Best Credit Cards for Young Professionals [2024]: Earn Rewards and Build Credit

CREDIT CARDS - CREDIT CARD REWARDS
Our top recommendations include the Wells Fargo Active Cash, Discover it Cash Back, and Chase Freedom Unlimited.
Updated April 16, 2024
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The Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card(Rates and fees) is one of our favorite cards for young adults because it’s straightforward and easy to use. It has a $0 annual fee and you can earn 2% cash rewards on purchases.

We also like the Discover it® Cash Back because it has a high rewards rate, no foreign transaction fees, and a $0 annual fee.

Let’s jump into the details of the best credit cards for young adults and professionals so you can find the right card for your situation.

In this article

Key takeaways

  • We recommend the Wells Fargo Active Cash for young adults because it’s both simple and rewarding. It has a $0 annual fee and helps you earn 2% cash rewards on purchases.
  • The Discover it Cash Back has the potential to earn more rewards than the Wells Fargo Active Cash if you make sure to activate its quarterly rotating bonus categories. It also has a $0 annual fee.
  • If you’re still building your credit history, we recommend looking into secured credit cards or alternative methods of improving your credit score, such having a family member adding you as an authorized user to their credit card.

5 of the best credit cards for young adults and professionals

  1. Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card
  2. Discover it® Cash Back
  3. Chase Freedom Unlimited®
  4. Bilt Mastercard®
  5. Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express

In addition to these cards, we put together a list of other great credit cards for young professionals in case you want to explore even more options.

Compare the best credit cards for young adults and professionals

Credit card Welcome offer Rewards rate Annual fee

Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card

Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card

5.0

$200 cash rewards bonus after spending $500 in purchases in the first 3 months Earn 2% cash rewards on purchases $0

Discover it® Cash Back

Discover it® Cash Back

4.7

Discover will match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year. Earn 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places you shop each quarter like grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations, and more, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases—automatically. $0

Chase Freedom Unlimited®

Chase Freedom Unlimited®

4.7

Earn an extra 1.5% on everything you buy (on up to $20,000 spent in the first year) 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Travel, 3% cash back on drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery service and unlimited 1.5% cash back on all other purchases $0

Bilt Mastercard®

Bilt Mastercard®

4.3

Earn up to 1X points on rent payments without the transaction fee (up to 100,000 points each calendar year; must use the card 5 times each statement period to earn points) 3X points on dining, 2X points on travel, up to 1X points on rent payments without the transaction fee (up to 100,000 points each calendar year), and 1X points on other purchases; must use the card 5 times each statement period to earn points $0

Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express

Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express

4.9

Earn a $200 statement credit after spending $2,000 in purchases in the first 6 months 3% cash back at U.S. supermarkets, U.S. gas stations, and U.S. online retail purchases (up to $6,000 per year on purchases in each category, then 1%); and 1% cash back on other eligible purchases $0 (terms apply)

Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card

Pros
  • Has a $0 annual fee
  • Has a simple rewards rate
  • Comes with intro APR offers
Cons
  • Has 3% foreign transaction fees

The Wells Fargo Active Cash is a straightforward cash rewards credit card for someone who wants a $0-annual-fee card with a simple rewards program.

Why we like it

The Wells Fargo Active Cash has a $0 annual fee, so you don’t have to worry about an annual cost. And you can earn 2% cash rewards on purchases, making it easy to earn flat rate cash rewards without having to track and use different kinds of bonus categories.

The Wells Fargo Active Cash offers cell phone protection, and it also provides these intro APR offers:

  • Intro APR on purchases: 0% intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases (then 20.24%, 25.24%, or 29.99% Variable)
  • Intro APR on qualifying balance transfers: 0% intro APR for 15 months from account opening on qualifying balance transfers (then 20.24%, 25.24%, or 29.99% Variable)

What we don’t like

You have to pay a 3% foreign transaction fee if you make purchases abroad or from foreign merchants.

Apply now or find out more in our Wells Fargo Active Cash review.

