A Millennial’s BEST First Credit Card
Information overload is a huge inhibitor of progress. When one is inundated with information, it makes it hard to make a decision. Actually, hard’s not quite the right word. Damn-well near impossible is. Watch any fat guy walk down the frozen pizza isle at your local grocery store and you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. “DiGiornno, Red Barron, Annie’s, Tony’s, Totino’s, Newman’s Own, Store-Brand… how the hell am I supposed to choose?!” It’s as if each brand causes another stressed-induced sweat attack for the big buy in the frozen section. And while this information overload can apply to frozen pizzas, cars, shampoos, choice of girlfriend/boyfriend, today we’re talking about a question that will plague you more often than you’d like in your early adult life: “What’s considered the ‘best first credit card’?”
Now, there are a lot of factors that go into this, and this certainly isn’t a “one-size-fits-all” sort of situation. What I’ll do is go through the pro’s and the con’s of each card, and give a suggestion as for whom it would be most appropriate. But before we get into the nuts and bolts of what makes any credit card the best first credit card, we need to make sure we’re on the same page when it comes to credit card speak. Take your seat, and grab a pencil, because you’re going to want to write this down…
What matters when it comes to credit cards
There are many different traits when it comes to credit cards. After all, they are technically a form of debt, which allows credit card companies some options in terms of offerings. Here are the things that matter when it comes to credit cards:
- Well-Known Supplier- There are 4 well-known credit card “makers” for lack of better term: Visa, MasterCard, American Express, and Discover. It’s important to know who is supplying the card because not all cards are accepted everywhere. For example, Costco just made a rather well-publicized move from Amex to Visa. For the sake of argument and time, we’ll say that Visa and MasterCard are going to be the most widely accepted. As such, they will be the topic of discussion.
- No Annual Fee- Some cards may charge you an annual fee. This fee is irrespective of how much you spend. Believe it or not, there are some times when it makes sense to get a card with an annual fee. However, if we’re talking about the “best first credit card” then I’m going to say you don’t need a card with an annual fee. You simply won’t spend enough money to make up the annual fee in rewards. And speaking of rewards…
- Rewards- The main reason we’re going to use credit cards! You can either spend money normally and receive no benefits, or spend money through credit cards and receive awesome benefits! Rewards can include but aren’t limited to cash back, airmiles, gift cards, priority seating, free hotel stays, reduced prices on vacations, etc. It’s like that “I’m such a boss” feeling you get when you find money you didn’t know was in your pocket. Except it happens every time you use the card. Extra five bucks in your pocket today, world domination tomorrow.
- Security Features – Some cards have anti-theft protection, and some even allow you to turn their use “on” and “off” if you’ve misplaced the card. Also, some provide identity theft protection, fraud protection, and some will even call you if they think your credit card is being used where it shouldn’t be. Like how that $10/month subscription to sexyladies.net just “magically” appeared on your statement… come on, you’re not fooling anyone…
- Ease of Use – In order to be the “Best first credit card” it’s got to be easy to use. No, I don’t just mean that it should swipe easier than the other cards. I mean that it should be stupidly easy to pay off and get your rewards. If you have to catch a Snitch in Narnia while riding on the back of a hobbit just to get your rewards, then the card is most likely not worth having. It should be easier to use than a sorority sister who’s just been dumped, than the pimply faced guy at the bar who thinks that buying you drinks mean sex with you, than an apple device, or your kitchen faucet.
The best first credit card for you is going to have all these features. That being said, there are some features that may seem important but really aren’t…
What doesn’t/shouldn’t matter when it comes to credit cards
- APR- Short for “Annual Percentage Rate”, APR was the response from the government when people started freaking the fuck out when it came to credit. Why were they freaking, you might ask? Well, as with most bull-shit sales jobs, a lot of places will bait and switch you. Credit companies used to post an “interest-rate”, and once you came in and applied, would assign all sorts of last-minute fees. APR was designed so you can see the cost of credit all tied into one number, without all the gimmicky sales tactics. +5 points for the U.S. Government! The great thing about APR when it comes to credit cards is that you’re charged no interest during the first month after the purchase.
- Late Fees- Some credit cards might charge you if you don’t pay off your balance in time, some might charge you if you overpay the limit on the credit card, etc. There are a few fees that you need to be made aware of, but not worry about.
- Color- Seriously? The color of the damn thing doesn’t matter, I don’t care what you’re argument is. It’s not a house, it’s not a car, it’s a piece of plastic, people… chill…
“So why don’t things like fee’s and interest rate matter? I thought this was a personal finance blog!” Well, you’d be right about that last part. Here is why fee’s and APR won’t matter at all… Repeat after me, kids….
I_______ (state your name) will always pay off my credit card balance each and every month, without fail. I know that not paying off my balance will result in ridiculous interest charges and fees. It also puts money in the hands of people who simply don’t need more money. Finally, all it takes is one screw up, and the advantage of using the credit card for the rewards goes down the drain. In short, I swear not to be a complete dumb-dumb.
