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Updated August 9, 2016

Study: Credit Cards for Young Professionals 2016

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Forget titanium. As a young adult, you want a credit card with good rewards and benefits but low fees. Use this list as a starting point.

Young Professional
Young Professional © CreditDonkey

Credit Cards for Young Adults with Good Credit

Being a young professional is tough these days.

We've just come out of one of the worst financial crises and are still feeling its long lasting effects. Job uncertainty is common, and those who are employed aren't guaranteed job security anymore. All this puts a serious strain on young people's ability to reach family, social, and financial goals.

So where does all this leave the young professional of today?

More than ever they need to be in control of their financial standing. The right credit card (if used correctly, of course) can make your life easier and even help you reach your goals.

Starter: Using a Credit Card as a Money-Managing Tool

No matter what your financial situation is, having the right credit card in your pocket is a wise move. It can help you manage your cash flow when it’s not steady. But even better than that, it can help you actually save money, through the form of rewards.

A credit card is also essential to build credit history. As you move further into adulthood, you’ll need that credit score for almost every major thing you do, from buying a car to renting an apartment. Employers may even do a credit inquiry as part of a background check.

For some twentysomethings, they may be picking out their very first credit card. There’s a lot to choose from, so we’ve put together a list of the credit cards that are a good fit for young adults.

By picking the right card for your goals, you’ll have an easier time making them happen.

Young Professionals: What You Need to Know

The ideal credit card for young adults is one that offers good rewards and benefits without rip-off fees. Sounds easy? But there's a ton of choices online and it's easy to fall into the trap of getting the wrong credit card.

Or applying, only to get declined.

Do you have a credit history? If you’ve never had a credit card, a car loan, or a student loan — you will need to build credit first. You'll probably need to start with a secured credit card. Or if you are still in college, a student credit card.

And if you do already have an established credit score, you can get some nice rewards by using the right credit cart. Keep reading….

Want to Apply for a Credit Card? How to Choose the Right Card

We’ll let you in on a little secret. There is no perfect credit card out there.

A card that’s great for your friend may have little use to you. You’ll come across some benefit you love on one card (like a super-low interest rate) but also notice a negative (like a fee added onto purchases when you travel internationally). You’ll need to zero in your priorities.

Here is what you should keep in mind:

  • Rewards: Look for a credit card with rewards that fit your lifestyle. What’s the point of earning rewards on grocery shopping if you rarely step foot in a supermarket?

    But watch out. Rewards credit cards tend to have high interest rates. If you occasionally carry a balance — meaning you don't pay your credit card bill in full each month — you should look for a credit card with low interest rates instead.

  • Benefits: Paying by credit card means you expect certain benefits. It's no longer enough that credit card companies offer $0 fraud liability and the right to use the card. Many include perks such as extended warranty and return protection. Get familiar with the options out there and see how much you can get with your next card.

  • Fees: Look, we all hate fees. Generally speaking, unless you are a big spender, you should opt for a credit card without an annual fee.

    That being said, sometimes an annual fee makes sense if your spending is very predictable and you’re able to take advantage of an especially beneficial rewards program.

    For instance, if you spend more than $61 a week on groceries, you may want to consider the Blue Cash Preferred from American Express, a CreditDonkey advertiser. The Blue Cash Preferred gives you 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1%). But it has a $95 annual fee.

    And in the event you somehow routinely spend thousands per month on your credit card, a card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred might be worth considering. It has an introductory annual fee of $0 the first year, then $95. But this card lets you earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 in travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, which is Chase's online travel portal.

    But for the rest of us mere mortals, a credit card with no annual fee is usually the way to go.

If You Are a Smart Shopper

For most young adults, a credit card that gives you cash back is very attractive. Whether you’re shopping or eating out, you could get something back for every dollar you spend.

As long as you keep your spending within your budget and can pay off your balance every month, these cards are a joy to use and very rewarding to boot.

Look for one with a rewards structure you can follow and that fits your spending patterns.

Barclaycard CashForward
Apply for Barclaycard CashForward World MasterCard
Cash Back: Barclaycard CashForward earns an unlimited 1.5% cash back on everything you purchase. That means there's no "special categories" that changes on you throughout the year to worry about. Instead, you earn an above-average 1.5% cash rewards on all your purchases - with no annual fee.

Plus, Barclaycard CashForward offers a $100 cash rewards bonus after you spend $500 on purchases within your first 90 days from account opening.

