The Ultimate Guide to Credit Cards
Thursday, November 14, 2019

15 Best Credit Cards for Young Travelers

15 Best Credit Cards for Young Travelers

credit card advice

Adam West
By: Adam West
Updated: July 11, 2019

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Traveling is one of the greatest joys in life. There’s nothing like seeing new things, experiencing different cultures, and creating memories that will last a lifetime. Perhaps that’s why young adults are traveling more than any generation before them.

If you’re the type who doesn’t like to stay in one place for too long, or if the travel bug recently bit you, welcome to the club. Thankfully, there are many credit card options that can net you rewards that make traveling easier, more convenient, and less expensive — which only opens up room in your budget for more trips!

Overall | Points | Hotels | Miles | Ride-Sharing | FAQs

Best Overall Cards for Young Travelers

Having a good travel credit card in your wallet is almost as important as having a trustworthy GPS signal in an unfamiliar land. With the right card, like our top options listed below, you can earn rewards, discounts, and avoid those pesky foreign transaction fees that can make overseas trips a lot more expensive than you think.

Discover it® Miles Review

at Discover Card'ssecure website

BEST OVERALL RATING

★★★★★
4.8

OVERALL RATING

4.8/5.0
  • UNLIMITED BONUS: Discover will match ALL the Miles you’ve earned at the end of your first year, automatically. For example, if you earn 35,000 Miles, you get 70,000 Miles. That’s $700 towards travel! The more you earn, the more you get.
  • Earn unlimited 1.5x Miles for every dollar spent on all purchases - with no annual fee.
  • No Blackout Dates. Simply pay for travel purchases like airlines, hotels, rental cars, and more with your Discover it® Miles card.
  • Miles Pay You Back. Easily redeem Miles as a statement credit for travel purchases. Or get cash.
  • Freeze your account in seconds with an on/off switch either on the mobile app or website to prevent new purchases, cash advances, and balance transfers.
  • Get your free Credit Scorecard with your FICO® Credit Score, number of recent inquiries and more.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 14 months
10.99% for 14 months
13.49% - 24.49% Variable
$0
Good/Excellent

The Discover it® Miles card allows you to accrue unlimited 1.5x miles for every dollar spent on the card. To maximize your earnings, Discover will match all the miles you’ve earned at the end of your first year, automatically. Many cardholders save their miles throughout the year — since they never expire — and combine them with the bonus miles at the end of the year to take one big trip.

BEST OVERALL RATING

★★★★★
4.9

OVERALL RATING

4.9/5.0
  • Enjoy a one-time bonus of 50,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $500 in travel
  • Earn 2X miles on every purchase, every day. Plus earn 10X miles on thousands of hotels, through January 2020; learn more at hotels.com/venture
  • Named ‘The Best Travel Card' by CNBC, 2018
  • Receive up to $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✔®
  • Fly any airline, stay at any hotel, anytime; no blackout dates. Plus transfer your miles to over 12 leading travel loyalty programs
  • Miles won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how many you can earn
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
17.49% - 24.74% (Variable)
$0 intro for first year; $95 after that
Excellent, Good

Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card members earn 2x miles on every dollar spent using the card, and the signup bonuses offered by Capital One can shift your miles earnings into second gear. On top of the miles, cardholders also receive up to a $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✔®. You can also redeem your miles with no blackout dates or hotel and airline restrictions, or you can transfer your earned miles to more than 12 leading loyalty programs to further maximize their value.

3. Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card

The Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card offers a tiered points structure that can yield up to 3x points on certain everyday purchases. That makes this card a top contender if you want to accrue points fast for your next trip. Like other cards on this list, Wells Fargo often offers new-member signup bonuses that provide thousands of bonus points for reaching specified spending thresholds.

  • Receive 0% APR on new purchases and balance transfers for 12 months
  • Earn 3x points on eating out and ordering in, gas, and travel
  • Pay $0 annual fee

While this card operates on the American Express network, as its name implies, the card is issued by Wells Fargo. This means that the card is accepted anywhere that accepts American Express, but you’ll actually deal with Wells Fargo and log into your Wells Fargo account to pay your bill, use your rewards, and track your purchases.

