The five best credit cards for young adults in 2021

Aug 25, 2021

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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.

In This Post

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.

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 $100 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 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening. TPG values the bonus at up to $1,600, 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: $95
Rewards:
  • 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: 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 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: 60,000 ThankYou bonus points when you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening. We value this bonus at $1,020.

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: $95
Rewards:
  • 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 photo by Mirko Vitali/EyeEm/Getty Images

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

WELCOME OFFER: 80,000 Points

TPG'S BONUS VALUATION*: $1,600

CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 3X points on dining and 2x points on travel, 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.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
  • Enjoy benefits such as a $50 annual Ultimate Rewards Hotel Credit, 5x on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3x on dining and 2x on all other travel purchases, plus more.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,000 toward travel.
  • With Pay Yourself Back℠, your points are worth 25% more during the current offer when you redeem them for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more.
Regular APR
16.24% - 23.24% 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.