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This article was last updated Aug 16, 2019. Terms and conditions may have changed. For the most accurate information, please consult the issuer website.
Being a young professional can involve a lot of financial juggling, from paying down student loans to building up an emergency fund and saving for retirement. Choosing a credit card can help you earn rewards and build a good credit history, but learning how to responsibly manage credit and avoid getting into debt with a credit card is key.
The two most important ways to build a great credit score with credit cards are to never let your card balances rise above 30% of your credit limit, and always pay on time. Combine those practices with keeping your oldest card open and by not applying for too many cards in a short period of time, and you’re on your way to creating a solid credit profile.
To help you get started, we’ve put together a list of the top five credit cards for young professionals. None of these cards have annual fees, so you can get cash back and rewards points for things such as dining out, traveling and more, without worrying about a yearly cost eating into what you earn. Take a look and see which one best fits your budgetary needs and your spending habits.
In this article:
- Best first credit card
- Best cashback card
- Best travel card
- Best card for 0% APR
- Best card for dining and entertainment
Best first credit card for young professionals:
Discover it® Cash Back
0% for 14 months on purchases and Balance Transfers, then 11.99% - 22.99% Variable.
Earn 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places each quarter like grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations, select rideshares and online shopping, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - automatically. *
Get a dollar-for-dollar match of all the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically*
- INTRO OFFER: Unlimited Cashback Match. Discover will automatically match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year! There’s no minimum spending or maximum rewards. Just a dollar-for-dollar match.
- Earn 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places each quarter like grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations, select rideshares and online shopping, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate.
- Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - automatically.
- Redeem cash back any amount, any time. Rewards never expire.
- Use your rewards at Amazon.com checkout.
- Get an alert if we find your Social Security number on any of thousands of Dark Web sites.* Activate for free.
- No annual fee.
- See Rates & Fees
See additional details for Discover it® Cash Back
The Discover it® Cash Back is a popular card among young professionals starting their credit journeys and also offers excellent ongoing value. It features rotating quarterly categories on which cardholders can earn 5% cash back on purchases, as well as a generous offer for new cardmembers.
The rewards rate lets you Earn 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places each quarter like grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations, select rideshares and online shopping, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - automatically. The sign-up bonus has the potential to be a huge value if you put the bulk of your spending on this card during the first year you have it. For new cardmembers, Discover will automatically match all the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year! There's no minimum spending or maximum rewards. Just a dollar-for-dollar match.
There’s also a solid introductory offer with a 0% APR for purchases and balance transfers. For purchases, it’s 0% for 14 months. For balance transfers, it’s 0% for 14 months. After the intro period, it’s 11.99% - 22.99% Variable.
The annual fee is $0, with a 3% intro balance transfer fee, up to 5% fee on future balance transfers (see terms)*, and as far as a foreign transaction fee, there is none.
Best cashback card for young professionals:
Chase Freedom Unlimited®
0% Intro APR for 15 months on purchases
$150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.
14.99% to 23.74% Variable
- Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.
- Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases.
- 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases, then a variable APR of 14.99 - 23.74%.
- No annual fee
- No minimum to redeem for cash back
- Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open
See additional details for Chase Freedom Unlimited®
This card keeps it simple and offsets some of the cost of making purchases with the card. Earn cash back on every charge at a flat rate, so you never have to worry about remembering to sign up for rotating cash back categories or earning varying amounts depending on what you’re buying.
The annual fee is $0 and the foreign transaction fee is 3% of each transaction in U.S. dollars. There’s a balance transfer fee of either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater..
If you’re looking for a sign-up bonus, the Chase Freedom Unlimited® has a good one. You can earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.
The introductory offers are 0% Intro APR for 15 months for both purchases and balance transfers. After that, the regular purchase APR is 14.99% to 23.74% variable.
In addition, if you have the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card or the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, you can transfer points earned on the Chase Freedom Unlimited® and redeem them for travel in the Chase Ultimate Rewards® portal for extra value.
Best travel card for young professionals:
Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card
If you’re looking for a card that can help fund your love of travel — as well as give you something back when you eat out or order in — the Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card can help.
The Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card offers the opportunity to earn 3x points on eating out, ordering in and popular streaming services, 3x points on gas stations, rideshares and transit, and 3x points on travel including flights, hotels, homestays and car rentals. earn 1x points on other purchases. You can redeem rewards points for travel, cash redemption options, gift cards and more. There’s no limit to the amount of points you can earn, and points don’t expire as long your account remains open.
There’s also a solid sign-up bonus for new cardholders — earn 20,000 bonus points when you spend $1,000 in purchases in the first 3 months - that's a $200 cash redemption value. That’s a $200 cash redemption value.
The annual fee is $0, and as far as a foreign transaction fee, there is none.
Best 0% interest card for young professionals:
Citi Simplicity® Card - No Late Fees Ever
It might not offer cash back or rewards, but what the Citi Simplicity® Card - No Late Fees Ever does have is a solid 0% introductory APR offer for purchases and balance transfers. If you are planning to make a big purchase, such as a laptop, appliance or furniture, and need time to pay it off without accruing interest — or if you have existing credit card debt you want to transfer and pay off without paying interest charges — this card can give you the opportunity to do so.
The intro APR is 0% for 12 months on purchases and 0% for 21 months on balance transfers. After the intro periods expire, the regular purchase APR is 14.74% - 24.74% (Variable).
There’s a balance transfer fee of 5% of each balance transfer; $5 minimum.
The annual fee on this card is $0 and the foreign transaction fee is 3%.
Best card for dining out and entertainment:
Capital One® SavorOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card
Whether you’re rooting for your favorite team at a football game or having a relaxing time out with friends at your favorite sushi restaurant, you can earn cash back on dining out and entertainment when you pay with the Capital One® SavorOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card. Capital One defines dining out as purchases at restaurants, cafes, bars, lounges, fast-food chains and bakeries. Entertainment includes ticket purchases made at movie theaters, sports promoters (professional and semi-professional live events), theatrical promoters, amusement parks, tourist attractions, aquariums, zoos, dance halls, record stores, pool halls or bowling alleys. (There are certain exclusions in both categories.)
The rewards rate is 3% cash back on dining; 3% cash back on entertainment; 2% cash back at grocery stores; 1% cash back on all other purchases. In addition, the card comes with solid introductory APR offers on purchases and balance transfers: 0% intro on purchases for 15 months and 0% intro on balance transfers for 15 months.
After the intro periods expire, the APR is 15.49% - 25.49% (Variable). The card’s balance transfer fee is 3%. It has an annual fee of $0, and if you’re worried about a foreign transaction fee, there is none.
The sign-up bonus is an easy one to achieve. You can earn a one-time $150 cash bonus after you spend $500 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening.
If you’re a heavy spender in the Capital One® SavorOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card’s cashback categories, it’s worth noting the card has a big sibling. The Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card charges an annual fee of $0 intro for first year; $95 after that, but it offers 4% Cash Back on dining; 4% Cash Back on entertainment; 2% Cash Back at grocery stores; 1% Cash Back on all other purchases. Plus, earn 8% cash back on tickets at Vivid Seats through May 2020.
The bottom line
As a young professional, you’re at an important time in your life. It’s smart to take time now and plan your financial journey, and a good credit card can help you do that. If you’re not sure exactly how building your credit history works, take a look at our guide on how to use a credit card to build credit. And if you’re wondering how many credit cards is too many, we’ve got a guide for how many credit cards you should have, too.
The information related to Citi Simplicity® Card - No Late Fees Ever have been independently collected by CompareCards and have not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card prior to publication.