Best First Credit Cards for Travel

8 Best “First” Credit Cards for Travel

We’re all about premium cards that can churn the best travel miles, tons of rewards and luxury perks when travelling. But you have to walk the mile before the rewards start streaming into your credit card. 

Are you new to credit? Let us help you find the perfect first credit card to build up your financial credibility.

The recommended entry-level credit cards are not only good for students and fresh graduates –they include adults below age 35 who may lack a credit profile. Similarly, we recommend mid-tier cards for authorized users on their guardian’s credit cards who would prefer to own a card for personal gain in terms or travel mileage and rewards.

Here is the list of 10 best first credit cards for travel in no particular order.

The list compares essential points to keep in mind when choosing your first credit card for travel, namely:

  • Travel cards for young adults
  • Good credit standing
  • Limited/Average credit
  • Offer better approval chances for users with shorter credit history.
  • Reward spending such as travel, dining, or online purchases
  • Charge minimal fees
  • Rewards cards with programs of any spending level
  • No annual fees
  • Best credit cards for Graduates

If you haven’t built any credit history yet, shopping for an appropriate first credit card can be frustrating. You may find an ideal credit card, only to be declined for one reason or the other. If travel credit cards with the most rewards are out of your league, not to worry, there are still available credit cards tailor-made for customers with average or limited credit scores.

Here we go:

Card Best for Minimum Credit Score Required
Discover It® Cash Back  Cash Back Excellent/good 
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card Premium Travel Rewards Good/excellent 
Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card Dining and Entertainment Good/excellent
Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card Travel Rewards, No Annual Fee Good/excellent
Capital One® Secured Mastercard®
foreign purchases rebuilding credit score fair/good/excellent
Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card flexibility fair/good/excellent
Discover it® Miles Credit Card First year bonus fair/good/excellent
American Express® Green Card dining and travel Good/excellent

1.    Discover it® Cash Back Credit CardBest for Cashback

Discover it Credit Card

Rewards

  • Best for young adults—with proper credit
  • 5% cashback on select brand categories
  • Spend $1,500 each quarter
  • 1% cashback on any other credit card purchases
  • No annual fee
  • Discover matches the Cashback earned over the last 12 months and gives you a 0% introduction APR on balance transfers and purchases made for the first 14 months – Subsequent payments include an APR of 13% – 24%
  • Credit score requirements: Good/excellent

The Discover it® Cash Back needs good credit. Still, it offers generous cash rewards, realistic interest rates, top customer service, fantastic account apps, and believe it or not, late payment tolerance.

Similarly, the Discover it® Cash Back offers 5 percent cash back in new bonus categories such as restaurants, gas, Amazon etc. You get to spend $1,500 every quarter to receive 1 % cashback on all purchases.

Bonus tip: New cardholders earn all the Cashback with the annual match at the end of the year. 

The signup bonus is more valuable (between $100 and $200) if you’re an avid spender.

The rotating category for this quarter – January, February, and March 2020 includes Walgreens, CVS and grocery stores.

2.    Chase Sapphire Preferred® CardBest for Premium travel rewards

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card - Best for Premium travel rewards

Rewards

  • The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card offers an amazing 2x points on all expenses made on travel, Uber and dining at restaurants that you can redeem at airline and hotel partners.
  • Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card points are worth 25% more when you redeem travel points via the Chase Unlimited Rewards. It means that means the 60,000 points bonus offer on signup is worth $750 on travel miles.
  • Credit score requirements: good/excellent
  • Introduction APR Purchases – N/A
  • Intro APR Balance Transfers – N/A
  • Regular APR – 17.49% – 24.49%
  • Annual Fee – $95

The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card is ideal for big spenders and frequent travelers.

The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card – earn 2X points for every dollar spent on travel and restaurant dining and 1 point for all other purchases.

Earn free sign up bonus of 60,000 points (worth $750) after three months with purchases up to $4,000 from account opening.

3.    Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit CardBest for dining and entertainment

Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card - Best for dining and entertainment

Rewards

  • Offers $300 one-time cash bonus in the first quarter after spending $3,000
  • 4% cashback on dining and entertainment
  • 2% cashback at the grocery store
  • Credit score requirements – Good/excellent
  • Zero Annual Fee in the first year; $95 after that

you can save hundreds of dollars on dining and entertainment with the Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card and an impressive 300 one-time cash bonus when you signup.

The Capital One® Credit Card offers unlimited 4 % cashback on restaurant dining and entertainment. You’ll earn 2 % cashback at all grocery stores and 1 % cashback on all other purchases.

4.    Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit cardBest for travel and dining rewards 

Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card - Best for travel and dining rewards

Rewards

  • Offers 25,000 bonus points in the first 90 days after spending $1,000 in purchases,
  • Earn 1.5 points for every dollar spent on all purchases.
  • Credit requirements – good/excellent
  • No annual fee
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 0% Initial APR on purchases
  • 12 billing cycles
  • Regular APR 16% – 24 % variable

This Bank of America® Rewards Travel Credit Card signup bonus of 25,000 points for new customers is equivalent to $250 in travel. You also earn an unrestricted 1.5 points per dollar paid on purchases. Every point is worth one cent as shown in statement credits towards travel expenses. This credit card has no foreign transaction fee.

Best credit card for adults below 35 years —average/limited credit

Average credit means that:

  • You have open loan and credit card accounts for more than three years 
  • You have at least one late payment in the last year
  • You have not made multiple credit applications in the previous six months.

