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Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available – View the current offers here – Chase Sapphire Preferred Card 

Young professionals in their 20s to mid-30s face numerous financial challenges. With student loans being especially burdensome, many are fearful of taking on even more debt — and it’s incredibly wise to avoid racking up debt through credit cards.

If you’re able to use credit cards responsibly, though (as in paying them off in full each billing statement), it’s best to get started with them as soon as possible. This way, you’ll begin building your credit and earning valuable points and miles or cash back.

When you’re just getting your feet wet with travel rewards cards and/or if you’re early on in your career, premium credit cards with high annual fees can be a tough pill to swallow. Luckily, there are plenty of valuable options that are much more affordable.

Here are the 5 best cards for young professionals looking to earn points, miles or cash back without paying a large annual fee.

Capital One VentureOne Credit Card

 

The Capital One VentureOne Rewards Card is a great option to get you started earning valuable miles. You’ll earn 1.25 miles per dollar on all purchases, except at Hotels.com, where you’ll earn 10 miles per dollar spent on Hotels.com (when booked and paid through Hotels.com/venture), which can ultimately earn you 20% back on bookings, paid with your VentureOne card. This is the perfect excuse to use your PTO and get away from the office.

With a $0 annual fee, 0% APR for the first 12 months on purchases (then a 14.24%-24.24% variable rate) and no foreign transaction fees, it’s a great candidate for an everyday spending card. When it comes to redeeming miles, you can either use them to offset travel purchases on your card statement or, starting in December 2018, transfer them to a handful of airline partners at a 2:1.5 ratio.

To add, this card is offering a 20,000-mile bonus after you spend $1,000 in the first 3 months of card ownership, which is worth $280 based on TPG’s most recent valuations.

Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card

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

While Wells Fargo tends to be overlooked when it comes to its lineup of credit cards, this card in particular should be at the top of your list.

The Wells Fargo Propel Amex card is perfect for those who spend their hard-earned dollars in specific categories. You can earn 3 points per dollar on purchases like gas, ride shares, transit, flights, hotels and popular streaming services. You will earn 1 points per dollar on all other purchases. This card also comes with no annual fee.

In addition, this card has a 30,000-point welcome bonus (worth $300) after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months. You can redeem points for travel, cash back, gift cards or charity for 1 cent apiece, making this a strong option even if you are a lighter traveler. If you want to get more advanced, if you also hold the Wells Fargo Visa Signature Card, you’ll get 1.5 cents per point in value.

Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express

The American Express EveryDay Card is another strong contender for a spot in your wallet. With 0% APR in the first 15 billing cycles on purchases (then a variable rate of 15.24%-26.24%), no annual fee, a 20% points bonus when you make 20 purchases or more in a month and 2x points at US supermarkets, this is another great card for everyday spending.

The card has a welcome bonus of 10,000 American Express Membership Rewards points after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months. American Express Membership Rewards are some of the best rewards points to earn as they can be transferred to frequent flyer programs such as Delta SkyMiles (my personal favorite), Etihad and Virgin Atlantic Flying Club and hotel reward programs such as Hilton Honors.

The information for the Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Discover it® Miles


While Discover can sometimes be overlooked, the Discover it® Miles can be hugely rewarding. With no annual fee, an earning rate of 1.5 miles per dollar spent and 0% APR for the first 14 months on purchases (then a variable rate of 14.24%-25.24%), this card seems somewhat typical, right?

But the bonus offer is quite unique: For every mile you earn your first year, Discover matches it. If you earn 35,000 miles, you will have 70,000 miles! These miles are worth a flat 1 cent apiece and can be redeemed to cover travel expenses on your card statement.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

One of TPG‘s favorite cards, the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card is a great option for a young professional. With a $95 annual fee that’s waived the first year and a 50,000-point bonus (worth $1,000 based on TPG’s valuations) after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months, this card is great if you can tackle that bonus early. With 2 points per dollar on travel and dining and 1 point per dollar on all other purchases, your next trip booked on points isn’t far in the future. The best part about these points is they are transferable to many great partners including United Airlines, British Airways and Singapore Airlines.

Bottom Line

Picking a credit card that is right for you can be a daunting task, especially when you’re just starting your career and your financial situation may not be the most secure. But as long as you’re able to pay off your balances in full, it’s worth getting started with rewards cards sooner than later. Even though I’m in a large amount of student debt, credit cards are a key part of my travel strategy, as they allow me to book award flights and hotel stays that I wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford.

Know before you go.

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Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card

SIGN-UP BONUS: 50,000 Miles

TPG'S BONUS VALUATION*: $700

CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 10X miles on stays booked and paid for through Hotels.com/Venture + 2x miles on everything else. Miles are now transferrable to over a dozen airline 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
  • Enjoy a one-time bonus of 50,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $500 in travel
  • Earn 2X miles on every purchase, every day. Plus earn 10X miles on thousands of hotels, through January 2020; learn more at hotels.com/venture
  • Named ‘The Best Travel Card' by CNBC, 2018
  • Receive up to $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®
  • Fly any airline, stay at any hotel, anytime; no blackout dates. Plus transfer your miles to over 12 leading travel loyalty programs
  • Miles won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how many you can earn
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • $0 intro annual fee for the first year; $95 after that
Intro APR on Purchases
N/A
Regular APR
17.99% - 25.24% (Variable)
Annual Fee
$0 intro for first year; $95 after that
Balance Transfer Fee
$0
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.