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Your 20s are prime years for building your credit, but with so many credit cards to chose from, the decision can be overwhelming. In an attempt to help you with your decision (and as a 23-year-old myself), we’ve put together this guide on cards you may want to consider, based on your spending habits.

New to TPG? See our Beginner’s Guide.

Related: These Are the Best Credit Cards for Millennials

In This Post

 

Chase Sapphire Preferred Card

(Photo by Isabelle Raphael / The Points Guy)
(Photo by Isabelle Raphael / The Points Guy)

Welcome bonus: 60,000 points when you spend $4,000 within the first three months of account opening. TPG values this bonus at $1,200, depending on how you redeem.

Annual fee: $95

Rewards:

  • 2x points on travel (flights, Uber, gas, etc.) and restaurants
  • 1x points on everything else.

Who should get this card? If you’re an avid TPG reader, you know we recommend this card a lot. It’s great for those in their early 20’s just entering the points-and-miles game because of the 2x points on dining and travel — those are certainly my most popular spending categories. The nice part about the travel category is that it’s super-broad and includes things like Ubers, public transit, gas and, of course, flights. Plus your points are worth 1.25 cents more when you redeem them for travel in the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal.

Read our full review of this card here.

American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp℠ Card

Welcome bonus: 10,000 miles plus a $50 statement credit when you spend $500 within the first three months of account opening. This is a value of $140 based on TPG valuations.

Annual fee: $0

Rewards:

  • 2 miles at US supermarkets and grocery delivery services
  • 2 miles on AAdvantage purchases
  • 1 mile/dollar on all other purchases
  • 25% bonus miles on inflight food and beverage service

Who should get this card? Even if you’re not a frequent flyer, this card can be rewarding when you do book a flight, especially if you fly American Airlines over time. Instead of paying for flights out of pocket, you’ll be able to cover the cost with your hard-earned American AAdvantage points. American Airlines is a great cobranded card to get because it’s part of the Oneworld alliance that includes 13 international partner airlines that you can also redeem your AA miles on.

Read our full review of the card here.

Chase Freedom Unlimited 

(Photo by Isabelle Raphael)
(Photo by Isabelle Raphael)

Welcome bonus: 3% cash back in the first year (up to $20,000 in purchases); then 1.5% cash back

Annual fee: $0

Rewards:

  • 1.5% cash back on all purchases after year one
  • Transferable Ultimate Rewards points
  • No cash back minimum

Who should get this card? If you like to use one card for everything and are looking to earn cash back, this might be the perfect card for you. Unlike many cash-back cards, the Freedom Unlimited also allows you to earn Ultimate Rewards points. This might not sound too exciting now — especially if you’re a beginner — but that’s a really nice perk because if you get certain other Chase cards — the Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Sapphire Reserve and the Ink Business Preferred — you can pair these three with the Freedom Unlimited, transfer the points you earn on it and redeem them in the Chase portal. Additionally, Ultimate Rewards points are some of the most valuable points when it comes to redeeming for travel and who doesn’t love free travel?

Read our full review of the card here.

Amex EveryDay® Credit Card

Welcome offer: 10,000 Membership Rewards points when you spend $1,000 within the first three months of account opening. These points are valued at $200 based on TPG valuations. However, be sure to check Card Match to see if you’re targeted for a higher bonus offer. Many readers often are.

Annual fee: $0

Rewards:

  • 2x points at US supermarkets (up to $6,000 in purchases)
  • 1x points on all other purchases
  • 20% bonus points when you use your card 20+ times in a billing period

Who should get this card? This is another great card for beginners as it has no annual fee and an easy spending target to hit in order to get your welcome offer. Through the Amex Membership Rewards portal, you’ll be given exclusive cash-back and rewards offers. Additionally, you can transfer the points to 19 airline and three hotel programs to really maximize their value.

There are two version of this card and they’re only slightly different, so read our comparison of the two to see which one is right for you.

Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card

Welcome bonus: 50,000 points when you spend $3,000 within the first three months of account opening. These points are valued at $700 based on TPG valuations.

Annual fee: $0 in the first year, $95 after that

Rewards:

  • 2x points on all spending
  • 10x points on hotels booked through hotels.com/venture
  • Up to $100 credit toward the enrollment fee for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck

Who should get this card? If you’re trying to take a big trip this year and want to book it with points, this is the card to get. The generous welcome bonus and 2x points/dollar spent on all purchases will get you to a reward booking in no time. With more than 15 airline transfer partners, the options of where to go are far and wide. Additionally, if you book your accommodation through hotels.com you’ll earn an additional 10x/dollar spent. That trip to Bali might be closer than you think.

Read our full review of the card here.

Bottom Line

Income, spending habits and redemption goals can vary greatly among 20-somethings. For someone fresh out of college without a whole lot of spending money or vacation time, a credit card with a higher annual fee and more travel perks is probably not going to be the right choice. However, those in their late 20’s who are more established will likely be able to offset these higher fees by using the perks that often come with those cards.

The best strategy is to pick one that offers the most points and miles for whatever it is you spend the most money on. Or if you’re just looking to earn cash back, see what card fits your lifestyle.

On top of earning points for your spending, a majority of cards offer generous welcome bonuses when you spend a certain amount within a set number of months. These bonuses alone can allow you to book a few trips, but before you get too excited about them, make sure that it’s a reasonable goal for your budget.

 

Know before you go.

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2018 TPG Award Winner: Mid-Tier Card of the Year
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

NEW INCREASED OFFER: 60,000 Points

TPG'S BONUS VALUATION*: $1,200

CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 2X points on all travel and dining, points transferrable to over a dozen travel partners

*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.

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More Things to Know
  • Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel
Intro APR on Purchases
N/A
Regular APR
18.24% - 25.24% Variable
Annual Fee
$95
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.