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The best travel credit cards come with top notch benefits, such as cash back, travel perks like airport lounge access and incredibly lucrative welcome bonus offers. Of course, these are things that we all want, but banks won’t exactly hand them out to just anyone. You’ll typically need good credit to qualify for the best rewards credit cards out there.
Which leads us to the million-dollar question. What credit score do you need to qualify for the best credit cards? Well, there’s no definitive answer to that, because every bank has their own approval criteria. Plus, your credit score is just one of several things that’s factored into deciding whether or not you’ll qualify, even with a great credit score, there’s still no guarantee you’ll be approved.
The short answer is: It really depends. Yes, I know. That’s not the answer you were looking for. So I’ve gone ahead and combed through the far reaches of the internet researching what people in online forums have reported when it comes to their experiences with different banks and I’ve laid out the common trends I saw for six different banks.
What credit score do you need for the best credit cards?
We often recommend you not begin in the miles & points hobby until your credit score is at least 700. In perusing online forums, it seems the general consensus is that the best Capital One cards and American Express cards are among the easiest to be approved for with a credit score below 720. But there’s so much more to it than just a credit score, so let’s dive into the details.
The information for the Capital One Savor Cash Rewards card has been collected independently by Million Mile Secrets. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
I was able to find a ton of people online who said Capital One was the easiest to land an approval. Most said they were approved with scores below 700, I found one report of a 659 approval and even a report of someone who included Capital One with a bankruptcy a few years back and was still able to get approved for a new card.
Among the MMS team, a few of us have had trouble with Capital One approvals despite excellent credit scores. That goes to show you the credit score isn’t the only factor. For example, the most common trend I see with Capital One denials is the fact that they can be sensitive to a high number of hard inquiries and high credit card balances. And I will say that I was surprised to find so many reports of approvals with lower credit scores, especially since Capital One’s own website says you need excellent credit for many of their cards. But they do lay out what they consider excellent credit:
- You’ve never defaulted or declared bankruptcy
- You’ve never been more than 60 days late on a credit card, medical bill or loan in the last 12 months
- You’ve had a credit card for at least three years and a credit limit of $5,000 or above
So there you have it. As long as you fit those criteria, you’ll probably have a solid chance of being approved for that dream card of yours with Capital One.
American Express issues a ton of travel and airline credit cards. Among my favorites are The Platinum Card® from American Express and the American Express® Gold Card. Considering a lot of Amex’s marketing campaigns I’ve seen over the years have catered toward a more affluent and luxurious style of traveling, I was a bit surprised at how many people said it was actually pretty easy to land an approval for one of their cards.
I found plenty of people who said they were approved for Amex cards with credit scores in the 680 to 690 range and even some approvals in the 650s. Though if you’ve ever included Amex with a bankruptcy filing or still owe them money, it will be nearly impossible to land an approval, even if it’s no longer on your credit report.
Other common trends I see in denials include too many recently opened accounts, too many recent credit inquiries and high credit utilization (the basic stuff).
Strict banks that require excellent credit >720
Perhaps not surprisingly, most of the banks I researched seemed to have tougher approval criteria for their best credit cards, generally requiring a credit score over 720.
So you know the drill, let’s dive in for the details.
There are some great Citibank credit cards that earn flexible ThankYou points or earn American Airlines miles. There are many reports online of people who said Citi can be quite picky when it comes to approvals. A strong credit score over 720 definitely helps, but it might not be the silver bullet most people think. Even with a good credit score, late payments can cause your application to be denied, even if they were several years ago. They’ve also been known to be very sensitive to new credit inquiries and recently opened accounts and they do look at your credit card balances and utilization.
Again, your situation could very well differ because there are so many factors that are taken into consideration, but if you avoid these common trends, you should improve your chances of an approval.
Chase’s more popular cards include the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, Chase Sapphire Reserve® and the Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card (it’s got a huge bonus). They also have plenty of fantastic airline and hotel credit cards. And although they use slightly different approval criteria for each product, you’ll generally need to have a good credit score above 720 to have the best chances of approval. I did find reports online of approvals with scores as low as the 660s, though those seemed to be the exception and I’d stick with a score over 720 to be on the safer side.
Common reasons for denial are plentiful, from reports of having too many recent credit inquiries, too many recently opened accounts, too low of an average age of accounts and high credit utilization ratios. You’ll also not be approved for most Chase credit cards if you’ve opened 5+ cards from any bank (except certain business cards) in the past 24 months. This is commonly known as the Chase 5/24 rule.
When it comes to premium travel cards, U.S. Bank is most well-known for the U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve Visa Infinite® Card. As popular as it is, this also seems to be a pretty difficult card to be approved for. The vast majority of reports I found online from people who were were approved had credit scores well above 700. That’s not to say you won’t get approved if you have a lower credit score, but it won’t exactly help your case.
And because U.S. Bank is a full-service bank, they recommend you have an established banking relationship. In fact, to be eligible for the U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve, you need a relationship with U.S. Bank (auto loan, checking account, credit card, etc). And you’ll need to have maintained it for at least five days before submitting your application for this card.
I found a few reports of approvals with scores in the 680s, although they speculated they were approved because they already had an established banking relationship with U.S. Bank. And the two most common trends I saw for denied applications? Too many recent credit inquiries and too many recently opened accounts. So it would seem the consensus would be to lay off those credit card applications for a while to improve your chances of success with U.S. Bank.
Discover’s a bit of an interesting one and although I found approvals online with scores as low as 651 for cards like the Discover it® Miles credit card, many people in online forums suggested a score north of 720 is best.
That being said, Discover seems to be a bank that focuses more on your credit profile rather than your credit score. For instance, it might be more difficult to secure an approval with them if you already have a lot of other cards with high credit limits. That might seem counterintuitive since having many other cards with high limits would suggest you’re a responsible user of credit, but my best guess is that Discover likes to limit its exposure and it might be difficult for them to justify approving you for more credit if they think you’ve already got enough credit with other banks.
Perhaps not surprisingly, many of the best credit cards seem to require good credit above 720. And based on reports in online forums, the most lenient banks are Capital One and American Express. But remember that your credit score is only one of several things the bank may look at when deciding whether or not to approve your application. So just because you have a certain credit score does not necessarily guarantee you’ll be approved. Banks can look at things like your recent credit inquiries, your average age of accounts, how long ago your last late payment was, your relationship with the bank and of course things like your employment and income.
We’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences with these banks. Have they been as easy (or difficult) to be approved for as others have said? Let us know down in the comments.
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