The Ultimate Guide to Credit Cards
Friday, September 25, 2020

18 Best Credit Cards for 20- to 30-Year-Olds

Best Credit Cards For 20 To 30 Year Olds

credit card advice

Adam West
By: Adam West
Updated: June 22, 2020
Advertiser Disclosure

In recent years, the term millennial has become almost a punch line for jokes about the younger generation, as well as a tag placed by marketers who want to capture the attention of this elusive group. But in the finance industry, this group is the most sought-after consumer demographic, accounting for more than $600 billion in spending this year alone. So, it’s no surprise that banks have created several cards to appeal to this demographic.

We’ve broken down the best credit cards for 20- to 30-year-olds based on categories and rewards popular among this group. We’ll explore cards specifically designed for students, cards with appealing cash back rewards, restaurant cards, travel cards, low interest cards, and cards for bad credit.

Students | Cash Back | Restaurants | Travel | Low Interest | Bad Credit | FAQs

Best “Student” Cards for 20- to 30-Year-Olds

College is hard. It’s even harder when you don’t have access to credit or immediate funds. Credit card issuers understand this and many offer cards that cater to a student’s spending needs and interests.

Many student cards offer statement credits for good grades, cellphone insurance, or other rewards and perks that add value beyond the obvious line of credit. As competition in this space heats up, the perks only grow sweeter and more valuable.

But keep in mind that you’ll need to show some sort of regular income to qualify for a student credit card. If you can’t provide that, you can still obtain some cards with the help of a cosigner. Just be sure to pay your bills on time to avoid potential embarrassment and financial hardship for the person who vouched for you on your application.

STUDENT RATING

★★★★★
4.8

OVERALL RATING

4.2/5.0
  • Earn 1% cash back on all your purchases. Pay on time to boost your cash back to a total of 1.25% for that month
  • Enjoy no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees
  • You can help build your credit with responsible use of a card like this
  • Get Eno®, your Capital One® assistant, to manage your account via text, receive alerts, and shop safer online
  • Pick the monthly due date that works best for you
  • Be automatically considered for a higher credit line in as little as 6 months
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
26.99% (Variable)
$0
Average, Fair, Limited
Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card for Students Review

at the issuer'ssecure website

STUDENT RATING

★★★★★
4.8

OVERALL RATING

4.5/5.0
  • 3% cash back in the category of your choice: gas, online shopping, dining, travel, drug stores, or home improvement/furnishings Learn more
  • 2% cash back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs, 1% cash back on all other purchases
  • You’ll earn 3% and 2% cash back on the first $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club purchases each quarter, then earn 1%
  • Earn a $200 cash rewards bonus after making at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of your account opening
  • 0% introductory APR on new purchases and balance transfers for 12 billing cycles (3% balance transfer fee applies)
  • $0 annual fee
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 12 billing cycles
0% for 12 billing cycles
13.99% - 23.99%
$0
None/Limited
Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card for Students Review

at the issuer'ssecure website

STUDENT RATING

★★★★★
4.7

OVERALL RATING

4.4/5.0
  • Earn unlimited 1.5 points for every $1 you spend on all purchases everywhere
  • No blackout dates or restrictions apply, and points never expire
  • 0% introductory APR on new purchases for 12 billing cycles
  • Earn 25,000 bonus points ($250 value) if you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening
  • $0 annual fee
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 12 billing cycles
N/A
14.99% - 22.99%
$0
None/Limited

While credit cards can make a student’s life easier, carrying debt past graduation isn’t the best way to enter the real world. The best thing you can do is to keep your balance low, pay your bills on time, and reap the benefits that come from building a positive credit history before most of your peers.

Best “Cash Back” Cards for 20- to 30-Year-Olds

There are many types of credit card rewards available to consumers, but in this financial space, cash is still king. That’s because you can spend cash however you wish, whereas travel or merchandise rewards may be of little value for certain consumers.

