The Ultimate Guide to Credit Cards
Saturday, July 11, 2020

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

18 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.

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 $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.
  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases.
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases, then a variable APR of 14.99 - 23.74%.
  • No annual fee
  • No minimum to redeem for cash back
  • Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% 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
Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card Review

at Bank Of America'ssecure website

CASH BACK RATING

★★★★★
4.8

OVERALL RATING

4.7/5.0
  • 3% cash back in the category of your choice: gas, online shopping, dining, travel, drug stores, or home improvement/furnishings
  • 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%
  • There's no annual fee and your cash rewards don't expire. Each month, as you plan for future purchases, you can change your 3% choice category online or through our mobile app.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% Intro APR for 15 Billing Cycles
0% Intro APR for 15 Billing Cycles (for balance transfers made in the first 60 days)
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 60,000 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®
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 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, 60,000 points are worth $750 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

★★★★★
4.8

OVERALL RATING

4.8/5.0
  • Earn 60,000 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®
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 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, 60,000 points are worth $750 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
Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card Review

at Bank Of America'ssecure website

AIR MILES RATING

★★★★★
4.8

OVERALL RATING

4.7/5.0
  • Earn unlimited 1.5 points for every $1 you spend on all purchases everywhere, every time and no expiration on points
  • Enjoy no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees while earning points to use for a statement credit to pay for flights, hotels, vacation packages, cruises, rental cars or baggage fees
  • Introductory 0%† APR for your first 12 billing cycles for purchases.  After that, a Variable APR that's currently 14.99% to 22.99% will apply.
  • 25,000 online bonus points if you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of your account opening – which can be redeemed for a $250 statement credit toward travel purchases
  • Preferred Rewards members earn 25%-75% more points on every purchase
  • That means you could earn up to 2.62 points for every $1 you spend, everywhere, every time.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% Intro APR for 12 billing cycles
N/A
14.99% - 22.99% (Variable)
$0
Excellent/Good

AIR MILES RATING

★★★★★
4.8

OVERALL RATING

4.8/5.0
  • New Offer! Earn 100k bonus points after you spend $15,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,250 toward travel when redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Earn 3 points per $1 on the first $150,000 spent on travel and select business categories each account anniversary year
  • Earn 1 point per $1 on all other purchases - with no limit to the amount you can earn
  • Points are worth 25% more when you redeem for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • Redeem points for travel, cash back, gift cards and more - your points don't expire as long as your account is open
  • No foreign transaction fees
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
15.99% - 20.99% Variable
$95
Good/Excellent

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.

LOW APR RATING

★★★★★
4.6

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

LOW APR RATING

★★★★★
4.6

OVERALL RATING

4.6/5.0
  • The Citi Rewards+℠ Card - the only credit card that automatically rounds up to the nearest 10 points on every purchase - with no cap.
  • Earn 15,000 bonus points after you spend $1,000 in purchases with your card within 3 months of account opening; redeemable for $150 in gift cards at thankyou.com
  • 0% Intro APR on balance transfers and purchases for 15 months. After that, the variable APR will be 13.49% - 23.49%, based on your creditworthiness. Balance transfer fee — either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
  • Earn 2X ThankYou® Points at Supermarkets and Gas Stations for the first $6,000 per year and then 1X Points thereafter. Plus, earn 1X Points on All Other Purchases.
  • The standard variable APR for Citi Flex Plan is 13.49% - 23.49%, based on your creditworthiness. Citi Flex Plan offers are made available at Citi's discretion.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 15 months
0% for 15 months
13.49% - 23.49% (Variable)
$0
Good/Excellent

LOW APR RATING

★★★★★
4.6

OVERALL RATING

4.6/5.0
  • 0% Intro APR on balance transfers for 21 months from date of first transfer. After that, the variable APR will be 13.74% - 23.74%, based on your creditworthiness. All transfers must be completed in first 4 months.
  • 0% Intro APR on purchases for 12 months from date of account opening. After that, the variable APR will be 13.74% - 23.74%, based on your creditworthiness.
  • If you transfer a balance with this offer, after your 0% Intro purchase APR expires, both new purchases and unpaid purchase balances will automatically accrue interest until all balances, including your transferred balance, are paid in full.
  • There is a balance transfer fee of either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater
  • Get free access to your FICO® score online.
  • With Citi Entertainment℠, get special access to purchase tickets to thousands of events, including concerts, sporting events, dining experiences and more.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 12 months
0% for 21 months
13.74% - 23.74% (Variable)
$0
Excellent/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.

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
Indigo® Unsecured Mastercard® - Prior Bankruptcy is Okay Review

at the issuer'ssecure website

BAD CREDIT RATING

★★★★★
4.7

OVERALL RATING

4.0/5.0
  • Pre-qualifying today will not affect your credit score
  • Less than perfect credit histories can qualify, even with prior bankruptcy!
  • Mobile friendly online access from anywhere
  • Fraud protection for stolen or lost cards
  • Account history is reported to the three major credit bureaus in the U.S.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
24.9%
$0 - $99
Fair/Good
NetSpend® Visa® Prepaid Card Review

at Netspend'ssecure website

BAD CREDIT RATING

★★★★★
4.6

OVERALL RATING

3.6/5.0
  • With Netspend Direct Deposit, you can get paid faster than a paper check.
  • No late fees or interest charges because this is not a credit card.
  • No Overdraft Fees on purchases using your card.
  • Use the NetSpend Mobile App to manage your account on the go and get text message or email alerts (Message & data rates may apply).
  • Card issued by MetaBank®, Member FDIC. Card may be used everywhere Visa Debit cards are accepted. Click "Get My Card " for full details.
  • See additional NetSpend® Prepaid Visa® details.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
N/A
Up-to $9.95 monthly
Not applicable

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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