Best First Credit Cards For Young Adults in 2020

These days, many people don’t even think about getting their first credit cards until they’ve graduated from college.

While cash is king, researching the best credit cards for young adults is worthwhile because credit cards—when used responsibly—are convenient, rewarding, and helpful for building a positive credit history that will come in handy if you ever need a mortgage or auto loan.

Yes, credit cards can lead to trouble. But, as long as you understand how credit works and how to use credit cards responsibly, they’re often worthwhile.

Having a good credit score impacts a young person’s ability to buy a house, finance a car, and sometimes even find an apartment. That’s why it’s important to know which credit cards are best for first timers.

7 Best First Credit Cards For Young Adults

Here are our recommendations for the best first credit cards for young adults in 2020:

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

chase sapphire preferred credit card

If you’re a frequent traveler, this is the card for you.

If you like to travel but also want peace of mind, listen up. Chase offers 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 in the first 3 months of having your card. So you do not have to grab your pen and paper and do this math yourself, this is equivalent to $750 in travel rewards when you redeem those points through  Chase Ultimate Rewards!

This also includes baggage delay insurance that will reimburse you for toiletries and clothing up to $100 if your bag gets stuck.

  • Promo Offer: Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.
  • Annual Fee: $95

Your points stretch further than dollars. Get 25% more in travel redemption when you use your Chase Ultimate Rewards® points to book travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards® Portal.

Chase is always at the top of our chart for best first credit cards. Just because you are new to having a credit card does not mean you should miss out on travel!

That’s why it’s important to mention that Chase Ultimate Rewards® points can also be redeemed to any one of these travel programs:

Airline Travel Partners

  • Aer Lingus, AerClub
  • British Airways Executive Club
  • Flying Blue AIR FRANCE KLM
  • Iberia Plus
  • JetBlue TrueBlue
  • Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
  • Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards®
  • United MileagePlus®
  • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club

Hotel Travel Partners

  • IHG® Rewards Club
  • Marriott Bonvoy™
  • World of Hyatt®

Chase Freedom®

Chase Freedom Credit Card

Here’s an all-around good first credit card with unlimited cashback.

Enjoy $150 bonus after spending $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from opening your account with Chase Freedom®.

5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter (must activate rewards every quarter), and unlimited 1% cashback on all other purchases.

  • Promo: Earn $150 after spending $500 in the first 3 months of opening account
  • Annual Fee: None

Capital One® SavorOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card

capital one savor cash rewards credit card
  • 3% cashback on dining & entertainment, 2% at grocery stores

If you want a $150 cash bonus for purchases you’d already be making – look no further, the Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card is for you!

You will also enjoy 0% foreign transaction fees and no annual fee!

  • Promo Period: Earn a one-time $150 cash back bonus after you spend $500 within 3 months of account opening
  • Annual Fee: $0

Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card

Capital One Quicksilver Credit Card

Enjoy no foreign transaction fee plus, the best part, $150 cash bonus after spending $500 in the first 3 months of opening your Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards credit card.

You will also benefit from 1.5% unlimited cash back on every purchase – and it never expires!

  • Promo Period: Earn a one-time cash bonus of $150 after spending $500 in the first 3 months of opening your account
  • Annual Fee: None

Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card

Capital One Quicksilverone Credit Card

This card is great for building credit – you’ll get access to a higher credit line after making your first 5 monthly payments on time.

Benefit from the unlimited 1.5% Cash Back on every single purchase.

You won’t have to worry about the Capital One QuicksilverOne card if you lose your purse, you get $0 Fraud Liability Coverage if your card is ever lost or stolen.

With this card, you will never be responsible for fraudulent purchases!

  • Promo Period: Gain access to a higher credit limit after paying the first 5 monthly payments on time
  • Annual Fee: $39

Capital One® Platinum Credit Card

Capital One Platinum Credit Builder Card

Boost your credit limit after making on-time payments for your first five months.

Absolutely zero foreign transaction fees, plus, $0 Fraud Liability Coverage if your card is ever lost or stolen.

With this card, you will never be responsible for fraudulent purchases, so don’t fret if you lose your card, just give Capital One a call.

  • Promo Period: Gain access to a higher credit limit after paying the first 5 monthly payments on time
  • Annual Fee: None

Capital One® Secured Mastercard®

capital one secured mastercard

We saved the best-secured credit card for last because it’s just a little bit different than the rest of these cards on our list.

A secured credit card can be your secret weapon to repairing damaged credit or simply building your credit from scratch. Most people who use a secured credit card use it for a period of time ranging from a few months to a year before they become eligible for a credit card with fewer fees and larger limits.

It works like this: With a secured credit card, your credit limit is determined by the amount of money you pay upfront as a refundable security deposit. It acts as a safety net to show the bank you’re serious – but you don’t actually use it to pay your balance. It is only there as a precautionary measure in case you don’t make your payment.

But the whole point of a secured credit card is to demonstrate creditworthiness so that one day you can apply for a credit card with amazing rewards.

The Capital One Secured Mastercard starts with an initial security deposit of $49. You can also opt for $99 or $200.You can increase this by increasing your security deposit or by making your first 5 payments on time.

Here are some more details about the Capital One Secured Mastercard:

  • Fees: $0 annual fee
  • Credit Limit Range: Start at $49, $99, or $200 – then increase if you want.
  • Why It Stands Out: Super accessible – Start building credit even with a limit as low as $49.
  • Other Benefits: Pick your own due date to make payments when it’s best for your cash flow.

Why Should I Get a Credit Card?

best credit cards for young adultsOnce you are familiar with the best ways to build credit, you can play as much or as little as you want.

Millennials have a lot of distrust when it comes to finding the best first-time credit card, but when you actually embrace the fact that credit can help you (as long as you’re not in debt), you’ll want to look for the best first-time credit card for you.

So, why should you get a credit card?

The most obvious reasons are for the credit history you will build. But less obvious are the amazing benefits a credit card can give you – starting with cashback rewards and extending all the way to canceled trip protection in case you get sick and have to cancel your vacation.

When you put these kinds of charges on a credit card, not only does it give you a little extra time to pay them off (and we always recommend paying off your balances in full every month), you also get protections that are just not possible when you use cash or a debit card.

What to Look For in a First-time Credit Card

The best first-time credit cards come with benefits that help you get adjusted to being a new credit card owner, like a 0% introductory offer or a welcome bonus with cashback reward.

Other factors you want to look out for include APR – the low end of credit cards is somewhere around 10-12% – and features like fraud protection and identity theft monitoring.

Can You Get Rewards With a First-time Credit Card?

Even though you might not qualify for the highest credit limit, you can still qualify for nice rewards with your first credit card.

It helps if you have some history of credit prior to applying – maybe you have a car loan or a history of paying a co-signed credit card when you were young – but no matter what there is always an option for you.

You might also be eligible to apply for cards with the incredible hotel, restaurant, and travel perks that give you cashback on all of your favorite purchases.

David Weliver

David Weliver

David Weliver is the Credit Cards Editor at Millennial Money. He is the Founder of Money Under 30 and is widely regarded as one of the top credit card rewards experts in the world. David has been writing about personal finance and credit cards since 2006 and been featured in The New York Times, NPR, USA Today, Forbes, and many others.
David Weliver

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Millennial Money has partnered with CardRatings and for our coverage of credit card products. Millennial Money, CardRatings and may receive a commission from card issuers. This site does not include all financial companies or financial offers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities.

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