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Best credit cards for young adults in 2022

Building credit is an important part of young adulthood, but the right credit card depends on how you plan to use it

Summary

Whether you’re new to credit, seeking to finance a new purchase, pay down some debt or get rewarded on your spending, we have top card recommendations for you.

The content on this page is accurate as of the posting date; however, some of our partner offers may have expired. Please review our list of best credit cards, or use our CardMatch™ tool to find cards matched to your needs.

Many teenagers entering college or people in their 20s wonder what the best credit cards are for young adults. Of course, you could always become an authorized user of a cardholder you know and trust, such as a parent or an older friend.

If you’re ready to start building your credit scores on your own, however, this article is for you. Keep reading to learn about the best credit cards that are geared toward young adults.

Discover it Student Cash Back: Best for students

Why we picked it: The Discover it® Student Cash Back is a starter credit card designed for students with no credit history. It’s also known for its plentiful rewards, like 5% cash back on rotating quarterly bonus categories (up to $1,500 per quarter, then 1%) and 1% cash back on other purchases.

In addition, it comes with a six-month 0% intro APR for purchases, then a variable APR of 14.49% to 23.49% will apply.

Pros

  • No annual fee
  • All cash rewards matched at the end of first year
  • Earn 5% cash back on rotating categories (up to $1,500 quarterly) based on Discover’s cash back calendar
  • No penalty APR and no late fee on your first missed payment (up to $41 thereafter)

Cons

  • Enrollment required quarterly

Who should apply: Students with no history are the perfect candidates for this card. You’ll get the opportunity to learn how to use credit while you complete your college education.

Who should skip: If you have a good credit score, there are other cards out there for you. Students who know they’ll be tempted to overspend by the rewards structure should also skip this one.

Capital One Platinum Secured Credit Card: Best for low credit scores

Why we picked it: The Capital One Platinum Secured Credit Card is a good bet for young people with lower credit scores. The initial security deposit is low (up to $200, depending on your credit), and you can get up to $1,000 as your initial credit limit. It’s good that the Capital One Platinum Secured Card caps your spending at $1,000 in the beginning – it limits how much you can spend and ensures you can pay off your bills in full to help you build credit.

Pros

  • Considered for a higher credit limit after six on-time monthly payments
  • No annual, foreign transaction or returned payment fees, plus no penalty APR

Cons

  • No rewards program

Who shouldapply: Young people who find it hard to qualify for many credit cards when they’re just starting their credit journey or have bad credit scores should apply. Anyone looking to build their credit, either from not having any or from a few past mistakes, should really consider this card.

Who should skip: Cardholders who already have a good score don’t need this one. If you’d also like to earn some rewards, however small, you should look at other cards.

Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards Credit Card: Best for flat-rate cash back

Why we picked it: The Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards Credit Card will serve you well with its flat-rate cash back at 1.5% cash back on all purchases, and relatively low annual fee at $39. You may dismiss this card just for its annual fee, but you only need to spend $2,600 per year to cover the $39. For young adults with lower credit scores, you should opt for a no-frills flat-rate cash back card likes this to avoid rewards structures that could tempt you into overspending.

Pros

  • 1.5% cash back on every purchase
  • Account review after six on-time payments for a credit limit increase
  • No foreign transaction fee, penalty APR or balance transfer fee

Cons

  • High regular APR (26.99% variable)
  • $39 annual fee

Who should apply: If you have a fair credit score, this card will give you solid rewards and help you improve your credit. Young adults who don’t have time to manage rotating categories, like students or people just starting out in corporate America, may also like this flat-rate card.

Who should skip: Cardholders who want more substantial rewards should skip this one.

Chase Freedom Unlimited: Best for travel rewards newbies

Why we picked it: The Chase Freedom Unlimited® is one of the best ways for you to enter the world of Chase Ultimate Rewards, one of the most valuable reward currencies on the market. In fact, Chase awards your cash back as Ultimate Rewards points, which you can redeem in a variety of ways.

The card is also a great cash back card, offering 5% cash back on Lyft purchases (through March 2025), 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards, 3% cash back on dining and drugstore purchases, and 1.5% cash back on everything else.

Pros

  • No annual fee
  • 0% intro APR on new purchases and balance transfers for 15 months (15.74% to 24.49% variable thereafter)
  • Additional 1.5% cash back on everything (up to $20,000 spent in first year)
  • Unlimited cash back redeemable at any time

Cons

  • 3% foreign transaction fee
  • Penalty APR of up to 29.99%

Who should apply: Good credit cardholders have more card possibilities open to them, including cash back credit cards, and the Chase Freedom Unlimited is one of the best on the market. Anyone looking to jump into Chase Ultimate Rewards should also apply.

Who should skip: Young adults who are still establishing good credit habits (paying bills in full, on time) should steer clear.

American Express Green Card: Best for young professionals

Why we picked it: The American Express Green Card* is perfect for young professionals who travels often for work, dines out regularly, with clients or co-workers, and has good credit score. An excellent entry-level travel card, it offers 3X points on travel, transit (including rideshare services) and dining.

American Express travel cards earn Amex Membership Rewards points. These points are best redeemed for travel on the American Express Travel portal or you can transfer them to Amex transfer partners. Sometimes transferring your points may even boost your point value.