But not all cash back cards are equal. Some give back a flat percentage of your purchase, while others may offer higher rewards in specific categories or at certain times of the year, known as rotating categories. Our top-rated cards, listed below, offer the best of both worlds.

CASH BACK RATING

★★★★★
5.0

OVERALL RATING

5.0/5.0
  • 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%.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% Intro APR on Purchases 15 months
N/A
14.99% - 23.74% Variable
$0
Good/Excellent
Chase Freedom Flex℠ Review

at the issuer'ssecure website

CASH BACK RATING

★★★★★
4.9

OVERALL RATING

4.9/5.0
  • 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 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate. Enjoy new 5% categories each quarter!
  • Earn 5% on travel purchased through Chase, 3% on dining at restaurants and drugstores, and 1% 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%.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% Intro APR on Purchases 15 months
N/A
14.99% - 23.74% Variable
$0
Good/Excellent

CASH BACK RATING

★★★★★
4.9

OVERALL RATING

4.8/5.0
  • Earn cash back twice. Earn 2% on every purchase with unlimited 1% cash back when you buy, plus an additional 1% as you pay for those purchases.
  • To earn cash back, pay at least the minimum due on time.
  • Balance Transfer Offer: 0% intro APR on Balance Transfers for 18 months. After that, the variable APR will be 13.99% - 23.99%, based on your creditworthiness.
  • Balance Transfers do not earn cash back.
  • If you transfer a balance, interest will be charged on your purchases unless you pay your entire balance (including balance transfers) by the due date each month.
  • There is a balance transfer fee of either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
0% for 18 months
13.99% - 23.99% (variable)
$0
Excellent/Good

Before you choose a card to apply for, be sure to read the fine print in the credit card disclosure statement. Some cash back cards charge an annual fee or higher interest rates to make up for the money they give back. Choosing the wrong card could negate your earnings, and possibly cost you more over the long haul.

Best “Restaurant Rewards” Cards for 20- to 30-Year-Olds

According to recent research, millennials account for one-third of restaurant revenues in America. If you’re a fan of eating out, or if you’re prone to grabbing a quick bite after a long day at the office, then you may want to consider a good restaurant rewards card — like those listed below.

These cards often provide increased cash back or other rewards when you use the card to pay your restaurant bill. And the rewards can quickly add up if you eat out a lot. Some cards even offer rewards at bars, food delivery services, or other non-traditional establishments that serve food.

EXPERT'S RATING

★★★★★
4.8

OVERALL RATING

4.8/5.0
  • Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
  • 3X points on travel immediately after earning your $300 travel credit. 3X points on dining at restaurants & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases. $0 foreign transaction fees.
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $750 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,000+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
16.99%-23.99% Variable
$550
Good/Excellent

8. Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card

This card is currently not available.

Capital One® Rating

★★★★★
N/A

OVERALL RATING

N/A
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A

EXPERT'S RATING

★★★★★
4.8

OVERALL RATING

4.8/5.0
  • 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 (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
15.99% - 22.99% Variable
$95
Good/Excellent

Make sure any card you apply for matches your eating-out habits. Some cards limit their definition of restaurants to dine-in establishments only — meaning that fast food won’t count. Others disqualify businesses that make a majority of their revenue from alcohol, which would rule out many popular bars.

Best “Travel” Cards for 20- to 30-Year-Olds

Adults between the ages of 18 and 34 spend more money on travel each year than any other age group in America. Wouldn’t it be nice to get some of that money back and still experience the thrills of seeing the world?

With a good travel rewards card, like those listed below, you can get travel discounts, cash back, premium upgrades, or outright free accommodations with airlines, hotels, and transportation options around the globe.

And what’s even better, you can use your every-day purchases to build up the rewards that will help pay for your next adventure.

