The Credit Scores You Need for the Best Travel Credit Cards

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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.

Best Offers for Fair Credit

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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.

Say you want the excellent Chase Sapphire Reserve card, but you only have fair credit. You could apply for the Chase Freedom card, which typically requires a much lower score to get.

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.

 IssuerAnnual FeeMin Credit Score
Citi Prestige CardCiti$450765
Delta Reserve CardAmerican Express$450750
Delta Reserve for Business Credit CardAmerican Express$450750
Chase Sapphire ReserveChase$450750
Citi ThankYou Premier CardCiti$95745
Business Advantage Travel Rewards World MastercardBank of America$0740
Alaska Airlines Visa Platinum PlusBank of America$75740
Amex Business Platinum business cardAmerican Express$450730
Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite MasterCardCiti$450730
Amex PlatinumAmerican Express$550730
Chase Sapphire Preferred CardChase$95720
Platinum Delta SkyMiles cardAmerican Express$195720
US Bank Altitude ReserveUS Bank$400720
Platinum Delta SkyMiles Business Credit CardAmerican Express$195720
Virgin Atlantic World Elite MasterCardBank of America$90720
Royal Caribbean Visa Signature Credit CardBank of America$0720

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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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.

 IssuerAnnual FeeMin Credit Score
Barclaycard Arrival Plus World EliteBarclays$89700
VentureOne Capital OneCapital One$0700
Alaska Visa Business cardBank of America$75700
Alaska Airlines Visa SignatureBank of America$75700
Korean Air Skypass Visa SignatureUS Bank$80700
Chase Ink Business Preferred cardChase$95700
Spirit Airlines World MasterCardBank of America$59700
Marriott Rewards PremierChase$95700
Marriott Rewards Premier Business Credit CardChase$99700
Expedia+ Voyager Card from CitiCiti$95700
BankAmericard Cash Rewards Credit CardBank of America$0700
Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature CardUS Bank$75700
JetBlue Business MasterCardBarclays$99700
Spark Cash for BusinessCapital One$95700
Savor Cash Rewards Credit CardCapital One$95700
Club Carlson Business Rewards Visa CardUS Bank$60700
Citi Simplicity CardCiti$0700
Princess Cruises Rewards Visa CardBarclays$0700
PNC Cash Rewards VisaPNC Bank$0700
The Plum CardAmerican Express$250700
Spirit Airlines World Mastercard for Business Credit CardBank of America$59700
Celebrity Cruises Visa Signature Credit CardBank of America$69700
Gold Delta SkyMiles Business Credit CardAmerican Express$95700
Gold Delta SkyMilesAmerican Express$95700
Business Advantage Cash Rewards Mastercard Bank of AmericaBank of America$0700
Ink Cash Business Credit CardChase$0700
Spark Miles for Business Credit CardCapital One$95700
SimplyCash Plus Business Credit CardAmerican Express$0700
Capital One Venture Rewards cardCapital One$95690
Starwood Preferred Guest Credit CardAmerican Express$95690
Starwood Preferred Guest Business Credit CardAmerican Express$95690
British Airways VisaChase$95690
Citi AAdvantage PlatinumCiti$99690
Discover it MilesDiscover$0690
Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business Credit CardChase$99690
Discover it - Cashback MatchDiscover$0690
Discover it - 18 Month Balance Transfer OfferDiscover$0690
Discover it Chrome Gas & Restaurant CardDiscover$0690
Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa CardWells Fargo$0690
Bank of America Travel Rewards credit cardBank of America$0690
Ally Cashback CardTD Bank$0690
Business Gold Rewards card from AmexAmerican Express$175690
Citi Diamond Preferred CardCiti$0690
Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit CardChase$69690
Citi Double CashCiti$0690
Sun Country Airlines Visa Signature CardFirst National Bank of Omaha$69690
Hilton Honors Amex cardAmerican Express$0690
Chase Freedom Unlimited cardChase$0680
CitiBusiness AAdvantage Platinum SelectCiti$95680
United MileagePlus Club Business CardChase$450680
United MileagePlus Club cardChase$450680
Chase Freedom CardChase$0680
Citi ThankYou Preferred CardCiti$0680
Hawaiian Airlines Business MasterCardBarclays$89680
AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite MasterCardBarclays$95680
Southwest PremierChase$99680
Frontier World MasterCardBarclays$69680
US Bank FlexPerks Visa SignatureUS Bank$49680
Asiana Visa Signature Credit CardBank of America$99680
Premier Rewards Gold cardAmerican Express$195680
Amtrak Guest Rewards World MastercardBank of America$79680
Norwegian Cruise Line World MastercardBank of America$0680
Wyndham Rewards Visa CardBarclays$0680
Blue Cash Everyday Card from American ExpressAmerican Express$0680
Allegiant World MastercardBank of America$59680
Miles & More World Elite MasterCardBarclays$89680
Diamond Resorts International MasterCardBarclays$0680
RCI Elite Rewards MasterCardBarclays$0680
Choice Privileges Visa Signature CardBarclays$0680
EveryDay Preferred American ExpressAmerican Express$95680
World Wildlife Fund Credit CardBank of America$0680
FlexPerks Business Edge Travel Rewards CardUS Bank$55680
BankAmericard Credit CardBank of America$0680
AARP Credit Card from ChaseChase$0680
United MileagePlus Explorer cardChase$95680
United MileagePlus Explorer Business cardChase$95680
Hilton Honors Ascend CardAmerican Express$95680
Blue Delta SkyMiles Credit CardAmerican Express$0680
Uber Visa CardBarclays$0680
U.S. Bank Visa Platinum CardUS Bank$0680
Business Green Rewards Card American ExpressAmerican Express$95680
American Express Green CardAmerican Express$95680
Spark Miles Select for BusinessCapital One$0675
Hawaiian Airlines World Elite cardBarclays$89675
Spark Cash Select for BusinessCapital One$0675
JetBlue Plus CardBarclays$99670
JetBlue CardBarclays$0670
Carnival World MasterCardBarclays$0670
Holland America Line Rewards Visa CardBarclays$0670
Chase Slate Credit CardChase$0670
Blue Cash Preferred Card from American ExpressAmerican Express$95670
Blue Business Plus Credit Card American ExpressAmerican Express$0670
Amex EveryDayAmerican Express$0670

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.

 IssuerAnnual FeeMin Credit Score
Quicksilver from Capital OneCapital One$0660
QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards Credit Card Capital OneCapital One$39650
Spark Classic for BusinessCapital One$0660
Citi ThankYou Preferred Card for College StudentsCiti$0630

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.

 IssuerAnnual FeeMin Credit Score
Journey Student Rewards Credit CardCapital One$0620

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.