Good job. Just in case you didn’t understand the words you just said, there is no reason that you shouldn’t be able to pay off your credit cards each and every month. In fact, you MUST pay them off, because if you don’t, the benefits of the rewards will be 0. Zilch. Nada. Who cares if you’re earning hundreds of dollars in air miles if you’re giving them all back in the form of interest? Remember, pay them off EACH AND EVERY MONTH!!!
Alright, now that we’ve got all that out of the way, here are The Code To Riches 5 Best First Credit Cards! Remember, our goal for these cards are VISA/MasterCard, no annual fee, awesome rewards, security features, and ease of use.
This MasterCard has no annual fee, no foreign transaction fees and uses card chip technology for added security. This is one of the only travel cards on the market that doesn’t have an annual fee. Believe me, I looked. And looked. And looked. You’ll receive 3x points on qualifying JetBlue purchases, 2x on restaurants and groceries (Target and Walmart won’t count) and 1x points on everything else. Is this the best value card in terms of travel? Probably not. But you’re also not going to be spending thousands and thousands on travel each year as a young grasshopper, so this’ll do the trick nicely! Plus, it’ll be nice to know you get an automatic 3% discount off all JetBlue flights!
This Visa card has no annual fee, no foreign transaction fee, and is EMV chip-enabled. I’ve been a member of the Pentagon Federal Credit Union for almost 7 years now, and they’ve been great to me. I actually have a different card with them, but if I were to do it all over again I would choose this one. You’ll receive 5% back on gas purchases, 3% back on grocery purchases, and 1% back on all other purchases. This is the only gas card on the list, so if you find yourself with a ridiculously long commute, this card is for you. As a bonus, they’ll provide you with an additional $100 cash back if you make $1,500 in purchases your first 3 months.
This one is kind of cool because it incentivizes you to pay off on time (otherwise, what’s the point of the double cash?) The way it works is you get 1% cash back on every purchase you make, and when you pay off your card (ON TIME) you get another 1% back. Imagine, everything is 2% cheaper when you buy with the card. Not a bad deal. It’s security features include 24 hour fraud protection, the Lost Wallet Service, and Citi’s Identity Theft Solutions. It is a MasterCard, has no annual fee, and trains you to pay off your credit card debt on time. This is definitely one of the best first credit cards one can get.
This one is #2 on the list because it requires you to think ahead. The Chase Freedom Visa offers 5% cash back, but only on selected categories throughout the year. The categories are broken down as follows: Gas, Grocery Stores, Restaurants and “Holiday Shopping”. The other trick is you can only spend up to $1,500 in one category. Yeah, no squirreling away gas or food for the entire year. However, quick math shows you that $1,500 x 4 = $6,000 x 5% = $300. There. There’s $300 per year you didn’t have before. You’re welcome! Security features include Zero Liability Protection, Purchase Protection, Price Protection, Extended Warranty protection, and Return Protection. Yeah, they’re like the fucking Batman of credit cards. Basically, if there are unauthorized charges, something you bought gets stolen/ruined, if you overpaid for something, or if a store won’t accept a returned item from you, Citi has got your back. Check out the link above for more details. For some of you, this might be your best first credit card option. But for most people just out of college, I’d recommend….
Alright, you made it to #1! The CapitalOne Quicksilver card is by far the easiest card to use on this list. This no-annual-fee Visa card gives you 1.5% cash back on every single purchase. Ever. Now, there are some other cards out there that give 1.5% cash back, but the reason CapitalOne is, well, number one, is because of the ease of use. You’d simply log-on, press the button that says “redeem cash rewards” and you’re done. No going in and ordering a gift card, no keeping track of what you’re allowed to spend it on. 1.5% cash back, all the time, on everything, with super simple redemption. Security features include Fraud Coverage, security alerts, 24 hour travel assistance, and extended warranties.
Added bonuses are an extra $100 cash back when you make $500 or more in purchases in your first 3 months. AND they’ve given me the highest credit limit of all other cards I’ve applied for!
So there you have it folks. In my somewhat humble opinion, the best first credit card you can get is the CapitalOne Quicksilver.
Best First Credit Card – The Wrap Up
This is not an end-all, be-all list. Your specific circumstances may determine that none of these cards are right for you. And if that’s the case, that’s ok. These are just my suggestions for really solid first credit cards, for those of you just out of college. If you want to conduct your own search, remember, there are really only 5 things that matter when it comes to choosing your best first credit card:
- Annual Fees
- Ease of Use
Things like APR or other late charges shouldn’t matter, BECAUSE…
I’d love to hear from you about your first credit card experience! What was your first card? Is it still in production. Do you still have it? What do you think is the best first credit card for millennials? Comment below!
Keep trying to crack the code,