Credit Cards for Young Adults

Best First Credit Cards For Young Adults (2024)

Getting your first credit card can be overwhelming. While credit card applications are straightforward, the challenge comes in picking the best first credit card for you. 

The key is to know which cards will be most suitable for your situation. To help, we’ve put together this list of credit cards ideal for young adults, college students, and first timers. Let’s see which one suits you the best.

Best Credit Cards for First-Time Users

Capital One Platinum Credit Card

Best overall card for first-time users

The Capital One Platinum Credit Card is excellent for those with limited or average credit. This card has no annual fees and features $0 fraud liability for lost or stolen credit cards. What makes it a great choice for those new to credit cards is that Capital One periodically considers you for a higher credit score if you use the card responsibly.

Since Capital One reports your credit history to all three major credit bureaus, it’s an ideal card to help improve your credit. Credit-score-wise, we’ve seen an approval with a score as low as 533.

Pros:

  • No annual fee
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Has a $0 Fraud Liability
  • Reports to all three major credit bureaus
  • Allows you to set your preferred monthly due date

Cons:

  • No introductory 0% APR
  • No cash back or other rewards
App StatusDateCredit ScoreBureauCredit Limit
Approved03/10/2022
610
Experian
$300
Approved04/27/2022
650
Not Provided
$3,000

Read our Capital One Platinum Credit Card Review

Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards Credit Card 

If you spend more than $2,600 per year, have fair credit, and want a rewards card, the Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards Credit Card is a great credit card to check out.  The Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards Credit Card has an annual fee of $39 and offers unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase. To offset the annual fee, you would need to spend a minimum of $2600 per year. 

Pros:

  • Unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase
  • You can be considered for a higher credit line in as little as six months
  • Unlimited access to your credit score
  • $0 Fraud Liability
  • No foreign transaction fees

Cons:

  • High APR
  • Annual fee
App StatusDateCredit ScoreBureauCredit Limit
Approved06/01/2023
621
Not Provided
$2,000

Read our Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards Credit Card Review

Discover it® Student Cash Back

Best student card for cash back

The Discover it® Student Cash Back is among the top first credit cards for college students as it requires no credit score to apply. It offers generous rewards including a unique first-year cash-back match and up to 5% cash-back on purchases each quarter on specific rotating categories. You earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases.

With 0% APR for the first six months and a waiver for the first late payment, this card is an ideal first credit card for students who do not have a credit score and do not want an annual fee.

Pros:

  • 0% intro APR for the first six months
  • No annual fee
  • First-year cash-back match (If you earn $200 in rewards, Discover will match an additional $200)
  • Waiver for the first late payment

Cons:

  • Quarterly earning limits for 5% rewards
  • Acceptance varies compared to Mastercard and Visa
App StatusDateCredit ScoreBureauCredit Limit
Approved06/02/2022
650
Not Provided
$500
Approved10/07/2022
660
Equifax
$1,500
Approved03/09/2022
680
TransUnion
---
Approved03/09/2022
692
Experian
---
Approved03/09/2022
705
Equifax
---
Approved06/26/2022
741
Not Provided
---

Read our Discover it® Student Cash Back Review

Chase Freedom Rise℠ 

Best entry-level credit card

This is a new card from Chase, and it replaces the Chase Freedom Student. But it’s not just for students, it’s for anyone new to credit. Chase says customers who have a Chase checking or savings account with at least $250 in it can help approval odds for Chase Freedom Rise℠. There’s no welcome bonus (although you can get a $25 statement credit if you sign up for autopay), but you do earn rewards. After you’ve made six monthly payments on time, you can earn a credit limit increase. You do not need to have a credit history to apply for this card.

Pros:

  • No annual fee
  • 1.5% cash-back on all purchases
  • No security deposit needed
  • $25 statement credit when you sign up for autopay

Cons:

  • No welcome bonus
  • Other cards offer higher cash back reward rates
App StatusDateCredit ScoreBureauCredit Limit
Approved10/31/2023
596
Experian
$500
Approved10/31/2023
670
TransUnion
$500
Approved10/03/2023
718
Equifax
$1,700
Denied06/16/2023
631
TransUnion
---

Read our Chase Freedom Rise℠ Review

Petal® 1 "No Annual Fee" Visa® Credit Card

Best for those with no credit

ThePetal® 1 "No Annual Fee" Visa® Credit Card is an excellent choice if you have little, bad, or no credit. This card does not require an upfront security deposit and reports to all three major credit bureaus, allowing you to build your credit score. With a $0 annual fee and no deposits required, enjoy $300-$5,000 credit limits depending on your creditworthiness. You can also earn 2%-10% cash back at select merchants.

