash back would be nice, but I would rather not get turned down again. Any help would be great…….keep up the good work!

Thanks!

David Weliver says:

ST, two things to consider: If you have a checking account with a smaller bank or credit union, pop into a branch and ask about their credit cards options. They may not come with rewards, but they may be able to approve you for a no-fee, unsecured card that’ll get you started. The other option is the Orchard Bank card shown on this page. They approve people with a wide variety of credit situations, and offer a secured card as a back-up resort. Depending on their assessment of your credit, their may be an annual fee, but after a year or two with this card you should be able to get approved for another one and cancel the fee-charging one. Good luck.

Meghan says:

I’m going to be a freshman in college, in the fall and I’m hoping to get my first credit card to help pay for some of my expenses. My parents have excellent credit (not sure if that makes a difference), but I’m just not sure which card is the best option

brian says:

i want to build my credit im in the national guard and i only plan to use the card if i already have the money and for gas. so please help me becuase im trying to start a family and really you need to have credit to do that, thank you for listning.

David Weliver says:

Hi Brian, if you have a little credit history the Discover More card is a good first card even if you don’t use it often, sometimes it requires a bit more credit history to get approval though. You might check out Capital One’s site as they offer some cards for applicants with little/no credit history, although some have annual fees.

Another option is to check with USAA. They have cards with programs designed for the military, and their service is supposed to be excellent.

https://www.usaa.com/inet/pages/banking_credit_cards_main

Heather says:

I agree with your choice of the Discover More card. I’ve had one for about five years now and love it. The extra 5% cash-back bonus that changes every three to four months is a nice feature as well.