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The five best credit cards for young adults in 2021

Aug. 25, 2021
9 min read
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If you’re a young professional, chances are you want to have a credit card that… you know, doesn’t have pictures of cats or something on it (I used to have a tie-dye-printed debit card. I feel your pain). After all, you don’t want to be the person at a bar who whips out a debit card to pay for drinks, do you? Now that you (hopefully) have a real job, your own apartment and the like, it’s time to grow up and get a credit card that matches your spending habits and travel goals.

After all, your credit card could be the key to making your dream vacation happen — if you choose the right one. Goodness knows how badly we all need one of those right about now. Without further ado, we present to you our list of the best credit cards for young professionals.

Best credit cards for young adults in 2021

The information for the Amex Green card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

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American Express® Gold Card

(Photo by Eden Batki / The Points Guy)
(Photo by Eden Batki/The Points Guy)

Welcome offer: Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new card within the first six months of card membership. — worth $1,200 based on TPG’s latest valuations.

Annual fee: $250 (see rates and fees)

Rewards:

  • 4x on dining at restaurants and U.S. supermarkets (4x on up to $25,000 spent at U.S. supermarkets each calendar year; then 1x)
  • 3x on airfare, either booked directly with the airline or through American Express Travel
  • 1x points on other eligible purchases

This is a really great card (no, Amex isn’t paying me to say this). I spend most of my money on food, and this card gets you 4x on dining at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets (up to $25,000 in purchases each calendar year; then 1x) — a great plus for travelers and home chefs alike.

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It also offers 3x points on airfare, either purchased directly from an airline’s website or from American Express Travel. It’s currently offering a welcome offer of 50,000 points after you spend $4,000 in the first six months, which is worth $1,000 according to TPG valuations. You should also check the CardMatch Tool for a potential better offer (targeted and subject to change at anytime). Here’s a closer look at what you can do with your stash of points.

Read our full Amex Gold Review here.

American Express® Green Card

(Photo by Wyatt Smith/The Points Guy)

Welcome offer: 45,000 points after you spend $2,000 within the first six months of card membership. TPG values this at $900 — Cha-ching.

Annual fee: $150 (see rates and fees)

Rewards:

  • 3x points on travel, including hotels, flights, transit, tours, taxis and ridesharing services.
  • 3x on restaurants worldwide. This also includes takeout and delivery in the U.S.
  • 1x on all other purchases.

I’m not lying when I say that my mom has had the Amex Green card for 33 years. You read that correctly. There’s a reason why she has held onto it for so long, especially with perks that were upgraded in September 2019, including 3x on dining at restaurants and travel. There is also an up to $189 annual Clear® credit, which makes travel easier and faster. This is a great card keep in your wallet. Maybe you’ll even have it for the next 33 years. Enrollment required for select benefits.

Read our full Amex Green Review here.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

(Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)

Sign-up bonus: A generous 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening. TPG values the bonus at up to $1,200, depending on how you redeem the points -- either by transferring them to one of Chase's 11 airline or three hotel partners, or directly through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal.

Annual fee: $95Rewards:

  • 5x total points on all travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • 3x points on dining, including eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out
  • 3x points on select streaming services
  • 3x points on online grocery purchases (excluding Target, Walmart and wholesale clubs)
  • 2x points on all other travel
  • 1x point on all other purchases

No, you’re not imagining it: Everyone you know has this card — and for good reason. If you want to get into the points-and-miles game, it earns you 3x points on dining and 2x points on travel. So yes, every time you go to Sweetgreen or Starbucks, those 3x points will add up very quickly.

The sign-up bonus is solid, too: 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening. There’s a $95 annual fee, but for what you are getting, this is a great value, especially for a young traveler.

Read our full Chase Sapphire Preferred Review for more details.

Citi Premier® Card

(Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)

Sign-up bonus: 80,000 ThankYou bonus points when you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening. We value this bonus at $1,440.

Annual fee: $95

Rewards:

  • 3x points per dollar on air travel and hotels; includes gas stations
  • 3x points per dollar at restaurants
  • 3x points per dollar at supermarkets
  • 1x points per dollar on all other purchases

With an updated rewards structure that went into effect on Aug. 23, 2020, this Citi card has some added benefits that are especially applicable right now: I’m talking about the 3x at supermarkets since all I do is raid my pantry while I’m working from home. Plus, the annual fee is conservative when compared to other cards, so you are getting great value for the card, especially with the $1,020-valued welcome bonus.

Read our full Citi Premier® Card review for more details.

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

(Photo by The Points Guy)

Sign-up bonus: Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.Annual fee: $95Rewards:

  • 2x unlimited miles on every purchase

This card made waves when it added 16 airline and three hotel transfer partners. It offers 75,000 bonus miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening (valued up to $1,388, according to TPG valuations) and it’s a solid pick for young professionals. It also earns you 2x miles on every purchase, which is a great perk.

The Venture Card also has an up to $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck and doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees.

Read our full Capital One Venture Rewards Card review for more details.

Bottom line

Committing to a credit card can be overwhelming, especially if you haven’t been in the credit card game for a long time. We know you have a lot of options to choose from, but the key here is to pick one that matches your travel goals and spending habits. You really can’t go wrong with any one of these five cards. With everything from huge welcome bonuses to dining benefits, you’ll feel like a boss of credit in no time.

Related: Not just for the established elite: TPG millennials and Gen Z staff weigh in on their experience with premier rewards credit cards

Official application link: American Express® Gold Card
Official application link: American Express® Green Card
Official application link: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
Official application link: Citi Premier® Card
Official application link: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

For rates and fees of the Amex Gold card, click here.
For rates and fees of the Amex Green, click here.

Additional reporting by Benét J. Wilson

Featured image by Getty Images/EyeEm
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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How we chose these cards

Our points-obsessed staff uses a plethora of credit cards on a daily basis. If anyone on our team wouldn’t recommend it to a friend or a family member, we wouldn’t recommend it on The Points Guy either. Our opinions are our own, and have not been reviewed, approved, or endorsed by our advertising partners.
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TPG featured card

Best card for premium perks while traveling
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards

2 - 10X points
10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5X5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
2X2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day

Intro offer

75,000 bonus miles
Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

Annual Fee

$395

Recommended Credit

740-850
Excellent
Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023
Best card for premium perks while traveling
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5X5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
2X2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

    75,000 bonus miles
  • Annual Fee

    $395
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    740-850
    Excellent

Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023