AIR MILES RATING

★★★★★
5.0

OVERALL RATING

4.9/5.0
  • Earn 100,000 bonus miles when you spend $20,000 on purchases in the first 12 months from account opening, or still earn 50,000 miles if you spend $3000 on purchases in the first 3 months
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on every purchase, every day
  • Miles won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how many you can earn
  • Receive up to $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✔®
  • Redeem on travel—from vacation rentals to car rentals and more. Plus transfer your miles to over 10+ travel loyalty programs
  • No foreign transaction fees
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
17.24% - 24.49% (Variable)
$95
Excellent, Good

AIR MILES RATING

★★★★★
4.9

OVERALL RATING

4.8/5.0
  • 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 (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
15.99% - 22.99% Variable
$95
Good/Excellent

AIR MILES RATING

★★★★★
4.9

OVERALL RATING

4.8/5.0
  • $0 annual fee and no foreign transaction fees
  • Earn a bonus of 20,000 miles once you spend $1,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $200 in travel
  • Earn unlimited 1.25X miles on every purchase, every day
  • Travel when you want with no blackout dates and fly any airline, stay at any hotel, anytime
  • Miles won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how many you can earn
  • Transfer your miles to over 10+ travel loyalty programs
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 12 months
N/A
15.49% - 25.49% (Variable)
$0
Excellent, Good

Whether you’re circling the globe or just heading out of town for the weekend, a travel rewards card can be your ticket to a cheaper outing — which in turn can help extend your trip or shore up rewards for the next one. What’s not to like?

Best “Low Interest” Cards for 20- to 30-Year-Olds

Rewards are great, but they often come with a price. After all, the credit card issuers have to find some way to make up the value of the rewards they extend.

Most often, they make up for those losses with annual fees and interest rates. While a 5% cash back card may seem awesome on the surface, it loses its luster if you’re paying 25% interest on a large balance.

That’s why many money-savvy millennials turn to low-interest cards to fund their lifestyle. While these cards may not feature the same headline-grabbing rewards as their peers, they act as a sensible way to borrow money without paying dearly for the privilege.

Applied Bank® Secured Visa® Gold Preferred® Credit Card Review

at the issuer'ssecure website

LOW APR RATING

★★★★★
4.8

OVERALL RATING

4.0/5.0
  • Better than Prepaid...Go with a Secured Card! Load One Time - Keep On Using
  • Absolutely No Credit Check or Minimum Credit Score Required
  • Automatic Reporting to All Three National Credit Bureaus
  • 9.99% Low Fixed APR - Your Rate Won’t Go Up Even if You Are Late
  • Activate Today with a $200 Minimum Deposit - Maximum $1,000. * Increase Your Credit Limit up to $5,000 by Adding Additional Deposits Anytime
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
9.99%
$48
Poor/Fair/Limited/Damaged
Wells Fargo Cash Back College℠ Card Review

at the issuer'ssecure website

LOW APR RATING

★★★★★
4.7

OVERALL RATING

4.6/5.0
  • Earn 3% cash back for up to $2,500 spent on gas, grocery, and drugstore purchases for the first 6 months
  • Earn 1% cash rewards for other purchases
  • Low intro APR helps you buy what you need while in college
  • Flexibility to use cash rewards toward travel, gift cards, merchandise, cash redemption options , and more
  • Access your FICO® Credit Score, credit education, and tools with Wells Fargo Online
  • $0 annual fee
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 6 months
0% for 6 months
11.15% - 21.15%
$0
None/Limited
Business Advantage Travel Rewards World Mastercard® Review

at the issuer'ssecure website

LOW APR RATING

★★★★★
4.7

OVERALL RATING

4.5/5.0
  • Earn unlimited 1.5 points for every $1 you spend on all purchases, everywhere, every time – no matter how much you spend
  • Earn 3 points per every dollar spent when you book your travel (car, hotel, airline) through the Bank of America® Travel Center
  • Earn 30,000 bonus points when you make at least $3,000 in net purchases within 90 days of your account opening which can be redeemed for a $300 statement credit towards travel purchases
  • Get 75% more points on the base earn of every purchase you make when you’re a Preferred Rewards for Business Platinum Honors tier member. That means you'll earn 2.62 points on all purchases and 4.12 points for every $1 you spend at the Bank of America® Travel Center.
  • 0% introductory APR on purchases for 9 billing cycles from account opening
  • $0 annual fee
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 9 billing cycles
N/A
12.24% - 22.24%
$0
Good

In the world of credit cards, nothing says ‘conservative’ like a low interest rate. Card issuers don’t extend as many low-rate cards as rewards cards — there simply isn’t as much profit in them.