Pros

  • 30,000 points if you spend $2,000 in three months
  • Annual bonus of up to $100 each, for Clear and LoungeBuddy
  • No foreign transaction fee
  • Earn unlimited points

Cons

  • $150 annual fee
  • Must book rewards travel through American Express Travel

Who should apply: Anyone who wants to join the Amex Membership Rewards loyalty program will have a solid start with the Amex Green card.

Who should skip: Cardholders for whom the $150 annual fee is difficult to swallow initially should skip.

Wells Fargo Reflect Card: Best for financing a new purchase

Why we picked it: The Wells Fargo Reflect℠ Card gives you time to pay off your qualifying balance transfers and new interest for up to 21 months from account opening, an industry high. The intro offer starts off with 18 months, and if you pay on time for your entire intro and extension periods, the 0% intro APR will extend to 21 months. Thereafter, your regular APR would be 14.49% to 26.49% variable.

Pros

  • No annual fee
  • Up to 21 months of 0% intro APR on new purchases and qualifying balance transfers
  • Low intro balance transfer fee at 3% or $5 (whichever is greater) for first 120 days from account opening, up to 5% (5 minimum) after 120 days

Cons

  • No rewards program

Who should apply: Whether you have leftover credit debt from a high-interest card or just bought your first big-kid purchase (new cellphone, laptop, mattress, etc.), this card will give you some leeway for a good chunk of time.

Who should skip: If you’re more focused on building credit, and have no large purchases planned or credit debt, you should look at other cards.

Citi Double Cash Card: Best for paying down debt

Why we picked it: It’s easier to get into credit card debt than many people realize. And given how high credit card interest rates can get, it can be very difficult to get out of. That’s where the Citi® Double Cash Card comes in. Transfer your existing credit card balances to this card, and you’ll get 18 months to pay them off, interest-free (variable APR of 15.49% to 25.49% thereafter).

Pros

  • Up to 2% cash back – 1% when you buy and 1% when you pay off those purchases
  • No annual fee
  • No category restrictions
  • Transfer cash back to Citi ThankYou points ($1 to 100 ThankYou points)

Cons

  • Rewards expire if card inactive for 12 months or more
  • Low balance transfer fee ($5 or 3%, whichever is higher) only applies to balance transfers performed in first four months

Who should apply: Young adults with good credit but some debt should consider this card. Anyone who’d like to earn flat-rate cash back (rather than keep tracking of rotating or bonus categories) should also apply. Busy students may also like this card for its simplicity.

Who should skip: If you tend not to use a card often and you don’t want to have to worry about rewards expiring, you might want to consider another option.

Comparing the best credit cards for young adults

Even among our recommended best cards for young adults, the possibilities seem endless. Check out the comparison table below to see how the cards compete side by side:

CardRewardsIntro APRAnnual fee
Discover it Student Cash Back
  • 5% cash back on rotating quarterly categories (up to $1,500 per quarter, then 1%)
  • 1% cash back on general purchases
6 months (new purchases) then 14.49% to 23.49% variable$0
Capital One Platinum Secured Credit CardNoneN/A$0
Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards Credit Card1.5% cash back on every purchaseN/A$39
Chase Freedom Unlimited
  • 5% cash back on Lyft purchases (through March 2025)
  • 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • 3% cash back on dining
  • 3% cash back on drugstore purchases
  • 1.5% cash back on all other purchases
15 months (new purchases and balance transfers) then 15.74% to 24.49% variable$0
American Express Green Card
  • 3X points on travel, transit and dining worldwide
  • 1X point on all other purchases
N/A$150
Wells Fargo Reflect CardNoneUp to 21 months (new purchases and qualifying balance transfers) then 14.49% to 26.49% variable$0
Citi Double Cash Card
  • 1% cash back on general purchases
  • 1% additional cash back as you pay off those purchases
18 months (balance transfers) then 15.49% to 25.49% variable$0

How to choose a credit card for young adults

When you’re trying to decide whether a credit card is right for you, ask yourself these questions:

  • What am I hoping to get out of this credit card? A better credit score? Rewards for travel spending? An opportunity to pay off my debt? Knowing what you want from a credit card will help you narrow down your options.
  • Is this credit card designed for people who spend like me? If a credit card offers a bonus for cardholders who spend $4,000 in three months, for example, ask yourself if that matches your current spending habits. If a card offers rewards on restaurants, ask yourself how many times you dine out every month. If a card comes with a $150 annual fee, ask yourself whether you can afford that payment.
  • Can I get this card with my current credit score? If you don’t already know your credit score, you might be able to find out through your bank – but you can also use the CardMatch tool to see cards that are a good fit based on your credit profile. Additionally, you may be able to take advantage of preapproval or prequalification via an issuer’s website to see if you have a good chance of being approved for a specific credit card.

Bottom line

The world of credit cards can be intimidating, but don’t let that put you off from applying for a card that can help you earn rewards, boost your credit or help you cover a large purchase. And don’t let your inexperience be an obstacle – it’s best to start your financial and credit journey to give yourself time to build up your credit score so that you can set yourself up for larger financial goals like buying a house or a car.

*All information about the American Express Green Card has been collected independently by CreditCards.com and has not been reviewed by the issuer.

Editorial Disclaimer

The editorial content on this page is based solely on the objective assessment of our writers and is not driven by advertising dollars. It has not been provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. However, we may receive compensation when you click on links to products from our partners.

Credit Card Rate Report
Reward
16.90%
Student
17.53%
Airline
16.60%
Business
15.12%
Cash Back
16.92%

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