Pros:

  • No annual fee
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Reports to all three major credit bureaus
  • Earn 2%-10% cash back at select merchants

Cons:

  • Low credit limit for those with no credit history
  • No welcome bonus
App StatusDateCredit ScoreBureauCredit Limit
Approved12/05/2023
610
Experian
$3,500
Approved03/17/2023
656
Experian
$1,000

Read our Petal® 1 "No Annual Fee" Visa® Credit Card Review

Petal® 2 Visa® Credit Card

Best no credit card requiring no security deposit

If you have no established credit, thePetal® 2 Visa® Credit Card is a great way to build it. This card requires no security deposit and can help you build a credit score because it reports to all three major credit bureaus. You can qualify for a minimum credit limit of $300 and a maximum of $10,000, which your credit score and creditworthiness will determine. 

After approval, you immediately start earning 1% cash back on all purchases, and you can earn more if you use your card responsibly. By making on-time monthly payments for six months, you begin earning 1.25% cash and will earn a 1.5% cash-back after 12 months of on-time monthly payments. Additionally, they offer 2-10% cash back at select merchants as soon as you sign up.

Pros:

  • No annual, late, over-limit, or foreign transaction fees
  • Requires no collateral
  • No credit history required

Cons:

  • No intro APR offer
  • No balance transfers or cash advances
App StatusDateCredit ScoreBureauCredit Limit
Approved08/08/2022
710
Experian
$4,500
Approved07/25/2022
751
Experian
$2,500
Approved07/25/2022
777
Equifax
$2,500
Approved07/25/2022
780
TransUnion
$2,500
Approved07/02/2022
655
Equifax
$2,600
Approved07/02/2022
670
Experian
$2,600
Approved07/02/2022
677
TransUnion
$2,600

Read our Petal® 2 Visa® Credit Card Review

Chase Freedom Unlimited®

Best first-time card with good credit

If you want a card that offers generous rewards across a wide range of purchases, the Chase Freedom Unlimited® credit card is your best option. With this card, you can get the following welcome bonus: Earn an extra 1.5% on everything you buy (on up to $20,000 spent in the first year) — worth up to $300 cash back. That's 6.5% on travel purchased through Chase Travel, 4.5% on dining and drugstores, and 3% on all other purchases.

Regular cash-back rewards include 3% on dining at restaurants, 5% on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards (after your first year or spending $20,000), 3% on drugstore purchases, and 1.5% on all other purchases. This no-annual-fee card also features a 0% intro APR for 15 months for balance transfers and purchases. An ongoing APR of 20.49% - 29.24% follows.

Pros:

  • 0% APR for the first 15 months, then a regular APR of 20.49% - 29.24%.
  • No annual fee
  • Cash-back rewards don’t expire

Cons:

  • A balance transfer fee of either $5 or 3% in the first 60 days, whichever is greater, then $5 or 5% after that
  • 3% foreign transaction fee
App StatusDateCredit ScoreBureauCredit Limit
Approved03/20/2023
785
Experian
$5,000
Approved07/18/2023
765
Experian
$12,500
Approved07/18/2023
773
TransUnion
$12,500
Approved07/18/2023
785
Equifax
$12,500
Approved09/06/2023
754
Experian
$9,000
Approved09/08/2023
740
Equifax
$15,000
Denied09/05/2023
738
Experian
---
Denied09/05/2023
740
Equifax
---
Denied09/05/2023
750
TransUnion
---

Read our Chase Freedom Unlimited® Review

Secured Chime Credit Builder Visa® Credit Card

Best secured credit card

Secured Chime Credit Builder Visa® Credit Card is an excellent secured credit card for those trying to build credit. It has no annual interest, no minimum required security deposit1, and won’t charge you any annual or interest fees. In order to apply for the card, you must have a Chime Checking account and a $200 qualifying direct deposit.2 

Since it’s a secured card, you must transfer money from your Chime Checking Account to your Credit Builder secured account. That amount will be your accessible credit limit. Chime reports your credit card payments every month to the three major credit bureaus in order to help build your credit score.3

Pros:

  • No credit check
  • No APR
  • No annual fee
  • No minimum security deposit1
  • Reports to all three major credit bureaus

Cons:

  • You need a Chime Checking account and a $200 qualifying direct deposit to be eligible.2
  • You can’t access a higher credit line than your deposit

The Chime Credit Builder Credit Card offers excellent credit building benefits without incurring annual interest charges or requiring a minimum security deposit.1 You can quickly start building your credit score by making on-time payments.3

Read our Secured Chime Credit Builder Visa® Credit Card Review

The Chime Credit Builder Visa® Credit Card is issued by Stride Bank, N.A. pursuant to a license from Visa U.S.A.

1Money added to Credit Builder will be held in a secured account as collateral for your Credit Builder Visa card, which means you can spend up to this amount on your card. This is money you can use to pay off your charges at the end of every month.

