12 Best Credit Cards to Apply for in Your 20s

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Kim Chwalek

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If you are in your 20s, you will most likely apply for a credit card at one point or another. Lucky for you, credit cards can be a great tool for building credit and earning rewards on daily purchases. If you play your cards right, you won’t have to pay interest or deal with hidden fees! Keep reading to learn more about the top 12 credit cards for your 20s.

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1. Chase Freedom Unlimited ($0 Annual Fee)

For young professionals who love a high rewards rate.

Chase Freedom Unlimited is an excellent card that offers a great combination of valuable rewards, redemption options, 0% Intro APR for 15 months, and a generous sign-up bonus with no annual fee.

 

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  • $200 cash bonus after spending $500 on purchases in the first 3 months

  • Unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases

  • 5% back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards

  • 3% back at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery services

  • 3% back on drugstore purchases

  • 0% intro APR for 15 months on purchases

2. Chase Sapphire Preferred Card ($95 Annual Fee)

For adventurous 20-something’s who prefer a large sign-up bonus.

With Sapphire preferred, you can ear 2x points on all travel and dining and 1x points on everything else. Plus, the 80,000 bonus points are worth up to $1,000 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards. These points can also be redeemed for cash back, travel, gift cards, amazon purchases, and apple purchases. In order to offset the card’s $95 annual fee through rewards, you will need to spend a combined $4,750 on dining or travel each year.

 

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  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months

  • 2x points on travel and dining, including eligible delivery services, takeout, and dining out

  • 1x points on everything else

  • $50 statement credit on groceries in first year

  • No foreign transaction fees

Chase Sapphire Preferred and Freedom Unlimited are the perfect beginner card combination. By pairing these two, you can earn 50 percent more rewards on purchases outside of Sapphire Preferred’s travel and restaurant dining category.

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Quick tip: build your portfolio selectively

Before choosing to apply for any credit card, make sure you are building your credit card portfolio selectively. The perfect card mix is different for every person. Opening multiple credit card accounts in a short period of time or closing cards down the line can hurt your credit score.

3. Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards ($0 Annual Fee)

For practical spenders looking for unlimited 1.5% cash-back.

With Capitol One Quicksilver, you can redeem your 1.5% cash-back in any amount. There is no limit on what you can earn! The sheer simplicity of the card is perfect for consumers with varied spending habits.

 

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  • $200 cash bonus after spending $500 on purchases in the first 3 months

  • Unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases

  • 0% intro APR for 15 months

  • No foreign transaction fees

4. Citi Double Cash Back ($0 Annual Fee)

For young professionals who love flat-rate cash-back.

While the Double Cash Card doesn’t come with a sign-up bonus or 0% intro APR period for purchases, the card’s consistent 2% cash-back makes it worthwhile.

 

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  • 1% cash back for every dollar spent

  • 1% cash back for every dollar paid off

  • 0% intro APR on balance transfers 18 months

What is intro apr?

Introductory APR is a low promotional interest rate that credit card companies offer for a period of time after you open an account. You don’t have to pay APR if you pay on time and in full every month. Every card also has a grace period where you can pay off your balance and avoid interest after the end of your billing cycle.

5. Chase Freedom Flex ($0 Annual Fee)

For rewards maximizers who look for 5% cash-back in bonus categories.

This $0-annual-fee card has fixed bonus categories that range as high as 5% back, on top of 5% bonus categories that change each quarter. You will need to activate these bonus categories every three months to reap their rewards. If you don’t mind keeping track of the bonus categories, this cash-back card will be a great choice for you.

 

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  • $200 cash bonus after spending $500 on purchases in the first 3 months

  • 5% cash-back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter

  • 5% cash-back on travel

  • 3% cash-back on dining at restaurants and drugstores

  • 1% cash-back on all other purchases

  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months

6. Discover it Cash Back ($0 Annual Fee)

For those looking for cash-back match and 5% rewards in rotating categories.

 

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This card offers unlimited cash-back in your first year! There’s no minimum spending or maximum rewards.