That’s why you should research available cards and consider one of the above offerings when adding a new piece of plastic to your wallet.

Best “Bad Credit” Cards for 20- to 30-Year-Olds

Mistakes happen. And, in some ways, it’s better to get your errors out of the way early instead of saving them for later in life.

Thankfully, turning the page and moving on from the past can start with a credit card that’s designed to help you rebuild your credit. Several issuers offer this type of card, and many have very forgiving acceptance standards that make acquiring second-chance credit easier than it’s ever been.

Check out our top-rated selections below to see what you may qualify for.

BAD CREDIT RATING

★★★★★
4.8

OVERALL RATING

4.0/5.0
  • No annual fee
  • Unlike a prepaid card, there is regular reporting to the 3 major credit bureaus
  • Accepted at millions of locations worldwide
  • Make the minimum required security deposit and you'll get an initial credit line of $200. Plus, deposit more money before your account opens to get a higher credit line
  • Access to an authorized bank account is required to make your $49, $99 or $200 refundable security deposit
  • Be automatically considered for a higher credit line in as little as 6 months with no additional deposit needed
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
26.99% (Variable)
$0
Limited, Bad
Bank of America® Cash Back Secured Credit Card Review

at the issuer'ssecure website

BAD CREDIT RATING

★★★★★
4.8

OVERALL RATING

4.5/5.0
  • Earn 3% cash back in the category of your choice: gas, online shopping, dining, travel, drug stores, or home improvement/furnishings
  • Earn 2% cash back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs
  • Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases
  • A minimum refundable security deposit of $300 (maximum of $4,900) is required to open this account
  • Access your FICO® Score updated monthly for free, within your Mobile Banking app or in Online Banking
  • $0 annual fee
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
23.99%
$0
Bad/Limited
Surge Mastercard® Review

at Celtic Bank'ssecure website

BAD CREDIT RATING

★★★★★
4.8

OVERALL RATING

4.1/5.0
  • All credit types welcome to apply!
  • Free access to your Vantage 3.0 score From TransUnion* (When you sign up for e-statements)
  • Monthly reporting to the three major credit bureaus
  • See if you’re Pre-Qualified without impacting your credit score
  • Fast and easy application process; results in seconds
  • Free online account access 24/7
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
See website for Details
N/A
25.90% - 29.99%
See website for Details
Bad, Poor Credit

Remember that credit is never free and can get quite expensive if you have a damaged credit history. Study the terms and conditions of any card that interests you so you know the fees associated with each before making a decision.

Some cards that are designed for consumers who have bad credit can charge setup and annual fees, as well as high interest rates and other charges. But with responsible usage, you can improve your score enough to graduate to a less expensive credit card.

What is a Good First Credit Card?

The key to finding a good first credit card is to pick an issuer you can grow with. This is where credit card newcomers can quickly become confused.

There’s a difference between your credit card issuer and your credit card network. Most of us have seen the Visa, Mastercard, and American Express logos. These are credit card networks — and they process card transactions for issuing banks.

Issuers are Capital One, Bank of America, Chase, Citibank, etc. Those are the issuing banks that are lending you the money on your credit card. They pay a fee to the network to process your transactions.

In some cases, a bank can also run its own network — think American Express and Discover.

When you choose your first credit card, keep your issuing bank in mind. Many larger banks offer cards for several types of consumers.

That means you can start with an entry-level card as your first piece of plastic. But, as your credit rating improves, you can graduate to better cards with higher limits without having to submit new applications and take on unnecessary hard inquiries.