5.    Capital One® Secured Mastercard®Best for foreign purchases, rebuilding credit score

Rewards

  • No annual fees
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Credit score requirements – fair/good/excellent
  • Minimum deposit – $49-$200

Capital One® Secured Mastercard® is a safeguarded credit card and unique because it promises to increase your credit line without an extra deposit. The condition given- make your initial five month-payments on time. The initial credit line is $200 plus a minimum deposit of$49, $99 or $200

The Capital One® Master card allows you to begin building your credit with responsible use.

 You still make payments despite the deposit sitting in your credit card. A secured credit card is more like a debit card—but unlike a prepaid card, a secured credit card builds credit with regular credit history reports to the three main credit bureaus in the US.

6.    Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit CardBest for flexibility

Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card - Best for flexibility

Rewards

  • Welcome bonus of 50,000-mile bonus. Condition; spend $3,000 on purchases within the first 90 days
  • No annual fee in the first year- $95 after that.
  • Earn unlimited miles (2x) on all purchases
  • Credit score – fair/good/excellent

This a great first credit card because it makes earning travel rewards easy and straightforward. You earn 2X miles on all purchases simplified rewards redemption process; you can redeem your points at fixed-value to cover travel expenses. This essentially means that you get 1 cent per mile from your rewards. You can transfer accumulated miles to selected partners and earn more value.

7.        Discover it® Miles Credit CardBest for first-year bonus

Discover it® Miles Credit Card - Best for first-year bonus

Rewards

  • Welcome bonus – matches your rewards at the end of the first year
  • No Annual fee
  • Rewards
  • Earn unlimited miles (1.5X) on every purchase
  • Redeem miles as a statement credit for authorized travel purchases such as airlines, rental cars, hotels, and more.

The best feature from Discover is the mileage match earned at the end of your initial 12 months. For instance, if you make 35,000 miles in your first year with the Discover card, the total miles matched to your actual miles doubles, earning you 70,000 miles total. This, in essence, makes it a 2x card for the first year!

 Pro Tip: Discover cards are easy on approval even without a substantial credit profile unlike other competitor credit cards

8.    American Express® Green CardBest for dining and travel

 American Express® Green Card - Best for dining and travel

Rewards

  • Welcome offer- spend $2,000 in the first three months and earn 30,000 membership rewards
  • Annual Fee – $150
  • Earn three times on foreign travel, car rental and dining
  • Credit score – good/excellent

The card allows authorized users from a parent/guardian. You can build up your credit score as an authorized user and get your first credit card. You earn 3x points (6% returns) according to the TPG Membership Rewards points valuation on travel, car rental, and dining. The American Express® Green Card is a perfect mid-tier travel rewards card.

Besides, you also acquire a clear membership of $100 in annual statement credits and up to $100 in yearly credits for LoungeBuddy. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I get a credit card if I have no credit history?

Regardless of your age, if you don’t have any credit history yet; meaning you’ve never had any loan or a credit card, it may not be easy to get approved for any credit card. But you can acquire a secured credit card and build up your credit.

Secured cards (similar to debit cards) require you to deposit some amount into your bank account ($49-$200) to build credit for first time users.

The secured credit card reports your usage to credit bureaus for credibility status.

What should I do if I am using a credit card for the first time?

Use the card. Start spending to build your credit score. Your score goes up as you borrow money from the card, and then you pay then later. You can only earn rewards/points by regular use of your credit card to enjoy the unique benefits, like Cashback, travel benefits, points transfer and more.

What happens if I don’t pay my credit card on time?

Majority of the credit cards on this list have a high APR. Do not be lured to pick another credit card if you have poor credit scores. If you don’t pay off your balance on time, and in full, you’ll be trapped with high-interest payments all year round, which will be hard to clear. Don’t make minimum payments. Pay off your balance in full – every month.

You should pay off your credit balance every month – on time – You might think its okay to make minimal payments or to delay payment. But it is a big deal, and it seriously dents your credit score. 

 What is the Ideal “first” credit card for Graduates?

Start with a secured card like Discover it® Secured card, or the Capital One® Secured Mastercard®. Both are great options. You can advance to a higher credit limit card once your score reads positive because you make payments on time. If you want to a credit card with a more upper limit, go for the  Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards or the Discover it® credit card for students. You get more rewards from them.

Summary

Credit cards offer tremendous value – if you use them wisely. If you’re under 35, pick credit cards that save you money, and not cost you money in outrageously high annual fees and foreign transaction fees. Look out for moderate APRs so that you can make payments on time without high accumulated interest rates.

To pick out specific rewards cards, go for the rewards credit cards. Travel rewards cards also come with a no foreign transaction cost so look out for those two benefits for travel credit cards. If you want cards that reward for purchases, go for that too – straight and to the point—no need to juggle through the fine print looking for the right card to apply for.

Finally, it’s challenging to get approved for a credit card if you have damaged credit score, but there are options. Wait six months, If you don’t get approved the first time, focus on paying all your balances and on time, and try again.

Want to increase your odds of getting accepted for a credit card? Find out your credit score and narrow down the search. It’s easier if you know your credit standing and what cards you can apply and get instant approval. You can visit an approved credit score website, and input your details to get a first free credit report then find the perfect first travel credit card of your choice!

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