Discover it® Cash Back

Pros
  • Has a $0 annual fee
  • Has a high rewards rate
  • Comes with intro APR offers
Cons
  • Requires activating rotating spending categories every quarter

The Discover it Cash Back hits all the right notes for someone who is new to credit cards and willing to keep track of its rewarding rotating categories.

Why we like it

The Discover it Cash Back has a $0 annual fee and no foreign transaction fees. You can earn 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places you shop each quarter like grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations, and more, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases—automatically.

Additional benefits include two introductory APR offers:

  • Intro APR on purchases: 0% intro APR for 15 months on purchases (then 17.24% - 28.24% Variable)
  • Intro APR on balance transfers: 0% intro APR for 15 months on balance transfers (then 17.24% - 28.24% Variable)

Check the Discover cashback calendar to see current and past cashback bonus categories.

What we don’t like

Any type of rotating bonus categories can take some effort to track if you’re not used to them. Especially if you have to activate the categories each quarter.

Apply now or find out more in our Discover it® Cash Back(Rates and fees) review.

Chase Freedom Unlimited®

Pros
  • Has a $0 annual fee
  • Has a simple rewards rate with useful bonus categories
  • Comes with intro APR offers
Cons
  • Has foreign transaction fees

The Chase Freedom Unlimited earns valuable cashback rewards. You can redeem your rewards for travel, cash back, gift cards, and more.

Why we like it

The Chase Freedom Unlimited has a $0 annual fee and helps you earn 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Travel, 3% cash back on drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery service and unlimited 1.5% cash back on all other purchases.

You can also take advantage of these intro APR offers:

  • Intro APR on purchases: 0% intro APR for 15 months on purchases (then 20.49% - 29.24% Variable)
  • Intro APR on balance transfers: 0% intro APR for 15 months on balance transfers (then 20.49% - 29.24% Variable)

Additionally, you receive the following Chase Freedom Unlimited coverages for qualifying purchases:

  • Trip cancellation and interruption insurance
  • Auto rental collision damage waiver
  • Purchase protection
  • Extended warranty protection

What we don’t like

Cardholders have to pay foreign transaction fees (3% of each transaction in U.S. dollars) on applicable purchases.

Apply now or find out more in our Chase Freedom Unlimited review.

Bilt Mastercard®

Pros
  • Has a $0 annual fee
  • Enables you to earn points on rent payments
  • Doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees
Cons
  • Requires using your card at least five times per statement period to earn rewards

The Bilt Mastercard is a unique card that can reward you for rent payments.

Why we like it

The Bilt Mastercard has a $0 annual fee and provides 3X points on dining, 2X points on travel, up to 1X points on rent payments without the transaction fee (up to 100,000 points each calendar year), and 1X points on other purchases; must use the card 5 times each statement period to earn points.

There aren’t many other cards like Bilt for earning rewards on rent without having to pay transaction fees. So if rent is one of your largest expenses as a young professional, the Bilt Mastercard could make a lot of sense for you.

What we don’t like

You can’t earn points unless you use your card at least five times each statement period.

Apply now or find out more in our Bilt Mastercard review.

Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express

Pros
  • Has a $0 annual fee (terms apply)
  • Has common spending categories
  • Comes with intro APR offers
Cons
  • Has 2.7% foreign transaction fees

The American Express Blue Cash Everyday makes sense as your go-to card for earning rewards in everyday spending categories.

Why we like it

The American Express Blue Cash Everyday has a $0 annual fee (terms apply). It helps you earn 3% cash back at U.S. supermarkets, U.S. gas stations, and U.S. online retail purchases (up to $6,000 per year on purchases in each category, then 1%); and 1% cash back on other eligible purchases.

Cardmembers can also take advantage of these intro APR offers:

  • Intro APR on purchases: 0% intro APR for 15 months on purchases (then 19.24% - 29.99% Variable)
  • Intro APR on balance transfers: 0% intro APR for 15 months on balance transfers (then 19.24% - 29.99% Variable)

Other card benefits include:

  • Get a $7 monthly statement credit after using your enrolled card to spend $9.99 or more each month on a subscription to the Disney Bundle. Valid only at DisneyPlus.com, Hulu.com, or Plus.espn.com in the U.S.
  • Get up to $15 in statement credits back per month after you use your enrolled card to purchase a Home Chef subscription.