(The information related to Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card has been collected by CardRates.com and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer or provider of this product or service.)

Best Points Cards for Young Travelers

While many rewards cards on the market today return a percentage of your purchase in cash back, many travel cards focus on points or miles to get you on your way to your next trip. You typically earn points at a flat rate and can redeem them for a host of travel perks that make exploring even more rewarding.

POINTS & GIFTS RATING

★★★★★
4.8

OVERALL RATING

4.9/5.0
  • Enjoy a one-time bonus of 50,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $500 in travel
  • Earn 2X miles on every purchase, every day. Plus earn 10X miles on thousands of hotels, through January 2020; learn more at hotels.com/venture
  • Named ‘The Best Travel Card' by CNBC, 2018
  • Receive up to $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✔®
  • Fly any airline, stay at any hotel, anytime; no blackout dates. Plus transfer your miles to over 12 leading travel loyalty programs
  • Miles won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how many you can earn
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
17.49% - 24.74% (Variable)
$0 intro for first year; $95 after that
Excellent, Good

No two travelers are alike. While some like to travel by car and explore the areas around them, others may look to go far away when they have the time. The Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card works for both but really rewards the latter. With big points earning potential and up to a $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✔®, you could be in the friendly skies in no time — without the hassle of long airport security lines.

POINTS & GIFTS RATING

★★★★★
4.9

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
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
17.74% - 24.74% Variable
$95
Good/Excellent

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card members earn 2x points on worldwide travel and restaurant purchases and 1x points on all other purchases. The beauty in this card, though, is in its flexible redemption options. Your points can be worth as much as 25% more when used on airfare, hotels, car rentals, and cruises through the stellar Chase Ultimate Rewards® program. And if you’re traveling abroad, you’ll have the peace of mind in knowing you won’t accrue foreign transaction fees every time you use your card.

Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card Review

at Bank Of America'ssecure website

EXPERT'S RATING

★★★★★
4.7

OVERALL RATING

0.0/5.0
  • Earn unlimited 1.5 points for every $1 you spend on all purchases everywhere, every time and no expiration on points
  • 25,000 online bonus points if you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days — that can be a $200 statement credit toward travel purchases
  • Use your card to book your trip how and where you want — you're not limited to specific websites with blackout dates or restrictions
  • Redeem points for a statement credit to pay for flights, hotels, vacation packages, cruises, rental cars, or baggage fees
  • Comes with chip technology for enhanced security and protection at chip-enabled terminals
  • Get an additional 10% customer points bonus on every purchase when you have an active Bank of America® checking or savings account
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% Intro APR for 12 billing cycles
N/A
17.24% - 25.24% (Variable)
$0
Excellent/Good

Travelers who add the Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card to their wallets can redeem their points with any airline, hotel or travel provider they choose. What’s more, you can redeem your points directly through the travel provider’s website, instead of through a portal hosted by the card issuer. That means you can take advantage of sales or other deals through the provider while still using your earned rewards to compound the value.

Best Hotel Rewards Cards for Young Travelers

Anyone who says the journey is more important than the destination has never stayed at a nice hotel. After a long day of adventures and exploring, it’s great to have a comfortable, safe place to return to. And since your hotel is one of the most expensive parts of any trip, you’ll be well served by considering a good hotel rewards credit card, like those below, to lower that bill.

EXPERT'S RATING

★★★★★
4.8

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 1.25X miles on every purchase, every day
  • Earn 10X miles on thousands of hotels, through January 2020; learn more at hotels.com/venture
  • Transfer your miles to over 12 leading travel loyalty programs
  • Enjoy 0% intro APR on purchases for 12 months; 13.74% - 23.74% variable APR after that
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 12 months
N/A
13.74% - 23.74% (Variable)
$0
Excellent, Good

The Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card charges no annual or foreign transaction fees and regularly offers signup bonuses to let you earn bonus miles when you reach certain spending thresholds. What’s more, you can make your 1.25x miles-per-dollar-spent earnings even more valuable when you transfer them to more than 12 of the leading travel loyalty programs, including hotel operators. If you’re shopping for a hotel, you can earn 10x points when you book your stay through hotels.com/venture.

