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Credit Cards

These are the 8 best credit cards for millennials and young adults

There's a card for you, whether you're into travel, dining, entertainment or online shopping.

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It's no secret that millennials prefer to spend more on creating memories and having unique experiences than buying things to make them happy. In fact, a 2014 survey by Harris showed that 78% of those born between 1980 and 1996 would rather pay to attend events or have memorable experiences versus "buying something desirable."

With that in mind, it's clear that the ideal credit cards for millennials should focus on the types of things they're interested in most — traveling and making memories around the world, dining with friends and family, celebrating with nights out on the town and online shopping. Most importantly, they should allow cardholders (of any age) to earn valuable points and miles or cash-back rewards on the purchases they're making anyway so they can keep funding these things in the future.

Below, CNBC Select details the best credit cards for millennials who want to save money on the things they love most and put those rewards toward memorable experiences. (See our methodology for more information on how we made this list.)

Best credit cards for millennials and young adults

Best for those who love to travel

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

On Chase's secure site
  • Rewards

    Enjoy benefits such as 5x on travel purchased through Chase Travel℠, 3x on dining, select streaming services and online groceries, 2x on all other travel purchases, 1x on all other purchases, and $50 annual Chase Travel Hotel Credit, plus more.

  • Welcome bonus

    Earn 75,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's over $900 when you redeem through Chase Travel℠.

  • Annual fee

    $95

  • Intro APR

    None

  • Regular APR

    21.49% - 28.49% variable on purchases and balance transfers

  • Balance transfer fee

    Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater

  • Foreign transaction fee

    None

  • Credit needed

    Excellent/Good

  • Terms apply.

Pros

  • Points are worth 25% more when redeemed for travel via Chase Travel℠
  • Transfer points to leading frequent travel programs at a 1:1 rate, including: IHG® Rewards Club, Marriott Bonvoy™ and World of Hyatt®
  • Travel protections include: auto rental collision damage waiver, baggage delay insurance and trip delay reimbursement
  • No fee charged on purchases made outside the U.S.

Cons

  • $95 annual fee
  • No introductory 0% APR

Who's this for? If you're looking for a card that lets you rack up points on a variety of common spending categories, all while having a reasonable annual fee and many travel benefits, look no further than the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card.

Other great perks: This card was created with travelers in mind, offering benefits such as primary rental car insurance, trip cancellation and interruption insurance, baggage delay insurance and other peace-of-mind protections. You'll also score discounts on DoorDash and Instacart+ purchases, receive a 10% points boost on each card anniversary and an up to $50 Annual Chase Travel Hotel Credit that applies to stays booked through Chase TravelSM.

How to redeem rewards: You'll get the most value by transferring your points to any of Chase's 14 airline and hotel partners, such as United Airlines MileagePlus, Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards, Air Canada Aeroplan, World of Hyatt, IHG One Rewards and Marriott Bonvoy. Otherwise, your points are worth 1.25 cents each through Chase TravelSM or 1 cent per point when redeemed for gift cards or cash back.

Best for travel lovers with a higher budget

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

On Chase’s secure site
  • Rewards

    Earn 5X total points on flights and 10X total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Travel℠ immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3X points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases plus, 10X points on Lyft rides through March 2025

  • Welcome bonus

    Earn 75,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,125 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Travel℠.

  • Annual fee

    $550

  • Intro APR

    None

  • Regular APR

    22.49% - 29.49% variable

  • Balance transfer fee

    5%, minimum $5

  • Foreign transaction fee

    None

  • Credit needed

    Excellent

  • Terms apply.

Pros

  • $300 annual travel credit for travel purchases
  • Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee credit up to $100 every four years
  • Priority Pass™ Select lounge access at 1,000+ VIP lounges in over 500 cities worldwide
  • Points are worth 50% more when redeemed for travel via Chase Travel℠
  • Special benefits at The Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection
  • Complimentary year of Lyft Pink membership

Cons

  • High annual fee, but it can be offset by taking advantage of all the card’s perks
  • No introductory APR
  • Estimated rewards earned after 1 year: $1,469
  • Estimated rewards earned after 5 years: $3,346

Rewards totals incorporate the points earned from the welcome bonus

Who's this for? Millennials who are looking forward to doing some "revenge travel" and foodies everywhere should consider the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, which offers a ton of benefits as well as the opportunity to earn rewards points on travel and dining.

Other great perks: Cardholders enjoy a number of premium travel benefits including a Global Entry, TSA PreCheck® or NEXUS application fee credit; an up to $300 annual travel credit; Priority Pass airport lounge access; a robust suite of travel and purchase protections; extra perks like complimentary breakfast and room upgrades when you book stays through The Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection; and VIP access to events and experiences.