Keep in mind that select benefits require enrollment.

What we don’t like

As a cardmember, you have to pay 2.7% foreign transaction fees on applicable purchases.

Learn how to apply or find out more in our Amex Blue Cash Everyday review.

Honorable mentions: additional credit cards for young adults and professionals

Here are some excellent alternatives to our top picks that could also work for young adults and professionals.

If you like to travel, check out some of the best travel credit cards. Here are some of our recommendations for cards that earn travel rewards and provide travel benefits, such as the option to transfer points to hotel and airline partners.

Credit card Welcome offer Rewards rate Annual fee

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

4.9

Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening 5X points on travel purchased through Chase Travel℠; 3X points on dining, select streaming services, and online groceries; 2X points on all other travel purchases, and 1X points on all other purchases $95

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

4.7

Earn a one-time bonus of 75,000 miles once you spend $4,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening 2 miles per dollar on every purchase, every day, 5 miles per dollar on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5 miles per dollar on Capital One Entertainment purchases through 12/31/25 $95

If you’re interested in earning cashback rewards on eligible purchases, check out some of the best cash back credit cards. Here are some of our recommendations for cash back cards that can help you benefit from generous welcome offers and rewards rates.

Credit card Welcome offer Rewards rate Annual fee

Wells Fargo Autograph℠ Card

Wells Fargo Autograph℠ Card(Rates and fees)

4.7

Earn 20,000 bonus points when you spend $1,000 in purchases in the first 3 months (that’s a $200 cash redemption value) Earn unlimited 3X points on restaurants, travel, gas stations, transit, popular streaming services, and phone plans; plus earn 1X points on other purchases $0

Citi Double Cash® Card

Citi Double Cash® Card(Rates and fees)

4.8

Earn $200 in cash back after you spend $1,500 on purchases in the first 6 months of account opening. This bonus offer will be fulfilled as 20,000 ThankYou® points, which can be redeemed for $200 cash back 2% on every purchase with unlimited 1% cash back when you buy, plus an additional 1% as you pay for those purchases; plus, for a limited time, earn 5% total cash back on hotel, car rentals and attractions booked on the Citi Travel℠ portal through 12/31/24 $0

Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card

Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card

4.5

Earn a one-time $200 cash bonus after you spend $500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day; and 5% cash back on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel (terms apply) $0

Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card

Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card

4.9

Earn a one-time $200 cash bonus after you spend $500 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening 3% cash back on dining and at grocery stores (excluding superstores like Walmart® and Target®), popular streaming services, and entertainment; 5% back on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel; 8% cash back on Capital One Entertainment purchases; 10% cash back on purchases made through Uber & Uber Eats (through 11/14/2024); and 1% cash back on all other purchases $0

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

5.0

Earn a $250 statement credit after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first 6 months 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (for first $6,000 per year, after that 1%) and on select U.S. streaming services, 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations and on eligible transit, and 1% cash back on other eligible purchases $0 intro annual fee for the first year, $95 per year thereafter (terms apply)

How to get a credit card as a young adult

Consider these different paths for getting a credit card as a young adult or professional.

1. Consider secured credit cards

Secured credit cards are one of the most straightforward options if you’re new to credit cards and still building your credit history. They typically have less strict credit requirements, but you typically have to put down a security deposit.

Your security deposit acts as your credit limit. For example, if you put down a $300 security deposit on a secured card, you would have a $300 credit limit. Most secured cards have a refundable security deposit that you get back if you close your account or graduate to an unsecured card.

Check out some of the best secured credit cards, including:

If you want an unsecured card, which is a card that doesn’t require a security deposit, consider the following:

If you’re a college student, consider one of the best student credit cards.

2. Become an authorized user

You can typically start building your credit history once you’re 18, but you need proof of independent income or a co-signer to apply for a credit card if you’re not yet 21.

However, you can become an authorized user on a credit card account of a friend or family member. Some credit card issuers require you to be 13 or older, while others have no age requirement. This strategy can provide you with your own physical credit card to use and help you establish your credit.