Capital One, for example, offers cards for consumers with new or bad credit all the way up to excellent credit, and provides a bridge to get from one end of the credit score spectrum to the other.

Most issuers regularly check on entry-level cardholders to see if their credit score warrants a card upgrade. Capital One does this every six months. If you’ve improved your score enough, Capital One will automatically boost your credit limit or give you an outright upgrade to a better card — at no additional cost.

Credit cards aren’t always about the rewards, perks, or fancy designs. Quite often, issuers make cards flashy to hide their flaws. By choosing a reliable issuing bank with a wide range of cards, you’ll rarely have to worry about problems with your account or a lack of room to grow.

What Credit Score Do You Start With?

Many people assume that consumers start with a credit score of zero and work their way up. Not only is this untrue, but it’s also impossible.

The lowest possible FICO credit score is 300, but that’s reserved for consumers who have a substantial number of financial mistakes and bankruptcies on their file. It wouldn’t be fair to start someone off with such a bad credit score.

Instead, credit newcomers start off with no score at all. The industry refers to these people as credit invisible. While that may sound like a bad thing, it really isn’t. When you’re credit invisible, it simply means you don’t have enough credit history on file to generate a reliable score.

While some credit card issuers may avoid you since they can’t properly gauge your risk level, being credit invisible isn’t as bad as having bad credit.

Several credit cards are designed for credit newcomers, with the goal of helping you establish a pattern of positive payments that help you generate a score. Quite often, that initial score starts somewhere between the lowest score (300) and the highest (850).

FICO Score® Ranges

Your credit history doesn’t have to start with a traditional credit card. You can establish a credit history with a loan – personal, auto, student, etc. — or by paying certain bills that report payment history to the three main credit reporting bureaus.

But whichever route you take, be certain to always make on-time payments. Just as a good payment history can improve your score, paying a single bill more than 30 days late can instantly knock as many as 100 points off your score.

That could leave your first credit score a lot closer to 300 than to 850. And that late payment will stick around on your credit report for as long as seven years.

How Many Credit Cards Should One Person Have?

Credit cards are a form of debt — and the rule of thumb with debt is to never take on more than you can handle. That means only applying for credit you’re certain you can pay off without overwhelming your finances.

For some people, that could mean having five or six credit cards. For others, that may mean having none. A key reason why many people add multiple cards to their wallets is to increase their available credit and decrease their utilization — both of which can improve your credit score.

About 30% of your overall credit score relies upon your available credit and how much of your overall credit limit you are currently using. You calculate your utilization by dividing your current credit card balance(s) by your overall credit limit. For example, a credit card with a $1,000 limit and a $250 balance has a utilization of 25%.

Lenders like to see a low utilization because it shows that you’re responsible with your current available credit. When you add another credit card, you’re increasing your overall available credit — hence lowering your utilization.

If this person adds a second credit card with another $1,000 credit limit, he or she now has $2,000 in overall available credit and only that $250 balance. This instantly lowers the utilization ratio from 25% to a much more attractive 12.5%.

Chart of Example Utilization Rate

Divide your current credit card balances by your overall credit limits to calculate your utilization rate.

That doesn’t mean you should add several credit cards just to lower your utilization. Every credit card you apply for also includes a hard inquiry on your credit report. Obtaining more than two or three of these inquiries in a two-year period starts to lower your credit score with every new application.

In short, slow and steady wins the race. Rushing to add several credit cards only increases your temptation to spend. Instead, decide what you can afford, given your current financial situation, and find a card (or cards) that work for you.

Choose a Card that Fits Your Lifestyle

Whether you’re looking to travel, save money, or earn cash back, there are dozens of top credit cards for 20- to 30-year-olds that can help you reach your goals without blowing your budget. The key is to find the card that fits your financial situation, but still provides enough room to grow with you as you advance in your life and career.

After all, millennials won’t always be the new kids on the block. One day, we’ll be the older generation that’s cracking jokes about the younger kids. Making the right financial decisions now will ensure you won’t be tomorrow’s punchline.

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