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When is the best age to get a credit card? The best answer is when you can make on-time payments. Young adults between the age of 18 and 25 can be ideal for the cards listed below as they come with perks, the ability to earn rewards and build credit, all without worrying about an annual fee. Building credit at the start of adulthood can produce larger benefits later in life.

best credit cards for young adults
The best credit cards for young adults can help you build credit and earn rewards, all without an annual fee. Photo by Pexels

The Best Credit Cards for Young Adults

Responsible credit card use can increase your credit score. A higher score makes it easier to qualify for better credit cards that need excellent credit. You can start applying for your own credit card once you are at least 18 years old (in most states). College students can qualify for student credit cards with exclusive benefits.

Bank of America Cash Rewards Credit Card for Students

The information for the Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card for Students has been collected independently by Johnny Jet. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

The Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card for Students offers these benefits:

  • 3% back on one category of choice (gas, dining, online shopping, drug stores, travel or furnishings/home improvement)
  • 2% back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs
  • 1% back on everything else

You will earn 3% and 2% back on the first $2,500 in combined spending for choice category/grocery store/wholesale club purchases each quarter. All remaining monthly spending earns 1%.

Your rewards are redeemable for statement credits, bank account deposits, and 529 plan deposits.

This card doesn’t have an annual fee. The signup bonus is $200 extra cash by spending $1,000 in the first 90 days of opening.

Capital One Platinum Credit Card

The Capital One® Platinum Credit Card is a good option for building credit. It doesn’t earn purchase rewards but there isn’t an annual fee. As this is an unsecured credit card, you won’t need to make an upfront security deposit either.

It’s possible to get a higher credit line after your first 6monthly on-time payments. Capital One also provides free access to your VantageScore credit score with monthly updates.

If your credit score is in the upper 500’s you may not qualify for the unsecured version of this card. You can apply for the secured card which needs a security deposit. After a series of on-time payments, Capital One may refund your security deposit.

Related Article: Best Capital One Credit Cards

Journey Student Rewards from Capital One

College students should also consider the Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One®. You get 1% back on all purchases. Paying your balance on-time gives you a 1.25% boost.  This means you get 1.25% back on every purchase when you pay your balance in full each month.

Cardholders can also earn $5 per month for 12 months on select streaming subscriptions when you pay on time (exclusions apply). You can pick the monthly due date and be automatically considered for a higher credit line in as little as six months. Another helpful perk is the $0 fraud liability if your card is ever lost or stolen.

The annual fee is $0 and there isn’t a foreign transaction fee. This can be used to build credit without having to worry about extra fees. Cardholders can use the free CreditWise app to track their credit. After the first 6 months of on-time payments, Cap One may increase your credit limit. This is also one of the best different types of credit cards.

Discover it Secured

Most secured credit cards require a refundable security deposit and don’t earn purchase rewards. The Discover it® Secured at least earns cash back on every purchase. You earn 2% back at gas stations and restaurants on the first $1,000 in combined spending each quarter. All other purchases earn 1% back. Discover also matches all the cash rewards you earn for the first year.

Your credit limit is equal to your security deposit. For example, a $500 security deposit means you get a $500 credit limit. This card doesn’t have an annual fee.

It’s possible to convert this card to an unsecured card after 8 months. You get your security deposit back when this happens and a potentially higher credit limit.

Related Article: Best Discover Credit Cards

Discover it Student Cash Back

The Discover it® Student Cash Back earns 5% back on the first $1,500 in rotating quarterly bonus categories. All non-bonus purchases earn 1% back. Like other Discover cards, Discover matches 100% of the cash rewards you earn during the first year.

One unique benefit for this card is earning an annual $20 statement credit with a school year GPA of 3.0 or higher. You can get this credit for up to 5 years for a potential $100 cumulative cash bonus.

Related Article: Discover it Review

Petal Card

The information for the Petal Credit Card has been collected independently by Johnny Jet. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

The Petal Card takes a different approach to approving young adults for a credit card. Instead of using your credit score, they use your bank account to determine how you manage your money. However, having a credit score can still be helpful with getting a Petal Card. Your credit limit is between $500 and $10,000.

There are no annual fees or late payment fees. However, late payments can still accrue interest charges.