3. Get help from a co-signer

If you’re under 21, certain financial institutions could let you apply for a credit card with a co-signer.

When someone co-signs with you on a credit card application, it means that they agree to have the same liabilities you have. However, this option has become increasingly uncommon, but it’s worth checking with the financial institution you’d like to receive a credit card from.

4. Provide proof of income

In some cases, you might be able to apply for a credit card and be under 21 if you’re able to show proof of an independent income. That means having sufficient income that comes from your own work or wages and isn’t tied to someone else, such as a parent, supporting you.

5. Build credit

Building credit is how you can go from limited credit history and average credit to better credit scores and an established credit history.

Credit cards are one of the easiest ways to build your credit because your payment history is reported to major credit bureaus and reflected on your credit report. So as long as you responsibly use and pay off your credit card balances, you should see your credit score go up over time.

FAQ

What is the best credit card for a young professional?

The best credit card for a young professional is the card that best suits their financial needs. Each situation is different, so the best card for one young professional might not be the best for another. If you want to build your credit, a secured credit card might make the most sense. But if you want to save money on common purchases, a cashback credit card could be the right fit.

What's a good credit card to build credit fast?

A secured credit card like the Discover it Secured Credit Card can help you qualify for a credit card and start building your credit fast. An unsecured credit card for bad credit, such as the Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards Credit Card, could also help. You don’t need excellent credit for these cards, but you do need to use them responsibly if you want to build credit.

For alternative ways to build your credit, consider getting added as an authorized user to a friend or family member’s credit card account. As their card is used and paid off, your credit can build. In addition, a car loan or student loan can help in the same way. As they’re paid off on time and in full, you’ll likely see positive changes in your credit.

What's the best way to build your credit score?

The best way to build your credit score and improve your creditworthiness is to learn about the factors that affect your credit. Free credit services like Experian Boost can also help you monitor your credit report and see what factors are making it change. Factors like on-time payments are huge, but monthly payments won’t be your only concern.

You’ll also need to consider how many credit accounts you have, the length of your credit history, recent credit inquiries, your credit utilization, and more. If you can keep track of these factors and make sure they’re all in good standing, you’re more likely to build your FICO score.

Best credit cards for young adults and professionals: bottom line

For simple earning and a $0 annual fee, we recommend the Wells Fargo Active Cash. It’s a straightforward card that makes sense for young professionals.

If you prefer a higher rewards rate, consider the Discover it Cash Back. It also has a $0 annual fee, but its earning potential could be better depending on your spending habits.

Compare credit cards to find the best card for your personal finance situation.

Methodology

Young professionals are typically at a point in their lives where they’re learning about financial products and then implementing what they’ve learned. They may be recent college graduates or well into their careers. Some of them are making large purchases and investments, like buying a car or house.

Overall, the situations will vary, but most young professionals aren’t likely getting ready for retirement or sitting on heaps of savings. This presents an opportunity for credit cards to help these individuals reach financial goals they otherwise wouldn’t be able to attain.

We picked thecredit cards in this guide based on their usefulness for different situations that a young professional might find themselves in, whether it’s paying down debt, building credit, saving up for travel, or saving money on everyday expenses. We didn’t want any cards with steep annual fees, but we also wanted each card to have helpful benefits a young professional could take advantage of.

Great for Flexible Travel Rewards

4.9

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Current Offer

Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening

Annual Fee

$95

Rewards Rate

5X points on travel purchased through Chase Travel℠; 3X points on dining, select streaming services, and online groceries; 2X points on all other travel purchases, and 1X points on all other purchases

Benefits and Drawbacks
Card Details

Author Details

Ben Walker, CEPF, CFEI® Ben Walker, CEPF, CFEI®, is a Senior Credit Cards Writer at FinanceBuzz. For over a decade, he's leveraged credit card points and miles to travel the world. His expertise extends to other areas of personal finance — including loans, insurance, investing, and real estate — and you can find his insights on The Washington Post, Debt.com, Yahoo! Finance, and Fox Business.

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