Expert Q&A

Best credit cards for millennials

These credit cards can be a perfect addition to a millennial’s wallet


Whether you’re a millennial foodie, travel junkie or online shopping lover, there’s a perfect credit card out there for you.

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Ah, to be a millennial. It seems like every generation has a strong opinion of us, from baby boomers who blame us for killing all that’s good in the world to Gen-Z with their strong dislike of our side parts and skinny jeans.

Meanwhile, despite all the economic turmoil we’ve lived through, we are kind of starting to thrive. We make up the largest share of homebuyers, take on more and more auto debt and more than half of us have at least one rewards credit card.

If you’re my fellow millennial, I hope your credit card game is strong, because if it isn’t, you’re missing out. Read on to learn about the best personal credit cards for millennials and how they can add value to your credit card strategy.

American Express® Gold Card: Best for millennial foodies

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 U.S. supermarket and restaurant purchases, 3 points per dollar on travel booked 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.

Essentially, you can earn rewards while stocking up on groceries and eating out (or ordering in) and maybe making trips throughout the year to then splurge and redeem your points on airfare or a seat upgrade.

On top of that, the card offers annual statement credits any foodie will love: $120 in Uber Cash and $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. What’s not to love?

See related: Earn $500 in first-year credits with the Amex Gold

Discover it® Cash Back: Best bonus categories for millennials

Will I ever stop raving about the Discover it® Cash Back? Probably not.

The card 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%). While it’s not the only card on the market that works like that, I think it’s superior.

Its main competitor, the Chase Freedom Flex℠, also earns 5% cash back in quarterly categories up to $1,500 in spend per quarter, then 1%. However, Chase only reveals one category at a time, and they can be hit or miss.

With the Discover it Cash Back, on the other hand, you can see the entire Discover cash back calendar before the year even starts. This may help you plan your spending to maximize rewards. Plus, Discover keeps the categories pretty consistent year after year.

QuarterBonus categories
Winter (January – March)
  • Grocery stores
  • Walgreens
  • CVS
Spring (April – June)
  • Gas stations
  • Select streaming services
  • Wholesale clubs
Summer (July – September)
  • Restaurants
  • PayPal
Holiday (October – December)

I think many millennials will be especially excited about the fourth quarter categories. Studies show that almost 86% of millennials did their shopping online in 2020. I know I’m one of them. I buy almost everything, except for books (a local bookstores-supporter here), on Amazon. At this point, I go to Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s for the experience. Naturally, as a Discover it Cash Back cardholder, I went at full steam with my Amazon spending last holiday season and intend to do so this year. I highly recommend you do too.

Did I mention the card also matches all the cash back you earn in the first year? Because it does. Do you see now why I’m so in love with this product?

Citi® Double Cash Card: Best for maximizing cash back

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. This is one of the most lucrative cash back cards on the market, and with a $0 annual fee, I see no reason not to want it. I know I do.

On top of that, you get an 18-month long 0% interest intro period on balance transfers. That’s an outstanding offer. If you have some debt you want to pay down without accruing interest for a limited time, the Citi Double Cash can give you the time you need.

Chase Sapphire Reserve card: Best premium rewards card for millennials

If you feel ready for a luxury credit card that offers some serious travel rewards and perks but charges an even more serious annual fee, the Chase Sapphire Reserve is an easy choice.

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®.

See related: Weighing the best (and heaviest) metal credit cards

Sure, it costs $550, but looks at these benefits: You’ll get a $300 annual travel credit (and Chase’s definition of travel is extremely broad), a Priority Pass Select membership which gives your access to more than 1,000 airport lounges and up to a $100 credit for Global Entry/TSA Precheck every four years. That’s some impressive value that makes for plush travel. Plus, this year you can get up to $60 in DoorDash credits just to make the deal even sweeter.

The card also offers 3 points per dollar on travel and restaurants and 1 point per dollar on everything else. Additionally, through June 30, 2021, you earn up to 10 total points per dollar (on up to $500) when ordering takeout or making prepaid reservations through Chase Dining in Ultimate Rewards and 10 points per dollar on Lyft purchases through March 2022.

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 50,000 points for spending $4,000 in the first three months – that’s $750 toward travel when redeemed through the portal.

See related: Why are Chase Ultimate Rewards points so valuable?

Discover it® Secured Credit Card: Best for millennials working on their credit

Not all millennials have a shiny good or excellent credit, and if you don’t, that’s okay. I’ve got you. You can still get into credit cards and improve your credit – and even earn rewards along the way.

A secured credit card can be an excellent gateway to the world of credit cards when your credit score could use some work. While all such cards require a security deposit, they aren’t all created equal, and some offer better terms than others.

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.

Comparing the best credit cards for millennials

CardRewardsAnnual fee
American Express® Gold Card
  • 4 points per dollar at restaurants (including Uber Eats purchases)
  • 4 points per dollar at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 in purchases per calendar year, then 1 point per dollar)
  • 3 points per dollar on flights booked directly with airlines or
  • 1 point per dollar on other purchases
Discover it® Cash Back
  • 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in purchases in various quarterly categories throughout the year
  • 1% cash back on general purchases
Citi® Double Cash Card
  • 1% back on all purchases
  • Additional 1% back when the purchase is paid off
Chase Sapphire Reserve card
  • 3 points per dollar on travel and restaurants (excluding purchases covered by $300 travel credit)
  • 1 point per dollar on general purchases
Discover it® Secured Credit Card
  • 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants (up to $1,000 in purchases per quarter)
  • 1% cash back on other purchases

Which credit card should you get?

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. I’ve listed some of the best credit cards for millennials here – but there are more for you to compare and choose from when looking for your perfect credit card match.

Speaking of your credit card match, 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.

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.

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