How to redeem rewards: As with the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, points can be redeemed for hotel stays, flights, car rentals and other travel elements either through Chase Travel℠ or by transferring them to any of Chase's 14 travel partners. However, points are worth 1.5 cents per point when you book through the Chase travel portal, so there's a better value available that way by having this card.

Best for earning cash-back rewards

Discover it® Cash Back

On Discover's secure site
  • Rewards

    Earn 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places you shop each quarter like grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations, and more, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases-automatically.

  • Welcome bonus

    Discover will match all the cash back earned for all new cardmembers at the end of your first year.

  • Annual fee

    $0

  • Intro APR

    0% for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers

  • Regular APR

    17.24% to 28.24% Variable

  • Balance transfer fee

    3% intro balance transfer fee, up to 5% fee on future balance transfers (see terms)*

  • Foreign transaction fee

    None

  • Credit needed

    Good / Excellent

  • *See rates and fees, terms apply.

Pros

  • Cash-back program
  • Generous welcome bonus

Cons

  • Cash-back categories must be activated each quarter
  • Cash-back program limits earnings: Enroll every quarter to earn 5% cash back in various categories on up to $1,500 in quarterly purchases, then 1%

Who's this for? For millennials who are interested in receiving as many cash-back rewards as possible, the Discover it® Cash Back makes a great choice no matter what your spending style is like these days — as long as you check Discover's 5% Cash Back Calendar where you'd have to enroll every quarter to earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in purchases made in various categories throughout the year, then 1%.

Other great perks: This card offers an unlimited match, dollar-for-dollar, of the cash back you earn during your first year as part of its Cashback Match feature, so if you use this card a lot, you could end up with a nice end-of-the-year bonus. It also offers a 0% intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases (after, 17.24% - 28.24% variable APR).

How to redeem rewards: Cash-back rewards can be deposited straight into your bank account, redeemed as statement credits or used to pay for PayPal purchases.

Best for dining and grocery shopping

American Express® Gold Card

On the American Express secure site
  • Rewards

    4X Membership Rewards® points at Restaurants (plus takeout and delivery in the U.S.) and at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X), 3X points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com, 1X points on all other purchases

  • Welcome bonus

    Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $6,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.

  • Annual fee

    $250

  • Intro APR

    Not applicable

  • Regular APR

    See Pay Over Time APR

  • Balance transfer fee

    N/A

  • Foreign transaction fee

    None

  • Credit needed

    Excellent/Good

  • See rates and fees, terms apply.

Pros

  • Up to $120 dining credit annually ($10 a month) for purchases made with Grubhub, Goldbelly and other eligible restaurants (after a one-time enrollment)
  • Up to $120 Uber Cash annually ($10 a month) for U.S. Uber Eats orders and U.S. Uber rides (card must be added to Uber app to receive the Uber Cash benefit)
  • Strong rewards program with 4X points earned at restaurants and 3X points earned on flights booked directly with airlines or amextravel.com
  • Baggage insurance plan covers up to $1,250 for carry-on baggage and up to $500 for checked baggage that is damaged, lost or stolen
  • No fee charged on purchases made outside the U.S.

Cons

  • No introductory APR period
  • $250 annual fee
  • Estimated rewards earned after 1 year: $1,074
  • Estimated rewards earned after 5 years: $2,969

Rewards totals incorporate the points earned from the welcome bonus

Who's this for? The American Express® Gold Card is a great option if you're a foodie and want to earn rewards points to put toward future travels.

Other great perks: If you plan on using all the benefits regularly, the American Express® Gold Card can pay for itself. Cardholders receive up to $120 in annual dining credits ($10 per month) when they enroll and use their card to pay for dining through Grubhub and at The Cheesecake Factory, Milk Bar, and select Shake Shack restaurants — and up to $120 worth of Uber Cash annually ($10 each month once you enroll by linking your Amex Gold Card to your Uber account). The card also offers various travel benefits like *car rental loss and damage insurance, baggage insurance and special perks on stays booked through The Hotel Collection. Terms apply.

How to redeem rewards: American Express Membership Rewards® points can be redeemed for gift cards and statement credits, or used to book travel through the Amex Travel Portal. To get a potentially bigger bang for your buck, transfer your Membership Rewards points to any of Amex's airline or hotel partners, including Delta SkyMiles, JetBlue TrueBlue, Hilton Honors, Marriott Bonvoy, Choice Privileges and more.

