Explore options that can add value to your overall credit card strategy.
Despite all the economic turmoil millennials have lived through, they are kind of starting to thrive. They make up the largest share of homebuyers, take on more and more auto debt, and more than half have at least one rewards credit card.
Read on to learn about the best personal credit cards for millennials and how they can add value to your overall credit card strategy.
American Express Gold Card: Best for millennial foodies
Why we picked it: Let’s be honest – who doesn’t love food and who doesn’t want to travel? With the American Express® Gold Card, you can eat your way to travel rewards.
The Amex Gold offers 4 points per dollar on dining worldwide, 4 points per dollar on up to $25,000 of U.S. supermarket purchases per calendar year, 3 points per dollar on flights booked directly with airlines or through American Express Travel and 1 point per dollar on everything else.
The best use of American Express points is to transfer them to an airline, which can get you a point value of more than 1 cent per dollar, or to book plane tickets through the Membership Rewards portal.
On top of that, the card offers annual statement credits any foodie will love: up to $120 in Uber Cash and up to $120 on dining (both come in $10 monthly increments). These credits almost cover the card’s annual cost of $250. Add the $100 hotel incidentals credit to pamper yourself when you stay at qualifying properties, and the Amex Gold all but pays for itself.
- Up to $120 in Uber Cash and up to $120 on dining
- Flexible rewards redemption
- Annual fee
- Complicated rewards program
Who should apply: Anyone who wants to earn rewards while stocking up on groceries and eating out (or ordering in) and maybe making trips throughout the year – and then splurging and redeeming your points on airfare or a seat upgrade.
Who should skip: If your favorite hotel doesn’t qualify for the incidentals credit – or if your favorite airline doesn’t accept American Express points – you might be better off with another top travel credit card.
Discover it Cash Back: Best bonus categories for millennials
Why we picked it: The Discover it® Cash Back charges no annual fee and offers 5% cash back in quarterly rotating categories after activation (on up to $1,500 in spend per quarter, then 1%). Plus, the card also matches all the cash back you earn in the first year.
- No annual fee
- Bonus categories
- Intro APR period
- Must activate quarterly bonus categories before you start earning 5% cash back
|Q1 (January – March)
|Q2 (April – June)
|Q3 (July – September)
|Q4 (October – December)
Who should apply: Millennials will be especially excited about Discover’s fourth quarter categories. Studies show that almost 86% of millennials did their shopping online in 2020 — myself included.
Who should skip: If you’re not interested in keeping track of rotating bonus categories – or if you don’t really spend money on fitness clubs or gas stations – you might be better off with a different rewards card.
Citi Double Cash Card: Best for maximizing cash back
Why we picked it: Your credit card strategy isn’t really complete without a flat-rate cash back card that will reward you more than 1% on general purchases (all purchases that aren’t included in bonus reward categories).
In this category, no card tops the Citi® Double Cash Card. It earns 1% on every purchase and another 1% when you pay off those purchases (meaning you’ll get 2% back in total).
- 1% cash back on every purchase and another 1% cash back on every purchase you pay off
- 18-month long 0% interest intro period on balance transfers (16.99% to 26.99% variable APR thereafter)
- 3% foreign transaction fee
Who should apply: This is one of the most lucrative cash back cards on the market, and with a $0 annual fee.
Who should skip: If you already have a top cash back card in your wallet, you could pass on this one.
Chase Sapphire Reserve card: Best premium rewards card for millennials
Why we picked it: Elite credit cards aren’t always just a status symbol (although they can be). The best of them also offer an incredible value if they fit your lifestyle. And when it comes to value, not many cards can beat the Chase Sapphire Reserve card.
You’ll get a $300 annual travel credit (and Chase’s definition of travel is extremely broad), a Priority Pass Select membership that gives your access to more than 1,000 airport lounges and up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck every four years. That’s some impressive value that makes for plush travel.
The card also offers 10X points on hotels and rental cars purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards, 5X points on travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards, 3X points on general travel and at restaurants and 1 point per dollar on everything else. Note, the travel-related rates kick in after you earn your $300 travel credit.
As you can see, it’s easy to earn Chase Ultimate Rewards points, but their value when redeeming is where this card truly shines. Any points you redeem for travel through the Ultimate Rewards portal have a 50% higher value. If you were to apply for the card now and get approved, you could earn 60,000 points for spending $4,000 in the first three months – that’s $900 toward travel when redeemed through the portal.
- Great rewards rate
- Premium perks and travel protections
- High annual fee
Who should apply: If you feel ready for a luxury credit card that offers serious travel rewards and perks, the Chase Sapphire Reserve is an easy choice.
Who should skip: If the $550 annual fee is a stretch on your budget, this card might be a stretch for you as well. Consider the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, instead, which comes with similar benefits but only charges a $95 annual fee.
Discover it Secured Credit Card: Best for millennials working on their credit
Why we picked it: In the secured credit card market, the Discover it® Secured Credit Card is hard to compete with. It doesn’t charge an annual fee and offers cash back, which is extremely rare for secured credit cards.
With the Discover it Secured, you can get 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants (on up to $1,000 in purchases per quarter) and 1% cash back on other purchases – and the issuer will match all the cash back you earn in your first year with the card. That’s some serious earning potential, especially if this is your only or primary credit card.
- No annual fee
- Bonus offer
- Can qualify with bad credit
- Requires security deposit
Who should apply: Not all millennials have good or excellent credit, and if you don’t, that’s okay. A secured credit card can be an excellent gateway to the world of credit cards when your credit score could use some work – and the Discover it Secured card is one of the best secured cards on the market.
Who should skip: If your credit is good enough to qualify you for a starter credit card, start there.
Comparing the best credit cards for millennials
|American Express® Gold Card
|Discover it® Cash Back
|Citi® Double Cash Card
|Chase Sapphire Reserve card
|Discover it® Secured Credit Card
How to choose the best card for you
The best credit card for you is the one that fits your lifestyle without you changing your spending habits to get the most out of it.
Many of the best credit cards for millennials offer rewards on popular spending categories like groceries or streaming media. Before you choose a rewards card, ask yourself where your money is currently going – and which card offers the most bang for your buck.
Avoid annual fee credit cards unless you anticipate earning enough rewards to cover the cost of the annual fee. You can guesstimate the rewards you might earn by looking at your budgeting app and seeing how much you spent in previous years on travel, restaurants and so on.
Check CardMatch to see credit card offers tailored to your credit profile. It’s free and has no impact on your credit score, and you can score a pre-approved offer or an elevated intro bonus.
The best credit cards for millennials offer rewards on the types of spending we love – dining, streaming, travel and more. Before you choose your next credit card, ask yourself where your money is going these days (and where you want it to go in the future). Then, pick a card that rewards the smart, financially savvy millennial you’ve become!