If you are 18 years old, you are just starting your journey into the credit world. But if you found this article, your financial savvy is probably light years ahead of most of your peers.
It is better to start building your credit history as early as possible. The sooner you get approved for a credit card, the sooner you can earn various air miles, hotel points, and get money back to reach your goals.
We have selected the cards below for the most common situations you may find yourself in. Are you a student? Are you interested in traveling for free but have not yet been approved for a travel credit card? You literally have zero credit history? Wherever you are, we have the best options to help you succeed.
First, though, a word of warning: you shouldn’t dive into credit cards unless you’re sure you have the brainpower to not overspend. Credit card debt is one of the worst things that can happen to you financially.
Best credit card for 18 year olds looking for cashback: Citi® Double Cash Card
On the Citi Secure website
If simplicity is your goal, the Citi® Double Cash Card is a great option. This is one of the best cashback cards of all time, without the complicated redemption processes that other credit cards sometimes come with.
This no-annual fee card offers a flat cashback of 2% (virtually) on all expenses. You will receive 1% back when you make a purchase and 1% when you pay. Unfortunately, at the moment it does not offer a signup bonus.
The data shows that the Citi® Double Cash Card is easy to get approved. Personally, it was one of my first credit cards – although I had a credit history when I applied.
Apply for a Citi Double Cash Card or read our full review.
Best credit card for 18 year olds who want travel rewards: Chase Freedom Flex℠
On a secure site
If you want to earn travel points but don’t have enough credit history to approve a proper travel credit card, Chase Freedom Flex℠ is your best option.
You see, the card is billed as a cashback credit card, but it actually earns you Chase Ultimate Rewards® points, arguably the most powerful travel reward currency in existence. You can give them to valuable partner airlines and hotels like Hyatt, Southwest, United Airlines and more. But there’s a catch – you won’t be able to unlock their full potential unless you have one of the following cards:
- Chase Sapphire Preferred®.
- Chase Sapphire Reserve®.
- Ink Business Preferred®.
These cards usually require very good credit to be approved. If your credit history doesn’t yet have the Tabasco required for these cards, you can earn points in the meantime by using Chase Freedom Flex℠ regularly.
It has amazing credit card earning rates with no annual fees:
- 5% refund (5 Chase Points) when you purchase a trip through the Chase Travel Portal.
- 5% cashback (5 Chase Points) on rotating bonus categories every quarter (up to $1,500 on purchases) when bonus is activated.
- 3% cashback (3 Chase points) at restaurants and pharmacies.
- 1% Cashback (1 Chase Point) on all other eligible purchases.
Add to that the fact that you will receive a $200 bonus (20,000 Chase Points) after you spend $500 on purchases within the first three months of opening an account. If you use this card regularly, you can have over 100,000 Chase Points by the time you can unlock a card like Chase Sapphire Preferred®, which will unlock amazing travel rewards.
If you have the self-control not to cash out your cashback points, you can have a (nearly) free wishlist vacation waiting for you in a year.
This card also offers benefits such as:
- Mobile phone protection.
- Car rental insurance (optional in the US, basic otherwise).
- 0% per annum for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers.
I have had this card for many years and it is one of the biggest workhorses in my wallet.
Apply for Chase Freedom Flex℠ or read our full review.
Best Credit Card for 18 Year Olds with Good Credit: Chase Sapphire Preferred®
On a secure site
If you are one of the lucky 18 year olds with a proven credit history, you probably qualify for some of the best products in the credit card world, namely Chase Sapphire Preferred®. I’ve been using mine for eight years now and it’s still one of my favorites.
One way to get a loan at a young age is to add yourself as an authorized user to someone else’s account – perhaps your parents’ or even a friend’s account.
Read more: Authorized Cardholders: Pros and Cons
Chase Sapphire Preferred® is one of the best all-round cards on the market, especially if you’re a travel dreamer. It includes 60,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months of opening an account.
His wage rates are as follows:
- 5 points per dollar on Lyft rides (until March 2025).