Best for nightlife and entertainment

Capital One Savor Cash Rewards Credit Card

Information about the Capital One Savor Cash Rewards Credit Card has been collected independently by Select and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of the card prior to publication.
  • Rewards

    4% cash back on dining and entertainment, 4% on eligible streaming services, 3% at grocery stores and 1% on all other purchases

  • Welcome bonus

    Earn a one-time $300 cash bonus once you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first three months from account opening

  • Annual fee

    $95

  • Intro APR

    None

  • Regular APR

    19.99% - 29.99% variable

  • Balance transfer fee

    4% for promotional APR offers; none for balances transferred at regular APR

  • Foreign transaction fee

    None

  • Credit needed

    Excellent/Good

Terms apply.

Pros

  • Unlimited 4% cash back on entertainment purchases
  • Ability to redeem rewards at any amount, unlike some other cards with $25 minimums
  • No fee charged on purchases made outside the U.S.

Cons

  • $95 annual fee
  • No introductory 0% financing offers for purchases or balance transfers

Who's this for? The Capital One Savor Cash Rewards Credit Card** is a great pick for millennials who love to spend their nights or weekends out with friends, see a game or concert and check out new restaurants.

Other great perks: Cardholders can enjoy a complimentary Uber One membership (through Nov. 14, 2024) and travel and shopping benefits such as travel accident insurance, extended warranties and more. Cardholders also receive access to exclusive events and experiences, such as presale concert tickets, through Capital One Entertainment and through Capital One Dining.

How to redeem rewards: Rewards can be redeemed for cash back, or you can use them to make purchases online via Amazon.com or PayPal.

Best for earning a flat rewards rate

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

  • Rewards

    5 Miles per dollar on hotel and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel, 2X miles per dollar on every other purchase

  • Welcome bonus

    Earn 75,000 bonus miles once you spend $4,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening

  • Annual fee

    $95

  • Intro APR

    N/A for purchases and balance transfers

  • Regular APR

    19.99% - 29.99% variable

  • Balance transfer fee

    $0 at the Transfer APR, 4% of the amount of each transferred balance that posts to your account at a promotional APR that Capital One may offer to you

  • Foreign transaction fee

    None

  • Credit needed

    Excellent/Good

Terms apply.

Pros

  • 5 miles per dollar on hotel and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
  • Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee credit up to $100 every 4 years

Cons

  • No introductory APR
  • There’s a $95 annual fee

Who's this for? For a straightforward way of earning rewards without having to worry about bonus spending categories — because millennials are busy and sometimes it's just easier that way — consider the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card.

Other great perks: This card provides a robust suite of travel benefits given its low annual fee, including a statement credit of up to $100 to cover Global Entry or TSA PreCheck® membership, two complimentary visits to Capital One Lounges or Plaza Premium Lounges each year.

How to redeem rewards: Miles can be redeemed for flights, hotels, rental cars and other parts of your trip through Capital One Travel, or you can use them to offset recent travel purchases at a fixed value of 1 cent per point. Alternatively, you can transfer them to any of Capital One's hotel and airline partners including Accor Live Limitless, Air Canada Aeroplan, Etihad Guest and others to get even more value from your rewards.

Best for online shopping

Prime Visa

  • Rewards

    Earn unlimited 5% back at Amazon.com, Amazon Fresh, Whole Foods Market and on Chase Travel purchases with an eligible Prime membership, unlimited 2% back at gas stations, restaurants, and on local transit and commuting (including rideshare), 10% back or more on a rotating selection of products and categories at Amazon.com, unlimited 1% back on all other purchases

  • Welcome bonus

    Get a $100 Amazon Gift Card (or more) instantly upon approval exclusively for Prime members

  • Annual fee

    $0 (but Prime membership is required)

  • Intro APR

    None

  • Regular APR

    19.49% - 27.49% variable

  • Balance transfer fee

    Either $5 or 4% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.

  • Foreign transaction fee

    None

  • Credit needed

    Excellent/Good

  • Terms apply.

Information about the Prime Visa has been collected independently by Select and have not been reviewed or provided by the issuer prior to publication; if you purchase something through Select links, we may earn a commission.

Pros

  • No annual fee
  • $100 Amazon.com gift card upon approval, with no spending requirements
  • 5% back at Amazon.com and Whole Foods Market
  • No fee charged on purchases made outside the U.S.

Cons

  • Prime membership is required
  • The 5% back on groceries only applies to groceries bought on Amazon.com or at Whole Foods Market
  • Estimated rewards earned after 1 year: $792
  • Estimated rewards earned after 5 years: $2,960

Rewards totals incorporate the points earned from the welcome bonus

Who's this for? The Prime Visa is a top choice for busy millennials who prefer to do their shopping online. In addition to Amazon purchases, the card also lets you earn extra rewards for shopping at Whole Foods Markets, restaurants and gas stations.

