Are you ready to apply for a new rewards credit card? But maybe you’re not sure which one you’ll qualify for? We’ve taken a look at the major travel cards on the market and figured out the credit scores you’ll need to get them.
Your Credit Score Doesn’t Guarantee You’ll Get a Card
There are a few caveats. First, this information is very hard to come by. Card companies like to keep the credit scores customers need to get their cards a bit mysterious. It gives them more leeway to deny or accept applications.
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For instance, if the card company needs more cardholders, they may drop their standards a bit. And if they have plenty of applicants, they may require a higher score than usual. So while we’ve done our best to compile an accurate list, there’s no guarantee that you’ll get a card even if you have the score we recommend.
It’s also true that the right person applying at the right time might get a credit card that appears to be out of their reach. In other words, it might be worth applying even if you don’t think you’ll get the card. But don’t apply for one that is totally out of your league.
Every Issuer Has Its Own Rules
Remember, there are a lot of factors that card companies consider before accepting or denying an application. Chase, for instance, has the 5/24 rule which states that you can’t open more than five new card accounts during a 24-month period. If you have, Chase will not give you a new travel card.
Every card company also puts limits on your total credit limit. American Express, for example, may limit you to a total of $50,000 in credit across all Amex cards. If you have two Amex cards with a $25,000 limit each, you won’t get approved for a new card unless you can convince them to up your total limit. Alternatively, you could move some of your credit from your other two cards to a new one.
There are other factors that also play into your chances of getting approved for a new card, such as your current income and debt. But the fact remains that your credit score can be a pretty good predictor of card approval.
The Most Flexible Rewards Cards
There are some issuers, like Capital One and Discover, that focus on customers who want a simple, easy-to-use and valuable rewards program. Capital One in particular offers an that don’t require you to have exceptional credit to get them. These are great cards for both beginners and experienced travel hackers because of their extreme flexibility.
The Capital One Venture Rewards card, for instance, costs just $95 a year (first year waived), earns double miles for every purchase and comes with a sign-up bonus worth $500 in travel. The best part of the card, though, is that the miles you earn can be used to purchase any travel you want from any vendor. You aren’t tied down to a specific airline or rewards program.
The Big Three Travel Rewards Programs
Most credit card lineups have a basic, midrange and premium offering. That’s true if it’s a part of a general rewards program, like Chase Ultimate Rewards or Citi ThankYou, or associated with a specific airline or hotel loyalty program, such as Hilton Honors or Delta SkyMiles.
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The basic cards are often a no-fee, entry-level option with solid rewards. On the other end of the spectrum, premium cards typically have huge annual fees and lots of benefits and perks.
Generally speaking, the more expensive the annual fee, the better your credit has to be to qualify for the card. While that’s not always the case, it’s a good general rule of thumb. If you want the premium card in the lineup, but you don’t have the credit score to get it, consider getting a cheaper card first and building up your credit from there.
Be sure you use the card and make your payments on time. After about six months, reach out Chase directly and ask about getting a better card, like the Chase Sapphire Preferred. After some time with that card, contact Chase again and they may let you step up the Reserve.
The Best Cards for Excellent Credit
Let’s start with the best cards out there. To get these cards, you need excellent credit, which we’ve defined as a score of around 710 or more.
|Issuer||Annual Fee||Min Credit Score|
|Citi Prestige Card||Citi||$450||765|
|Delta Reserve Card||American Express||$450||750|
|Delta Reserve for Business Credit Card||American Express||$450||750|
|Chase Sapphire Reserve||Chase||$450||750|
|Citi ThankYou Premier Card||Citi||$95||745|
|Business Advantage Travel Rewards World Mastercard||Bank of America||$0||740|
|Alaska Airlines Visa Platinum Plus||Bank of America||$75||740|
|Amex Business Platinum business card||American Express||$450||730|
|Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite MasterCard||Citi||$450||730|
|Amex Platinum||American Express||$550||730|
|Chase Sapphire Preferred Card||Chase||$95||720|
|Platinum Delta SkyMiles card||American Express||$195||720|
|US Bank Altitude Reserve||US Bank||$400||720|
|Platinum Delta SkyMiles Business Credit Card||American Express||$195||720|
|Virgin Atlantic World Elite MasterCard||Bank of America||$90||720|
|Royal Caribbean Visa Signature Credit Card||Bank of America||$0||720|
You’ll note that many of these cards are the best in their various lineups. They may come with hefty annual fees, but they also come with some impressive perks. Obviously, with excellent credit you can get any of the cards below as well.
Best Credit Cards for Excellent Credit
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0% intro APR, cash back, sign-up bonusesand other perks
- Offers available for
Excellent and Good credit
The Best Cards for Good Credit
With good credit, which we define as scores below 710 but above about 670, you still have a lot of great options.
The Best Cards for Average Credit
With just average credit, that’s a score of about 630 to 670, you have significantly fewer options. While these cards are still solid rewards cards, they’re also a good choice to build credit so you’ll qualify for the above cards in the future.
|Issuer||Annual Fee||Min Credit Score|
|Quicksilver from Capital One||Capital One||$0||660|
|QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards Credit Card Capital One||Capital One||$39||650|
|Spark Classic for Business||Capital One||$0||660|
|Citi ThankYou Preferred Card for College Students||Citi||$0||630|
What to Do If You Have Poor Credit
If you have a score below 630, you’ll probably need to do some work on your credit to get a decent rewards card. You’ll have very few credit card options, but you should get one as soon as possible so you can build a positive credit history.
|Issuer||Annual Fee||Min Credit Score|
|Journey Student Rewards Credit Card||Capital One||$0||620|
You’ll probably have to get what’s called a secured card. With these cards, a small security deposit typically ranging from $50 to $200 will get you a small credit limit. From there you’ll be able to build up your credit and eventually get a better card with more benefits. Capital One and Discover, among other issuers, offer good, no-fee secured cards.
Get the Card of Your Dreams
Getting the right rewards card can help you earn free travel fast. Big sign-up bonuses are only the beginning as many of the best cards also offer fantastic perks, such as lounge access and bonus points for purchases.
On the other hand, a simple and affordable card, like the Capital One Quicksilver cashback card with no annual fee, might be the best option for you. It’s rewarding—every purchase earns a bonus—and it’s hard to beat getting cash back in your pocket.
It might take a little patience to get the card you want if you have a low credit score, but it can be worth it. Just get the best card you can, make some purchases, and pay off the bill on time. It won’t take long to boost your standing with the credit card company and earn that premium travel card.