- 5 points per dollar on all trips purchased through the Chase Travel Portal.
- 3 points per dollar for meals (including many delivery services), select streaming services, and online grocery purchases (excluding Target, Walmart, and wholesale clubs).
- 2 points per dollar on other trips.
- 1 point per dollar on all other eligible purchases.
However, this is the only card on our list that has an annual fee. You will pay $95 for the privilege of owning this card – but here’s what you get for that fee:
- Primary rental car insurance (this can save you $12 per day since you don’t have to buy the rental agency’s in-house insurance).
- Travel Delay Insurance (If your flight is delayed overnight or 12 hours, Chase will provide you with up to $500 for expenses such as accommodation, meals, etc.).
- Baggage Delay Insurance (If your luggage is delayed for six hours or more, Chase will pay you $100 per day – for up to five days – for essentials like clothes and toiletries).
- 10% anniversary bonus.
- Up to $50 in credit toward hotel stays booked through Chase.
- $10 per month credited to Gopuff until December 2023.
Apply for Chase Sapphire Preferred® or read our full review.
Best Credit Card for 18-Year-Old Students: Bank of America® Cash Rewards Individual Credit Card for Students
Like secured credit cards, student cards combine high return rates and lucrative benefits with more relaxed application requirements.
If you are 18 and enrolled as a student, the Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards Student Credit Card with no annual fee has some features that you won’t find on other student cards.
First, the card received an unusually large $200 bonus after you spent $1,000 on purchases within the first 90 days of opening an account.
You will also receive 3% cashback in the category of your choice:
- Online shopping.
- Household / furnishing.
You can change categories once per calendar month, which is especially handy since your biggest expenses are likely to change periodically.
For example, during most of the year you can earn 3% on dinner. But when you start shopping for the upcoming school year, you can change your category to online shopping. And when planning your spring break, you can change the category of the travel bonus.
You’ll also receive 2% cashback at grocery stores and wholesale clubs, and 1% cashback on all other purchases.
Bank of America® Student Individual Cash Rewards even offers a great introductory annual reward: 0% for 15 billing cycles on new purchases and balance transfers.
Read more: Best Credit Cards for College Students
Best Credit Card for 18 Year Olds with No Credit History: Discover it® Secured
The Discover it® Secure Credit Card with no annual fee is a great option for 18 year olds with no credit history.
Banks are more willing to issue secured credit cards to young people (or everyone, for that matter) who do not yet have a long history of responsible credit use. This is because with a secure card, there is virtually no risk for the issuer.
Here’s how a secure credit card works:
- You give the bank a cash deposit.
- The bank issues you a card with a credit line equal to your cash deposit.
- Your credit card works just like any other card, but if you can’t pay your bills, the bank will simply hold your deposit in cash.
- If you cancel your card or accumulate enough credit to warrant an unsecured card, you will receive your cash deposit back.
Most secured credit cards offer no rewards for spending. After all, the main advantage of secure cards is the fact that they are so easy to acquire. That’s why the Discover it® Secured package stands out, offering 2% cashback at restaurants and gas stations and 1% on everything else.
Discover will also double the cash back you earn during your first year of card membership, effectively making a return rate of 4% and 2% for the first 12 billing cycles (or 365 days, whichever is longer) after account opening.
The card does not have many permanent benefits worthy of note, but you will find a few basic and useful tools to help you build a good credit history, such as:
- Free FICO assessment.
- Instantly block your account if you lose your card.
- Free alerts if Discover finds your social security number on the dark web.
- $0 Fraud Liability Guarantee.
If you are looking for a secured credit card, this is one of your best options.
Read more: Best secured credit cards
These five credit cards are perfect for any 18-year-old situation you might find yourself in: whether you’re interested in a refund or travel; if you have no credit history or a long credit history due to being an authorized user of your parents’ accounts; or if you are a college student trying to build your credit on your own.
Once you’ve reached a credit score worthy of more premium credit cards, be sure about how you handle credit before applying for a plethora of new cards. Spending beyond your means is easy—and it can hurt you financially.