Best Beginner Credit Cards of September 2021

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A credit card that helps you achieve your financial goals is a larger part of a well-rounded personal finance strategy. But with so many credit card options out there, it can be hard to decide which one is the best for you. We are here to help find one that fits your financial style, and that’s exactly the thing to keep in mind: there’s no such thing as the “best” credit card. 

Instead, it’s all about finding the best credit card for you. Think of it like the Cinderella slipper that aligns with your spending habits, travel goals, and even money-saving preferences.

We also know that as a beginner, you might be wary of holding a credit card with an annual fee, and that’s all right. The good news is that the perks of a credit card and the value it provides in rewards, and sometimes credits, can far outweigh the cost of the annual fee, so it’s all about deciding what has  value to you.

Pro Tip

When choosing a credit card, look for  “welcome offers” or “sign-up bonuses,” where you can earn a good chunk of rewards points by spending a certain amount of money in a certain amount of time. But do make sure that you won’t spend more than you otherwise would in order to meet the bonus spend requirement.

You also do not need to be stuck with a card that charges an annual fee. If you don’t like it, you can cancel it, or downgrade the card to a no-fee option — the latter also preserves the credit line you’ve opened, which helps your credit score.   

With that in mind, we rounded up the best beginner cards on the market for every type of budget, spending habits and more. Let’s take a closer look.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card is a popular beginner-level credit card, thanks to perks such as a complimentary 12-month DoorDash Dash Pass membership and up to $60 in Peloton statement credits. Now is also a great time to sign up for the Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card, as it is offering a welcome offer of 100,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points — its highest public offer ever — after you spend $4,000 in your first three months. 

Those 100,000 points can be transferred directly to many airlines and hotels — such as United Airlines and Hyatt Hotels — to book free travel, paying only taxes and fees. Beginners will appreciate the ease of booking travel on the Chase Travel Portal using the card’s points, which saves the step of transferring to a partner and streamlines the process, although often partner transfers will yield a better value for those points.    

While the 100,000 point welcome offer is an exceptional value — those points are worth $1,250 when redeemed for travel, according to Chase —  we caution against spending more than you can afford just to earn the bonus points. Credit cards can feel like an invitation to spend now and worry about paying later, but make sure you only spend what you would if using a debit card or cash.

The Chase Sapphire Preferred is an especially good choice for people who put a relatively larger part of their spending on dining and travel — including airlines, hotels and rideshare services — because it earns 5X points on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3X points on dining and 2X points on all other travel purchases. It also earns 5 points per dollar on Lyft rides through March 2022.

The card carries a $95 annual fee.

Amex EveryDay® Credit Card

This no annual fee credit card is another solid pick for credit card beginners. It earns 2 American Express Membership Rewards points per dollar at U.S. supermarkets (up to $6,000 per year, then 1x), plus 1 point per dollar on all other purchases. And if you use your card 20 or more times in a billing cycle, you’ll earn 20% more on those purchases. The card is not currently offering a welcome bonus, but earning double points on everyday spending at supermarkets is an attractive proposition.

You can use your Amex Membership Rewards points by redeeming them for travel on the Amex Travel Portal, or by transferring to partners such as Delta Air Lines and Marriott.

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

The Capital One Venture card* is another popular choice among credit card beginners. Like the Chase Sapphire Preferred, it carries a $95 annual fee, but it earns 2x miles on all purchases — there aren’t any bonus categories, such as dining or travel — and is offering a 60,000 point bonus after you spend $3,000 in your first three months of account opening.

To redeem your Capital One Venture miles, you can transfer them to partners such as JetBlue or Wyndham, or use them to cover travel purchases on your credit card statement. This is a great card for beginners as it earns a blanket amount of bonus points on all purchases that you can later easily redeem for free or discounted travel. Erasing travel purchases on your card statement is an easy, straightforward process, too. 

Citi Double Cash

The Citi Double Cash card* earns 2% cash back on every purchase — 1% when you buy and 1% when you pay it off. 

It doesn’t have a welcome offer or earn points for future travel, but the earning rate is simple and straightforward. Beginners like this card for its relative ease and cash back earning rate that helps them save here and there on their purchases.

Chase Freedom Unlimited®

The Chase Freedom Unlimited is NextAdvisor’s pick for the best cash back credit card for its impressive rewards and flexibility — which makes it a great option for beginners, too. It does not carry an annual fee and earns 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (not including Target® or Walmart® purchases) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year, 5% cash back on purchases made through Chase Travel, 3% cash back on dining and drugstore purchases, and 1.5% cash back on everything else.

You’ll also get a $200 bonus after you spend $500 in your first three months of account opening. Beginners like this card because of its high cash back earning rates and the ability to save money on travel using Chase’s travel portal. To do so, log into your Chase Ultimate Rewards account, hover over “Use Points,” and you can select the option that suits your needs.

Note that you’ll have the option to redeem for cash back and gift cards in addition to travel, but you’ll typically get the most value redeeming for the latter. If you do not have either the Chase Sapphire Reserve or Chase Sapphire Preferred card, you’ll get 1 cent per point redeeming your points with the Freedom Unlimited card. If you do have either of the Sapphire cards, though, you’ll get between 1.5 cents or 1.25 cents per point, respectively.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Editor’s Score: (4.5/5)
  • Intro bonus:
    100,000 points
  • Annual fee:
    $95
  • Regular APR:
    15.99% – 22.99% Variable
  • Recommended credit:
    670-850 (Good to Excellent)
  • Learn more externa link icon at our partner’s secure site.
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

Editor’s Score: (4.3/5)
  • Intro bonus:
    60,000 miles
  • Annual fee:
    $95
  • Regular APR:
    17.24% – 24.49% (Variable)
  • Recommended credit:
    670-850 (Good to Excellent)
  • Learn more externa link icon at our partner’s secure site.
The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card

The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card

Editor’s Score: (3.0/5)

Bottom Line

We know how overwhelming it can be to figure out which credit card to apply for, especially when you are new to the space. Ultimately, it’s all about finding the credit card that best matches your spending habits and financial goals — and not spending more than you can afford just to earn bonus points or cash back. Take your time to research and find a card that closely matches your spending preferences, and you’ll be on your way to a fruitful credit card journey. 

All information about the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card, Amex Everyday Credit Card and Citi Double Cash has been collected independently by NextAdvisor and has not been reviewed by the issuer.