But that's not all. It has a 0% intro APR for 12 months on purchases and balance transfers (made within the first 45 days of account opening). After that, a variable APR, currently 15.24%, 19.24% or 23.24% depending on your creditworthiness.

To learn more about this no annual fee cashback credit card, read our Barclaycard CashForward Review.

Not sure if you can handle always paying off your balance?

Barclaycard Ring Low Interest: We get it, sometimes life happens. As a young adult in today’s uncertain job market, you may not have consistently steady cash flow each month. The Barclaycard Ring offers a low 8.25% variable APR on purchases and balance transfers.


It’s the perfect time to travel when you’re young. You have the energy and enthusiasm to see exotic countries before you get tied up with more responsibilities. As a hard-working young professional, it’s also nice to get away and go on vacation. Compare the latest travel credit card deals here.

Look for a travel card with rewards you can understand and that will bring you closer to your travel goals. If you’re an overseas traveler, then watch out for cards that carry a foreign transaction fee (which applies to every purchase made outside the U.S.).

Travel Rewards w/ No Annual Fee and No Foreign Transaction Fee:
Barclaycard Arrival Barclaycard Arrival offers 20,000 bonus miles if you spend $1,000 on purchases within the first 90 days of opening your new card account. 20,000 bonus miles is enough to redeem for a $200 travel statement credit. This card earns 2x miles on travel & dining and 1x miles on all other purchases. When you redeem miles, you will get 5% miles back to use toward your next redemption, every time you redeem. There is no foreign transaction fee. There is no annual fee.

Plus, there is a 0% introductory APR for 12 months for each balance transfer made within the first 45 days of account opening. Then, a variable APR applies (currently 16.24%, 20.24% or 24.24%).

Travel Rewards:
Chase Sapphire Preferred Chase Sapphire Preferred lets you earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 in travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. You can earn 5,000 bonus points if you add your first authorized user and make a purchase within the first three months from account opening. This card lets you earn 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases worldwide. The points can be transferred 1:1 to leading frequent travel programs including airline transfer partners. The card has a $0 foreign transaction fee. The card also comes with premium travel and purchase protection benefits (including trip cancellation/trip interruption insurance and auto rental collision damage waiver). There is an Introductory Annual Fee of $0 the first year, then $95.

If you like a particular airline or hotel chain, take a look at travel credit cards to see how long it would take you to score a free flight or hotel stay. And also look into earning airline miles and points — if you are a frequent traveler, you really stand to benefit if you pay attention to both your earning and redeeming options.


In young adulthood, you’re in charge of your destiny. And your credit card choices. That means planning out your goals and choosing wisely (we recommend looking over at least 3 cards before applying).

Welcome to the real world, and happy hunting.

Credit Cards for Young Adults with Fair Credit

Barclaycard Rewards Build Credit: Even if you don’t have excellent credit, you can get a good rewards credit card with no annual fee. The Barclaycard Rewards is available to people with fair credit. And it offers 2X points on purchases for gas, grocery stores (excluding Target® and Walmart®) and utilities - and 1x points on all other purchases.

There's no complicated setup. No redemption fees and no limits on the points you can earn.

Plus, it reports to all 3 major credit bureaus monthly — giving you an opportunity to build your credit. And as a benefit to active cardmembers, you can opt in to have complimentary access to your FICO credit score from your Barclaycard online account.

Credit Cards for Students and Young Adults with No Credit

© The LEAF Project (CC BY-SA 2.0) via Flickr

First Time: Still new to the world of credit?

  • If you are in college, you may consider a student credit card.
  • If you are out of college, you'll probably need to look into a secured credit card. A secured credit card does not require a credit history for approval. Instead, it is secured by a deposit.

Related: Credit Cards for Beginners

Credit Cards for Young Adults with Bad Credit

If you have bad credit, there is still hope.

We all make mistakes, especially when we’re young. If you’ve made a few and have been branded with a bad credit score, you have a whole lifetime of time to build your way up to a better reputation. In fact, the most effective way to do is to prove that you can depended on by using a credit card wisely.

You can consider using a secured credit card to help rebuild your credit history.

A Sign of Finally Being a Grownup: Owning a Credit Card

Credit cards are a convenient way to keep track of your spending and manage your finances. They’re also an important tool to build credit that will help you later on in life. Find the one that best fits your needs and you’ll get other rewards too, whether it’s cash back or travel miles. And if you’re still in the process of building credit, use one responsibly to show that you’re a reliable credit user, and one day you’ll be eligible to receive such perks too.

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Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author's alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer. This site may be compensated through the Advertiser's affiliate programs.

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