Ask Points Tutor: Best Starter Credit Card?

chase sapphire reserve

If you haven’t noticed the page Ask Points Tutor above, it’s a contact form where you can ask me any question you may have on the points game. Of course you can always reach me via Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram as well.

A private member on Twitter asked me:

can you just be my personal credit card consultant? I don’t have a single credit card, what’s a good beginner card?”

So what’s a good beginner card? Well I’d say this depends on two major factors, credit and salary. If you don’t know your credit score or what makes up your credit score, check out my post Credit Tips: How to start building credit in college. It will give you a great synopsis on what makes up a credit score and how you work on earning a great credit score.

For students and adults with no credit, I recommend a student credit card. Lenders understand everyone has to start somewhere, so it’s very easy to be approved for a student credit card. While it’s true student credit cards don’t have quite as many perks as regular cards, they are a great way to start building credit and building up points. That’s not to say though that there aren’t any good student credit cards. There’s actually quite a few that are quite nice. Below are my favorite cards.

Discover it Chrome for Students

Why I like the card? Enjoy 2% cash back on gas and dining (on up to $1000 dollars in purchases each quarter, then enjoy 1% cash back) and 1% cash back on all other purchases. Use cash back at Amazon or have it direct deposited into your bank account. You also receive your FICO score every month. The card has no annual fee so you’ll never have to cancel the card and it can remain on your credit report to help earn you that great credit score.

Citi ThankYou Preferred Card for College Students 

Why I like the card? It gives you 2500 ThankYou points after $500 spending in the first 3 months worth $25 dollars or more later on. Why do I say later on? All ThankYou points from any Citi ThankYou card pool together. So later on when you’ve built enough credit and graduated, you can apply for more lucrative travel cards like the Citi ThankYou Premier card. You also get 2 ThankYou points on dining and entertainment and 1 ThankYou point on all other purchases. You can also enjoy 0% APR for 7 months. The card has no annual fee so you’ll never have to cancel the card and it can remain on your credit report to help earn you that great credit score.


For those with good credit, I recommend applying for Chase cards that earn Ultimate Rewards points such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Sapphire Reserve, Chase Freedom Unlimited or Chase Freedom cards. The reason I suggest applying for Chase cards first, is due to Chase’s 5/24 rule. The Chase 5/24 rule means those who have applied for more than 5 credit cards in 24 months will likely be denied. Due to this rule, it’s in your best interest to start with Chase cards, then move onto other credit cards with more lenient lenders such as American Express and Citi. I personally recommend the Chase Sapphire Reserve/Chase Freedom Unlimited combo, which gives 4.5% back on travel and dining and 2.25% on all other purchases.

Chase Sapphire ReserveWhy I like the card? If you visit a Chase branch, you can apply for the Chase Sapphire Reserve and receive a sign up bonus of 100,000 Ultimate Rewards points for $4,000 of spending in 3 months (online the bonus is only 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points). The card offers 3 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar on travel and dining, an annual $300 travel credit, Priority Pass lounge access, Global entry/TSA Precheck fee credit, 50% bonus on points redeemed in the Chase travel portal and much more. While the card does have a $450 annual fee, after the $300 annual travel credit the annual fee is effectively $150 dollars. All the travel perks such as Global entry, Priority Pass lounge access, and the 50% point bonus in the Chase travel portal more than make the annual fee worth it.

Chase Freedom Unlimited

Why I like the card? This card earns 1.5 Ultimate Reward points per dollar and has a 15,000 Ultimate Rewards points sign up bonus after $500 spending in 3 months. Also after adding an authorized user and their first purchase, you can earn an additional 2,500 Ultimate Rewards points. While technically a cash back card, you earn your cash back in the form Chase Ultimate Rewards points which are transferable to premium Chase travel cards such as the Sapphire Reserve and Sapphire Preferred cards. When you transfer your points earned with the Freedom Unlimited card to the Sapphire Reserve card, you can 2.25% back on all non bonus spending.

Conclusion

These are just a few of the great travel credit cards that are out there, but I feel these are the best start credit cards. I personally really like the Chase Sapphire Reserve/Chase Freedom Unlimited combo, which gives 4.5% back on travel and dining and 2.25% on all other purchases. If you’d like to start with just one card though, I recommend getting the Chase Freedom Unlimited, since it has no annual fee and your points can be transferred later on when you’d potentially get the Chase Sapphire Reserve or Chase Sapphire Preferred cards to make use of Chase transfer partners or the 50% bonus on points in the Chase travel portal (Sapphire Reserve only). I hope my suggestions help and be sure to reach out to me if you have any more questions!

-Nick a.k.a. Points Tutor