- If you’re looking to open a rewards credit card, you’ll want to have a general idea of the credit score you’ll need to be approved.
- Different cards have different credit score requirements, but all “requirements” are really just guidelines. The issuer will always make the final credit decision.
- One of the most popular cards, the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, requires a high credit score, but it’s easier to be approved for this card than the more premium Chase Sapphire Reserve.
- The Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card also requires an excellent credit score.
- Other cards can be easier to get approved for, including some from Amex and the Alaska Airlines Visa from Bank of America.
If you’re new to rewards credit cards, you may wonder whether your credit score is sufficient to obtain the card you want. And it’s a good question – after all, many of these cards are aimed at luxury travelers.
You might expect all rewards cards to require a high credit score, but not all do. Every card issuer has its own underwriting criteria, which isn’t based strictly on credit score. Other factors can include employment, income, and any existing relationship with the bank.
What credit card issuers look at in your application
Although no banks make their underwriting criteria public (in fact, banks consider this a trade secret), consumers are free to report their experiences applying for credit cards. Online forums (such as /r/churning on Reddit) contain hundreds of posts with anecdotal information.
Keep in mind that this is “anecdata.” Underwriting criteria for the banks can change at any time, and general criteria may not apply to your specific situation. For example, it’s not unusual for banks to tighten lending requirements in a slowing economy, or to have tighter lending criteria for people working in historically volatile industries. Remember that the bank is ultimately making a calculation about risk, and specifically how high of a risk you will be.
How to determine what credit score you’ll need to open a credit card
You won’t find one definitive answer to what credit score you need to open a given card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred. Instead, you can get a sense of the range of scores of successful applicants.
Credit Karma can be a good tool in this research – when you look up a card on its website, you’ll see that many reader reviews include their credit score at the time of their application
- Poor: 300-579
- Fair: 580-669
- Good: 670-739
- Very good: 740-799
- Excellent: 800-850
Chase Sapphire Preferred
Credit score of successful applicants, as reported on Credit Karma: High 600s to 850
What’s a good consolation prize if you have great credit, but won’t qualify for the premium Chase Sapphire Reserve? The Chase Sapphire Preferred, which comes with many of the same excellent benefits and a higher sign-up bonus than the Chase Sapphire Reserve: 60,000 Chase points after you spend $4,000 in the first three months vs. 50,000 points with the same spending requirement.
The Sapphire Preferred has a minimum $5,000 credit line. Although a credit score of 720 or above is typical for successful applicants, the underwriting criteria are more relaxed than for the Chase Sapphire Reserve, and even college students with income from a part-time job have been approved for this card. You must fall under the strict Chase 5/24 requirements to obtain this card – that means you can’t have opened more than five new credit card accounts in the last 24 months.
Our verdict: If you fall under the 5/24 requirement, the Chase Sapphire Preferred is one of the best travel cards to put in your wallet.
Chase Sapphire Reserve
Credit score of successful applicants, as reported on Credit Karma: Low 700s to 850
Chase is a notoriously strict card issuer, but for the Chase Sapphire Reserve, it really takes it to the next level. This card is a Visa Infinite card, with a credit line minimum of $10,000.
You’ll need an excellent credit score (typically above 720) to qualify for this card, along with a sufficient income to service an account with this large a credit line. You also must meet the infamous Chase 5/24 rule.
Should you apply if you don’t meet these criteria? Maybe. The best way to apply is with a Chase banker in a branch, who can work to understand your personal financial situation and advocate for you with underwriting.
Another option is to apply for the Chase Sapphire Preferred (which is easier to get) and ask to upgrade after the first year. This is often possible.
Our verdict: If you have a high income, a high credit score, and fall under 5/24, this is one of the best cards to put in your wallet. It’s hard to get, and worth keeping if you do!
Capital One Venture Rewards card
Credit score of successful applicants, as reported on Credit Karma: Mid 700s to 850 (but very few data points)
Unlike most card issuers, Capital One provides detailed information on credit quality required to open its cards. And yes, we did say credit quality; it isn’t looking just at your credit score, but how you use credit.
To Capital One, “excellent” means: “I’ve never declared bankruptcy or defaulted on a loan; I haven’t been more than 60 days late on any credit card, medical bill, or loan in the last year; I’ve had a loan or credit card for 3 years or more with a credit limit above $5,000.”
The Capital One Venture earns 2x miles on all purchases, plus 10x miles on paid hotel bookings made at hotels.com/Venture. You can redeem miles to offset travel purchases on your statement, or transfer them to airline partners like Air Canada and Etihad.
Our verdict: Capital One makes its underwriting criteria clearer than most issuers. We recommend not applying unless you meet these requirements.
American Express cards
Although American Express is perceived as an issuer with tough underwriting criteria, some online forums disagree: As long as you’re currently in good financial shape, it’s believed to be relatively easier to get an American Express card than other cards.
That being said, not all Amex cards follow the same underwriting criteria. It’s generally harder to get approved for cards like the Platinum Card® from American Express that have higher credit lines. Meanwhile, even college students (with no adverse credit history) have reported being approved (with a low credit line) for lower-tier Delta cobranded cards like the Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express.
Our verdict: If you have terrible credit, you probably won’t be approved for an American Express card. But you might be approved (albeit with a low credit line) if your credit isn’t perfect, especially if your recent credit history is good and your income and employment meet the criteria.
Alaska Airlines Visa Signature credit card
Bank of America has an unusual approach to the Alaska Airlines Visa card. It has a Visa Signature version of the card, which has a minimum credit line of $5,000. It also has a Platinum Plus version, which has slightly different card benefits and a credit line below $5,000.
When you apply for the Alaska Airlines Visa, your application will be evaluated against the criteria for both cards -meaning that if you don’t qualify for the higher credit line of the Visa Signature card, you could still be approved for the Platinum Plus card.
The sign-up bonus and companion fare offer used to be different for both cards, disappointing many applicants. Fortunately, this has now changed and you’ll receive the welcome bonus you expect (and the companion fare you expect) if you’re approved for either credit card.
Bank of America is relatively lenient when it comes to approval for the Platinum Plus card, offering this card even to people with limited credit history. Accordingly, this may be one of the easier travel rewards credit cards to get.
Our Verdict: One of the easiest rewards cards to get, and one of the best airline programs in which to bank points. What’s not to like?
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