2To apply for Credit Builder, you must have received a single qualifying direct deposit of $200 or more to your Checking Account. The qualifying direct deposit must be from your employer, payroll provider, gig economy payer, or benefits payer by Automated Clearing House (ACH) deposit OR Original Credit Transaction (OCT). Bank ACH transfers, Pay Anyone transfers, verification or trial deposits from financial institutions, peer to peer transfers from services such as PayPal, Cash App, or Venmo, mobile check deposits, cash loads or deposits, one-time direct deposits, such as tax refunds and other similar transactions, and any deposit to which Chime deems to not be a qualifying direct deposit are not qualifying direct deposits

3On-time payment history can have a positive impact on your credit score. Late payment may negatively impact your credit score. Chime will report your activities to Transunion®, Experian®, and Equifax®. Impact on your credit may vary, as Credit scores are independently determined by credit bureaus based on a number of factors including the financial decisions you make with other financial services organizations.

Capital One Platinum Secured Credit Card

Best secured card with a small security deposit requirement

The Capital One Platinum Secured Credit Card has no annual fee or foreign transaction costs and can help you build a stellar credit score. Unlike other secured cards, it comes with an initial credit limit of $200 and a refundable security deposit of $49, $99, or $200. 

You can access a higher credit line of up to $1,000 by depositing funds into your account. By reporting your credit usage to the major credit bureaus, you can build a positive credit history by making on-time monthly payments and staying below your credit limit.

Pros:

  • No annual or foreign transaction fees
  • Qualify with low or bad credit
  • Reports to three major credit bureaus

Cons:

  • Higher APR
  • No rewards
  • Requires a minimum deposit
  • Lower credit limit

This credit card is ideal for people new to credit since it has a $0 annual fee and no foreign transaction fees. While the issuer does report to all the credit bureaus, users should be careful about what percentage of the credit limit is used since a high usage rate will negatively impact your credit score. This is particularly problematic with lower credit limits on secured cards. 

App StatusDateCredit ScoreBureauCredit Limit
Approved10/19/2023
630
Not Provided
---

Read our Capital One Platinum Secured Credit Card Review

Secured vs. Unsecured Credit Cards

Credit cards can be classified into two categories, secured and unsecured. Unsecured credit cards do not require collateral for approval. Many unsecured cards require a credit history for approval; however, there are alternative credit cards and student credit cards that exist for those with no credit history. Secured credit cards, on the other hand, require an initial deposit that acts as collateral for the purchases made on the card.

Unsecured Cards

Unsecured credit cards are cards that do not require you to put down collateral or a security deposit against the credit limit. They are the most common credit cards available to consumers of all credit scores. Unsecured credit cards have lower interest rates, higher credit limits, and more rewards than secured cards. This offers you more flexibility when it comes to your spending. In general, unsecured credit cards are the best option for your first credit card if you can qualify. Factors to consider in selecting a good unsecured card: no annual fee, fraud protection aka $0 fraud liability, welcome offers, and cashback rewards. 

Secured Cards

Secured cards are ideal for those with a bad credit history or no credit history. To obtain these cards, you must deposit a security deposit against your credit limit. This gives the credit card issuer assurance that you will repay your debt. A secured credit card is a great choice if you want a lower spending limit to reduce the likelihood of overspending and paying late fees. These types of cards and an on-time payment history will help you improve your credit score too. Factors to consider in selecting a secured card: fees, how easy it is to increase your credit line, and the ability to convert the card to an unsecured card.

Application Requirements

You will need to meet certain requirements to get approved for a card. The typical age requirement to be the primary cardholder is 18 if you have earned a steady income; otherwise, you will need a co-signer. Once you’re 21, income requirements or a co-signer are no longer required to get your first card.

Research Methodology

It can be intimidating to apply for a credit card for the first time. Qualifying for a credit card without a credit score or limited credit history can be challenging. When analyzing the best first credit cards, we looked at several features, including annual fees, APR rates, and available rewards.

We reviewed the best unsecured credit cards without requiring a security deposit to find out which had the most beneficial features. In case you do not qualify for an unsecured card, we also listed several secured cards. Most of these cards don’t require you to have a credit history or a minimum credit score. Because all of them report to the major credit bureaus, these cards will help you build a positive credit history if used properly.

FAQs

What’s the best credit card to get first?

The best option depends on your credit score and history, as well as how you plan to use the credit card. For those with good credit, the Capital One Platinum Credit Card

What credit score do you need to get a credit card?

Depending on the card, applicants with no credit score or even a poor FICO score can qualify. One option for first-timers is a secured card, and Secured Chime Credit Builder Visa® Credit Card is one of our favorites.

What’s the best credit card for young adults?

For those with income and a good credit score, the best options are cash back credit cards that do not charge an annual fee.

Final Verdict

Credit cards are an excellent way to build your credit if you use them responsibly by making on-time payments and staying under your credit limit. While you won’t get a big sign-up bonus or cream-of-the-crop benefits, these credit cards will help you develop healthy credit behavior necessary to establish and grow your credit history. 

In our opinion, the best first credit card is the Capital One Platinum Credit Card for its no annual fee, low interest rates, and a $0 fraud liability if your card is lost or stolen. You can qualify for this card with a FICO score of at least 580. Remember, staying below your credit limit (ideally using less than 30% of your credit line) and making on-time monthly payments is crucial for building a positive credit history.