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
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
17.74% - 24.74% Variable
$95
Good/Excellent

There’s a reason Kiplinger’s named the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card as its 2018 “Best Credit Card for Flexible Travel Redemption.” This card offers a host of redemption options through the Chase Ultimate Rewards® program, which lets you pick the most valuable rewards to meet your travel needs. This includes discounts or free nights at several partnered hotel chains throughout the world.

9. Hilton Honors American Express Card

The Hilton Honors American Express Card pays out 7x Hilton Honors Points for every dollar charged on the card directly through a Hilton hotel or resort. You’ll also earn 5x points on each dollar spent at U.S. restaurants, supermarkets, and gas stations, and 3x points on all other purchases.

Hilton Honors Card

      • Get rewarded when you use your card at any Hilton property
      • 75,000 bonus points when you spend $1,000 in your first three months
      • Instant Hilton Honors silver status
      • No foreign transaction fees

This card typically runs great deals for new applicants that can net you up to 75,000 extra Hilton Honors Points when you spend at least $1,000 using the card during your first three months.

Best Air Miles Cards for Young Travelers

There’s an old saying “Youth is wasted on the young.” Since you’re only young once, why waste it cooped up in the same place, day after day? If you want to get out and see more of the world while you still have the time and energy, consider adding a miles travel card, like those below, to keep your trips from impacting your budget.

Discover it® Miles Review

at Discover Card'ssecure website

AIR MILES RATING

★★★★★
4.9

OVERALL RATING

4.8/5.0
  • UNLIMITED BONUS: Discover will match ALL the Miles you’ve earned at the end of your first year, automatically. For example, if you earn 35,000 Miles, you get 70,000 Miles. That’s $700 towards travel! The more you earn, the more you get.
  • Earn unlimited 1.5x Miles for every dollar spent on all purchases - with no annual fee.
  • No Blackout Dates. Simply pay for travel purchases like airlines, hotels, rental cars, and more with your Discover it® Miles card.
  • Miles Pay You Back. Easily redeem Miles as a statement credit for travel purchases. Or get cash.
  • Freeze your account in seconds with an on/off switch either on the mobile app or website to prevent new purchases, cash advances, and balance transfers.
  • Get your free Credit Scorecard with your FICO® Credit Score, number of recent inquiries and more.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 14 months
10.99% for 14 months
13.49% - 24.49% Variable
$0
Good/Excellent

The Discover it® Miles card is a top choice for anyone who has a big trip planned. That’s because you’ll earn 1.5x miles for every dollar you spend using the card, and Discover will match all the miles you’ve earned at the end of your first year, automatically. That’s a lot of miles to get you wherever you want to go.

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 1.25X miles on every purchase, every day
  • Earn 10X miles on thousands of hotels, through January 2020; learn more at hotels.com/venture
  • Transfer your miles to over 12 leading travel loyalty programs
  • Enjoy 0% intro APR on purchases for 12 months; 13.74% - 23.74% variable APR after that
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 12 months
N/A
13.74% - 23.74% (Variable)
$0
Excellent, Good

Whether you’re an experienced traveler or a newbie to airports and rental car counters, chances are you still have your preferred travel brands when you’re on the road. The Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card understands this and lets you choose how you redeem your points — with no restrictions on hotel, airline, or rental car brands. Plus, you’ll earn 10x points when you book your hotel through hotels.com/venture.

12. JetBlue Plus Card

New account holders of the JetBlue Plus Card can earn 40,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first 90 days of card ownership. That gets you closer to your next flight in those comfy seats with free DirecTV.

JetBlue Plus Card

      • 6X points on JetBlue purchases
      • 2X points at restaurants and grocery stores, 1X on everything else
      • Free first checked bag
      • $99 annual fee

You can redeem your points for any seat at any time on JetBlue-operated flights, with no blackout dates. Rewards accrue over time and never expire.

Best Ride-Sharing Cards for Young Travelers

Anyone who has visited a big city knows how hard it can be to get around. Public transportation is convenient at times, but it can also be a hassle when you have to make train connections or walk several blocks because the bus doesn’t stop by your destination. Instead of fighting traffic in the tunnels or on the roads, a good ride-sharing credit card helps you get to your destination faster and more affordably.

13. Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card

On top of charging no annual fee and regularly promoting signup bonuses that pile on the points, the Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card offers a 0% APR for 12 months on purchases and qualifying balance transfers. That’s a big bonus if you tend to carry a balance from month-to-month or if you have a balance currently sitting on a different high-interest card.

  • Receive 0% APR on new purchases and balance transfers for 12 months
  • Earn 3x points on eating out and ordering in, gas, and travel
  • Pay $0 annual fee

And, if you’re a regular ride-sharing customer, this card offers a bonus tier of 3x points on every dollar spent through any ride-sharing company.

(The information related to Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card has been collected by CardRates.com and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer or provider of this product or service.)

14. Uber Visa Card

All ride-sharing regulars know about Uber. And the Uber Visa Card goes out of its way to reward you for using its ground-breaking service — with even greater rewards for just about every other purchase you make.

Uber Visa Card

          • Earn 4% cash back on dining purchases, including restaurants, takeout, bars, & UberEATS
          • Earn 3% cash back on hotel & airfare
          • Earn 2% cash back for Uber & online purchases

The bonus cash back tiers make this a great everyday use card, since it not only rewards you for riding with Uber, but also for dining out, staying at hotels, or making any online purchase.

15. Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express cardholders can rack up 3% cash back on all transit purchases, including ride-sharing services. Other bonus tiers provide as much as 6% cash back on U.S. streaming subscriptions and U.S. supermarket purchases (up to $6,000 per year in purchases). That’s a lot of cash back.

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

          • 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets & streaming subscriptions
          • 3% cash back on transit (gas stations, taxis, ridesharing, parking, tolls, trains, etc.)
          • $95 annual fee

While this card charges a $95 annual fee, you can easily make up for that charge through the excellent cash back options. Simply spending $133 each month on groceries alone will more than pay for the annual fee — and that’s not including the other cash back you’ll earn for your other purchases.

What is a Good Credit Card for Young Adults?

No matter what your age, everyone has different goals and financial abilities. That’s why you should always consider your own unique situation when deciding which travel credit card is best for you.

But one thing is for sure — Americans combine to carry a whopping $423.8 billion in credit card debt. And since the average credit card interest rate currently stands at 19.24%, Americans as a whole spend millions of dollars each month on interest.

If you’re part of that group, the best card for you should include an introductory period with 0% interest on new charges and transfers. This bonus allows you to carry over and stretch out current debt for as much as 18 months without paying interest. That means you can pay the debt off faster than you would on a similar interest-charging card.

As if that wasn’t enough, many of these cards also come with rich rewards that can give you points, miles, or cash back for your new purchases using the card. Just keep in mind that cards rarely give rewards for balance transfers and many cards will charge you a fee — usually a small percentage of the total amount transferred — to complete a balance transfer.

But a world of rewards is open to you if you don’t carry a balance on your credit cards and you’re in the habit of paying your cards in full each month.

Take the Discover it® Miles card, for example. With 1.5x miles on every dollar spent and a match of all the miles you’ve earned at the end of your first year automatically, you can earn quite a haul toward your next trip.

Or, you can look at a card that offers a massive signup bonus for spending a certain amount of money within a set period of time. If you reach those thresholds, some cards offer instant, one-time rewards that can equal a round-trip flight or multiple-night stay in a luxury hotel.

Which Credit Cards Give the Best Travel Rewards?

As stated above, the best travel rewards will depend upon your goals and needs. If you’re looking for a general-use travel rewards card that lets you choose how you redeem your points or miles — be it on airfare, hotels, or rental cars — then you may appreciate the slow-and-steady building of the Discover it® Miles or the quick-earning bonus potential of the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card.

But if you have a specific need from your rewards, you may find more potential from a hotel- or airline-branded credit card. That’s because a specific brand can give richer rewards when you purchase directly through the company than if you shop for deals through a third-party.

By pinpointing your favorite airline or hotel, you can quickly earn free flights or nights for purchases you’re already making. And if you’re a regular traveler, you’ll often find that branded credit cards offer cardholders added perks, such as room or seating upgrades or elevated loyalty program levels.

