Getting your first credit card is a huge milestone in one’s financial life. It can be the first step on the path towards many of life’s milestones including renting an apartment, getting a car, and even buying your first house. Moreover, these cards will also be the first step towards free or discounted travel. Therefore, this post presents some of the best cards for beginners to get you started.

 

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Discover It

My first rewards card was a Discover It that I got during my last semester of college. I still have my Discover Card because it is my oldest active card.

Discover is known for helping those with thin credit files build their credit history. They offer tools like a free TransUnion credit score and a spend analyzer to help keep you organized. I recommend the student version for beginners. All Discover cards have no annual fee and earn cash back.

Discover does not offer a fixed sign-up bonus for any of its cards. But they will match the cash back that you earned in your first year of card-membership. Plus, students who have a 3.00 GPA or higher will receive a $20 cash back bonus each semester. This can be up to $60 per school year, assuming you’re a student and you take fall, spring, and summer classes.

The Discover It for Students offers 5% cash back on quarterly rotating categories. For 2019, the categories are as follows:

  • 1st Quarter: Grocery Stores
  • 2nd Quarter: Gas Stations, Uber, & Lyft
  • 3rd Quarter: Restaurants & PayPal
  • 4th Quarter: Amazon.com, Walmart.com, & Target

The regular version is harder to get approved for. It might make sense to apply if you’re not a student (anymore). I applied for the regular version as a student and I got approved with a small $500 limit. However, that limit has grown tremendously over the last few years. If you are a student, Discover might “graduate” your student card into a regular card after college graduation.

Chase Freedom

The Chase Freedom is a great option if you’re a beginner who is interested in earning Chase Ultimate Rewards (UR) points. It has no annual fee and earns 5x UR points on rotating quarterly categories. There is a spend limit of $1,500 per quarter for the categories.

This classic Chase card offers a 15,000 UR point (or $150) sign-up bonus. It can be earned after spending $500 in the first three months. 15,000 points is a good amount to get you started on saving for travel.

You can transfer your points to a Chase Sapphire card or Chase Ink Business Preferred if you decide to open either of them later. This lets you take advantage of Chase’s transfer partners and travel portal. You can’t transfer your points directly from this card.

 

Flat Rate

Chase Freedom Unlimited

The Chase Freedom Unlimited is a good choice if you’re interested in earning Chase UR points and you have varied spending. This card earns 1.5x UR points on all purchases with no spend limits.

Like the regular Freedom card, it offers a 15,000 UR point (or $150) sign-up bonus. It can be earned after spending $500 in the first three months.

You can transfer your points to a Chase Sapphire card or Chase Ink Business Preferred if you decide to open either of them later. This lets you take advantage of Chase’s transfer partners and travel portal. You can’t transfer your points directly from this card.

Citi Double Cash

The Citi Double Cash has recently become a nice alternative for beginners. That’s because it now earns Citi Thank You (TY) Points at a 2x rate for all purchases. Unfortunately, this card does not have a sign-up bonus or any significant perks. But its a great earner and a nice start for those who want to earn Citi TY Points.

 

Bonus Categories

American Express Everyday Card

The American Express Everyday Card is the only no annual fee card that lets you directly transfer Amex Membership Rewards (MR) points to transfer partners. That makes it not only a long-term keeper card, but a fantastic option for aspiring travelers.

It earns 2x MR points at Grocery Stores and just one point for non-bonus spend. You will receive a 20% points bonus on all transactions if you use your card 20 times per calendar month. With the bonus, you will earn 2.4x points at Grocery Stores and 1.2x points for everything else.

Citi Rewards +

The Citi Rewards + is the successor to the Thank You Preferred card. It card earns Thank You points and integrates you into Citi’s points “ecosystem”.

This card earns 2x points at Gas Stations and Grocery Stores. Citi also rounds up the amount of points earned to the nearest 10 for all purchases. Such rounding is a bonanza for small purchases. For example, you will receive 10 points if you spend $1 at a convenience store.

Furthermore, the Rewards + Card offers a sign-up bonus worth 15,000 TY points (or $150). It can be earned after spending $1,000 in the first three months. This bonus is similar to that of the Chase Freedom Cards. However, the minimum spend is doubled and you are earning TY points.

You can transfer your points to the Citi Prestige or Citi Premier if you decide to open either of them later. This lets you take advantage of Citi’s transfer partners and travel the world for less. You can’t directly transfer to Citi’s partners (except JetBlue) with this card.

 

Final Draw

In essence, these cards are some of my favorites for young adults who want to build their credit. All these cards have no annual fee and great earning structures. Therefore, you can keep them forever and let your credit history and age of accounts grow.

Most of these cards are also complements to bigger travel cards with perks and annual fees. Thus, you should keep reading PYCR and figure out which transferrable points currency is right for you. Or you can decide to earn cash back if the situation warrants it.

You should think about your lifestyle, job, budget, and desire to travel. As with most credit and travel related situations, your mileage may vary.

 

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