There's just one catch: You'll need to have an Amazon Prime membership to take full advantage of this card's benefits — otherwise, the Prime Visa makes a good alternative, offering a slightly lower welcome bonus and lower rewards-earning rates.

Other great perks: You'll never have to worry about paying foreign transaction fees when using this card abroad. Cardholders also have access to a suite of Visa Signature perks, such as lost luggage reimbursement, travel accident and baggage delay insurance, auto rental collision damage waivers, extended warranty and purchase protection.

How to redeem rewards: Cashback earned with this card can be redeemed toward Amazon purchases or simply deposited into your bank account.

How do you get a credit card as a young adult?

Young adults can be added as authorized users on someone else's account and can apply for their own credit cards once they turn 18. Beware that according to the Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009, anyone under the age of 21 must have a co-signer (typically, a parent or legal guardian) or submit financial information showing they can independently pay off the balance they mean to borrow.

Most of the cards on this list require good or excellent credit (scores above 670) to get approved so it's important to check your credit score before applying. If have a limited credit history or need to work on building your credit, consider signing up for a no-annual-fee secured credit card such as the Discover it® Secured Credit Card or the Capital One Platinum Secured Credit Card. These types of cards allow you to make a security deposit, which varies based on your creditworthiness and will act as your credit limit. If you continue to pay your monthly bills on time and in full for at least seven months, you'll have the opportunity to have your account reviewed and potentially changed to an unsecured card, at which point your deposit will be returned.

Student credit cards can also be beneficial, depending on your spending habits, and can be a great way for students to get started on their credit card journey.

Find the best credit card for you by reviewing offers in our credit card marketplace or get personalized offers via CardMatch™.

FAQs

The best credit card for you will depend on several factors, such as the benefits it offers, how easy it is to rack up rewards, the kinds of rewards you're interested in earning (cash-back vs. points for a future trip), its annual fee and whether or not there's a generous welcome bonus being offered. Your credit score will also play a factor in what cards you can even qualify for.

A survey conducted by Real Estate Witch showed 67% of millennials owed credit card debt, with the average balance being $5,349.

According to a recent report by the Experian credit bureau, "The average credit score for millennials in the 25 largest U.S. cities is 670 or more, which is considered a good FICO® score."

Bottom line

With the right credit card, millennials can earn rewards points or cash back on the things they're paying for anyway, from groceries, commuting and rideshare services to big nights out on the town with friends and weekends away with loved ones.

When applying for a new card, make sure you'll be able to use enough of the card's benefits and perks to justify paying its annual fee, especially if it's a steep one. Also, be careful with your budget and only apply for a new card if you can hit the minimum spending requirements responsibly.

Why trust CNBC Select?

At CNBC Select, our mission is to provide our readers with high-quality service journalism and comprehensive consumer advice so they can make informed decisions with their money. Every credit card review is based on rigorous reporting by our team of expert writers and editors with extensive knowledge of credit card productsWhile CNBC Select earns a commission from affiliate partners on many offers and links, we create all our content without input from our commercial team or any outside third parties, and we pride ourselves on our journalistic standards and ethics. See our methodology for more information on how we choose the best credit cards for millennials and young adults.

Our methodology

To determine which cards offer the best value for millennials, CNBC Select analyzed over 230 of the most popular credit cards available in the U.S. We compared each card on a range of features, including: rewards, welcome bonus, introductory and standard APR, balance transfer fee and foreign transaction fees, as well as factors such as required credit and customer reviews when available. We also considered additional perks, the application process and how easy it is for the consumer to redeem points.

Catch up on CNBC Select's in-depth coverage of credit cardsbanking and money, and follow us on TikTokFacebookInstagram and Twitter to stay up to date.

For rates and fees of the American Express® Gold Card, click here.  

For rates and fees of the Discover it® Cash Back, click here.

For rates and fees of the Discover it® Secured Credit Card, click here.

*Underwritten by AMEX Assurance Company. Car Rental Loss or Damage Coverage is offered through American Express Travel Related Services Company, Inc. Eligibility and Benefit level varies by Card. Terms, Conditions and Limitations Apply. Please visit americanexpress.com/benefitsguide for more details.

For Capital One products listed on this page, some of the above benefits are provided by Visa® or Mastercard® and may vary by product. See the respective Guide to Benefits for details, as terms and exclusions apply.

** Information about the Capital One Savor Cash Rewards has been collected independently by Select and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of the card prior to publication.

Editorial Note: Opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the Select editorial staff’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any third party.
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