The major downfall of these cards, though, is that you can only use the rewards with the specific brand. But that’s not much of a drawback if you’re already spending money with that company. To maximize your rewards, you should remain focused on whichever card you add to your wallet.

How to Maximize Credit Card Rewards

Far too often, travelers fall for fancy promotions or specific goals and accumulate multiple credit cards that give different reward types. The problem with this thinking is that these consumers tend to spread their spending across multiple cards and never really maximize their rewards potential on any of them. When you focus on one card with a rewards structure that best matches your spending, you can get the most benefit from your purchasing power and meet your travel goals much faster.

What are the Best Credit Cards for First-Time Users?

Being a rookie isn’t necessarily a bad thing. As a first-time credit card user, you likely won’t come into the game with accumulated debt or a damaged credit profile.

Your newness opens the door to several options that can make your first experience with a credit card both rewarding and exciting while increasing your purchasing power and getting you to your next trip that much faster.

Since you’re new to credit, you may want to start off by keeping things simple. There are a lot of great cards out there that offer tiered rewards structures depending on your spending habits and brand loyalty.

Some may offer 4% cash back on certain purchase categories and only 2% on others. Some categories remain stable while others rotate quarterly. Some even require you to choose your desired rewards categories each quarter — and if you don’t choose in time, you lose the option.

Types of Rewards Credit Cards

In short, credit cards can be confusing and take up a lot of your time and energy. Once you get some experience, that may be the route you want to take. But, in the meantime, you’re likely best served by choosing a single rewards structure that’s most appealing to you: cash back, miles, or points.

We’ll discuss the main differences among the three in the next section, but just know for now that choosing the structure and a flat-rate rewards card means you won’t have to worry about rotating categories or tiered bonuses.

With a flat-rate bonus card, such as the Discover it® Miles for miles or Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card for points, you’ll earn a flat rate for every purchase, no matter the category or cost. Both cards allow unlimited rewards earnings and fairly flexible redemption options that don’t require jumping through hoops, creating new accounts, or calling customer service.

In fact, both of these cards allow you to redeem your earnings with a couple of taps within the card’s mobile app. Sometimes, simple is best.

What’s the Difference Between Points and Air Miles?

There are three main types of credit card rewards: cash back, miles, and points.

Possibly the most popular reward is cash back. That’s where a credit card issuer refunds a set percentage of every purchase in the form of a check, direct deposit to your bank account, or a statement credit. This remains the most flexible type of reward because nothing beats cash.

But cash back may not be the most valuable reward you can find in a credit card. Points and miles can give tremendous value to a cardholder, and both act essentially the same way.

You can usually spot the main difference between the two when looking at your redemption options. You typically find miles associated with travel cards, which means most of the rewards deal with hotels, airfare, car rentals, or other travel-related expenses. Since these cards and their rewards focus solely on travel, you’ll often find the best travel deals with them.

On the other hand, points can provide a broader range of redemption options. Since they aren’t geared only toward travel, you can often find value through gift cards, merchandise, or experience-based rewards. You’ll still find travel perks here, but they may not be as rich as through a travel-based card.

Credit Card Rewards Comparison Chart

Some cards, such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, offers the heralded Chase Ultimate Rewards® program, which can increase the value of your points by as much as 25% when you use them to purchase merchandise, travel, or other perks through the portal.

You should consider your goals and regular spending habits when deciding which perk works best for you. If you’re saving up for a big trip, you may be best served by finding a travel-focused card with a large signup bonus that can get you to your goal faster.

But if you’re only an occasional traveler, you may find great benefit from a points-based card that gives you great flexibility whenever and however you decide to redeem your earnings.

Let Your Card Be Your Travel Guide

You won’t find many people who regret traveling and seeing the world. The experiences you accumulate and memories you cultivate while traveling are worth far more than any trinket you can buy and stick on a shelf.

When the travel bug bites, it can be hard to shake off the desire to plan your next trip. But before you start packing your bags, make sure you have a good travel rewards credit card in your wallet to guide you, financially, through the adventures ahead.