You earn cash rewards on all purchases. Your rewards rate gradually increases from 1% to 1.5% back:

  • You get 1% back on the first 6 months
  • After 6 on-time monthly payments, you get 1.25% back
  • Finally, you get 1.5% back on purchases after 12 on-time monthly payments

Chase Freedom Flex

The Chase Freedom Flex℠ credit card is a tiered reward credit card. It’s possible to earn 5% cash back on the first $1,500 in rotating quarterly purchase categories (once activated). Some examples include gas stations, grocery stores, gyms, and public transit. Cardholders also earn 5% on travel purchased through Chase and 3% on dining at restaurants and drugstores. All non-bonus purchases earn 1% cash back.

You can redeem your points for cash, travel, and gift cards. Each point is worth 1 cent each for these redemption options. The Chase Freedom Flex Review explains more about this new Chase card, and it doesn’t have an annual fee. It’s also possible to earn a $200 bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening. Cardholders can also earn 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (not including Target or Walmart purchases) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year.

Deserve EDU

The Deserve EDU credit card is another student credit card for those with minimal credit history.

Card benefits include the following:

  • 1% back on all purchases
  • Cell phone protection up to $600 per claim
  • Secondary rental car collision damage waiver
  • No foreign transaction fee
  • No annual fee

As this card doesn’t require a Social Security Number (like most credit cards), international students can qualify for this card. Receive one year of Amazon Prime Student on Deserve after spending $500 in the first three billing cycles with your EDU card (Lifetime Value of $59).

Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card

The Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card earns 1.5% back on all purchases. This card has no annual fee. With the Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card, you can earn cash rewards if you’re not a college student. New cardholders can earn a one-time $200 cash bonus after spending $500 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.

If your credit score is low 700s, you may try qualifying for the Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card. It too earns 1.5% cash back but has a $39 annual fee. It’s also one of the best instant approval credit cards.

No Annual Fee Credit Cards

Young adults should first try and qualify for credit cards with no annual fee. Besides saving a few dollars each year, you can keep this card open after qualifying for a better card. Keeping a no annual fee card open helps you build a long-term credit history. Plus, the first credit card you get can end up being your oldest card account.

By having a long-term account with on-time payments (especially if you can pay them in full each month), it can help you qualify for more exclusive credit cards in the future. Having an annual fee to worry about can be avoided when building credit.

Summary of the Best Credit Cards for Young Adults

Young adults have plenty of options to get a great credit card with no annual fee. Earning cash rewards is also possible. This is an easy way to build credit as a college student or recent graduate. Using credit cards to build your credit score as soon as possible can pay dividends in the near future.

FAQs

Should young adults get a credit card?

Young adults–or any adult for that matter–should only get a credit card if they can make on-time payments. Missing payments can result in a bad credit score and high interest charges. If you can responsibly manage a credit card, getting one between ages 18 and 25 is a good start to build credit.

A good credit score can help you qualify for a job that handles money, moving into a better apartment, low-interest rate loans, and credit cards with better rewards and benefits.

The best credit card to get can be one with no annual fee. Preferably, the card will earn purchase rewards as well. This can be a free way to build credit by paying your monthly statement balance on-time.

Can a 20-year-old get a credit card?

Yes, it’s possible for to get a credit card when you’re 20-years-old. Banks only require the primary applicant to be at least 18-years-old. However, you may need to earn a regular income or have a credit score of at least 600 to qualify for unsecured cards that don’t require an annual fee.

Student credit cards are more flexible and allow college students to build credit while in school. Their parent or legal guardian may also need to be on the account.

If you have no credit history and are not a student, consider a secured credit card. This card requires a refundable security deposit. You get this deposit back once you close the account and don’t have an unpaid balance. Most national banks (like Discover, Capital One, or Bank of America) don’t charge an annual fee. It’s still a free way to build credit and eventually upgrade to an unsecured credit card.

How do I get a credit card?

The quickest way to get a credit card is by applying online. You may also be able to apply in-person at a local bank branch. But, some of the best cards may be from banks that don’t have a branch nearby.

You will need to be at least 18 years old to apply for a personal credit card. Some states require a slightly higher age to get a small business credit card.

The credit card application also asks for this info:

  • Annual salary
  • Current monthly mortgage or rent payment
  • Social Security number
  • Home address

The bank uses your Social Security number to access your credit report. This information is used to help determine your credit limit and whether or not you qualify for a card.

Because each credit card application counts as a hard inquiry, you may try to get credit card pre-approval. While you must still submit an official application, pre-approval only requires a soft credit check. Soft inquires don’t show on your credit report. Hard inquiries show for 2 years and temporarily drop your score a few points.

Once you get approval, you should wait at least 30 days to apply for another card to avoid an automatic rejection. A better option is to wait for at least 6 months. This half-year waiting period is ample time to establish an on-time payment history and see your score increase several points.

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Josh Patoka
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