  • 5% cash-back on everyday purchases each quarter, up to the quarterly maximum

  • Unlimited 1% cash-back on all other purchases

  • 0% intro APR for 14 months on purchases and balance transfers

Quick tip: set up auto payments

To avoid paying late fees and hurting your credit score, set up automatic monthly payments from your bank account.

7. Ink Business Cash ($0 Annual Fee)

For entrepreneurs who want 5% cash-back in select business categories.

The Ink Business Cash Card is useful to have if you need a business credit card for certain expenses. It’s simple to redeem points and easy to earn them.

 

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  • $750 cash-back after spending $7,500 on purchases in the first 3 months

  • 5% cash-back in select business categories

  • 2% cash-back on first $25m000 spent uncombined purchases at gas stations and restaurants

  • 1% cash-back on all other purchases

  • 0% intro APR for 12 months from account opening

8. Capitol One Platinum ($0 Annual Fee)

For young professionals looking to improve their credit score.

This a great credit card for those with average credit or who are new to credit. Capitol One Platinum has a $0 annual fee and reports account information to the 3 major credit bureaus each month. You can be automatically considered for higher credit in as little as 6 months.

  • Qualify with average credit

  • No annual fee

  • No foreign transaction fee

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What are balance transfers?

A balance transfer is a type of credit card transaction in which debt is moved from one account to another. Many balance transfer credit cards will charge a fee of 3% to 5% of the amount you transfer. In order to get approved for a balance transfer credit card, you typically need a good credit score.

9. American Express Blue Cash Preferred ($95 Annual Fee)

For those who want 6% cash-back at American supermarkets.

This card is perfect for many cardholders, especially those with families. If you spend more than $31 per week at U.S. supermarkets, your annual rewards will offset the $95 fee.

 

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  • $300 statement credit after you spend $3,000 in purchases within the first 6 months

  • $0 introductory annual fee, then $95

  • 6% cash-back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 a year

  • 6% cash-back on select U.S. streaming services

  • 3% cash-back at U.S. gas stations and eligible transit

  • 1% cash-back on other purchases

10. Bank of America Travel Rewards ($0 Annual Fee)

For travel enthusiasts looking for flexible travel rewards and no foreign transaction fees.

This card is a great option for frequent travelers who don’t want to pay an annual fee for a credit card. You can use points to get credit for airfare, hotel stays, cruises, and car rentals, as well as trips to museums, amusement parks, aquariums, and more!

 

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  • 25,000 bonus points after you make 1,000 in purchases in first 90 days of account opening

  • Unlimited 1.5 points per $1 spent on all purchases

  • 0% intro APR for 12 billing cycles on purchases

  • No foreign transaction fees

Quick tip: how to improve your credit score

The average credit score in the U.S. is 680. Good credit scores fall between 670 and 739 on a scoring range from 300 to 850. To improve your credit score, pay your bills on time, make frequent payments, and ask for higher credit limits.

11. Capitol One Venture Rewards ($95 Annual Fee)

For frequent vacationers who love 100,000 bonus miles and flat-rate travel rewards.

Here’s a card with a high rewards rate, flexible rewards redemption, big sign-up bonus, and no foreign transaction fee! The card’s $95 annual fee is easily offset by the welcome offer.

 

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  • 100,000 bonus miles when you spend $20,000 on purchases in the first 12 months from account opening, or $50,000 miles if you spend $3,000 in the first 3 months

  • Unlimited 2x miles per dollar on every purchase

  • Receive up to $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre

  • No foreign transaction fees

12. American Express Gold Card ($250 Annual Fee)

For high-spending dining enthusiasts who want rewards at restaurants worldwide.

If you spend heavily on dining and groceries, the AMEX Gold Card is worth it. The card’s $240 worth of benefits effectively cancel out the card’s $250 annual fee.

 

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  • 60,000 points after you spend 4,000 within first 6 months

  • 4X points on restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery

  • 4X points at U.S. supermarkets on up to $25,000 per year in purchases

  • 3X points on flights booked directly with airlines

  • 1x everywhere else

  • $120 Uber Cash

  • $120 Dining Credit

  • No foreign transaction fees

 

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